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Rating which teams are closest to being Super Bowl contenders

NFL Nation reporters assessed the chances for every team not named the Atlanta Falcons or New England Patriots of making a Super Bowl run next season.

Nowhere close


The Bears face uncertainty at several key positions. Who plays quarterback? Do they keep receiver Alshon Jeffery? Who replaces Jeffery if he departs via free agency? Can anyone in the secondary intercept the football? Read more.

Browns management needs to hit on the draft, and needs to start seeing more impact from last year’s group. Most importantly, it needs to find a quarterback. Read more.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan has shaken up his team’s organizational chart by hiring Tom Coughlin to be the executive vice president of football operations. The hope is that the new power structure will result in better success with first-round draft picks — and beyond. Read more.

There are major questions at every level, from the ownership to the coaching staff. And it doesn’t help that in the past 17 years, the Jets are eight games below .500, with seven playoff appearances and only one AFC East title. Read more.

Any foundation expert would take a close look at what’s happening in San Francisco and see many cracks that need repairing. A big part of fixing those cracks will be finding a coach and general manager who are on the same page and working toward the same goal, without casting blame when things go wrong or fighting for credit when things go right. Read more.

Lots of work to do


The Bills have a choice to make this offseason: try to build on what is a shaky foundation, or tear the house down and start fresh. Read more.

The Colts appeared to be in position to be a contender on a regular basis for years to come when they reached the AFC Championship Game in 2014. As it turns out, that was about the last positive thing that has happened for them. Read more.

Even though they’ve won just nine games over the past two seasons, the Chargers believe they are closer to making a Super Bowl than their position in the AFC West cellar might indicate. Read more.

The Rams have young star talent throughout the roster. But they have yet to figure it out offensively, ranking dead last in yards each of the past two years. Read more.

Middle of the pack


The good news for the Ravens is that this is essentially the same management foundation that built a Super Bowl team four seasons ago. But the Ravens have been the definition of mediocrity with a 31-33 record since last hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Read more.

Marvin Lewis turned the team into a playoff contender, but Cincinnati hasn’t been able to take the next step, regressing in 2016 for a number of reasons. But the core of the team is still mostly made up of the players who got to the postseason five straight times. Read more.

Jim Caldwell said in his season-ending news conference that the Lions were “a ways away” from winning a Super Bowl. They aren’t quite that far away — there are strong pieces there — but the window is starting to shrink. Read more.

New Orleans has the most important pieces in place — a Super Bowl-caliber coach and quarterback in Sean Payton and Drew Brees, who already won one together in 2010. But the past seven years, including three straight 7-9 seasons, have proven that’s not enough. Read more.

The jury is still out on head coach Doug Pederson. Given all the moving parts in 2016, evaluating the rookie coach’s performance is a little tricky. It’ll be much more cut and dried moving forward. Pederson is officially on the clock, starting now. Read more.

The Buccaneers were slightly above middle of the pack in 2016. Their next goal is to reach the playoffs, which they narrowly missed this season after finishing 9-7, but they’re missing a few pieces. Read more.

There are reasons to be optimistic, but also enough to be skeptical until proven otherwise. One thing that’s good: As an organization, Washington took not making the playoffs hard and has been re-evaluating everything. Read more.

Should contend, but there are question marks


A Cardinals run to Super Bowl LII will depend mainly on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer. Neither has confirmed his decision to play next season, leaving an outside possibility that Arizona might have to return to the drawing board to rebuild the core of its roster. Read more.

When Vance Joseph was introduced as the head coach to replace Gary Kubiak earlier this month, John Elway mentioned his belief that the Broncos should be back in the Super Bowl conversation next season and pointed out that they won the title less than a year earlier. But are they really in a position offensively to get back into the mix? Read more.

The Texans have put together a good, Super Bowl-contending team. But for as close as they are, they’ve shown an inability under general manager Rick Smith to identify and acquire a franchise quarterback, which is a huge problem. Read more.

There’s nothing holding the Chiefs back from a front-office or coaching standpoint. They’ve built a well-stocked roster in many key spots that allowed them to thrive, even after losing players such as running back Jamaal Charles and outside linebacker Justin Houston the past two seasons for long stretches of time. Read more.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was asked after the AFC wild-card loss to Pittsburgh how close his team is to making the Super Bowl. “Three games away,” Ross responded, half-jokingly. “That’s how close we are.” Read more.

The Vikings have to make a decision on the future of their running game, with Adrian Peterson turning 32 in March and likely only returning on a restructured contract. Coach Mike Zimmer, who earned a contract extension after leading the Vikings to a division title in 2015, will have to re-establish himself somewhat after Minnesota lost eight of its final 11 games following a 5-0 start. Read more.

Coach Ben McAdoo had an impressive rookie year. He handled whatever came his way with poise and confidence and commanded the locker room almost flawlessly. The players respect him and bought into his program. Can he pinpoint what went wrong with his offense during the self-evaluation phase of the offseason? Read more.

It was a two-phase, four-year plan that began with owner Mark Davis hiring Reggie McKenzie as general manager in January 2012, three months after the passing of Al Davis. Call it the Deconstruction of the Raiders, followed by the Reconstruction of the Raiders. Also call it a success … thus far, at least. Read more.

This is a team that has made it to at least the divisional round in each of the past five seasons. There are issues to be worked out, but the Seahawks have a strong foundation in place. Read more.

Stability is good and so is the core of the Titans’ roster. They have an up-and-coming quarterback, and a stable line that protects him and makes room for a two-headed running back combo. And defensively they’re pretty solid. So is the tough, team-first mind-set and identity that coach Mike Mularkey has worked hard to forge. Read more.

On the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance


The foundation that helped the Panthers to an NFL-best 17-2 record (including playoffs) and a trip to Super Bowl 50 remains, for the most part, intact. Yet they posted a 6-10 record just a year later, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Read more.

The Cowboys came within a stop on third-and-20 in the final minute against Aaron Rodgers of advancing to the NFC Championship Game. They easily could be representing the NFC in Super Bowl LI. Will anything stop them next year? Read more.

There are two ways to look at how the Packers are structured. The first is that they have the quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, to make them an instant contender. The other is that they’re wasting his best years. They haven’t been able to get past the conference title game since winning Super Bowl XLV, even with Rodgers playing some of his best football. So how close are they? Read more.

The Steelers are built to be contenders for the next few years. They have one of the league’s top offensive lines and three of the game’s best offensive players, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger. But to make a ninth Super Bowl appearance, they’ll likely have to get past Tom Brady & Co. next January. Read more.

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