Which championship-hungry team can be NFL’s Cleveland Cavaliers? (Shutdown Corner)

Half of the 32 NFL teams will have gone 25 seasons or more between championships by the end of this season, or never won one at all. Think about that for a minute. A league that prides itself on the idea that any team has a chance to win it has produced only 11 different championship franchises in the past 20 Super Bowls and 14 in the past 30 years. But all bad things must end, as the city of Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought across all sports with the Cavaliers’ NBA title Sunday night proves. (We hope, anyway.) [ Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now ] With that in mind, we thought we’d rank the NFL teams that have suffered the most and the longest by which ones actually have the best chance to end said drought with a Super Bowl championship. 1. Minnesota Vikings Last NFL championship: None Formed in 1961, the Vikings have reached five Super Bowls and won none. For these purposes, we don’t consider their 1969 NFL title prior to the AFL-NFL merger because the Vikings went on to lose SB IV to the Kansas City Chiefs the next game. But these Vikings appear to have something special brewing. There’s a young, impressive core on defense. The offense is still developing, but there’s a lot to like. The two factors we must wonder: Can Teddy Bridgewater take that next step? And can Adrian Peterson help deliver a title in his prime? As they get set to move into their impressive looking new stadium, Mike Zimmer’s Vikings have the look of a perennial contender for the next four or five seasons. Will there be a great team among those? We’re not sure. But they’ll get ample opportunities to make runs before the end of the decade. 2. Arizona Cardinals Last NFL championship: 1947 season The Cardinals last won a title as residents of Chicago ( playing in Comiskey Park before a pretty small crowd of just over 30,000 for the game), before enduring title-less streaks of 28 years in St. Louis and another 28 as the Phoenix/Arizona team. It’s the longest-running streak of any team that has won a title previously. But this team has come close a few times in the past eight seasons, losing a Super Bowl and losing the conference championship game last season to the Carolina Panthers. Now the Cardinals are set up to contend the next few seasons with a talented defense, an offense with enough playmakers and a head coach in Bruce Arians who will take the necessary dice rolls at key times to turn the odds in his favor. The biggest question is the length of the window. Does Carson Palmer have one or two years to make a run at a ring? Is Larry Fitzgerald looking at the same timetable? There’s no doubt they’re making a push for right now, but it might close quickly. 3. Oakland Raiders Last NFL championship: 1983 It’s wild to think that there are only four players on the Raiders’ roster now who were born the last time the Raiders won it all, back in Super Bowl XVIII in early 1984. But that speaks to the young on this roster, one that has added an incredible about of talent the past three years to one that looked largely devoid of any not long ago. That championship team was based out of Los Angeles, and the Raiders might be in Las Vegas (or elsewhere) the next time they vie for a championship. But that window is starting to open — very quickly. They have the young QB in Derek Carr; the offensive line is one of the NFL’s top groups; the defense has intriguing talent at all three levels. Will they miss the veteran leadership of Charles Woodson or Justin Tuck? Perhaps this year, but those shepherds can be found if needed. Our fun question: Can Sebastian Janikowski win a title before he hangs them up? 4. Cincinnati Bengals Last NFL championship: None The Bengals came into existence in 1968, and their two Super Bowl appearances (both losses to the San Francisco 49ers) basically bookended Cris Collinsworth’s career from 1982 to 1988. The first appearance was his rookie season, and Super Bowl XXIII in January 1989 was his final NFL game. What does that have to do with these Bengals winning it all? Well, not much — except Collinsworth and his NBC cohorts are not slated to broadcast the Super Bowl until LII in February 2018. The Bengals have been as close to being in contention for a title the past seven years for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in that stretch (OK, that was cruel) or, well, since A.J. Green was 2 years old. So even if the Bengals take a half-step back this season, they appear set up to be in contention with a sound roster and some high-level talent. The question appears to be whether Andy Dalton can take them to the next level. He admittedly looked improved last season before getting hurt right before the postseason. 5. Kansas City Chiefs Last NFL championship: 1969 This next tier of teams is tricky. There are some potential contenders here, but do we believe any of the current quarterbacks are Super Bowl-caliber? You’re basically having to assume a little luck and project the state of the rest of the roster for the next few seasons to buttress your argument. Such is the case with Alex Smith. The inoffensive quarterback is just good enough typically to not reach the big game, so we don’t love his chances of ending the Chiefs’ streak (currently at 46 years since Super Bowl IV) this year or next, much as we respect a good roster and a good coaching staff. It just feels like plenty of good and not enough great. 6. Chicago Bears Last NFL championship: 1985 It’s the 30th anniversary of the Super Bowl XX champions, so the good news is that we can wake up the members of that squad out of their hibernation and find out what that secluded bunch has been up to all these years. Seriously, if there’s a more time-honored tradition in Chicago it’s that you don’t need a multiple of five to honor this city’s most favorite sporting group ever. Basically you need a day ending in the letter “y” and a group of two or more people in the limits of Cook County. But the current iteration of the Bears might really be trending back toward respectability, and they have a quarterback in Jay Cutler who — all jokes aside — can get hot for stretches, even if those haven’t tended to be when the games matter most in his career. An improved defense, a few nice pieces elsewhere and a coach in John Fox that at least knows how to get a team to the Super Bowl (two different ones) means the Bears might surprise at some point in the next few seasons. 7. New York Jets Last NFL championship: 1968 The Jets have the incredible ability to go from trash to flash in a hurry — and then quickly back again — like almost no other NFL team. Following that pattern, the 2014 Jets were a hot mess at 4-12. The 2015 Jets won five straight after Thanksgiving (two in overtime) and were anointed that cliché “dangerous team” before imploding in Week 17 and missing the playoffs. So even though they might appear closer now to contending than a few teams above them on this list, their chaotic existence — highlighted by the spring contract distractions of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Muhammad Wilkerson — remind us not to start doing too many Super Bowl III look-back features just yet. There’s a very intriguing nucleus here, and a coaching staff that gets it. But without more stability, we can’t put them higher. 8. Miami Dolphins Last NFL championship: 1973 For the past 42 years, the Dolphins have come close a few times to winning it all and had only one losing record from 1977 to 2003. But this team’s hasn’t legitimately contended since the 1990s and hasn’t won a playoff game since Dec. 30, 2000. How much hope is there with Adam Gase? A fair amount. And the guy might be an excellent head coach one day. But with owner Stephen Ross hinting Gase has three years to turn them into a winner and we have yet to see Super Bowl-like ability from Ryan Tannehill consistently over the course of a full season. We were this close to putting them a spot or two higher on the list, as the Dolphins — flawed as they might be — have some fascinating parts to them. But until we see if come together and as long as the New England Patriots hold reign on this division, we’ll hedge a bit for now. 9. Philadelphia Eagles Last NFL championship: 1960 The 55-year drought has been tough enough, but now the Eagles are in this weird limbo where they feel talented enough to contend now in a diluted NFC East but pretty darned far from the next championship. Hey, maybe the team is right about Carson Wentz or Sam Bradford (or Chase Daniel) and one of them will be good enough to get them there in the next few years. Just don’t book your tickets quite yet. This streak could reach 60 before they are ready to end the darned thing. 10. Buffalo Bills Last NFL championship: None The city of Buffalo has been title-less across the major sports since the Bills’ 1965 AFL championship, and as a cruel side joke they’ve had O.J. — as we know him now — to deal with for almost half that time. Fifty years is a long time, to the point where most Bills fans don’t know what a championship feels like. Has Rex Ryan brought them any closer? Throughout his head-coaching career, Ryan has shown the ability to turn his team into feisty winners but ones with fatal flaws and the propensity to eat their own vital organs when most crucial. One huge flaw on Ryan-coached teams has been quarterback play, which has never reached any type of steady plateau and remains that way until Tyrod Taylor can stay healthy and prove himself to be counted on for reaching the heights he sniffed at times last season. But hey, Buffalo, Rex said the Bills won the offseason . Time to throw down! 11. Washington Redskins Last NFL championship: 1991 We might be shortchanging Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden a bit here, admittedly. Yes, this is a team that won a division last season, hosted a playoff game and has some semblance of QB insurance for the first time in a good, long while. There’s also the Scot McCloughan factor; the GM has built deep winners elsewhere and appears to be filling up the roster nicely. In two years, this team could be loaded? But what’s missing? Maybe we’re stuck in an older line of thinking that this team invariably will screw things up at some crucial point. Frankly, it’s not fair. But it’s all we have to go off of since Daniel Snyder bought the team. Super Bowl XXVI feels like it happened several generations ago, and even bringing back Joe Gibbs couldn’t rekindle the magic for very long.    12. Atlanta Falcons Last NFL championship: The franchise is entering its 50th year if existence, with no championships to show for it. They host the Super Bowl LII following the 2018 season — can we see a path to playing in one by then? Dan Quinn looked to be a semi-genius early last season, and some Seahawkian imprints on the team have started to show. But there are some limitations outside the excitement of Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. Matt Ryan has been an annual 4,000-yard passer who, even his biggest apologists must admit, not Matty Icy enough in big games or reliable enough in key situations. So in a quarterback-loaded division with an MVP candidate (Cam Newton), a far better 4,000-yard passer than Ryan (Drew Brees) and an up-and-comer who could be really good (Jameis Winston), there’s just a limit to the championship-winning capabilities the Falcons have. 13. Tennessee Titans Last NFL championship: None A year from now we might be saying that Marcus Mariota is the kind of young quarterback who can help deliver a championship, and the Titans’ broadening roster could be in good shape with all the draft picks they received from the Jared Goff trade. But we’re still at least a driver and a 3-iron away from saying they’re able to get on the green, and head coach Mike Mularkey has a 9-33 record over his past 42 games. So, yeah, we’re willing to look shortsighted for the time being. For now, Nashvillians will have to sit back and enjoy the franchise’s 1961 AFL championship — won by the Houston Oilers, ha — just a little longer. 14. San Diego Chargers Last NFL championship: None It takes some serious guts (stupidity?) to say that a Philip Rivers-led team isn’t close to winning a title. This is a quarterback who has fought through adversity every step of his career, has had a very good playoff record in his career and has played 161 consecutive games despite tearing an ACL in the middle there. He also might one day be a Hall of Famer and has thrown for 4,000 or more yards in seven of eight seasons. But he’s turning 35 this year, and his championship window appears to be almost shut. The roster has lost a ton of talent the past few seasons, and trusted compadre Antonio Gates is in the twilight of his career. We just don’t know what to make of the Chargers, and the rest of the division has made strides while they appear to have regressed. The 52-year streak since the team’s 1963 AFL championship can expect to grow. 15. Detroit Lions Last NFL championship: 1957 The Lions last won a playoff game early in the Barry Sanders era, and this generation’s Sanders, Calvin Johnson, walked away from the Lions with years left on his body. All respect for his decision aside, Detroit fans had to know that took some real bite out of their chances to make a run. Does Johnson play a position where he can be, in essence, displaced? Perhaps. But he was an elite player who made a middling quarterback look respectable. What is Matthew Stafford without Johnson? We’re not sure — and we’re not sure we’re excited to find out. There are some solid parts to the Lions, who played well down the stretch last season. But we believe it’s fool’s gold long term and that Stafford isn’t suddenly going to turn into a top-level QB without a future Hall of Famer to throw to. 16. Cleveland Browns Last NFL championship: 1964 Enjoy your Cavaliers, Cleveland. They were incredible winners, taking down a team with the league’s best regular-season record and a 3-1 advantage in the finals, with two of those wins coming on the road. That’s impressive, almost legendary stuff right there. The city has every reason — for the first time in forever — to stick out its chest and proclaim, “We are the champions!” At least until the Browns report to camp. Yeah, the climb from here is Kilimanjaro. There are so many unknowns, we don’t even know where to start. Let’s be fair and mention that Hue Jackson might be an excellent coach. Heck, Moneyball (or whatever you want to call it) might be the wave of the future, the kind of mode that other teams are desperate to mimic in the coming years. But are you staking your IRA on it? If you’re considering such a move, peruse the roster the way the guys in the diner did before spring training in “Major League.” – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

from Yahoo Sports http://ift.tt/28JYrmF



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