What do the NFL’s top teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals all have in common? They all have rosters that are stacked from top to bottom.
Unfortunately, not every team can have a complete roster like these clubs.
Some teams have a number of glaring holes on their roster, but there are also a handful of teams that are so close to joining the NFL’s elite… they just need one more piece to the puzzle.
So, without further ado, here are 10 NFL teams that are only one piece away from becoming legit Super Bowl contenders.
New England Patriots: A WR1
The current Patriots check off quite a few boxes on the “championship contenders” checklist. The best head coach ever, a top-five defense, a top-10 offensive line and a capable 1,000-yard rusher in Rhamondre Stevenson.
No, Mac Jones isn’t Tom Brady. But we saw enough at Alabama in his rookie year to be convinced that he can be a true franchise quarterback. All Jones needs now is an actual number one wideout, which New England hasn’t had since Julian Edelman’s last healthy season way-back-when in 2019.
DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and JuJu Smith-Schuster are better suited in number two or number three roles. But could you imagine if this team had a consistent 1,000-yard receiving threat to open up the offense?
Someone like DeAndre Hopkins or a top college prospect like Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison or Jaxon Smith-Njigba would sure look good in Fozborough. The Patriots have plenty of C+-level playmakers on offense, but no one who can consistently take over games the way guys like Rob Gronkowski and Randy Moss did for New England in the past.
Washington Commanders: A Quarterback
The Commanders have fielded a top-10 defense in two of Ron Rivera’s three seasons on the job. Terry McLaurin is a consistent 1,000-yard receiver, Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr. lead a steady backfield, and a healthy Jahan Dotson could grow into a Pro Bowl-caliber wideout down the road.
In some ways, it’s pretty amazing that Washington won seven games with four different QBs in 2020… And seven with Taylor Heinicke in 2021… And eight with Heinicke, Carson Wentz and Sam Howell in 2022!
No offense, but those aren’t exactly household names under center. Yet the Commanders have consistently been in the playoff race thanks to their defense and a solid set of offensive weapons.
Washington has most of the pieces in place. The only thing missing is a solid answer at the game’s most important position. Will Howell be the solution in 2023? If so, Washington will make plenty of noise in the NFC.
If not, the Commanders will be back to looking for a franchise quarterback… Again
Pittsburgh Steelers: A Franchise Offensive Tackle
The Steelers crushed their last two draft classes, and it has them on the path to contending for another Super Bowl.
That underrated defense has two cornerstones in TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Cameron Heyward is enjoying the Fountain of Youth, and Alex Highsmith has shown signs of rising to superstardom in 2023.
Now, if the Steelers could just find a true franchise offensive tackle that could solidify this o-line. Then they would be ready to return to the class of the AFC’s elite. The 2023 NFL Draft is loaded with potential All-Pro-level tackles, including Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr.
Again, Pittsburgh is on the right track here. They’re just one piece away. But they need a true franchise tackle for Pickett’s blindside. The interior o-line and center Mason Cole look fine as is. Just one more pass protector, please and thank you.
Seattle Seahawks: A Star Defensive Lineman
The Seahawks were supposed to have many flaws last year: Quarterback. The offensive line. Defense. But then some funny things happened.
Geno Smith, the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year, turned in a career season. The offensive line was bolstered by the arrivals of rookies Charles Cross and Abe Lucas. The secondary also improved thanks to the presence of rookie corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant.
It added up to a nine-win season and a return to the postseason. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are one of football’s elite receiving duos, and Kenneth Walker will be a consistent 1,000-yard threat.
SO…how can the Seahawks go from wild card team to Super Bowl contender? It’s rather simple. They just need one more star on the defensive line. Bringing back old friend and linebacker Bobby Wagner was a good way to improve the front seven. As was the free agent signing of ex-Denver Broncos’ defensive end Dre’Mont Jones.
The top teams in the NFC — like the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles — have elite front sevens loaded with depth, especially along the defensive line. Seattle, on the other hand, doesn’t have a true All-Pro-level defensive end or pass-rusher to consistently take over games.
The offense is pretty much set. The linebacking corps and secondary looks good. Seattle just needs their next Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril.
Get a guy like that, and these ‘Hawks are ready to roll!
New York Giants: A WR1
The Giants made significant progress in year one of the Brian Daboll-Joe Schoen era. Daboll turned Daniel Jones into a quality starting quarterback, the offensive line no longer sucked and a healthy Saquon Barkley crossed 1,000 yards again.
The young defense also took considerable strides and should only get better over time. Dexter Lawrence, Azeez Ojulari, Leonard Williams and Kayvon Thibodeaux lead one of football’s best front sevens.
But if there was a weakness on that roster, it was the pass-catching group. Darius Slayton led the team with just 724 receiving yards. After him, it was Richie James with 569 receiving yards.
In fact, Barkley — a running back! – tied Richie James for the team lead in receptions with 57.
So yes, the Giants, like the aforementioned Patriots, need a true number one wideout. Trading for ex-Las Vegas Raiders Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller was a nice start. But he’s injury-prone…and he’s also not a wide receiver.
Imagine how much a guy like DeAndre Hopkins would change this offense. Or if Schoen were to hit a home run at the draft by selecting a top wideout. Jones and Barkley are scary enough as is, but what if the G-Men had a superstar receiver to add another dimension to this offense?
The Giants are almost there. They are so close. They just need that one game-breaking wideout to emerge as a yearly Super Bowl championship contender. And it’s Schoen’s job to go out and find him…
Los Angeles Chargers: A Game-Wrecking Linebacker
Justin Herbert is arguably a top-five quarterback in the game. Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are a prolific rushing duo. The o-line has three gems in veteran Cory Linsley and youngsters Rashawn Slater and Jamaree Salyer.
If Zion Johnson can figure it out at guard, the Bolts could have a top-five o-line in the NFL in relatively short time.
But the Chargers are relatively weak at the linebacker position. Kenneth Murray hasn’t panned out, and free agent pickup Eric Kendricks has a TON to prove after a lackluster end to his tenure in Minnesota.
We would have loved for the Chargers to land someone like Lavonte David, Tremaine Edmunds or TJ Edwards in free agency. The Bolts need a quality run-stopping linebacker and someone who can complement the pass-rushing duo of Mack and Bosa.
If the Bolts can find that, their D will be pretty much set, and they may finally stop underachieving for once. And then they’ll be ready to make a Super Bowl run.
Miami Dolphins: Interior Offensive Lineman
The Dolphins have made nice progress after years of mediocrity. 2022 marked their third straight winning season, for starters, And in year one of the Mike McDaniel era, they put an end to their six-year playoff drought
Not only that, but Miami nearly upset a heavily-favored Buffalo Bills team on Wild Card weekend with third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson.
Now, if Miami could just get one above-average guard to fill out their offensive line. Veteran Terron Armstead is a rock at the tackle position. Connor Williams looks like a true franchise center following the position switch.
But Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hunt leave a lot to be desired at guard. Miami’s interior o-line has been a problem for a while, and Tua is going to have problems staying upright if it’s not addressed. Find one stud guard, and Miami will be ready to roll as a Super Bowl contender.
Detroit Lions: A Lockdown Corner
Jared Goff looked like a long-term starting QB after a very stellar 2022 season, and he’ll only get better from here.
Why? Well, 2022 first-round wide receiver Jameson Williams is destined to be a superstar after sitting out most of his rookie season while recovering from an ACL injury. And Amon-Ra St. Brown has quickly established himself as one of the top pass-catchers in all of football.
D’Andre Swift and the newly acquired David Montgomery round out a top-level backfield. Oh, and that o-line will remain a force with Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell entering their prime years.
Aidan Hutchinson is a rising star on the d-line. Malcolm Rodriguez could be a multi-time Pro Bowler at linebacker. CJ Gardner-Johnson, Tracy Walker and Kerby Joseph lead a strong group of safeties.
But the Lions still have a pressing need for a top-level cornerback. 2020 first-rounder Jeff Okudah has been hit by injuries early in his career, and the Lions can’t consider him a foundational piece at this time.
With two first-round picks, the Lions could take one OR EVEN TWO lockdown corners. Devon Witherspoon, Deonte Banks, Christian Gonzalez and Joey Porter Jr. would all fit the bill.
Bottom line, Detroit has shored up most of its roster flaws under GM Brad Holmes. They are one Pro Bowl-level, shutdown corner away from being a Super Bowl contender in a relatively weak NFC.
Denver Broncos: A Pro Bowl-Level Pass Protector
The Broncos allowed a league-high 63 sacks last season. That might explain why an offense led by Russell Wilson, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Javonte Williams never once looked explosive in 2022.
Denver’s D has been overlooked for a while, but it’s truly a championship-level unit. And with Hall of Fame-worthy head coach Sean Payton in the fold, Denver has one major box checked off.
The Broncos threw $87.5 million at ex-49ers offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey. While he’s an elite run-blocker, McGlinchey isn’t anything close to Pro Bowl-caliber as a pass-protector.
Guard Ben Powers was also overpaid in free agency and isn’t going to single-handedly fix this unit, either. The Broncos don’t have any true star-level offensive linemen, and that’s gonna have to change soon.
You need to be good in the trenches to win. But the Broncos’ o-line is still a bottom-five unit, and Wilson’s scrambling ability isn’t going to mask the pass protection issues.
The expectation is that Wilson will bounce back with Payton calling the shots, but It’ll also take some drastic improvement from the o-line to help Denver rebound. And they won’t get there without one more star offensive lineman.
Minnesota Vikings: A Shutdown Defensive Back
Hate on Kirk Cousins all you want. But this is a top-10 offense thanks mostly to him, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and TJ Hockenson. The o-line is good enough, and the Danielle Hunter-Za’Darius Smith-Marcus Davenport led front seven is more than capable of getting the job done.
But the Vikings’ pass defense is a mess, and it cost them dearly in the playoffs. Star safety Harrison Smith is getting up there in age, and this current Vikings’ cornerback group might be the worst in the NFL.
Good thing the 2023 NFL Draft is loaded with elite defensive backs! If Minny could just fine one legitimate shutdown corner who could take away the opposition’s top receiver, the pass-rush would get home more often. And thus, this team would be ready for a deep playoff run.
There’s a lot to love about Kevin O’Connell’s group. But until Minny gets a true game-changing defensive back, they won’t be good enough to endure a Super Bowl run. Let’s see if they can change that before Week 1!
Which other NFL teams are one piece away from contending for a Super Bowl in 2023?
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