Which team do you think fades first? Patriots or Colts?
PN: I think the Colts do. That’s not to say they’re doing it wrong in Indy it’s just the New England Patriots are in a league of their own when it comes to draft picks. They just stockpile them year to year and it seems like every year they pick five times in the first three rounds. They seem more capable, to me, to reload and keep young players and veterans passing through their system at a good rate. I mean even now you can see them getting younger at certain positions, they revamped their tight ends, their linebackers are getting younger, their secondary keeps getting younger and yet they maintain their high level of play. Eventually they’re going to have to replace Brady. That’s the hard part and you can’t just go out and find another elite QB. But for now I think the Patriots will stay good longer.
ZS: I agree, I think it will be the Colts. The Patriots missed the playoffs when Brady missed most of the season a few years ago but Matt Cassel was still able to lead them to a record that would have had them in the playoffs in just about any other year. Sights of horror ususally ensue whenever Peyton Manning is removed from the game. The Patriots have the better overall team while the Colts rely more heavily on Peyton Manning compared to the Pats’ reliance on Brady.
What stumbling blocks stand in the way of the Lions and Bucs from developing a great rivalry?
PN: Their divisions. Unfortunately the Patriots and Colts have had the benefit of being in fairly weak divisions for stretches of time. The Titans and Jets have had a few decent teams over that time, but in the AFC East the Bills and Dolphins have had terrible decades and the AFC South is a joke. The Lions and Bucs meanwhile are stuck squaring off with the Bears and Packers in the Lions case and the Falcons and Saints in the Bucs case. Those are four, very talented, well-constructed teams that will probably be good for a while themselves.
But, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. The winner of the last two Super Bowls has come out of the NFC North and South, it takes a lot to win those divisions. If Tampa and Detroit start to rise to the top of their divisions, there won’t be debate anymore, they will be amongst the NFL’s elite, they will play year in and year out as division winners and this rivalry will take off. So in a way what stands in the way of this becoming a major rivalry is part of what could make this rivalry so great.
ZS: Consistency. While their divisions are tough, if they can get themselves in position where they are finishing at the same point in their respective divisions they will guarantee themselves a game against each other the following year. Familiarity will help build the rivalry – even if it just as competition for a wild card berth. For this rivalry to develop, the Lions and Bucs really have to rise together. The whole thing is in jeopardy if one team falls off or lags the other.