A lone football player can only accomplish so much. A star receiver needs his quarterback, and the quarterback needs his offensive line. A sack artist needs someone to run interference, and a shutdown cornerback needs the sack artist to generate pressure. Football is a true team sport, and those who distinguish themselves as stars only do so with the help of their teammates. One player does not automatically make a team great, despite some players who have come close to accomplishing that feat over the years.
However, there is a lot that a great player can do on the right team. There’s a good reason that the best teams in the league draft last, and that reason is that the right team can make use of special pieces of talent in a way that teams with certain roster deficiencies can not. The top teams in the NFL are often separated by mere degrees, and the right player can close the gap between contenders and champions. While that player sometimes take an unexpected form, the top contenders in the NFL can all benefit from the contributions of the right person in a specific role. These are the top 15 NFL teams that are one player away from a Super Bowl.
15 Houston Texans - Quarterback
14 Minnesota Vikings - Offensive Tackle
The Vikings were dealt a huge blow this offseason when Minnesota confirmed that Adrian Peterson was not going to be returning to the roster. While no team has ever improved by losing one of the best running backs in the league, you do have to remember that the Vikings haven’t been able to depend on the services of Peterson for a few years. Despite this, they’ve still managed to put together some impressive runs that just kind of fall apart.
13 Arizona Cardinals - Quarterback
12 Miami Dolphins - Linebacker
11 Carolina Panthers - Offensive Tackle
10 New York Giants - Running Back
9 Pittsburgh Steelers - Outside Linebacker
8 Seattle Seahawks - Offensive Tackle
7 Kansas City Chiefs - Wide Receiver
Yes, the departure of Jamaal Charles does mean that the Chiefs are in an awkward position at running back. Yes, Alex Smith is still not a quarterback that can carry this team. None of that really matters as much as the problem that Kansas City faces at the wide receiver position. The Chiefs receiving core is arguably the worst in the NFL. Kansas City has tried for years to win without a star receiver on their squad, and they’re proving that sometimes you really do need a playmaker on the outside for more than just some highlight reel appearances.
6 Detroit Lions - Running Back
5 Indianapolis Colts - Defensive Lineman/Defensive End
4 Oakland Raiders - Running Back
If you’re saying to yourself that the Oakland Raiders could have made a real playoff run if Derek Carr had been healthy...well, you might be right. The Raiders had no answer for Carr’s sudden injury and looked absolutely helpless without their star quarterback on the field. As easy as it is to say that the Raiders are all set so long as Carr is healthy, Latavius Murray was their starting running back in 2016 there is a reason why he doesn’t spring to mind when you think of dominant runners. In any event, he's now in Minnesota, so the Raiders need an answer at the position.
3 Dallas Cowboys - Defensive End
The Cowboys’ needs were a lot easier to address before the team lost a significant portion of their starting defensive backfield this last week. The Cowboys were already a little thin on pass defense and the departures of Barry Church, Brandon Carr, and Morris Claiborne only makes that part of their game worse. Here’s the thing about that, though. The Cowboys might not be better without the services of those players, but even with those guys on the roster, the Cowboys still had pass defense problems that stem from the team’s inability to generate a consistent pass rush.
2 Green Bay Packers - Cornerback
1 Denver Broncos - Quarterback
While nobody thought that the Broncos were going to get better when Peyton Manning left, few people could have predicted just how unprepared Denver was for Manning’s departure. Denver has tried to use a combination of Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, and Paxton Lynch to answer their quarterback question, but nothing has worked thus far. Now, if you’re feeling generous, you could say that Denver just needs to commit to either Siemian or Lynch and build around them. Honestly, though, this is a team that shouldn’t look as bad as they sometimes do when those guys are at quarterback.
The better option seems to be for the Broncos to step up and go get that star quarterback. While a guy like Tony Romo might only solve their problems for one or two seasons, the Broncos could do amazing things during that time.
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