Thursday night the Pittsburgh Steelers will begin their title defense as they open up the season against the Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers will be confident they can repeat as Super Bowl champions, and why shouldn't they be? They return all their major pieces on offense and defense and have an up and coming and admired head coach in Mike Tomlin.
But Pittsburgh should not be considered the Super Bowl favorite. I don't want to take anything away from Pittsburgh's accomplishments last season, but 2008 is a marred year for the NFL.
After all, the league's most talented and dangerous team was without not only its best player, but the NFL's best player.
After absolutely dominating the NFL in 2007, New England's Tom Brady suffered a season ending injury early in his first game of 2008. The consequence of the injury was a flawed 2008 NFL season; a season in which an injury to a single player diminished the chances of the overwhelming preseason Super Bowl favorite while opening the door to a lesser squad.
Give Pittsburgh credit; it was the most opportunistic squad in 2008 and took advantage of the depleted competition to capture its league-high sixth Super Bowl victory.
As a result, the majority of football writers are selecting Pittsburgh as the favorite.
But how quickly these experts forget. The most dominant football team to ever play the game will return in 2009 with its primary weapon.
The Patriots didn't win the Super Bowl in 2007, but they still represent the most dominant team in NFL history.
The Patriots were defeated by the New York Giants in the Super Bowl that season, but anyone who followed football in 2007 and watched New England play knows that based on the overall product of the season, the Patriots were the superior team.
New England went 16-0 that year, becoming the only team to win all 16 regular season games. since the 1972 Dolphins./
But for New England to achieve the feat in this age of football where the players are this fast and this talented is far more impressive.
It wasn't just the perfect regular season record that was impressive. What will be remembered of the 2007 Patriots is the manner in which they blew their competition right out of the water.
New England, headed by Brady, fielded the most explosive offense in NFL history, scoring 589 points, 36.8 per game, the most in NFL history.
Its defense was just as productive, allowing the fourth fewest points in the NFL. The result was nearly a 20-point differential per game.
New England's run-and-gun offense presented an impossible assignment for defenses. Brady represented the most intelligent and gifted signal-caller in the league, as he picked apart defenses either with long bombs to a streaking Randy Moss or darts to a crossing Wes Welker.
New England's offense would strike early and often, while never letting its foot off the gas pedal. Whether it be head coach Bill Belichick's lack of a feeling of security in the game or just his ego, the Pats would embarrass opponents. They won their first seven games by double-digits, and 10 by 20-plus points.
Landmark victories included a 38-14 win over AFC West champion San Diego, a 21-point drubbing of then-5-0 Dallas and another 21-point blowout over Pittsburgh.
No one in the NFL had ever seen anything like it. Whether people thought the Pats were purposely running up the scores or not, there was no question they had the guns to do it. Only a handful of teams in the NFL had the ability to keep a game within reach. In 2007, New England was in a league of its own.
The Pats now return Brady and much of their weaponry from 2007, including Moss and Welker on the offensive side of the ball and unblockable defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and playmaking linebacker Adalius Thomas. Not to mention the league's premier head coach in Belichick.
The season previews are floating around on the Internet, and Pittsburgh remains the hot favorite. But it won't be close. The Pats will coast through the regular season and do what they should have done in 2007: win the Super Bowl.
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