After winning a league-record 18 games last season, the Patriots failed to win a championship and history suggests that Super Bowl losers don't fare as well the following season. Only three of the past ten Super Bowl runner-ups made it to the playoffs the following year and there hasn't been a Super Bowl loser make it back to the big game since the Buffalo Bills in 1994. Will Tom Brady and crew be the exception?
2 of 10Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Is Tarvaris Jackson a good enough passer to lead the Vikings to a title?
The Vikings appear to have a championship team in the making, but their biggest question mark is at quarterback. Although Jackson led the team to eight wins in his first season as a starter, he only completed 58% of his passes, and had 12 interceptions. Jackson will have to significantly improve on those numbers for the Vikings to make a deep run in the playoffs.
3 of 10John Iacono/SI
Is this the year that the Chargers get over the hump?
The Chargers have won the AFC West in three of the past four seasons on the way to racking up 46 regular season wins during that span. After falling short against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, the team has adopted a "Super Bowl or bust" mentality, and anything short of a title game appearance would be considered a failure.
4 of 10John Iacono/SI
Will Brett Favre regret coming out of retirement?
After being rebuffed in his attempts to rejoin the Packers, the former three-time league MVP will resume his career as a Jet. While his competitive streak will fuel his desire initially during the regular season, can it help him endure the mental grind associated with leading a team devoid of stars into playoff contention?
5 of 10David Bergman/SI
Are the Jaguars ready to supplant the Colts as the AFC South champion?
The Jaguars have closed the gap on the Colts in recent years, but have been unsuccessful wrestling the crown from the reigning five-time division champs. QB David Garrard stepped up as a passer last season, and provided an adequate complement to the Jaguars' powerful rushing attack. If he can continue his development, the Jaguars have a chance to make a major breakthrough in 2008.
6 of 10Gene Lower/SI
Will Reggie Bush bounce back from a sophomore slump?
After an electrifying rookie season where he provided several highlight plays and led the Saints in receptions, Bush appeared to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival into the league. But his inability to deliver as an every down back in Deuce McAllister's absence last season has some calling Bush a bust. Amid the pressure of shedding that label, all eyes will be on Bush to see if he regains his rookie form.
7 of 10Gary Bogdon/SI
Will the real Julius Peppers show up?
As one of the premier pass rushers in the game, Peppers averaged ten sacks during his first five seasons, and provided constant harassment off the edge. But last season, he only recorded 2.5 sacks and looked nothing like the dominant four-time Pro Bowler that the league had grown to fear. However, the Panthers have moved Peppers to the right side of the defense, and they are confident that the switch will allow their superstar to recapture his game.
8 of 10Tom Lynn/SI
How will Aaron Rodgers handle the pressure of replacing a legend?
The Packers' young signal caller had big shoes to fill after the retirement of Brett Favre in March, but the pressure has intensified after the Packers rejected Favre's attempt to return to the team. Thus, Rodgers faces increased scrutiny as the guy who forced out a legend. He showed signs of promise during his only extensive action last season (completed 18 of 26 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown against the Cowboys), but observers wonder if he can produce at that level over a 16-game schedule.
9 of 10David E. Klutho/SI
Can Tony Romo win a playoff game?
The two-time Pro Bowler has been outstanding during his first two seasons as the team's starter, but he has yet to lead the Cowboys to a playoff victory. Although the Cowboys have failed to win a post-season game in over a decade (defeated the Vikings 40-15 in a wild card game on December 28, 1996), the pressure is on Romo to get this talent-laden squad over the hump.
10 of 10Peter Read Miller/SI
Can Jay Cutler lead the Broncos out of their playoff drought?
The third year pro has been solid during his first 21 games as the Broncos' starter (completed 62.6% of his passes for 4,498 yards with 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions), but he has a 9-12 record as a starter, and the team has failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. However, the team has added speed to the line up, and Mike Shanahan is trusting Cutler with more responsibility at the line. Thus, the pressure is on Cutler to deliver with a big season in 2008.
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