When discussing an NFL team's viability as a contender, we often turn to a favorite metaphorical device: the Super Bowl window. Is it open? Is it shut? Transitioning from one state to the other?
Yes, Andy Reid's bunch unsurprisingly tops this edition of the Schein Nine -- a current ranking of the franchises with the broadest windows for Lombardi hunting -- but who else makes the cut?
1) Kansas City Chiefs
Nobody will ever equal New England's dominance of the past two decades. In a league designed for parity, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots made the idea of competition parody, forging the most impressive sports dynasty I've ever seen. That said, the Chiefs have a great chance to go on a dynastic run of their own in the coming years, and it all starts with the wunderkind talent at quarterback.
At just 24 years old, Mahomes already has a league MVP and Super Bowl MVP to his name. He's a megastar -- and he's only getting started, having just completed his second season as an NFL starter. This cat's special. He's extraordinarily skilled with a beautiful quarterbacking mind to match. Anything seems possible when he's in the game. Seriously, anything. The Chiefs just completed a playoff run where they trailed in every game by double digits -- including 24-0(!) in the Divisional Round -- and ended up winning every game by double digits. That's Mahomes' magic. At this moment, he's the best show in sports, best player in sports. And with Andy Reid attached at the hip, it's the perfect marriage for Kansas City.
Reid is a brilliant coach, a true offensive innovator -- and now, with his Super Bowl ring, a no-doubt Hall of Famer. With the weight of never having won the big one lifted off Reid's back, he'll win at least two more. And that's conservative. This franchise seemed snake-bitten for years. No longer. Not with Reid at the controls of a Mahomes-led offense featuring explosive weapons left and right. Not with a defense that suddenly has some dudes, and is really well-coached by Steve Spagnuolo.
2) Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson just followed in Tom Brady's footsteps as the second unanimous MVP in NFL history. No surprise, considering he led the league in touchdown passes (36), finished sixth in rushing yards (1,206) and guided the Ravens to an NFL-best 14-2 record. A majestic season by any measure. The frightening thing for opponents is that it feels like he's just scratching the surface of his ultimate potential.
Having just turned 23 last month, Jackson will only get better in every element of being a quarterback. Not to mention, he now has a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder after the Divisional Round loss to Tennessee. And Jackson has the right people around him to maximize his truly rare skill set. John Harbaugh is a fantastic coach. Eric DeCosta is an astute general manager. The coaching staff, overall, is excellent. The talent is strong and deep. Get used to Baltimore being squarely in the title hunt for a long, long time.
3) San Francisco 49ers
The pain of blowing a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl won't go away any time soon (if ever), but this group's no one-hit wonder. The 49ers lost three regular-season games, all in the final seconds. They had the Chiefs on the ropes and the Lombardi Trophy within grasp. There was nothing fluky about San Francisco's 2019 renaissance. And the future looks exceedingly bright with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch steering the ship.
Now, Shanahan deserves blame for the painfully conservative approach he took at the end of the first half on Sunday. Against a team as explosive as Kansas City, you simply cannot take your foot off the pedal. But don't blame the coach for that fourth-quarter collapse. That was more on San Francisco's players not getting it done, while Mahomes, Chris Jones and others rose to the moment for the Chiefs. And yes, one of those Niners players who came up short was Jimmy Garoppolo. His fourth quarter was horrible. He needed to hit Emmanuel Sanders on that would-be go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. But don't let that one play overshadow everything else he accomplished on the season. Including the playoffs, he won 15 games. He was the only quarterback to finish the regular season ranked in top five in completion percentage (69.1), yards per attempt (8.4) and touchdown passes (27). With Shanahan calling plays and San Francisco's surrounding talent, the 49ers can absolutely win a Super Bowl with Jimmy G at QB.
The Niners aren't going away anytime soon.
4) Houston Texans
Too high? Maybe. I'm skeptical about Bill O'Brien reporting to Bill O'Brien. And the lack of a first-round pick until 2022 isn't very comforting. This roster has a number of holes and aging position groups.
That said, the Texans also have a true franchise quarterback, a game-changer at the game's most important position. Deshaun Watson showed us, in the regular season and the playoffs, just how impactful one man can be. And it doesn't hurt when that man has one of the league's very best receivers at his disposal in DeAndre Hopkins.
5) Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott is a lock to be on the Cowboys' roster next season, whether via the franchise tag or a new contract. Given the kind of play Dak has provided on the rookie contract of a fourth-round pick, he certainly deserves a major pay hike. And I think these two sides will indeed put pen to paper on a long-term deal at some point, especially with the new coach in place.
Mike McCarthy changes everything for Dallas. That was a coup of a hire. He's a Super Bowl champ and an offensive guru. This is a major upgrade over Jason Garrett. McCarthy and Prescott comprise the kind of coach-quarterback tandem that can carry a franchise to years of contention. It's in everyone's best interest to make this marriage official.
6) Green Bay Packers
While Rodgers' is on the back nine of his career, he's still quite capable of dissecting a defense. (Do you want to bet against him in a big spot?) Meanwhile, Green Bay's own D is more talented than it has been in a long time. Matt LaFleur proved he could coach by going 13-3 in Year 1, while Aaron Jones became a star at the running back position. And GM Brian Gutekunst will get more talent for Rodgers in the passing attack this offseason.
7) Philadelphia Eagles
I love Philly. I love Carson Wentz and how he played in crunch time down the stretch. Given how injury-riddled this roster was in 2019, it was no small task for Wentz to drag his team into the playoffs. The Eagles quarterback truly elevates the play of his teammates, no matter who they are on any given day. Rookie running back Miles Sanders certainly proved himself to be a keeper, though, as a weapon in all facets of the game. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert currently make up the best tight end combo in football. And DT Fletcher Cox still doesn't get nearly the attention he deserves as one of the NFL's preeminent game-wreckers.
Now, I'd like a bit more clarity on what the receiving corps and defensive backfield will look like come September, but I have the ultimate trust in GM Howie Roseman. And the NFC East's transitional state doesn't hurt, either.
8) Buffalo Bills
What Josh Allen and Sean McDermott accomplished in the 2019 campaign should not be eradicated by the Bills blowing a 16-0 lead at Houston on Wild Card Weekend. Despite the QB's poor effort in crunch time of that game, Allen enjoyed a breakthrough second season and I expect him to take another leap forward under OC Brian Daboll's tutelage in 2020. McDermott got my AP vote for Coach of the Year because he made the most out of his roster -- a roster that's only going to get better, because GM Brandon Beane is excellent in procuring players who fit these Bills.
9) Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is a future Hall of Famer who makes magic happen on a weekly basis. Pete Carroll has the hardware and the track record -- I don't understand his doubters, especially those in the Seattle area. Many thought the 2019 season could be a subpar year for the 'Hawks. They went 11-5, came about an inch short of a division title and won a road playoff game.
The only reason Seattle is this low on the list is because the NFC West looks like it could be the best division in football in 2020. San Francisco just hit the Super Bowl, the Rams are still quite talented, and the Kyler Murray/Kliff Kingsbury Cardinals are on the comeup. But still, the window is always open with Russ under center.