Reading the Sports Illustrated preview, this thought returns: continuity is critical in building a repeat-winner in the NFL.
The Patriots, during the past decade, are the supreme example, but the Steelers and Titans (who went 13-3 last year, which I'd completely forgotten) are also evidence of the importance of continuity.
Mike Tomlin is only the Steelers' third coach in 40 years, and SI points out that all of the assistant coaches and 19 of 22 starters are returning from last year's Super Bowl champion. One of the new starters -- inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons -- was drafted in '07 and brought up in the Steelers' system. The contrast with the Redskins is clear -- while the Skins bring in high-priced free agents year after year, and they inevitably disappoint, the Steelers have developed a core of players who can rely on each other and actually become a team unit.
For the Titans, Jeff Fisher is beginning his 16th year as coach and 20 starters are returning. Last year the Titans allowed only 14.6 points per game, second only to the Steelers (13.9). Their secondary is particularly strong, with cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safeties Michael Griffin and Chris Hope. Here's Finnegan:
The Titans also picked up Nate Washington from the Steelers in the offseason; SI predicts big things from Washington.
--------My prediction for the Skins this year is the normal: they'll go 7-9 -- maybe as good as 9-7 if the ball bounces their way.