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Insider

Are the Lions Super Bowl contenders?

Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford should make the Lions contenders over the next few years. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Adam Schefter answers reader questions in his mailbag twice a week. Got a query of your own? Submit it here.


Q: Adam, what do you think the ceiling is for Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions this season? Last season, they took a big step by making the playoffs. Do you think they are a Super Bowl contender?

-- Frank (Michigan)

A: Super Bowl is a bit much in a conference as tough as the NFC, Frank, but it's hardly out of the question. They have to improve the defense and the running game (and their players need to stay out of off-field trouble), but the organization is well aware of that. For Stafford to become elite, he faces the same question he faced last year and will face in future years: Can he stay healthy? As long as he's healthy, he will be great. He already is. And he turned only 24 in February. So if Stafford stays healthy, the Lions should be legitimate playoff contenders the next dozen years. And if they can continue surrounding him with talent, there's no reason they can't be a Super Bowl contender every year during that time.


Q: Adam, will Hakeem Nicks' broken foot make any difference for the New York Giants' season? Do they need to go out and add a Plaxico Burress for insurance in case it takes Nicks longer to recover?

-- Jason (Nevada)

A: It's not the news you want to get in late May, Jason. The Giants are saying the injury will sideline Nicks about 12 weeks, but I've had one person familiar with the injury tell me that he thinks it's a four- to six-week injury. Either way, Nicks should be ready for the Giants' regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, Sept. 5. The more pertinent question then will be what type of shape he is in and how much he can contribute immediately. It's hard not to be concerned about Nicks' injury history -- that's part of a larger issue. And as for Burress, it's not really the Giant Way to go out and add a veteran player at this time. They like to develop their own players and promote from within. With so many young receivers on the roster, it's hard to see the Giants making a run at him.


Q: I've heard a lot of talk that Todd Haley could lead a increased passing attack in Pittsburgh. With new additions (David DeCastro, Mike Adams) along the offensive line, do you think we'll see a Steelers offense that focuses more on the run or the pass?

-- Terrell (Kansas)

A: It would be hard for Pittsburgh to increase its passing attack, Terrell. Pittsburgh threw the ball an awful lot in recent seasons. The dynamic of the team has shifted, going from a run-based team to a pass-based team. Based on Haley's history, the Steelers would figure to get back to a more balanced attack, though Pittsburgh is unsure when running back Rashard Mendenhall will return. Haley is smart enough to play to the teams' strengths, though. I don't think Pittsburgh will throw the ball any more, but then again, the Steelers already were throwing the ball an awful lot.


Q: I don't hear anyone talking about my Tampa Bay Buccaneers! They had a great offseason both in free agency and the draft. What do you think their chances are in the NFC South?

-- Herbert (Florida)

A: I like the Bucs, Herbert. I like the Bucs a lot. I don't think they were as good as they looked two seasons ago, and don't think they were as bad as they looked last season. Think they're somewhere in between -- and that was before they went out and added Greg Schiano, Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Doug Martin, Eric Wright and others. This is a team that is going to come out and be considerably tougher and more disciplined. I believe the Buccaneers will compete in the NFC South, which is one of football's toughest divisions. It won't be easy to overtake the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, or keep up with the Carolina Panthers. But the Buccaneers have had just the type of offseason they needed. This team will be, at the very least, a tough team to play against.


Q: Adam, since Cam Newton had such a phenomenal year as a rookie, do you think there is a chance he has a sophomore slump? What about Andy Dalton? Or will they both continue to improve with added talent around them?

-- David (North Carolina)

A: My belief is that neither of those quarterbacks will go through a sophomore slump, David, and here's why: When each of those quarterbacks started last season, they did it coming off a lockout, with very little preparation and down time. This offseason, Newton and Dalton are getting a lot more time to get even more familiar with their teams' playbooks and personnel. Why shouldn't they be better? The sophomore slump is more fiction than fact. Sure, there are some players who struggle in their second year, but more excel and take the jump to the next level. There's no reason Newton and Dalton shouldn't be able to do that.