NFL News of August 28, 2003

Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Brian Kelly and emerging new stars Shelton Quarles and Anthony McFarland.

They’re all back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense and, if it’s true that great defense wins championships, then why can’t they repeat their Super Bowl victory?

There are three fundamental elements in the difficult process of winning back-to-back titles, and the Bucs appear to have them all—personnel stability, coaching strength and veteran players.

But in the 10-year history of NFL free agency, only the 1997-98 Denver Broncos have reprised a champion-ship and, while the Bucs will be among the handful of favorites to go back to the Super Bowl in 2004, the NFC is cluttered with teams snapping at their heels.

The New York Giants and Philadelphia are jockeying for position in the East, Green Bay will again win 11 to 13 games in the North and lurking somewhere in the shadows are a couple of teams poised for a dramatic upward move—Seattle in the West and Carolina in the South.

—Charles Bricker, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel “Don’t discount sleeper teams such as Seahawks, Panthers”

Tampa Bay finished the 2003 season 7-9, missing the playoffs. The Giants finished 4-12. Green Bay beat Seattle in overtime in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, only to fall to the Eagles in overtime in the divisional round. Third seed Carolina upset the Rams in double overtime in the divisional round and defeated Philadelphia to advance to Super Bowl XXXVIII, losing to the New England Patriots. The Patriots became the first team since the Broncos to repeat as Super Bowl champions after the 2004 season.

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