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SALT LAKE CITY -- Here is a snapshot of the Top 5 Super Bowl contenders in 2011. Predictably the list is full of usual suspects.
Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers proved to be a winner as he almost single-handedly led the Packers to win after win in the playoffs. Packer's receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver return healthy after injuries burdened them off and on last season.
The Dom Capers-led defense returns ten starters including linebacker Clay Matthews. A.J. Hawk is a perfect fit to play next to Matthews and Charles Woodson returns at cornerback for his 14th year in the league.
New England Patriots
2010 League MVP Tom Brady returns for his 12th season with more weapons on the roster. Chad Ochocinco was added to an overachieving receiving corps and Albert Haynesworth joins a defensive line that plays the same scheme he's familiar with from Tennessee.
Brady will continue to perform at a high level no matter who surrounds him, but now that the Patriots have given him more talent to work with look for New England to make another deep run into the playoffs.
The Eagles did their best to form a Dream Team by adding many new faces at key positions. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Roger- Cromartie were added to an already stacked secondary. Running back Ronnie Brown was added to strengthen the backfield led by LeSean McCoy.
Michael Vick will have every opportunity to prove that he is worth his new $100 million contract, but if he can't the Eagles have a capable, but enigmatic backup in Vince Young.
Andy Reid's team was very successful last year and with their new additions they count on being even better this year.
New York Jets
You can guarantee that Rex Ryan will have his team ready to play in every game this season. The Jets won't be featured on HBO's Hard Knocks this year but there will be plenty of drama in New York.
Plaxico Burress returns to the NFL after spending three years in prison, and looks to be a big threat to opposing defenses. Mark Sanchez is entering his third year and is feeling more comfortable leading the offense.
Secondary leaders, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, will anchor the defense that looks to be as strong as they were last year.
Every year the Steelers are one of the last teams competing in the final weeks of the playoffs. Pittsburgh is built for last season success with a strong running game and a gamer quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. Rashard Mendenhall looks to redeem himself after fumbling away the Super Bowl to end last season.
Troy Pomamalu returns after being the league's defensive MVP last season to lead the Steel Curtain defense. Brett Keisel and his beard return to anchor the defensive line and James Harrison hopes to avoid any fines from commissioner Roger Goodell.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons face a tough schedule early on, but after week 5 Atlanta faces only two teams that made the playoffs last year. Ryan had a Pro Bowl year last year and looks to improve his numbers by adding rookie Julio Jones to be Roddy White's receiving companion. Michael Turner finished third in the league in rushing last year but will have rookie Jacquizz Rodgers to spell him this year when needed.
Obviously the offense will be fine, but questions still remain on the defensive side where they lived by the "bend but don't break" philosophy. The Falcons didn't add any key contributors to defense during the offseason so they will look to defensive end John Abraham to have another standout season. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org