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The best sports franchises in the short, long term

The Red Sox look like a dysfunctional mess. The Phillies and Yankees had disappointingly abrupt ends to their seasons. The Eagles, Falcons and Jets are struggling. These days, you probably wouldn't want to be any of those touted franchises. But which franchise would you want to be right now? Here are eight teams with bright futures:

Detroit Lions

The Lions have won nine straight going back to last season. They can go 5-6 the rest of the way and still win 10 games for the first time since 1995. They have the two most important things in building a winner: a franchise quarterback (Matt Stafford) and ferocious defense led by Ndamukong Suh, who might have had more of an impact than any defensive player over the past year. Considering that all of their star players are in their early 20s, the Lions have the makings of a dominant team for years to come.

Miami Heat

We all made fun of the self-proclaimed dream team when it flamed out in the Finals against the Mavs. But remember, the Heat won 58 games last season and came within two wins of a title. Now the scary part: The Heat's big three are younger than 30. Dwyane Wade is 29, Chris Bosh 27 and LeBron James only 26. And now they have motivation. The only thing that might stop them is a lockout.

Tampa Bay Bucs

Just like the Lions, the Bucs have a young franchise quarterback (Josh Freeman) and a young, hungry defense. Throw in an energetic coach, and the blueprint is in place for future success. But they will suffer occasional growing pains (see: 49ers 48, Bucs 3).

Kansas City Royals

The Royals haven't been to the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series. They've had one winning season over the past 17 years. But they have what is considered the strongest farm system in baseball. They are considered a small market, but their small-market payroll has been mostly by choice. The owner, after all, used to run Wal-Mart.

Green Bay Packers

Okay, sure, everyone wants to be the reigning champ. It goes without saying. But there is something a little extra special about the Packers. Not only are they good, they're young. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers might be the best player in the world, and he's only 27. But it's more than that. It's the tradition. It's the fans. It's the community. Is this the best franchise at the moment?

Toronto Blue Jays

General manager Alex Anthopoulos has pumped new life into the organization, and word is the Blue Jays could be big spenders this offseason. The drawback, of course, is the Jays are in the free-spending and highly competitive AL East. But as the Rays have shown over the past four years, the Yankees and Red Sox can be beaten.

Winnipeg Jets

Actually, the team is lousy. But the fans are treating it like the greatest team since the 1976-77 Canadiens. When you're smack dab in the middle of Canada and haven't had an NHL team in 15 years, even lousy looks good. What better situation than to have a fan base that loves you no matter how bad you are?

The worst team in the NFL this season

Why would you want to be the worst team in the NFL? Because you get to draft Stanford's Andrew Luck. Call it a hunch, but we're going on record as saying Luck will be the next John Elway or Peyton Manning — a franchise quarterback who will win a Super Bowl MVP award. The team that gets him might end up being the Dolphins, who are winless and have a tough schedule ahead. Interestingly, they have some play-makers who would surround Luck nicely.

tom jones' two cents

The best sports franchises in the short, long term 10/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 9:59pm]
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