Personally, i like to blame the lockout and lack of training camp for all the poor play by NFL teams across the nation.
That however, is a whole other debate and article to write. In the meantime, here are five teams who fell shy of the 2011 playoffs who will bounce back in 2012.
5. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears finished off the 2011 season at 8-8. Something Bears fans were stunned by considering they made the NFC Championship only one year earlier. Matt Forte was an incredible double threat, on the pass and the run. Cutler was having a dominant season, as his team was at 7-3 by Week 11.
However, he fractured his thumb and was lost for the remainder of the season. To make matters worse, Matt Forte also suffered a season-ending injury with a sprained MCL. The Bears only got one more win that season, and it wasn't enough as the Lions and Packers easily made it to the playoffs.
They had a successful draft, getting linebacker Shea McClellin (who will now be needed with Urlacher's knee problems) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte are both healthy, and for the most part happy.
One reason Matt might not be happy is the Bears signing running back Michael Bush from Oakland. He might not like it, but I'm sure the fans do as the Bears look to have the best one-two punch in the NFL. Not only that, but after Brandon Marshall was traded from Miami (because they have their wide receiver position totally covered over there) he can finally be reunited with Jay Cutler.
Both had season-highs when they played with each other in Denver, and they look to top their previous success together in Chicago. Look for this team to overcome injuries, and contend for a 2012 playoff spot.
4. San Diego Chargers
When the San Diego Chargers re-signed longtime coach Norv Turner, many people including myself were shocked as we all thought another season without a playoff victory would easily cost him his job. They finished at a disappointing 8-8, short of fans and coaches expectations.
They lost wide receiver Vincent Jackson, which I'm sure the fans hate to be reminded of. Fear not, they had a succesful draft, picking up defensive end Melvin Ingram and defensive tackle Kendell Reyes. While this doesn't solve their loss of Vincent Jackson, they look confident with Malcom Floyd as well as offseason acquisition Robert Meachem from New Orleans.
No, I haven't forgotten about third-year running back Ryan Mathews' broken clavicle. This year, like last, I expect it to be another "year of the quarterback". Look for Rivers to finally shake his own curse and have a career season as the Chargers make the 2012 playoffs.
3. Seattle Seahawks
It has been two years since the Seahawks upset the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. The following year, they equaled their previous record of 7-9, which this time wasn't enough to make the playoffs.
However, they like the Bolts and Bears had an above-average Draft. They shocked the fan base when they selected Bruce Irvin, defensive end out of West Virginia. Mostly because he was undersized and his speed would prove not enough.
Training camp says otherwise, he had a great camp and looks to see plenty of playing time this year. They also drafted quarterback Russell Wilson who was competing for the starting job before it was given to Matt Flynn earlier this week. That brings us to my main point; they chose the right man to lead the team.
Matt Flynn sat on the bench in Green Bay watching Aaron Rodgers turn into a future Hall-of-Famer. When given the chance against Detroit in Week 17 last year, Flynn threw for a ridiculous 480 yards and six touchdowns, both Green Bay Packers records.
Records that Mr. Rodgers has never obtained. Oh yeah, they also signed wide receiver Braylon Edwards and that other guy...Terrell Owens. Look for the Seahawks to march into the playoffs in 2012, maybe even with an above .500 record!
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles finished off their 2011 season with a Super Bowl victory. Wait, whoops, accidentally reading last year's training camp articles and expectations. It was the team dubbed "The Dream Team" and by all means, they were.
They signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, cornerbacks DRC and even brought in Vince Young as their backup quarterback.
However, whether it be the lockout, new coaches, or too many new players trying to mesh together, the Eagles finished off their 2011 campaign with a disappointing 8-8 season. Shy of the playoffs, considering they finished one game behind the actual Super Bowl champ, New York Giants.
In the offseason they re-signed several players long-term and had an excellent draft grabbing defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Mychael Kendricks who both look to start in 2012.
The Eagles face a tough schedule in 2012, but with new-brotherhood on this team after Coach Andy Reid's recent loss, look for The Eagles to immediately make their presence known early on and easily coast into the playoffs atop the NFC East.
1. New York Jets
My prediction, Tebow starts by Week 2. Not really, but that would be the feeling you get when you turn on any sports station. Usually they are talking about Tebow, even if it is him working out without a shirt on. It's true, Tebow had a magical season in 2011. As in it's magic he was able to make the playoffs and get wins playing the way he was.
He has his own style, and it is awesome. Personally I love Tebow. I think he's a great person and it's about time we have a player like this in the NFL. Yet, he managed to fumble the ball 13 times and throw six interceptions. He is a great guy but he is not a starting-caliber quarterback, not yet at least.
However due to insane amounts of coverage on every sports outlet, Tebow's name has become too familiar with the city of New York. They as well as the rest of us need to realize. This is Mark Sanchez's team, the Sanchize.
People seem to forget he led his team to the AFC Championship his first two years in a row. Like I started the article off with, I blame the lockout. I mean how else does this team drop to 8-8? Like the rest of the teams on this list , the Jets had a great draft when they selection Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill, who will look to immediately make an impact on this team.
They also added ex-Miami head coach Tony Sparano to be offensive coordinator, which should be incredibly exciting considering he revolutionized the wildcat formation. That's where Tebow will find his place on the team, I can't wait to see what they have up their sleeve in 2012.
One thing we all know -- Tebow is slated to be the primary "Punt Return Protector". Look for Tebow to literally block and lead this team to the playoffs in 2012. Ok, I will stop with the Tim Tebow jokes, as I am sure Mark Sanchez would enjoy.
In all seriousness i do expect "Tebow Time" to contribute to this team, but there will be no mystery who the starting man is in New York after Mark Sanchez leads his team deep into the playoffs, once again.
What do you think? Did i miss somebody? Any teams you don't agree with? Comment below!
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