NFL Power Rankings: Non-Playoff Teams That Will Be Scary Next Season
It's never too soon to look ahead—especially if your team missed the playoffs this season.
So in honor of those teams that got hot down the stretch but it was too little, too late to make the playoffs, I'll highlight some of the teams that should reverse their fortunes next season and surprise the rest of the NFL.
As the most Beatles-ish band of their generation, Oasis once said, "Don't look back in anger." Look to the future with this week's NFL power rankings, all ye scorned football fans.
1. Green Bay Packers (15-1)
2. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
3. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
4. New England Patriots (13-3)
5. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
7. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
8. Detroit Lions (10-6)
9. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
Yes, I have the Eagles in the top 10 of my rankings. And yes, I have them higher than the team that won the division with a better record, the New York Giants (9-7). But consider the following:
Four of the Eagles losses were by a touchdown or less, and in each of those games they blew a chance to win the game on their final possession. If the Eagles had managed to win just one of those games, they would have made the playoffs.
In games Michael Vick started and finished, the Eagles were 7-3. In those he didn't play in or was unable to finish due to injury, the Birds were 1-5.
The Eagles finished with the fourth-ranked offense and eighth-ranked defense that seemed to put everything together in their last four games. If they carry that momentum into next season, they will be scary. Certainly, quite a few playoff teams are glad they didn't make the dance this year.
10. New York Giants (9-7)
11. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
12. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
The Chargers decided to play up to their potential the last five weeks of the season, going 4-1, crushing Baltimore 34-14 in Week 15 and keeping the Raiders from winning the AFC West this weekend by beating them 38-26.
Oh, and Norv Turner and his lifetime 108-113-1 record are expected to get canned, which can't hurt San Diego's prospects for the future.
With studs like Philip Rivers and burgeoning runner Ryan Mathews returning—and the Chargers still holding the right to use the franchise tag on wide receiver Vincent Jackson—the Chargers should contend for the AFC West next season.
13. Houston Texans (10-6)
14. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
The entire 2012 NFL season for the Tennessee Titans will be summed up by two questions: Will the real Chris Johnson please show up? And what do the Titans have in Jake Locker?
If the answer to those questions is "yes" and "a stud," the Titans will vie for an AFC South title. If the answer is "no" and "a scrub," they'll probably be 9-7 and out of a playoff berth once again.
15. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Did you know that the Cardinals finished the season on a 7-2 tear? I'm not entirely sure what that means either—I mean, are you really scared of a team led by either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton?—but the numbers suggest that the Cardinals figured out something in the second half of the season.
17. Denver Broncos (8-8)
18. New York Jets (8-8)
19. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
20. Oakland Raiders (8-8)
21. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
The Chiefs finished 2-1 for Romeo Crennel (including a shocking upset of the Packers) and get back Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry next season. In a wide open AFC West, Kansas City will be dangerous.
22. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
All that needs to be said is this: Cam Newton.
23. Miami Dolphins
After starting 0-7, the Dolphins finished the year a promising 6-3. Reggie Bush showed that he can work as an every-down back, Brandon Marshall was productive and Matt Moore is at least serviceable as a quarterback until the Dolphins find their quarterback of the future.
With the late-season descent of the Jets and Bills this year, the Dolphins could use an easier schedule next year to sneak into the Wild Card.
24. Chicago Bears
Do that, and they are a playoff contender once again. But if they fail to do so, the Bears will be looking up at the Lions and Packers in the NFC North.
25. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
27. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
28. Washington Redskins (5-12)
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
30. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
31. St. Louis Rams (2-14)
32. Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
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