Several of the offseason's additions played a major role in the makeup of the playoffs. Players like Andy Dalton and Johnathan Joseph can be labeled as the main reason for the team's playoff appearance. A team's ability to fill holes during the offseason can make or break a season.
The Chicago Bears decided that adding a rookie right tackle and Roy Williams was enough to get them back to the playoffs. These decisions played an important part in their late-season collapse. I am sure Caleb Hanie would have fared better with different wide receiver options.
Stats: 59 tackles, four sacks and one forced fumble
The addition of Phil Taylor helped speed up the Cleveland Browns transition to a 4-3 defense. Taylor possesses the ability to both occupy blockers and penetrate the pocket. This versatility provided the Browns with different options.
Finding a defensive tackle with Taylor's ability fills one of the biggest pieces to the 4-3 puzzle. The Browns can now turn their attention to upgraded the linebacking corps, or finding offensive playmakers.
Stats: 61 receptions, 785 yards and two touchdowns
The Kansas City Chiefs don't exactly have a prolific passing offense, but Steve Breaston was able to find success. His addition gave the Chiefs another option outside of No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe. Breaston's versatility also allowed the Chiefs to stick him in the slot and get rookie Jon Baldwin on the field.
A wide receiving corps of Bowe, Breaston and Baldwin could give opposing defenses a lot of trouble. This unit only needs for Kansas City's quarterback play to provide more consistency.
Stats: 97 tackles, .5 sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble
The Jacksonville Jaguars went into the offseason looking to make major additions to the defensive side of the ball. One of the biggest holes to fill was at the safety positions. Dawan Landry was brought in and instantly solidified the position.
Landry is more of a in-the-box safety, and really helped improve the Jaguars run defense. He might not be an elite cover guy, but he can more than hold his own. Landry gives the Jaguars the long-term answer at safety they desperately needed.
Stats: 16 Starts
Mike Pouncey had no problem adjusting the the NFL game, and quickly inserted himself as one of the Miami Dolphins' top linemen. His leadership and football IQ helped him quickly pick up the offense and make on the fly adjustments.
It appears likely that the Dolphins will add a quarterback in the upcoming draft. This will force the Dolphins to rely even more on Pouncey's leadership ability.
Stats: 57.7 percent completion, 1,955 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions, 3-6 record
Kevin Kolb didn't exactly set the world on fire with his play this season. However, he did lead the team to three victories. The biggest issue for Kolb has been staying healthy, which had a lot to do with the play of the offensive line.
Kolb did struggle this season, but he still showed signs of promise. The Arizona Cardinals need to work on improving the offensive line if they want to see Kolb succeed.
Stats: 107 tackles, one sack, and one interception
The San Diego Chargers needed to find a quick replacement for Kevin Burnett, who left in free agency. This team had hopes of making a playoff run, which made a veteran like Takeo Spikes a good fit. Spikes did a good job filling Burnett's shoes.
Despite his age, Spikes recorded over 100 tackles while making plays sideline to sideline. He is still under contract next season, and figures to be right back in the starting lineup.
Stats: 64 tackles, seven sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles
The Washington Redskins decided to draft Ryan Kerrigan rather than take a run at one of the quarterbacks in the 2011 draft class. Blaine Gabbert would have been their likely selection, and his poor season makes that look like a good decision.
Kerrigan's ability to create pressure off the edge helped take some attention away from Brian Orakpo. This duo will give opposing offensive coordinators nightmares for years to come.
Stats: 103 tackles, 1 interception, and 2.5 sacks
The Miami Dolphins have one of the best middle linebacker duos in the entire NFL. In the last two seasons, they added Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby via free agency. These two combined for 205 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Burnett's presence helped the Dolphins hold opponents to only 95 yards rushing per game, good for No. 3 in the NFL. 3-4 teams are only has successful as the play of their linebackers.
Stats: 130 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and one forced fumble
The offseason loss of Paul Posluzny to the Jacksonville Jaguars forced the Buffalo Bills to find another veteran linebacker. Luckily, Nick Barnett was available and willing to come to Buffalo. The Bills defense would have been much worse without him in the lineup.
Barnett has been a good player for many years, but this past season he showed a little more. Any time a defender racks up 130 total tackles, you can count that as a great season.
Stats: 62 tackles and two interceptions
The addition of Donte Whitner brought both stability and leadership to the back end of the San Francisco 49ers defense. Dashon Goldson's breakout season overshadowed Whitner a little, but there is no doubt he helped improve this defense.
San Francisco's defense only allowed one rushing touchdown all season, and Whitner played a major role in that accomplishment. The safety position is the last line of defense and is responsible for preventing long touchdown runs.
Stats: 55 tackles, 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles
In order to employ an effective 4-3 attack, the defense needs to find a defensive end capable of creating pressure. Jabaal Sheard possesses the quickness and motor needed to consistently make a run at double-digit sacks.
Sheard's quick development was a bit of a surprise and allows the move forward knowing they have one key position filled. His 8.5 sacks this season are only scratching the surface of his potential.
Adding another threat opposite Sheard will only increase his production.
Stats: 45 receptions, 540 yards and five touchdowns
The addition of Greg Olsen provided much more than a few touchdowns and receptions. He quickly became a security blanket for rookie quarterback Cam Newton. Surrounding a young quarterback with explosive weapons is an important part of his development.
This offseason will provide both Newton and Olsen the opportunity to continue developing their relationship. There a good likelihood that Olsen's production will only increase next season.
Stats: 41 tackles and six sacks
Stephen Bowen's addition to the Washington Redskins was a very underrated move. His combination of size and quickness makes him a perfect fit at the 5-technique position. He quickly made a impact by holding up against the run and creating pressure on the quarterback.
At age 27, Bowen provides the Redskins with a long-term solution at defensive end. His production will continue to increase as he gains more opportunities and playing time.
Stats: 16 starts
Harvey Dahl was signed to come in and bring some nastiness to the interior of the offensive line. However, as the season progressed, his role became more and more important. The injuries to Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold forced Dahl to fill in at right tackle.
Nobody feels that his future is at tackle, but he held up well enough to fill in case of injury. Offensive linemen with versatility have tremendous value.
Stats: 16 Starts
After losing David Baas to the New York Giants, the San Francisco 49ers knew they had to find a veteran replacement. Jim Harbaugh and company felt they had a team ready to make a strong run at the playoffs, and filling the hole at center was top priority.
Jonathan Goodwin isn't an elite player, but does a good job communicating with the rest of the line. His steady play and leadership helped young offensive linemen like Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis.
Stats: 65 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble
K.J. Wright was brought in to provide some depth, but ended up replacing Aaron Curry in the lineup. His development allowed the Seattle Seahawks to cut ties with Curry and pick up an extra draft pick. Wright's quickness and tenacity allows him to make plays all over the field.
The Seahawks defense started to make positive steps once he stepped into the starting lineup. Finding a steal like Wright helps this team focus on other needs.
Stats: 60 percent completion, 3,091 yards, 14 touchdown, 13 interceptions, 7-7 record
The Seattle Seahawks decision to sign Tarvaris Jackson was met with some criticism, but he actually played some good football. Nobody expected Jackson to come in and lead this team to the playoffs, with most expecting the Seahawks to really struggle.
However, he made the best out of a shaky situation. The fact that he was able to pass for over 3,000 yards with a makeshift offensive line and a banged-up receiving corps is really impressive.
At the very least, Jackson earned himself another season as the starter.
Stats: 59 tackles and two interceptions
The Houston Texans knew they needed to spend the offseason making major upgrades on the defensive side of the ball. Signing Johnathan Joseph was the headline signing, but bringing in Danieal Manning also made a major impact.
Manning is an underrated player who supports the run and holds up in coverage. Solidifying the back end of the defense is one of the reasons this Houston defense made major improvements.
Stats: Ray Rice- 1,364 and 12 touchdowns
The traditional fullback is a dying breed, but Vonta Leach is one of the guys keeping the position alive. Leach does the dirty work, which allows running backs like Ray Rice to rush for over 1,000 yards.
The media might not spend time focusing on Leach, but I guarantee opposing defenses are aware of his presence.
Stats: 45 receptions, 612 yards and eight touchdowns
Plaxico Burress showed that he is physically gifted enough to step out of jail and still make major contributions. His addition gave the New York Jets a big red-zone target, as well as a security blanket for Mark Sanchez.
Burress' eight touchdowns rank him No. 11 out of NFL receivers. It was also good enough to tie Santonio Holmes for the team high in touchdown receptions. The Jets offense minus Burress would have had more problems in the passing game.
Stats: 26 tackles and three sacks
One of the most important positions in a 3-4 defense is the nose tackle. He is responsible for occupying blockers and eating up space. Barry Cofield did an excellent job this season solidifying the nose tackle position for the Washington Redskins.
Cofield's presence helped London Fletcher lead the league with 166 tackles. At age 27, he gives the Redskins stability for the next couple seasons.
Stats: 54 receptions, 959 yards and eight touchdowns
The Atlanta Falcons felt their offense was one playmaking wide receiver away from being settled. This belief led to the acquisition of Julio Jones. Despite a few injury concerns, Jones provided the Falcons with plenty of explosive plays.
His presence helped take some attention away from Roddy White, as well as open things for the running game. Jones' speed and size provided Atlanta with both a deep threat and red-zone weapon.
Stats: 249 carries, 1,199 yards and four touchdowns
Hitting age 30 typically means the downfall of a NFL running back's career. However, Willis McGahee had his best season since 2008. The Denver Broncos added McGahee hoping he would provide some depth at the position, but he ended up leading the team in rushing.
The Denver Broncos wouldn't be preparing for a playoff game if they didn't add McGahee. His veteran leadership and tough running helped this offense sustain drives.
So much of Tim Tebow's success is thanks to Willis McGahee.
Stats: 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks
Marcell Dareus has already established himself as disruptive playmaker along the defensive line. His addition helped the Buffalo Bills defense take a positive step forward. Dareus is a versatile player who is capable of playing two-gap football and penetrating the pocket.
His impact on the game can't be seen by solely looking at his stats. Dareus' ability to occupy blockers and eat up space helped the linebacker corps flow to the football. He also disrupted the the timing of the offense by getting into the backfield.
Stats: 40 tackles and 5.5 sacks
The Philadelphia Eagles spent the offseason adding high-priced free agents to their roster. Nnamdi Asomugha was the big name addition, but others like Cullen Jenkins also made contributions. The Eagles brought in Jenkins to provide pressure up the middle.
Philadelphia wanted to create as much pressure possible with their front four, and Jenkins was a major part of that plan. His 5.5 sacks only show part of his impact, as he also had plenty of quarterback hurries.
Stats: 51 receptions, 683 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games
The St. Louis Rams' midseason acquisition of Brandon Lloyd wasn't seen as a major move. However, he had a productive 11 games for the Rams. Lloyd's addition is more about that future than present, as he gives Sam Bradford a reliable target.
Lloyd is a pending free agent, but I expect St. Louis to make a strong push to retain his services. Surrounding Bradford with more weapons will be key for a bounce-back season in 2012.
Stats: 32 receptions, 484 yards and two touchdowns in only nine games
Sidney Rice had another injury plagued season, but when on the field he showed a lot of promise. The Seattle Seahawks hope that Rice's injury problems are behind him. They are expecting a big year in 2012.
Despite only playing in nine games, Rice was able to haul in 32 passes for 484 yards.
His size and leaping ability provides quarterbacks with a great target. Rice does a great job going up and getting the ball at its highest point.
Stats: 60 percent completion, 2,753 yards, 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, 4-5 record
The injury to Jason Campbell is what ultimately kept the Oakland Raiders out of the playoffs. Adding Carson Palmer was a risk, but he actually played decent football.
Without Palmer, the Raiders would have been forced to go with Kyle Boller. In limited action this season, Boller completed only 53 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions.
Oakland didn't make the playoffs, but Carson Palmer gave them a better chance than Boller.
Stats: 39 tackles and three interceptions
Nnamdi Asomugha was the prized free agent this offseason and surprised everyone when he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Everyone in Philadelphia, including Asomugha, wants to forget the failure of this past season.
Asomugha didn't play at an All-Pro level, but as the season progress his play improved. He isn't known for his ball skills, so his low interception total isn't a surprise. However, he and the Eagles secondary held opponents to just over 200 yards passing in the last three games.
Stats: 163 carries, 895 yards, two touchdowns, 26 receptions and 183 yards
DeMarco Murray played at a very high level when the Dallas Cowboys needed him the most. He stepped into the starting lineup when Felix Jones was injured, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Murray provided both tough running and a home-run threat.
He easily would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark if he didn't suffer a season-ending injury against the New York Giants.
Stats: 51 tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles
The New England Patriots addition of Andre Carter didn't receive as much attention as moves to bring in Chad Ochocinco or Albert Haynesworth. However, Carter had a greater impact than both of those players combined.
Carter provided the Patriots with a much-needed pass rush, and if not for his play, this team might not have claimed the No. 1 playoff seed.
We will see just how much he meant to this team, as he is now out for the season with an injury.
Stats: 119 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense ranked in the top 10 by holding opponents under 105 rushing yards per game. A lot of the defense's success against the run can be attributed to the addition of Paul Posluszny. He not only led the team in tackles, but also tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
Posluszny also brought some leadership to the defense, as he did a great job making all the defensive adjustments.
Stats: 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks
Adding Wade Phillips to the staff was probably the Houston Texans most significant offseason move. However, drafting J.J. Watt is part of the reason why Phillips is able to run his 3-4 scheme. Watt's ability to set the edge against the run and create some pressure makes him a perfect fit for this defense.
Recording 5.5 sacks from the 5-technique position is an impressive number. 5-techniques aren't typically known for their ability to create pressure on the quarterback.
Stats: 60 percent completion, 2,497 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, 6-6 record
Matt Moore was the only Miami Dolphins quarterback to win a game this season. The opening-day starter Chad Henne led this team to an 0-4 start. Moore didn't have a Pro Bowl-type season, but he saved the Dolphins from a completely embarrassing season.
The Dolphins and Moore won six of their last nine games, and a lot of that had to do with the the quarterback play.
Stats: 43 tackles
The Denver Broncos would not be preparing for a playoff game this weekend without the strong play of their defense. Brodrick Bunkley only ended up in Denver after a failed deal between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.
The Broncos are very thankful that deal fell through, as Bunkley has played very well this season.
Bunkley's contributions come mainly from his ability to occupy blockers and stuff the run. His ability to eat up space allows the linebackers to cleanly flow to the football.
Stats: 55 tackles, one sack, two interceptions and two forced fumbles
The Cincinnati Bengals brought in Nate Clements as a quick replacement for the departed Johnathan Joseph. However, his addition became more important when Leon Hall suffered a season-ending injury.
Without the addition of Clements, the Bengals defense would really be in a tough position.
Clements provided the Bengals with depth, consistency and a veteran presence.
Stats: 16 starts
Despite being the youngest player in the NFL, Tyron Smith proved to be an excellent addition to the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. He quickly adjusted to the speed of the NFL and improved each and every week.
Smith showed enough promise that many feel he will eventually replace Doug Free at left tackle.
The Cowboys offensive line suffered a lot of injuries this season, but Smith was able to make every start this season. He already is the Cowboys best and most consistent offensive lineman.
Stats: 64 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, four punt return touchdowns
Patrick Peterson may have been the most impact rookie cornerback in recent memory. His four punt return for touchdowns helped the Arizona Cardinals reach eight wins this season. He almost single-handedly beat the St. Louis Rams with his 99-yard punt return in overtime.
Peterson didn't just return punts, he also provided solid coverage. He showed signs that he will be come a future lockdown cornerback.
Stats: 111 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions
Last season, the Detroit Lions' linebacking corps featured starters such as Bobby Carpenter. This propelled to Lions to spend some money this offseason and add Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant. These additions really helped improve the overall play of the defense.
Tulloch led the team with 111 tackles, and helped this defense become better run defenders. He also brought leadership to the unit, making most of the defensive adjustments.
Stats: 44 tackles and six interceptions
Carlos Rogers always offered solid coverage, but his lack of ball skills limited his overall impact. This season he found a way to hang on to more interceptions, making him a more dangerous defender.
The San Francisco 49ers attacking style of defense needs defensive backs capable of creating turnovers.
Rogers' consistency and veteran leadership has really helped improve the pass defense. Without him, the 49ers would have been forced to start rookie Chris Culliver.
Stats: 61.6 percent completion, 3,571 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, 9-7 record
This was suppose to be a rebuilding year for the Tennessee Titans. Adding Matthew Hasselbeck was more about mentoring Jake Locker than winning games.
However, Hasselbeck did what he has done his entire career: win.
The Titans were very close to earn a playoff berth, mainly because of the consistency provided by Hasselbeck. Besides the winning, he also provided Locker with some good mentorship.
Stats: 216 carries, 1,086 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns, 43 receptions, 296 receiving yards and one touchdown
Reggie Bush nearly doubled his highest career rushing total in his first year with the Miami Dolphins. He surprised everyone by effectively running between the tackles and picking up the tough yards. Another pleasant surprise was his ability to remain healthy and top 200 carries.
Moving forward, the Dolphins know they can rely on their running game to help provide some consistency. The combination of Bush and Daniel Thomas is one of the better young duos in the league.
Stats: 65 receptions, 1057 yards and seven touchdowns
A.J. Green proved that a rookie wide receiver can play a major role in the turnaround of a franchise. His ability to stretch the field and make tough catches helped the Cincinnati Bengals earn a playoff berth. He also played an important role in Andy Dalton's quick development.
Most rookie quarterbacks don't have the luxury of throwing to a receiver with Green's talent level. There was more than one occasion where Dalton threw a poor pass and Green bailed him out.
Stats: 37 tackles, 13 sacks and two forced fumbles
Last season, the San Francisco 49ers defense struggled to slow down opposing offenses. Most of the problems were due to their lack of a pass rush. The addition of Aldon Smith and his 13 sacks have really increased the effectiveness of this unit.
The 49ers wouldn't have earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC if it wasn't for the quick development of Smith. Most of their success this season has been thanks to the play of the defense.
Stats: 58.1 percent completion, 3,398 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions
It isn't often that a rookie quarterback leads his team to a playoff berth. The fact that Andy Dalton helped turn around a Cincinnati Bengals team coming off a four-win season is even more impressive. His ability to move the offense and protect the football is the main reason for his success.
Dalton's play has everyone in Cincinnati feeling great about the future. They have quickly forgotten the likes of Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco.
Stats: 65 tackles, 10.5 sacks, three tackles for loss
Von Miller has been the catalyst for the Denver Broncos turnaround. Don't be fooled by the media; Tim Tebow is only a small part of their success. Von Miller and the defense are the real reason the Broncos are in the playoffs.
Miller's ability to get into the backfield and create pressure has disrupted the timing of opposing offenses. His presence has drawn attention away from Elvis Dumervil, allowing him to tally 9.5 sacks.
Opposing offenses have a tough time game-planning for both pass-rushers.
Stats: 44 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble
Johnathan Joseph was one of the top free agents available this offseason, and landed with a team that desperately need him. Last season, the Houston Texans' pass defense was one of the worst in history. This propelled the team to make major changes on the defensive side of the ball.
The addition of Joseph provided this team with a true lockdown cornerback. His lead-by-example play helped bring along second-year player Kareem Jackson.
Stats: 39 tackles, 18 sacks and three forced fumbles
The Philadelphia Eagles addition of Jason Babin got overshadowed by the surprise signing of Nnamdi Asomugha. However, Babin actually made a much bigger impact, his 18 sacks ranked No. 3 in the NFL.
His decision to join the Eagles was as much about scheme as it was money.
Babin followed Jim Washburn to Philadelphia, and the two continued to work well together. Because of his quickness off the edge, he is a perfect fit for the wide-9 scheme. The Eagles wanted to create pressure with their front four, and Babin absolutely lived up to expectations.
Stats: 87 carries, 603 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 86 receptions, 710 receiving yards, seven receiving touchdowns and one punt return touchdown
Some New Orleans Saints fans were worried about replacing the versatility of Reggie Bush. Darren Sproles did more than replace Bush, he made him an afterthought. His 2,669 total yards set the NFL record, previously held by Derrick Mason.
Drew Brees was right to court Sproles during the offseason.
Stats: 60 percent completion, 4,051 yards, 21 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 706 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, 6-10 record
All Cam Newton did this season was break Peyton Manning's rookie passing record. His performance was absolutely brilliant, and a bit of a shocker. Nobody predicted that he would throw for over 4,000 yards and tally 35 total touchdowns.
The biggest surprise has to be the fact that Newton led a terrible Carolina Panthers team to six wins. His ability to move the offense is really what made this team competitive. The future in Carolina is very bright, thanks to the play of Cam Newton.