2012 NFL Playoffs: 4 Teams with the Hardest Road Back to the Playoffs

Chris Dela RosaContributor IJanuary 24, 2012

2012 NFL Playoffs: 4 Teams with the Hardest Road Back to the Playoffs

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    With the 2012 playoffs coming to a close in Indianapolis in a about a week-and-a-half, there have been 10 teams eliminated from the playoffs with players who will have to watch the big game from the comfort of their own homes.  

    With a devastating loss that ends your season like teams face when they lose in the playoffs, comes the hope that you and your team will be able to have a similar regular season the following year and return to the playoffs.

    In this slideshow, I will break down some of the teams that may not be able to return to the postseason following the 2012-13 regular season and why they may have to start their offseason early.

    As always, feedback is welcome.  Enjoy!

Baltimore Ravens

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    On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens were eliminated from the 2012 playoffs after their former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal with the clock winding down in regulation, allowing the Patriots to advance onto the Super Bowl.

    2012 will not be an easy year for the Ravens though.  One of the bigger problems that began to show itself this year was the fact that they are in the tough AFC North division.  This season, three teams from this division (Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals) advanced to the postseason.  

    The Ravens are led by an elite group of veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.  The only problem with these great players is that they are not getting any younger.  And while we'd all like to think that these two will perform at the same level next year, the sad reality is that they are past their prime and nearing the end of their careers.

    With a lot of their crucial players aging, and other younger teams like the Bengals starting to make their presence felt in the AFC North, the Ravens will have to fight to get back into the playoffs in the 2012-13 season.  That's not to say that the Ravens do not have another year left in the tank to finish off what they started in Foxboro on January 22nd.  

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are in a similar predicament as the Baltimore Ravens going into this offseason.  

    They are currently the team with a lot of potential in the AFC North, but they still have to go up against powerhouse teams like the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.

    In 2011, the Bengals proved a lot of critics wrong by making it to the playoffs. Although they did not win their Wild Card Round game against the Houston Texans, they made it known that they are a team that intends to win games and be contenders for the playoffs for years to come.

    In recent years, the problem that has plagued the Bengals is inconsistency.  In 2009, they played extremely well and earned themselves a playoff spot but lost their first game against the Jets.  

    It will be up to this new Bengals team to redefine themselves and prove that they're not the kind of team that's just satisfied with making the playoffs and losing in the Wild Card Round year after year. 

Denver Broncos

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    It still amazes me how the Denver Broncos were able to make the playoffs.  

    While so many people like to only talk about "Tebow Time" and everything the quarterback did in 2011, credit needs to be given where due, and that's the defense (aside from that final game against the Patriots). 

    Had it not been for the Broncos defense keeping Tebow and the offense in such close games, "Tebow Time" may have occurred a lot less this season.  With that, how both units performed in 2011 will not have an effect on 2012.

    With clean slates and healthy players in 2012, the AFC West will be just as competitive as it was in 2011.  This past season, three teams (Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders) finished with 8-8 records while the Kansas City Chiefs finished with a 7-9 record.

    With a full training camp under his belt as starting quarterback, it will be interesting to see how Tim Tebow performs under the spotlight of playing in a very competitive division from Week 1 to Week 17 where one game could decide a team's fate (just like in 2011).

Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons are somewhat like the New York Jets of the NFC.  

    They're a big topic in the regular season, and when they appear in the playoffs, they can either do some damage or flop.  2012 will be a year to redeem themselves after the embarrassing 24-2 loss they suffered against the Giants back in the Wild Card Round of this year's playoffs.

    The biggest obstacle in the Falcons way is the New Orleans Saints.  Unlike this year, it's hard to see the Falcons getting a wild-card spot with all of the other better teams in the NFC, thus they would need to be better than the Saints so they can win the division

    For example, some teams that are on the rise and could be in the playoffs via the wild card next year are: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

    It would take an impressive season from the Falcons to make it back to the playoffs in 2012, but for now, they are slipping back into the NFC abyss of teams looking from the outside in.