The NFL has the highest turnover rate and parity out of any professional sports league, and a team finishing with a strong record and a playoff appearance in one season does not necessarily translate into a playoff repeat in the next season.
The 2011 season was a unique one as we saw many teams go from being bottom-feeders to making the 2012 postseason. Also, many perennial playoff teams failed to make the postseason last year.
However, 2012 will most likely right the ship and return the NFL to a sense of normalcy.
Here are four teams that made the playoffs after the 2011 season that won't make it after this season.
To claim that the defending Super Bowl champions will miss the playoffs is a bold statement, but the New York Giants are likely going to come up short in the 2012 season.
While their 2011-12 run was magical, the team has lost many of its former strengths.
While Eli Manning has drastically improved, their running game and secondary have continued to suffer over the past few seasons. The team relies primarily upon its pass-rush and its passing attack to win games.
Manning was able to beat out Matthew Stafford for the 2012 Pro Bowl largely due to his multiple clutch performances. But he will be hard-pressed to repeat such jaw-dropping performances for another season. He will likely have a good year but a quarterback alone does not make a Super Bowl contender.
The Bengals rode an improved defense and strong performances from A.J. Green and Andy Dalton all the way to a 9-7 record and a wild-card spot. But don't expect this team to contend for the postseason two seasons in a row.
The team is still in a very difficult division, and a 9-7 record will likely not earn a playoff spot in 2013 due to the addition of Peyton Manning in Denver and the expected improvement of the San Diego Chargers.
Dalton and Green can certainly continue to improve, but the offense still has many problems, such as an inconsistent running game. This Bengals team can go 8-8 or even repeat at 9-7, but that will likely come up just short of a playoff spot.
The Lions got off to a strong start in 2011, winning their first five games, but by the midseason mark the weaknesses of the team became apparent—the lack of a reliable running game and poor run defense.
These are gaping holes on a Lions team that also is alleged to have disciplinary problems. The division is not getting any easier either, as the Packers and Bears are both formidable opponents and the Vikings can be expected to improve.
The team has a high-flying passing game, but it is difficult to win in the NFL by being one-dimensional. The Lions likely will not make it back to the postseason after the 2012 season.
Lastly, expect the Saints to miss the playoffs next season.
It is true that they still have Drew Brees, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However football is a team sport and team sports are all about chemistry. The distraction of the bounty programs and the loss of head coach Sean Payton will make it difficult for this team to gel next season.
Combine that with a very poor defense and rising competition in the NFC South with the up-and-coming Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers, and the Saints could very possibly fail to return to the postseason next year.