In today's NFL, a "surprise team" is often the direct result of a "breakout season" from some of its players.
Last year's Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants, featured perhaps the league's two biggest breakout performers.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz, after appearing in only three games in 2010 without a single catch, spent much of last season salsa-dancing in the end zone after racking up 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, while defensive end Jason Pierre Paul recorded a team-high 16.5 sacks after being just a situational player in 2010.
The NFC North had its fair share of breakout performers as well.
The 15-1 Green Bay Packers benefited from a breakout year from Jordy Nelson, whose offensive production increased by 681 yards and 13 touchdowns from the 2010 season. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford enjoyed a similar improvement, exploding for 5,038 passing yards and 41 touchdowns after he appeared in just 13 games in his first two seasons, in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
With the NFL season just around the corner, every team in the NFC North hopes several of its players will "make the jump" in the 2012 season. While an abundance of players appear ready for an increased role with their team, let's take a look at the top five players who will break out in 2012.