The San Diego Chargers were a complete disappointment in 2011. They fell apart in the middle of the season thanks to injuries, inconsistency and a lack of fire. After a stellar offseason the Bolts enter the 2012 season as an under-the-radar squad with the potential to surprise a lot of people.
Here is a look at three underrated teams that will step up and surprise the NFL universe this season.
San Diego Chargers
After an incredibly disappointing 8-8 finish to the 2011 season, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith got to work and improved his team dramatically. The Chargers lost receiver Vincent Jackson in free agency but replaced him with a combination of Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal and Roscoe Parrish. Smith also convinced former Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain to join the team as well.
Defensively the Chargers scored big when they landed outside linebacker Jarret Johnson who will bring veteran leadership and toughness to the roster. Meanwhile, rookies Melvin Ingram, Brandon Taylor and Kendall Reyes should all see significant playing time.
With those players added to a core led by quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates and safety Eric Weddle should create a dynamic team. The Chargers are being overlooked to open the season and they will surprise everyone.
The Seahawks finished 7-9 in 2011, but look like they will be much improved in 2012. With running back Marshawn Lynch locked in to a long-term deal, and Matt Flynn likely in as the team's starting quarterback, the Seahawks should be much improved on offense. The only question for Seattle will be how their receiving corps shapes up.
Defensively Pete Carroll's team added to the front seven by drafting edge rusher Bruce Irvin and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, and signing defensive lineman Jason Jones in free agency. Seattle was good against the run in 2011, so adding a pass rush could turn its defense into a top-five unit.
Seattle looks improved on both sides of the ball. If receiver Sidney Rice can stay healthy and Flynn picks up the offense quickly, the Seahawks could challenge the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
The 2011 season was an absolute disaster in Kansas City. The Chiefs lost running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry for the season thanks to knee injuries and the team never recovered. Now with those three guys returning, Kansas City is in as good a position as anyone to win the AFC West.
The Chiefs added running back Peyton Hillis to take some of the rushing load off the returning Charles' shoulders, and that will mean quarterback Matt Cassel doesn't have to win games on his own.
Defensively head coach Romeo Crennel will continue to improve the Chiefs. Kansas City should be much better on both sides of the ball this season.
2012 Preseason NFL Power Rankings
|No. 1||Green Bay Packers||15-1|
|No. 2||New England Patriots||13-3|
|No. 3||Baltimore Ravens||12-4|
|No. 4||New York Giants||9-7|
|No. 5||San Francisco 49ers||13-3|
|No. 6||Pittsburgh Steelers||12-4|
|No. 7||Houston Texans||10-6|
|No. 8||New Orleans Saints||13-3|
|No. 9||Detroit Lions||10-6|
|No. 10||Denver Broncos||8-8|
|No. 11||Cincinnati Bengals||9-7|
|No. 12||San Diego Chargers||8-8|
|No. 13||New York Jets||8-8|
|No. 14||Dallas Cowboys||8-8|
|No. 15||Philadelphia Eagles||8-8|
|No. 16||Chicago Bears||8-8|
|No. 17||Seattle Seahawks||7-9|
|No. 18||Tennessee Titans||9-7|
|No. 19||Atlanta Falcons||10-6|
|No. 20||Kansas City Chiefs||7-9|
|No. 21||Oakland Raiders||8-8|
|No. 22||Carolina Panthers||6-10|
|No. 23||Arizona Cardinals||8-8|
|No. 24||Miami Dolphins||6-10|
|No. 25||Buffalo Bills||6-10|
|No. 26||Jacksonville Jaguars||5-11|
|No. 27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4-12|
|No. 28||Washington Redskins||5-11|
|No. 29||Indianapolis Colts||2-14|
|No. 30||Cleveland Browns||4-12|
|No. 31||Minnesota Vikings||3-13|
|No. 32||St. Louis Rams||2-14|