NFL Teams with the Most to Prove in 2012

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2012

NFL Teams with the Most to Prove in 2012

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    There comes a time when an NFL team must exceed their expectations and contend for a playoff berth. A time when it’s no longer acceptable to think of each season as a building block to success. Regardless of the circumstances, when that time comes, a team must take the field with the mindset to win each week.

    The following NFL teams are in that very situation entering the 2012 season.

New England Patriots

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    The majority of football fans regard the New England Patriots as a fake dynasty, as they echo the feelings of Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh that their three Super Bowl championships are tainted.

    Unfortunately, when you’re caught cheating, all of your accomplishments are then held in question. Also, the Pats don't seem to have fully recovered from losing the Super Bowl that would've given them an undefeated season and put them among the league's all-time greatest teams.

    The Patriots must come out this year and show that they can win a championship without any outside assistance.

Dallas Cowboys

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    It’s tough enough to coach or manage a professional sports team, but no one is under more pressure than Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett coming into this season.

    His team lost two key NFC East matchups to their biggest rival, the New York Giants, in the final four weeks of the season. They went on another memorable run to a fourth Super Bowl title.

    Garrett’s biggest problem is trying to please team owner Jerry Jones, who expects the Cowboys to maintain their excellence from the early '90s.

    If they’re going to contend for a playoff berth, then the Cowboys will have to find a pass defense. They ranked near the bottom of the league last season.

San Diego Chargers

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    The key to the success of the San Diego Chargers will be protecting quarterback Philip Rivers all year.

    The stats don’t lie, as he ran for his life on most passing downs and threw 17 interceptions in the first 10 games of last season. When they added tackle Jared Gaither and guard Tyronne Green to the offensive line, it allowed a disjointed unit to become a cohesive part of a good offense. 

    With the retirements of tackle Marcus McNeill and guard Chris Dielman, the Chargers are expecting Gaither to become one of the leaders of the team. However, he continues to miss practice time with an ailing back.

    The team is being cautious with Gaither and making sure he is ready for the regular season. If he’s not, then depth on the offensive line will be a major roadblock to their success. 

Chicago Bears

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    A big decision is ahead for new Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery, as he must observe how his team reacts under the direction of head coach Lovie Smith. Emery must decide if a change is needed to allow the Bears another chance at a Super Bowl.

    Lovie is an excellent motivator of talent, but his in-game decision making skills are less than desirable. He often shows poor clock management at the end of close games, and his instant replay blunders are wrongfully memorable.

    There's likely some pressure to win now. Otherwise, the risk of Smith being fired at the end of the season seems very real.

Buffalo Bills

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    The Buffalo Bills are rolling the dice that this is the season they finally get back to the playoffs. They have added defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to an already decent defense. The Bills aren’t a juggernaut yet, but they expect to contend for a playoff berth.

    If you eliminate their divisional games, the Bills have a very easy schedule (toughest games: Week 5 at San Francisco; Week 9 at Houston) for the upcoming season. If they don’t have double-digit wins this year, then it probably won’t happen for a while.