2012 NFL Predictions: 5 Favorites That Won't Find the Postseason This Year
In the NFL it seems that new teams make the postseason every year. From being at the bottom of your division one year, then making the playoffs the next, predicting a NFL team's chance at the postseason can be a difficult task.
For whatever reason, may it be strength of schedule or free-agency moves, the NFL can prove to be unpredictable.
With the preseason coming to a close and the regular season soon underway, let's take a look at five teams who made the postseason last year who won't be as lucky to be back this season.
1. Detroit Lions
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Oh how quickly things change. The Lions went from going a horrid 0-16 in 2010 to becoming a playoff contender in 2011.
Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford proved to be a lethal duo in the passing game last season, ranking fourth in the NFL in passing yards and leading the Lions to their first postseason appearance since 1999.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they play in the NFC North where the Packers are still ahead of everyone else in that division.
With Aaron Rodgers and the Packers the favorites to take the NFC North, the wild-card spot the Lions took last season won't be so easy to take this year.
As improved as the Lions are, disciplinary problems as well as improved competition will make it difficult for them to get back to the postseason.
2. New York Giants
Is it crazy to believe that a team that won the Super Bowl will not return to the playoffs?
The Giants only finished 9-7 playing one of the league's worst divisions, the NFC West. Lucky for them, they were able to squeak into the playoffs and get hot at the right time.
This season, the Giants have one of the hardest schedules in the league, as the teams they face had a combined .547 winning percentage last season.
The Giants also lost some key players due to free agency in Mario Manningham and Deon Grant.
3. New Orleans Saints
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The bounty controversy takes out key defensive player Jonathon Vilma for the season, as well as defensive end Will Smith for four games. One of the brightest minds in the game, Sean Payton, is out for the season, and their interim head coach, Joe Vitt, is out for the first six games.
The Saints' strength of schedule doesn't get any easier, as the teams they face this season had a combined winning percentage of .504 last year.
Competition in the NFC South has also improved, with the Atlanta Falcons reloading by acquiring Asante Samuel. Adding Samuel across from Brent Grimes gives the Falcons one of the most dangerous cornerback tandems in the league.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also made big moves this offseason by signing All-Pro lineman Carl Nicks and wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
Although the Saints still have Drew Brees at quarterback, the distractions surrounding the bounty scandal, as well as the improved competition in the NFC South, may have New Orleans watching the playoffs from home this season.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
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Playing in the same division as the Steelers and Ravens, the best shot the Bengals have is to play for the sixth seed in the playoffs.
As much as the Bengals have improved with a top 10 defense and A.J. Green and Andy Dalton leading their offense, they have yet to show that they are better than Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
A team like the San Diego Chargers, who have an easier schedule than the Bengals, may have a better shot at wrestling away the 6th seed at the end of the season.
5. Denver Broncos
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One of the biggest NFL headlines this offseason was how much better would Peyton Manning make the Broncos?
The Tebow-led Broncos had one of the toughest schedules last year, but managed to make the playoffs with a 8-8 record.
That task will get even harder this season, as Denver has the second toughest schedule in the league with an opponents winning percentage totaling in at .543.
One of the bigger questions is, how long can Manning's neck hold up? We all know that Peyton can transform this team into a playoff contender, but if he gets beat up in the pocket, how long will that surgically repaired neck last?
In a competitive division, every game will count, and if Manning takes a bad hit and is forced to miss games, the Broncos' playoff chances turn slimmer and slimmer.
The improved San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs will also challenge the Broncos for a run at the AFC West Title and a playoff spot.