The Washington Redskins haven't made the playoffs since 2007, but this team is set to steal the NFC East in 2012. There are a couple other teams ready to shock the NFL this year too, at the expense of some mainstays who will fall.
The NFL is a cyclical sport. No matter how entrenched a team may seem at the top or bottom of a division, things often change in a hurry.
These three long-beleaguered teams will rise up to claim a playoff spot in 2012.
Robert Griffin III is going to be a big reason why the Redskins are successful in 2012, but he's not the only player who'll make a positive impact.
The additions of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, coupled with a revitalized Santana Moss and burgeoning young gun in Leonard Hankerson, have turned what was a weak wide receiving corps in 2011 into a strength in 2012.
Additionally, the emergence of Alfred Morris and the healthy legs of Tim Hightower and Roy Helu give Mike Shanahan a full set of tools with which he can operate on Sundays.
This offense will be dynamic.
The Redskins' defense is stout up front, too, and if the team can get even an average effort from the secondary, the Redskins will win 10 games in 2012.
Josh Wilson has reportedly benefited greatly from a full offseason to learn Jim Haslett's scheme (h/t Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com), and if DeAngelo Hall forgets about last season and plays like he did in 2010 the duo should be far better in 2012.
It's going to happen. Don't say I didn't warn you.
There are legitimate concerns about the Bills' offense, as we saw during the preseason. Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to develop any real chemistry with his receivers, and the team hasn't been able to score as a result.
Dave Wannstedt has all the right tools to engineer an impressive defensive squad in 2012, and this unit will be the strength of the team.
It's going to take a few games for all the new pieces to settle in together, though. Mario Williams, Mark Anderson and Stephon Gilmore are brand-new starters, and middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard only started nine games last year. Thankfully, the team has an easy start to the season, and their first big test won't come until Week 4 against the Pats.
A healthy Fred Jackson will be platooned by C.J. Spiller in the running game, and they will carry the offense in 2012.
I expect Fitzpatrick and the passing game to develop throughout the season, and if he starts playing like he did at the beginning of the year in 2011, this team will be really dangerous.
The defense of the Chargers looks really good this year.
Atari Bigby will be far more helpful to Eric Weddle than the players the team has tried to use the past few seasons. The secondary will be much improved, but the biggest improvements have come in the front seven—thus making the secondary even better.
Corey Liuget has come on like a freight train this summer, and the addition of Aubrayo Franklin has given the team much-needed depth. Melvin Ingram is a future All-Pro at outside linebacker, but he's stuck behind Jarrett Johnson—one of the many savvy pick ups by A.J. Smith this past offseason—on the team's depth chart.
Speaking of savvy, Smith's decision to part ways with Vincent Jackson and bring in Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal in his stead was spot on. Vincent Brown was expected to be a big player for the team in 2012, too, but a broken ankle has sidelined him for the time being.
If Philip Rivers can stay healthy, the offense is going to be just fine. Ryan Matthews may be made out of glass, but Ronnie Brown and LeRon McClain will do in a pinch if he continues to miss playing time.
The biggest question mark for this team is on the offensive line. If the big men stay healthy, Rivers will, too. If Rivers stays healthy, this team will break it's two-year playoff drought and win the AFC West.
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