NFL Predictions 2012: 3 Players Who Will Redeem Themselves

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 18: Peyton Hillis #40 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs during pre-game warm-ups prior to playing against the St. Louis Rams in a pre-season game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 18, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Expectations can be a tricky thing.

They can be set too low, leading to shock, awe and the unavoidable hype that comes with the territory when they are exceeded.

At the same time, they can be set too high, resulting in the same shock and awe, but instead of the hype, failing to live up to them brings with it disappointment and disdain.

More than a few players entered 2011 with high expectations only to fall well short of reaching them, and those players enter 2012 under the eye of non-believers and critics who will be quick to point out that last year wasn't a fluke—these players simply aren't that good.

Let's take a look at who is poised to silence those critics and redeem themselves in the eyes of their fans and teammates.


Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

After missing most of training camp as he held out for a new contract, Chris Johnson looked out of shape and a step slower once he took the field for the Titans in 2011. While he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season, he only found the end zone four times, a drastic drop-off after averaging 11 scores in each of the previous three seasons.

With a full training camp under his belt, a new offensive system and an improved offensive line in front of him, Johnson will once again be mentioned as one of the elite running backs in the game.

Asking him to rush for more than 2,000 yards as he did in 2009 remains a stretch, but a 1,500-yard season with double-digit touchdowns is well within his reach.


Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Josh Freeman set new career highs in completions, completion percentage and passing yards in 2011. He also set a career mark for interceptions with 22, while tossing only 16 touchdown passes.

Not good, to say the least. But Tampa Bay went out and not only got itself a new head coach with a new offensive system, but it gave Freeman a true No. 1 receiver in Vincent Jackson.

The addition of Jackson and rookie RB Doug Martin gives Freeman the pieces that he needs to once again lead the Buccaneers to victory. Milestones of 3,800 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and half as many interceptions are numbers that he will not only reach, but could easily surpass.


Peyton Hillis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

After reaching the end zone 13 times for the Cleveland Browns in 2010, Peyton Hillis was looking for a long-term commitment from the Browns hierarchy. That never came, and a bitter Hillis battled injuries to his hamstring, hip and throat, reaching the end zone only three times while averaging a mediocre 3.6 yards per carry.

Healthy and motivated, he joins a Chiefs backfield that features Jamaal Charles, who is coming off of his own disappointing 2011 for entirely different reasons, as he missed most of the season with a torn ACL.

Not having to be "the man" in 2012 will work to Hillis' advantage and he will not only shine as Kansas City's short-yardage back, but also as a receiver out of the backfield. It would be a stretch to say that he's going to rush for 1,000 yards, but he will find the end zone at least 10 times once again.