The 5 NFL Teams That Will Emerge from the Ashes as Contenders in 2013

Morgan Chalfant@@mchalfant16Contributor IIIJanuary 22, 2013

The 5 NFL Teams That Will Emerge from the Ashes as Contenders in 2013

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    Unlike the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, a few NFL teams had rough and disappointing 2012 seasons. Whether struggling to live up to the success of last season like the New York Giants or having trouble finding rhythm with new additions like the Carolina Panthers, these less-than-successful teams found themselves ultimately left out of the playoffs.

    However, the future could be bright for a few NFL teams that faced difficulties this past season. Many of these teams showed promise at the end of the season, and some are making serious coaching staff changes to ensure a better 2013 season. 

The New York Giants

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    The reigning Super Bowl champions came into the 2012 season with everything to lose. The beginning of the season looked promising for the Giants; they won six of the first eight games, and Eli Manning proved to be as impressive as usual.

    However, the Giants saw some tough defeats between the months of November and December. They lost crucial games against the Pittsburgh Steelers (24-20), the Cincinnati Bengals (31-13), the Washington Redskins (16-17), the Atlanta Falcons (34-0) and the Baltimore Ravens (33-14). Though they won their final game against the Philadelphia Eagles 42-7, the win was not enough to squeeze them as a wild card into the playoffs.

    Yet, their 9-7 record was not terrible, and Eli Manning still has the talent to lead his team to victory against practically any other NFL team as long as he remains as consistent as he was at the start of the 2012 season. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Like the New York Giants, the Steelers had a disappointingly mediocre season, finishing with a record of 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs. They lost some tight games, like the October 11 faceoff with the Tennessee Titans (26-23) and the December 16 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys (27-24).

    Perhaps the most disappointing loss, though, came against the Bengals on December 13 at home. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception with just 20 seconds left on the clock, crushing the team’s playoff dreams completely.

    Though Roethlisberger suffered a rib injury midseason that obviously affected his game play, he will assuredly be fully recovered and ready to play next year. Moreover, there are several ways that offensive coordinator Todd Haley and the Steelers offense can help Roethlisberger improve to ensure a better 2013 NFL season for Pittsburgh.

The Dallas Cowboys

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    It’s no secret that Tony Romo made more than one too many mistakes this season to cost the Cowboys a spot in the playoffs and lead them to a lackluster record of 8-8. The most disappointing loss came in the final game of the season against the Washington Redskins, when Romo threw three interceptions. The game ended in a 28-18 loss for Dallas and knocked the Cowboys straight out of the playoffs.

    However, the Cowboys appear to be making promising changes to their coaching staff to build an effective army around head coach Jason Garrett. Though Jonathan Bales of NBC Dallas-Fort Worth notes Romo’s many off-target passes, he still admits, “Tony Romo actually played quite well down the stretch.” As long as Romo builds on his good late-season play, the coaching staff works well together and Jerry Jones watches his money, Dallas will appear more than mediocre come next season. 

The Detroit Lions

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    Finishing with an unimpressive record of 4-12, the Lions definitely ended their 2012 NFL season with a bust. Some of the most unsatisfactory games include the 44-41 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the 13-7 loss to the Chicago Bears early on and the 26-24 loss to the Bears in the final game of the season.

    However, the season did have some brighter moments, though they were fleeting. Detroit defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 26-23 on the road and beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 at home.

    Though Ron Jaworski ranked Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford the 20th best NFL quarterbacks, another analyst gave Stafford a 12th-place rating using the Defense-adjusted Value Over Average rating system, according to the Detroit Free Press.

    Moreover, Lions coach Jim Schwartz still remains positive when it comes to Stafford. He praises the quarterback, “He’s very creative as a quarterback, throws the ball from a lot of different angles, and in most ways that is very, very helpful to us,” reports the Detroit Free Press.

    If Stafford finally lives up to the hype that has surrounded him, the Lions will fare better in the 2013 season.

The Carolina Panthers

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    Even though the Panthers grabbed big-time rookie quarterback Cam Newton in the 2011 draft, the team fought through a couple rough seasons and ended up with a 7-9 record in 2012. Newton struggled at the beginning of the season, as he ran into a “sophomore slump” of sorts, yet he recovered as the season progressed. The Panthers won their last four games of the season, quite notably beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-20 on December 9.

    Carolina also has a relatively strong defense that will grow stronger as younger players like Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Luke Kuechly progress. The Panthers also have made some solid coaching staff changes, including the promotion of quarterbacks coach Mike Shula to the job of offensive coordinator. If Newton snaps out of the slump for good and continues to play consistently well, and the Panthers bulk up the defensive line even more during the 2013 draft, Carolina will most likely see an improvement in its record.