Buying or Selling Each 2012 NFL Playoff Team's Return to Postseason in 2013

Old AccountSenior Writer IJanuary 28, 2013

Buying or Selling Each 2012 NFL Playoff Team's Return to Postseason in 2013

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    With one week remaining in the 2012-2013 NFL season, the attention will quickly turn to the upcoming season after the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVII.

    Parity is once again proving to be at its finest, displaying the blueprint for success. A team can hoist the Lombardi Trophy and does not need Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or any of the other top-tier quarterbacks in the league.

    For now, here is a quick preview of next season. 12 teams made the postseason this year, but what are their legitimate chances of returning to the playoffs?

    Here is my verdict for each playoff team on whether or not they will return next season.

12. Minnesota Vikings

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    What They Did In 2012-2013 Season: Finished At 10-6, Lost In Wild Card Round

    The Minnesota Vikings were the most unlikely playoff team this past season, but the dominance of Adrian Peterson and wins against both the Packers and the Texans late in the year led to a postseason birth.

    Out of the current crop of playoff teams, however, this NFC North foe will face a much more difficult road to return to the postseason.

    Not only did the NFC have plenty of typical contenders that were disappointments this season, the Vikings aren't going to have a different outlook than last season.

    Christian Ponder is very limited from a talent standpoint, and in a quarterback-driven league, a team can only go so far. The possibility of Percy Harvin leaving the Vikings appears to be a real possibility, which would already limit the thin talent in the passing game.



    Verdict: No Playoffs Next Season

11. Cincinnati Bengals

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    What They Did In 2012-2013 Season: Finished At 10-6, Lost In Wild Card Round

    The Cincinnati Bengals have mirrored performances during their first two postseasons in the Marvin Lewis-Andy Dalton era.

    While proving to have enough talent and a favorable schedule to end up with a postseason berth, the team still has plenty of questions to answer about their potential moving forward.

    How good is second-year quarterback Andy Dalton? In their loss in the first round to the Texans this year, it appeared that the moment was too big for Dalton, who couldn't utilize A.J. Green to his advantage late in the game and ultimately fell short.

    The Bengals have the argument that this team is very young at many key positions, and that two years in the postseason could benefit this AFC North team.

    However, it's tough for me to see this team return to a third straight postseason with the questions surrounding Dalton, and also the improvement that the rest of the AFC will show.



    Verdict: No Playoffs Next Season

10. Washington Redskins

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    What They Did In 2012-2013 Season: Lost In Wild Card Round

    The Washington Redskins exceeded expectations by making the postseason after rookie standout Robert Griffin III led them on a seven-game win streak that resulted in winning the NFC East.

    However, Griffin sustained a torn ACL in the loss to the Seattle Seahawks, which should raise concern for the Redskins next season.

    There is no guarantee as to how Griffin will recover from the injury. We can't assume that not only could he be ready by the beginning of the season, but his return will be as successful as Adrian Peterson.

    As for the talent around him, the Redskins are tight on upcoming draft picks due to the trade last year to select RG3.

    The NFC proved to be the more superior conference, and with the Giants bound for a successful comeback season, along with the overall concerns surrounding RG3, I don't envision a postseason berth next season for the Redskins.



    Verdict: No Playoffs Next Season

9. Indianapolis Colts

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    What They Did In 2012-2013 Season: Lost In Wild Card Round

    The most surprising story from this past NFL season was the Indianapolis Colts run to the postseason despite the obstacles they faced on the roster while also playing without their head coach most of the season.

    Luck has proven to be most deserving of Rookie Of The Year honors for inheriting a roster that was the worst in the league a year ago and leading them to 11 wins.

    It's tough not to see the Colts building on that success last season. General manager Ryan Grigson proved his worth this past season with a lot of value in his draft picks, and he will improve an offensive line that was one of the worst in the league.

    While losing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is tough, the upside for this team clearly shows and their success should continue into next season.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

8. Houston Texans

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    What They Did In 2012-2013 Season: Lost In Divisional Round

    The Houston Texans were the tale of two seasons, first starting off as the team to beat in the AFC and then ultimately being exposed as a team with a lot of weaknesses.

    Arian Foster proved that his first season as a starter wasn't a fluke. Houston's offense runs through Foster and ultimately gives them the best opportunity at winning in this league.

    However, there lies the problem concerning the Texans: in a quarterback-driven league, Matt Schaub hasn't shown the capability of leading his team in a big moment against the upper-tier quarterbacks in the league.

    With the defense proving to also be skeptical against elite offenses, the Texans aren't currently built to become a legitimate contender.

    Although, in a weak AFC the Texans display enough talent on both sides of the football to make the postseason.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

7. Seattle Seahawks

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    What They Did In 2012-2013: Lost In The Divisional Round

    The Seattle Seahawks displayed their potential late in the season, as the nucleus of young talent on the roster will lead to plenty of success for years to come in the NFC West.

    Russell Wilson became the enforcer and ultimate leader of this team despite becoming a rookie. His athletic ability opened up an array of opportunities for the Seahawks offense, who was limited offensively outside of Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.

    Their elite defense, however, was another story. Led by Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, the Seahawks present the best secondary in the NFL, along with a group of young pass-rushers that continue to grow.

    The biggest task this offseason is to improve the wide receivers around their franchise quarterback. Regardless, the Seahawks will be a bonafide playoff contender next season.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

6. Green Bay Packers

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    What They Did In 2012-2013: Lose In The Divisional Round

    For two straight seasons, the Green Bay Packers witnessed their season come to a conclusion in the second round of the playoffs.

    By coincidence? I view it as more of a lack of improvement as a whole. Green Bay has proven that their offense will be near the top of every statistical category with Aaron Rodgers leading the way.

    Unfortunately, the defense has been atrocious under Dom Capers, especially against the running game. Colin Kaepernick proved to have the best game of his career against the Packers, who have significantly regressed from their Super Bowl run.

    The priority needs to be most areas of the defense, along with improving an offensive line that didn't do Rodgers many favors this year.

    Rodgers will have a plethora of talent around him and lead the Packers to a division crown, but the question remains whether they can elevate their play to a championship level.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

5. Denver Broncos

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    What They Did In 2012-2013: Lost In Divisional Round

    The Denver Broncos completed an impressive first year of the Peyton Manning era with the best record in the AFC and ultimately losing to the team that is representing the conference in the Super Bowl.

    As for the expectations next season, the pressure will certainly be on Manning to get the job done in the postseason. It's reasonable to expect that having been over a year removed from his offseason surgery, the Broncos should be able to execute at a high level.

    The concerns that exist on this team rely heavily on the defensive side, though. Champ Bailey has shown his weakness in his old age, and the undersized pass-rushers of the Broncos were exposed in the postseason.

    The Broncos will be a clear contender in the AFC, but the question remains if they can get the job done in the postseason.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

4. Atlanta Falcons

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    What They Did In 2012-2013: Lost In The NFC Championship

    The Atlanta Falcons took a necessary step in the right direction by proving their capability of winning a playoff game before losing to the 49ers in the NFC title game.

    There are some questions surrounding both sides of the football, beginning with the offense. Matt Ryan has certainly progressed each year as a starting quarterback, and it helps that he has two quality receivers on each side of the football field.

    However, assuming Tony Gonzalez will retire, one can't expect the Falcons to replace a first ballot Hall of Famer who kept the Falcons' season alive late against the Seahawks and in the 49ers game as well.

    Defensively, the return of Brett Grimes will help. However, will improvements be made on the defensive front to bring this team over the hump? That remains to be seen.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

3. New England Patriots

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    What They Did In 2012-2013: Lost in AFC Championship Game

    The New England Patriots came up short of a second straight Super Bowl appearance, and a very crucial offseason is set to begin with them in a few weeks.

    Wes Welker and Aqib Talib are two valuable assets who could command a high price tag on the open market. Will the Patriots do what is necessary to re-sign both of these men despite the lingering questions it would bring to the salary cap?

    Ultimately, two flaws were exposed in the AFC title game loss to the Ravens: 1) the lack of speed at the wide receiver position, which was very noticeable against a Ravens secondary that played them physically; and 2) despite the improvement on defense, the secondary is at best an "average" unit and may remain the same, barring a very successful draft and free agency.

    Regardless, the Patriots will retain most of their roster and find success in the regular season. It remains to be seen if the success can translate into the postseason.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

2. Baltimore Ravens

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    What They Did In 2012-2013: Currently In Super Bowl XLVII

    The Baltimore Ravens emerged as the AFC representative in the Super Bowl after a subpar regular season that involved plenty of injuries and changes across the board.

    Regardless of the outcome of the Super Bowl, the Ravens will be a playoff contender next season despite the pending retirement of Ray Lewis and the unknown future of Ed Reed.

    Joe Flacco and Jim Caldwell have ultimately formed a good working relationship, one where the Ravens are able to utilize the variety of young talent that surrounds them.

    Certainly, the defense has stepped up its game in recent weeks, and next year should prove to be more of the same. Lardarius Webb, arguably one of the five best cornerbacks in the NFL, returns after tearing his ACL midseason. Jameel McClain also returns from injury after producing a very successful regular season.

    Tough decisions will be made, most notably on Paul Kruger, Dannel Ellerbe and Cary Williams. Two are likely to depart, and their needs must be filled through the draft.

    It's tough to envision a scenario where the Ravens don't return to the postseason.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season

1. San Francisco 49ers

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    What They Did In 2012-2013: Currently In The Super Bowl

    The San Francisco 49ers appear well on their way to finding success over an extended period of time during the Colin Kaepernick-John Harbaugh era.

    Their dynamic quarterback has opened new opportunities for an offense that was good, but not great, under Alex Smith. While teams will adjust to the Pistol formation and read-option schemes, it's clear that possessing an athletic quarterback in Kaepernick will allow the 49ers to present challenges each week to opposing defenses.

    Combined with a defense that holds many of their young stars in the prime of their careers, the 49ers will be a force to be reckon with for the years to come.



    Verdict: They Will Make The Playoffs Next Season