Every year we see teams new to the playoffs. And when I mean new, I mean that they didn't make it the year before due to rebuilding, injuries, or just plain poor play. These teams are the most likely to make it, whether for the first time, or a return trip.
And it's not just Tom Brady's return that is going to send them into the playoffs.
They have bolstered their ranks. Joe Galloway joins the Patriots, they lost Mike Vrabel, but a healthy Adaulius Thomas could mean a lot, just watch what he did in Baltimore for six years.
While their running game isn't the strongest, their passing game is almost unmatched with Galloway, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker all catching passes from Brady.
I can guarantee that the Saints will see the posteason next year. Why? Look at their offense. While their defense is still in need of change, their offensive efforts pick up their slack.
Reggie Bush is poised to have a great season—he is putting his hot celebrity girlfriend in second place, and has been attending all OTA's and offseason workouts, a good step, considering his lack of effort in previous years.
Then there is Drew Brees, the most underrated quarterback in the league. He is the second QB to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a single season, and the only person to have three consecutive 4,400+ yard season.
The Saints have all the offensive weapons they need to become playoff team.
No, I'm not just jumping on the Texan bandwagon. It is obvious that the Texans are on the verge of a winning season, and most likely a wild-card birth, or even a division title.
They are coming in with a red-hot offensive unit. They are anchored with Matt Schaub at quarterback, who missed most of the 2008 season due to injuries. At receiver they have Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, both Pro-Bowlers. Steve Slaton, a second year running back who had an outstanding rookie campaign, returns to the backfield.
On defense, they are led by Mario Williams, along with a balanced line and backers. Their only question marks are in their secondary.
The Seahawks may even win the division against the defending NFC Champion Cardinals. They have reloaded and have the opportunity to play two rebuilding teams twice a year. Meanwhile the Cards have an extremely tough schedule.
The return of Matt Hasselbeck should greatly improve their chances. The Seahawks struggled all year at the QB position when Hasselbeck was injured.
They added TJ Houshmandzadeh, and although he is aging, he provides the target needed for Hasselbeck. But, their greatest returning strength is on defense.
Lofa Tatupu, one of the most intimidating men in football, anchors their defense. One of the top favorites for Defensive Rookie of the Year Award is Aaron Curry, whom the Seahawks drafted with their first round pick; he will add a lot of depth to an already strong LB corps.
6-10? That's not proving anything, right?
Aaron Rodgers performed as the best QB for any team under .500 (not including teams at .500 because Drew Brees blew away any QB in the league). He put up Top-10 Stats, and was considered a great QB with an under-achieving team.
They recently re-signed WR Greg Jennings, who goes great with Donald Driver, his opposite wideout. Their running game ins't necessarily improved, but their passing offense has improved greatly.
Everyone knows the fiasco that revolved around the 'Boys that led to a 41-6 embarrassment against their hated rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Cowboys are a strong team returning, and might catch some teams off guard.
Terrell Owens was a blessing and a curse for Dallas. They are now missing their most productive receiver, but the instigator in the meltdown that lost them a postseason appearance.
Now that he is gone, receivers Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, and Miles Austin can get more passes. Star tight end Jason Whitten can now get the ball without worrying about backlash from Owens, and Tony Romo won't have his every move scrutinized. Not to mention the strength of the returning "Domination Defense" of the Cowboys.
I know not all of these teams will make it, but that's the fun in predicting, you'll never know if you're right or wrong until the day comes. The NFC dominates most of this list simply because the AFC has largely been consistent in their postseason teams.
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