The NFL is America's most watched sport. This is mainly due to the fact that it is always changing. No one team is able to stay at the top and playoff seeds are never a lock. Every year there are surprise teams that play well enough to make it to the playoffs. Last year the Seattle Seahawks made it into the playoffs with a sub .500 record. Crazy right? But this is what the fans live for. Every team has a shot at it all every single year. So I have comprised a list of five teams that could surprise everyone and make it to the 2011 playoffs. I'm not saying they actually will. But they have a legitimate shot at it.
I know what you're thinking. The Lions are a trendy pick in a lot of circles as a team on the rise. But hear me out. I put this list together with teams that could possibly make it to the playoffs under the "right conditions". The condition for the Lions? A healthy Matthew Stafford. Who by the way is also a trendy player on the rise. Stafford is a talented young quarterback. We have all witnessed what he can do with a little motivation.(And a shoulder that is still intact) Remember the Browns game? The Lions O-line can only improve and so can the young talent around him. Speaking of young talent, this team has a lot of it. Jahvid Best, Mikel LeShoure, Greg Little, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley. To name a few. Oh and there is that pretty good receiver Calvin Johnson also known as Megatron. This guy to me is the best receiver in the game today. When you can put up 1,000+ yard seasons and 12+ touchdowns a year with no name third string quarterbacks in triple coverage you're a stud. Excuse my rant. All I'm saying is pair Megatron and all of the young talent with a good quarterback and you can have a nine to ten win season. The Lions will certainly not win their division but i can see a sixth seed for sure.
Can he do it again?
We have all said, "this is the year the Texans make it". Well this year we will all be proved right. The offense just keeps on chugging. Yielding a top offense again and again. But last season marked the first where they had a viable rushing threat. They had the league's leading rusher in Arian Foster. Now I am a bit skeptical that Foster is an elite back. But the O-line and other weapons around him, ahem Andre Johnson, provide holes for him to run through. The secondary was a mess and their front seven suffered a couple injuries. But this season I know they will go out and do what they need to to tighten up that secondary. If Asomugha is smart he will sign with this young up and coming team. The defense will be able to do just enough to keep them in games while the high powered offense puts up the points.
Last season the NFC South produced three ten win teams. Crazy. But instead of the 10-6 Bucs making the playoffs instead the 7-9 Seahawks made it. Anyways, I believe that the Bucs are a very talented team and can only continue to improve. They are only going to make it into the playoffs with a wildcard birth as the Saints and Falcons will be tops in the division. I actually see all three of these NFC south teams in the playoffs. The Bucs have a good solid core on offense with a smart, strong armed quarterback in Josh Freeman. Their defense has the potential to be scary good in upcoming years. With two first round picks and two second round picks making up the front four. I believe the key to their success will be in the hands of running back LeGarrette Blount. If he can improve upon last season's surprising breakout, then the Bucs can make it to the playoffs.
In reality, the Cardinals are just one season removed from being a playoff contender. And only two removed from the Super Bowl. So exactly how did they fall to a 5-11 record? Well the only real difference that I see is they didn't have a set quarterback all season. Let alone a good one. This team can be virtually the same team it used to be with a stable quarterback under center. The Cards will for sure go out and get their franchise quarterback this off season. I see them trading picks for Kevin Kolb and retaining Rodgers-Cromartie. Larry Fitzgerald is in his prime and they have a young backfield. Plus, their secondary should improve greatly with the addition of Patrick Peterson. Another reason the Cardinals can make the playoffs this year? They play in the NFC west.
The Jaguars were oh so close to sneaking into the playoffs last year. But they seemingly fell apart late in the season. Probably because Maurice Jones-Drew was hurting. David Gerard had one of his better years as a quarterback but threw some ill advised interceptions late in games. It is unclear whether he will remain the starter or if Blaine Gabbert will take the reigns.
But either way this is MJD's team and as long as he is on the field they have a chance to win. The Jags also have an up and coming defensive front seven. Thanks in part to high draft picks over the years. I see that unit improving and doing just enough to keep them in games. The Jags best chance at a playoff appearance is to take the division title from the Colts. This may become possible this season.