2011 NFL Predictions: 5 Teams That Will Be Better Than Everyone Thinks
The NFL season is officially underway. Teams frantically tried to sign and re-sign players in the extremely shortened offseason and begin training camps. Many teams made questionable moves during the offseason, leading many NFL fans to believe they are going to struggle greatly during the season. Here are five teams that will perform better than many think this season.
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The Arizona Cardinals made media headlines when they traded CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a future second round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for QB Kevin Kolb. Arizona drafted CB Patrick Peterson to replace Rodgers-Cromartie as the team's No. 1 corner this season.
The Cardinals are counting on Kolb to lead them back to division prominence after a miserable season last year. The team also went out and signed star TE Todd Heap, who was cut by the Baltimore Ravens at the beginning of the offseason.
Despite the lack of good receivers other than Larry Fitzgerald, Kolb is a very accurate passer who is capable of leading this team back to the playoffs. Fitzgerald is arguably one of if not the best wide receiver in the NFL and should flourish with Kolb throwing to him. With a solid QB now under center, the Cards have a legitimate shot of winning the division and returning to the playoffs.
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Believe it or not, the Buffalo Bills actually had a decent season last year. They were in most of the games they played and everyone remembers the game-winning TD catch Steve Johnson dropped in the end zone against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the team's overtime loss against the Baltimore Ravens.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick played very well considering the lack of talent around him after winning the starting job from Trent Edwards. The team did trade Lee Evans to the Ravens, but that leaves room for Steve Johnson to flourish in a No. 1 receiver role and develop the team's other young receivers. The team is also counting on RB CJ Spiller to improve on a poor rookie season. Overall, this team has the ability to win around five to seven games, a decent improvement over last season and they just might have a shot at finishing third in the division behind the Patriots and Jets.
Jay Cutler has received a ton of criticism after getting injured in last year's NFC Championship. Many have already written him and the Bears off this season, but they are coming off an excellent playoff run and have upgraded their roster for next season.
Jay Cutler made huge strides last season in his first year in Mike Martz's offense. The team has a solid WR core with newly signed Roy Williams (formerly of the Dallas Cowboys), Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. Matt Forte played well for the team last season rushing for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns as well as catching 51 passes for 547 yards and three TD's. The Bears' defense should be strong yet again this season with Brian Urlacher anchoring a strong linebacker core.
Expect the Bears to make another strong postseason run this year.
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Brett Favre has officially retired, for real. The Vikings signed veteran QB Donovan McNabb to replace Favre under center. The team lost key starter Sidney Rice to the Seahawks but they still have one of the NFL's best running backs in Adrian Peterson and a rising young WR in Percy Harvin. With the lack of quality receivers behind Harvin, the Vikings will likely rely heavily on Peterson and the running game. McNabb is coming off an awful season with the Redskins and is eager to redeem himself.
While Harvin has taken a leadership role among the Vikings receivers, he isn't yet ready to take on a No. 1 receiver role next year. However, McNabb is just one season removed from being among the best QBs in the league and he is a proven winner who will do everything in his power to keep the Vikings in legitimate playoff contention.
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The Seahawks made a couple of major splashes during free agency this offseason, landing receiver Sidney Rice and Pro Bowl TE Zach Miller along with QB Tarvaris Jackson, whom head coach Pete Carroll has said will be starting.
The 6'4" Rice will now line up alongside 6'5" receiver Mike Williams to form a formidable tandem along with Miller in the passing game. While Jackson has been inconsistent thus far in his career, he could flourish playing in the Seahawks' system. The team also has a strong running game with Marshawn Lynch and Leon Washington taking the bulk of the carries. New offensive coordinator Tom Cable should be able to improve Seattle's offensive line to give Jackson more protection and open up the running game.
The team is coming off being the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record and this team should be a strong competitor for the division crown this season as well.