Assessing Each NFL Team's Chances of Making the Playoffs in 2011
The buzz is in the air, as we near closer and closer each day to the start of the 2011 NFL regular season.
With the start of a new season comes a blank slate. Each team starts off at 0-0, past successes and failures have no impact on this years results. Every fan base can have that rare sense of optimism before the kickoff of their teams first game, that maybe, just maybe this might be there year.
But now we must look at each and every team, and say to those fan bases either, yes! be optimistic you guys might have a real shot. Or, sorry your in for another year of failure.
While there's no way of knowing for sure until they play the games, here is each teams realistic chances of seeing the postseason this year.
AFC East-Buffalo Bills
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The Bills will look to improve in their second year under coach Chan Gailey.
While the Bills were awful the first half of last year, they did show improvement competing with teams outside of their talent level later in the season.
However, while Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown he could possibly be a solid Quarterback for the Bills, they still lack the talent in other areas to compete with the Jets and Patriots.
I look for the Bills to play hard this year under Gailey, but not finish with more then 6 wins as they continue to rebuild.
AFC East-Miami Dolphins
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This will likely be a make or break season for Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano and Quarterback Chad Henne in South Beach.
The fins, coming off a 7-9 campaign in 2010, were looking into current 49er Head Man Jim Harbaugh in the offseason to replace Sparano and current Broncos QB Kyle Orton to replace Henne, however they were not able to land either and they will have one more chance to impress in 2011.
But will the Dolphins be able too compete? Like the Bills, the Dolphins will have to compete with two superior talented teams in the Jets and Pats so they will struggle to keep up in the win column.
However, the Dolphins have surprised us before like 2 years ago when they won the division and made the playoffs.
Despite this, I can't see the Dolphins taking to many strides since their best offseason pick up was likely Reggie Bush...which does not bode well for improvement.
AFC East-New England Patriots
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Despite their stunning postseason loss to the Jets in the Playoffs last season. The New England Patriots are still many peoples pick to hoist the Lombardi Trophy once again this season.
After going 14-2, the Pats were able to pick up former Pro Bowlers Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth in the offseason furthering their chances of getting back to the Super Bowl.
The Pats still have (arguably) the best Head Coach and Quarterback in the NFL, and plenty of talent on the rest of the roster to back them up.
Although there is always that chance of injury to a star player or just not living up to the expectations given to them, you would be hard pressed to find someone who think the Pats wont be making the playoffs in one way or another this year.
AFC East-New York Jets
The New York Jets have become the most talked about team in the NFL.
But the Jets feed off the attention, particularly the neagative kind. In fact, if I was an assistant coach for the Jets I would force all the players to read articles from this website where the majority of writers seem to think the Jets will be having a let down this season. Helping them add even more fuel to their us against the world fire.
The Jets have holes on their roster I admit it. But they still have a tremendous defense and an improving Quarterback. They will have to compete with the Patriots in the East which means they could well be battling it out again for a Wild Card spot, which decreases their odds. However I still see the Jets getting back to the playoffs for the third straight year and challenging for a world championship.
NFC East-Dallas Cowboys
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With Tony Romo healthy, the Dallas Cowboys will once again be serious contenders for a division title in the NFC East next season.
Although the Cowboys lost some talented players in the offseason they still have one of the leagues more talented rosters from top to bottom.
Another problem with this team that was solved last season was when Wade Phillips was finally fired and replaced by former offensive coordinator Jason Garett.Garett showed immediate signs of improvement and will look to lead Dallas back to the promise land this season.
Although the Eagles seem to be the odds on favorites in the East, the Cowboys shockingly seem to be flying under the radar and I think they have a real chance of getting back to the playoffs this year.
NFC East-New York Giants
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Many Giants fans have to still be asking themselves how they missed out on the playoffs last season.
The Giants seemed to have a spot locked up until they floundered late in the season and were caught by eventual Super Bowl Champions the Green Bay Packers.
Now the Giants will look to take the next step this season. There roster looks very similar and they will once again rely on Eli Manning and their defensive front seven to get them wins.
I don't see the Giants as real Super Bowl contenders, but they do have a team that will be in the running for a playoff spot up until the last weeks of the regular season.
NFC East-Philadelphia Eagles
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Although Vince Young calling them a "dream team" may have been premature, there is no denying the Eagles were the clear offseason winners in 2011.
After adding names such as Young, Ronnie Brown, Nnamdi Asmougha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and others, the Eagles added to their already talented roster built around last years comeback player of the year Michael Vick.
But just how high is the ceiling for the Eagles? They will clearly be the favorites in the NFC East next year and are many peoples pick to make the Super Bowl.
Others however, think there offseason signings are overrated and they still have work to go to be a dominant team.
I tend to fall in the middle, I'm unconvinced they'll be in the Super Bowl, but they certainly have a good shot and It's hard for me to imagine the playoffs not having the Eagles in it.
NFC East-Washington Redskins
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The first year for Mike Shanahan as coach of the Washington Redskins didn't exactly go according to plan.
The former Super Bowl winning coach never meshed with his former Quarterback Donovan McNabb even benching the proven veteran for the likes of Rex Grossman during the season. Shanahan also had to deal with the Albert Haynesworth situation, who was out of shape and unmotivated in Washington.
Shanahan will look to work his magic in year two, but he may have a hard time. Having to play in a division with three legitimate Playoff contenders, the Skins will have to battle to win games and until they improve their roster, (specifically their quarterback) I don't see them getting near the postseason.
AFC North-Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens will once again look to make a deep playoff run in 2011.
With most of their tremendous defense returning and an improving offense led by Joe Flacco the Ravens are many experts pick to go all the way this season.
I really like what the Ravens bring to the table, their defense just is stifling and if you sleep on Flacco or Ray Rice their offense can hurt you in big ways also.
With Cleveland and Cincinnati fading into mediocrity this looks to be either Baltimore or Pittsburgh's division to win.
I expect Baltimore to be in double digit wins this season and edge out Pittsburgh for the North title.
AFC North-Cincinnati Bengals
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The Bengals will not have the easiest of times getting wins in 2011.
Rookie QB Andy Dalton will go up against three talented defenses within his own division, and has gotten off to a rough start in the preseason.
The rest of their team is still lacking in many areas especially on defense where last season they had the ninth worst defense in the league.
I can't foresee the Benglas winning too many games this season until Dalton has a year under his belt and they finish the rebuilding process.
AFC North-Cleveland Browns
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The Browns showed real signs of improvement last year and will look to build on that moderate success in 2011.
With Eric Mangini gone and Pat Shurmur in as the new head coach, the Browns will look to finally make it back to the postseason under new head man Pat Shurmur.
After taking over as the starter last year Colt McCoy was able to upset the Patriots and Saints last season but faded later in the year.
Now however, McCoy will look to take the Browns to the next level by making them legitimate contenders.
Unfortunately, they have to compete with veteran tested teams in the Ravens and Steelers and their roster is not at playoff level yet.
I look for the Browns to compete and win some games this year but not make it into the playoffs.
AFC North-Pittsburgh Steelers
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Coming off of a Super Bowl appearance the Pittsburgh Steelers will be highly motivated to get back to the promise land and finish the job this season.
The Steelers have top to bottom one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the NFL. Their defense still strikes fear in their opponents eyes and their offense has an excellent balance between the running game of Rashard Mendenahll and the passing game of Big Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers will look to make sure that they avoid the Super Bowl hangover they had two years ago after beating Arizona in 2009.
I look for Baltimore and Pittsburgh to battle it out and both end up with double digit wins and postseason births where they will battle it out once again.
NFC North-Chicago Bears
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Jay Cutler has some work to do if he is going to get back in the good graces of many Bears fans.
After leading his team to the NFC Championship game last season, Cutler left the game with an apparent knee injury. Many fans believe Cutler should have toughed it out and played and that he cost his team a spot in the Super Bowl by not playing.
Now the Bears will have a long road to go in order to get back to the postseason this year.
Detroit figures to be much improved, Minnesota still has a great defense, and The Packers are the defending champions.
I see Chicago taking a step back this year to the 7-9 win range.
NFC North-Detriot Lions
The Lions may have their best chance in recent memory to break their streak of 11 consecutive years without making the playoffs this season.
After adding Nick Fairley to Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch makes their defensive line one of the most stacked in all of football.
Their offense will finally see a healthy former #1 overall pick in Matthew Stafford, and still has one of the best receivers in the game in Calvin Johnson.
Detroit does play in a very difficult division, and I'm not as quick to jump on their Super Bowl bandwagon as others on this site. But I do see them challenging for a playoff spot this season
NFC North-Green Bay Packers
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The Packers defied the odds and won it all last season.
Despite suffering through numerous injuries and setbacks throughout the regular season, The Packers persevered until they snuck in the playoffs as a six seed, got hot and took the Lombardi Trophy back to Wisconsin.
Now healthy, there is a chance the Packers could be even more dangerous in 2011. Aaron Rodgers showed that he is now among the elite Quarterbacks in the NFL and can carry a franchise on his back, while the defense stepped up and won the Super Bowl for them with tremendous play all around.
The Packers must love all the pressure being put on Philladelphia and Atlanta to be the favorites in the NFC despite them being the defending champs, and I'm sure they can't wait to prove they can do it again.
NFC North-Minnesota Vikings
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One high profile QB out in Minnesota, another one in as Donovan McNabb takes over for Brett Favre for the Vikings this season.
McNabb is coming off of a failed year in Washington and will look to turn his career around in Minnesota. The Vikings were a huge dissapointment last season as many expected them to compete for a championship they fell well short in Favre's final season, managing only 6 wins.
Now though with Favre and Brad Childress gone, more carries should open up for Adrian Peterson who is one of the best running backs in the NFL which should help their offense.
The biggest downfall for the Vikings could be their division which has no easy wins to pick up. All 6 games will be a battle.
I see the Vikings improving, but not quite being able to catch up to Green Bay or Detriot in the end.
AFC South-Houston Texans
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Before every season their seems to be buzz around Houston that this will be the year they finally break through and make the playoffs.
And then every year, the Texans fall short and finish with 8 or 9 wins while they watch Peyton Manning and the Colts play in the postseason.
But will this really be the year for the Texans?
Many experts believe it will be, Matt Schaub is consistently underrated as a passer and their defense is slowly improving.
If Peyton misses any time, look for the Texans to break through but I'm not willing to pull the trigger just yet.
AFC South-Indianapolis Colts
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Will Peyton Manning miss games? And if so, how many?
That is the question Colts fans have been asking themselves the last several weeks as Manning has missed time in the preseason and is questionable at best for Week 1 of the regular season.
The Colts signed retired Quarterback Kerry Collins to take the helm if Manning can't go, but without Manning the Colts will not be able to stay in contention for very long.
Manning has found a way year after year, to get the Colts in the playoffs no matter what the scenario was, but this might be his toughest task yet.
With Houston breathing down their necks Manning will have to have one of his best seasons if the Colts will get back. But I'm not one to doubt one of the greatest Quarterback of all time. Until he gets dethroned, Peyton is still the king of the AFC South.
AFC South-Jacksonville Jaguars
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David Garrard has had pretty descent success since taking over as the starting Quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007.
Although he's consistently but up good numbers and even the postseason, Garrard's Jags have never had the real pop it needed to be Super Bowl contenders.
Garrard's time as a starter might very well be over, as the Jags selected Missouri Quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the first round of this year's draft. Gabbert would appear to be the future of the Jags QB position.
But no matter which of them starts this season, Garrard or Gabbert may have a hard time finding wins in 2011. The Jags still have a descent defense but their offense outside of Maurice Jones Drew is under impressive and they look to be near the bottom of the division behind Houston and Indy.
AFC South-Tennessee Titans
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WIth Jeff Fisher and Vince Young now gone, the Titans will look to start over new in 2011.
Matt Hasselbeck comes over from Seattle to hold the fort down until rookie Jake Locker is ready to take over.
But no matter who the Titans have under center they will struggle to score offensively without star running back Chris Johnson who is currently holding out because of contract disputes. If the Titans are going to be playoff contenders they will need Johnson on the field.
I see the Titans struggling this season under a new coach and QB, and see them falling into 3rd or 4th in the South this season.
NFC South-Atlanta Falcons
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After going 13-3 in the regular season last year, the Falcons were stunned by the Packers in the postseason, and just like that their dream season was over.
But the good news for Atlanta fans is that they have the talent to get back their again and even take the next step into the Super Bowl.
Matt Ryan has progressed every year as a starter and now he has a new target to throw to in Alabama wideout Julio Jones.
The Falcons still need work on defense, especially in their secondary and they will have to compete with two very good teams in New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Nevertheless I expect the Falcons to get double digit wins once again and make their mark on the postseason.
NFC South-Carolina Panthers
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Jimmy Claussen did not get much of a chance to show his worth in Carolina.
After being drafted last season, Claussen struggled in his rookie season and the Panthers managed just 2 wins. Now he has to compete for his starting spot with #1 overall pick and Heisman trophy winner, Cam Newton.
Whoever does win the starting spot for the Panthers, they wont have much to work with and they play an extremely difficult division.
The Panthers will have a hard time keeping up again this season and wins will come few and far between.
NFC South-New Orleans Saints
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The Saints defense is still trying to figure out how they didn't tackle Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch's "beast mode" run completed the Seahawks stunning upset of the defending champions and knocked them out of the playoffs.
However, the Saints still have the core of their roster together that made the Super Bowl run, and with Drew Brees running the show they will have a chance to do it again this season.
It's easy to fall in love with the Saints offensive fire power and they should have an improved ground game this season.
However I don't see the Saints passing the Falcons in the South but they will certainly be in the running for a Wild Card spot in the stacked NFC this season.
NFC South-Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Josh Freeman had one of the most unexpected great seasons of anyone in the NFL last season.
After struggling in his rookie year, Freeman threw just 6 picks last season and led the Bucs to an impressive 10 win season despite just missing out on the playoffs.
Now the Bucs will look to continue their unexpected success under Freeman and Head Coach Raheem Morris in 2011. The problem for the Bucs now is that the rest of the NFL knows exactly how capable they are and no team will be taking them lightly in 2011.
If the Bucs played in the west they would be my picks to win the division but in the South, I just can't put them higher then 3rd.
AFC West-Denver Broncos
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Most of the media attention surrounding the Denver Broncos are about their third string Quarterback.
No matter what you think of Tim Tebow's abilities, he is unlikely to have a high impact on the Broncos season so I will be talking about guys who will.
After seeming like his time in Denver was up, Kyle Orton is once again the Starting QB for the Broncos. I like what Orton brings to the table and when hes hot he can be one of the better Quarterbacks in the game.
Their defense has improved by adding Von Miller, but they will need a lot more to be in the playoff mix this season and are still in rebuilding mode.
Although they could sneak up on people, and are a little more talented then I think people are giving them credit for, I don't see the Broncos making the postseason this year.
AFC West-Kansas City Chiefs
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The Chiefs surprised everyone last year by winning the AFC West and making the playoffs.
Despite laying an egg against the Ravens, Chiefs fans can still view last year as a great success and will have high hopes for their team in 2011.
Matt Cassell will once again be looked on to manage games and let the defense and running game do the work, which he showed very capable of last season.
However, the Chiefs will need to have a more consistent attack if they wish to beat the Chargers who despite not making it last year are still the class of this division.
AFC West- Oakland Raiders
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Despite a drastic improvement and a divisional sweep last season, Tom Cable was fired as Oakland Raiders Head Coach and replaced by Hue Jackson.
The Raiders also lost their star defensive gem as Nnamdi Asomugha left town to play for Philadelphia. Leaving a huge gap in their secondary.
While the Raiders still have some weapons on offense and a solid defensive front led by Richard Seymour, many experts believe the Raiders will take a step back in 2011.
Without Cable and Asomugha the defense will certainly not be as good, and while serviceable Jason Campbell is not a franchise level Quarterback.
The Raiders still have work to do if they are going to match the talent levels of the Chiefs and Chargers and I see them falling back into obscurity this season.
AFC West- San Diego Chargers
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Quick who was the number one offensive and defensive team last season?
If you answered the San Diego Chargers, your right on both counts. Despite that fact amazingly, the Chargers still found a way to miss the playoffs, which is really astonishing when you think about it.
The Chargers were atrocious on Special Teams and didn't make enough plays in the 4th Quarter to win games.
However, the good news for Charger fans is that they return many of the players who were division champion two years ago, most importantly Phillip Rivers who was a serious MVP candidate last season.
San Diego is the most talented team in this division and it's hard to imagine Norv Turner blowing it again this time.
NFC West- Arizona Cardinals
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The Cardinals got their man, this offseason by picking up Cardinals Quarterback Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia.
Kolb takes over a team who really struggled last season and has not been able to have much success since their Super Bowl appearance in 2009.
The good news for Kolb is that he gets to throw to the best (or second best depending on who you talk to) Receiver in the game in Larry Fitzgerald. The bad news, is his defense allowed the fourth most points in the NFL last season. Although they did pick up Patrick Peterson they are still expected to give up big point this season, which means Kolb will have to win some shootouts if the Cards are going to get in the playoffs.
Although there division is weak I can't see the Cardinals breaking through until they improve their d more.
NFC West-San Francisco 49ers
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Jim Harbaugh seems like the perfect fit as Head Coach in San Fran.
Not having to move too far from home at Stanford, Harbaugh will look to have the same success he did with the Cardinal where he turned them into a National Championship contender.
The Niners may very well be the favorites in the division as weak as the NFC West if they had a solid Quarterback. Unfortunately for Harbaugh and the 49ers, they still have Alex Smith.
In a division where having a solid QB is the difference, San Fran will fall just short of beating St. Louis because of Smith's ineffectiveness.
NFC West-Seattle Seahawks
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Matt Hasselbeck is gone and now Pete Caroll will have to convince his fans that the Seahawks can repeat as division champions with Tavaris Jackson as the starter.
That however, may be a tough sell. Jackson never did much with his opportunities in Minnesota and has given little to be excited about in the preseason.
With the 49ers and Rams emerging, the Seahawks will fall back into the pack this season.
NFC West-St. Louis Rams
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Now that Sam Bradford has bust out on the scene as an upper tier NFL Quarterback, the Rams have to be looked at as the favorites in the weak NFC West in 2011.
With an improving defense, solid recieving core and Steven Jackson to hand the ball off too, things are looking up in St. Louis.
If they were in a stronger division there would be many faults to point out but when compared to the other three teams in the NFC West the Rams appear to be the strongest on paper.
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So based on the odds here's how I see the playoff picture turning out next season.
Wild Cards-Steelers, Jets
Wild Cards-Cowboys, Saints
Thanks for reading, feel free to comment!