Which of the NFL Surprise Teams Can Go Farthest in the Playoffs
The 49ers, Bills, Bengals, Lions, Texans, Titans and Raiders are all teams that have had impressive performances thus far into the young season. The biggest question now is which of these teams can avoid injury, overcome adversity, finish the year strong and make a deep run into the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers (5-1)
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The San Francisco 49ers have managed to start off the season exceptionally well, though I do not believe they will be able to convert their early success into a deep playoff run for a couple of reasons.
For starters, the 49ers are atop the NFL's worst division. The other three teams combined—Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis—have a total of three wins, so they won't exactly be battle tested.
Secondly, their quarterback is Alex Smith. Perhaps Smith has finally come around, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but then again, what if he goes back to being the Alex Smith of old?
Buffalo Bills (4-2)
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The Buffalo Bills started the season 3-0 and are currently 4-2, sitting just below the New England Patriots, a team they beat during Week 3. Running back Fred Jackson has done an incredible job so far this season, but the jury is still out on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
With such little playoff experience, I don't expect these guys to make a run.
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The Cincinnati Bengals are 4-2 and being led by a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton—that's pretty darn good.
However, the Bengals still have a couple games with Pittsburgh and Baltimore left on the schedule, as well as one with Houston. Expect the Bengals to take a couple losses before the regular season's over, and with the top offensive threats being rookies, don't expect too much as far as playoffs go.
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The Detroit Lions are 5-1 and their team is pretty solid. Playing in the NFC North, though, they still have a number of challenging games left on the schedule.
Despite all of that, I think the Lions have a great shot to make some noise in the playoffs. Led by the play of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, their offense is potent, their defense is not too bad and their biggest question mark is probably their running game. Jahvid Best isn't asked to do a lot, though, so who's to say he's not capable?
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Sitting at 3-3 after back-to-back losses in Week 5 and Week 6, the Texans need to string together a few wins here in the upcoming weeks.
However, the Texans are a team that shouldn't be too much of a surprise considering their last two seasons. Narrowly missing the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, the Texans are working on something they have been building on for awhile. Once Andre Johnson returns, the Texans have the dynamics to make a push for the playoffs and a run.
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The Tennessee Titans' 3-2 start and lead over the AFC South is pretty impressive considering running back Chris Johnson got off to a slow start, wide receiver Kenny Britt has been injured and they're playing with a new quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck.
The Titans don't have an overly challenging schedule remaining, so they have a good shot to make the playoffs. What they will do when they get there, however, is totally up in the air.
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The Oakland Raiders' 4-2 start was a great one for the franchise and came pretty unexpectedly. Things seemed to be going well for Oakland until quarterback Jason Campbell went down in Week 6 with an injury that will likely keep him out for the rest of the season. With their quarterback situation now up in the air, it's hard to know what to expect from the Raiders.