NFL Teams Once Thought Dead, Now Finding New Life
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The odds are against an NFL team making the playoffs two years in a row.
Of the 96 NFL teams that made the playoffs between 2002 and 2009, only 44 or 45 percent made the playoffs the following year.
The 2011 NFL season has also been tough on most 2010 playoff teams. Of the 12 teams that qualified for the playoffs in 2010, seven started the season at 2-3 or worse.
However, despite starting the season below .500, some 2010 playoff teams are starting to look like they might make a playoff run this year.
Michael Turner ran for 122 yards against Detroit.
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After making a big deal on draft day to move up and select Alabama receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons began the season with high hopes of claiming the NFC's top seed again.
Instead, the Falcons season started with a humiliating loss to Chicago. The first five weeks, they were inconsistent, failing to play a complete game. There was the high of beating Philadelphia after trailing by 10, there was the low of losing to the Packers after leading 14-0.
After the Packer game, they were 2-3. The explosive offense they imagined in the preseason wasn't hitting on all cylinders. To top it off, Julio Jones was hurt in the Green Bay game.
Since then. Atlanta has gotten back to doing what they do best: giving the ball to Michael Turner.
After a comeback win against Carolina, when they scored 17 fourth quarter points, they went to Detroit and held the potent Lions offense to one touchdown.
Atlanta is coming off the bye week at 4-3. With the Saints' shocking loss to the Rams, the Falcons are only a half game back in the division. If they sweep New Orleans, they can win the division again.
The schedule is favorable. Over the next nine weeks, the Falcons' schedule consists mainly of teams that will have no chance of the postseason. Included are the Colts, Vikings, Jaguars and Panthers.
The defense might feast on the inexperienced quarterbacks they will face, and Julio Jones will be back.
The Bears had a high time in London.
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The Bears' 2-3 start came courtesy of the Saints, Packers and Lions.
The Bears had to play at Detroit on a Monday night. It just so happened to be the Lions' biggest home game in a long, long time.
America got to see the Bears beaten by the Lions 24-13 on Monday Night Football.
One week later, we got to see the beginning of Chicago's resurgence. The Bears absolutely destroyed the Vikings on Sunday Night Football, winning 39-10. They followed that with a trip to London, where they beat Tampa Bay 24-18.
Though they may not catch Green Bay or Detroit, a wild-card spot could be a possibility. They hold tiebreakers with Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
November will be crucial. On the schedule: Philadelphia, Detroit, San Diego and Oakland.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs celebrate the win over the Chargers.
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The Kansas City Chiefs, the surprise winners of the AFC West last year, had the worst start of any NFL team. They were outscored 89-10 the first two games. The coach and the quarterback argued on the sidelines, and there were reports that General Manager Scott Pioli was on the verge of firing head coach Todd Haley. They started 0-3.
The third loss was in San Diego.
Then lady luck or karma shined on the Chiefs. Kansas City had the good fortune of playing Minnesota and Indianapolis. They were able to win both and go into the bye week at 2-3.
Following the bye, they met the Raiders the week after Oakland lost QB Jason Campbell. For some reason, the Raiders started Kyle Boller, instead of recently acquired Carson Palmer. The Chiefs intercepted six passes that day on the way to a 28-0 win.
Monday night, they seized first place in the AFC West once again with a 23-20 overtime win against the Chargers. A team that some thought would contend for the top draft pick next year now looks to win the division again.
The Chiefs need to take advantage the next two weeks. They play the Dolphins and Broncos before the schedule gets brutal.
Following Denver, it's New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York Jets, Green Bay and Oakland, before the finale at Denver.
New York Jets
Can Sanchez lead the Jets to another AFC Championship Game?
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On October 9, the Jets lost at New England 30-21. It was the conclusion of a three-game road trip.
The trip started with an unexpected loss at Oakland. It got worse at Baltimore on national TV. Then came the loss to their most hated rival. They were 2-3 with a difficult schedule to navigate.
Since then, they beat the winless Dolphins and overcame a 21-10 deficit at the half against San Diego before rallying to a 27-21 win.
Now, the Jets are one game behind New England in the AFC East, with two games ahead versus the Bills and a rematch with New England at the Meadowlands. If they win those games, the Jets can win the division.
Besides those games, they have some tough games against Kansas City, Philadelphia and the Giants.
Can New York make another trip to the AFC Championship Game?
That remains to be seen, but don't bury them just yet.
Dream Team: The nightmare is over.
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Back during the summer, right after the lockout, the Eagles were the big movers and shakers in the free-agent market. They spent so much money and assembled so much talent that they were given the nickname the "Dream Team."
However, just like the last Dream Team, the Miami Heat, they had growing pains early on.
They went through the horrendous four-game losing streak, blowing fourth-quarter leads in three of those games. No one was exempt from the blame. Andy Reid, Michael Vick, the offensive line and the play of the defense were all held accountable.
Still, through all that, there were believers—those who thought that if, somehow, this team could turn things around, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
The turnaround has begun. After a win over Washington and a bye, they demolished Dallas last Sunday night 34-7.
They are now 3-4. Possibly the happiest 3-4 team ever.
Though still two games behind the Giants, there is hope.
Like it or not, the Eagles will continue to be a story all year long.
Believe it or not, the Eagles will continue to contend all year long.