10 NFL Teams You Better Worry About in 2012

Brian LendinoCorrespondent IIDecember 20, 2011

10 NFL Teams You Better Worry About in 2012

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    As the 2011 regular season comes close to its end, why not take a quick look ahead to 2012?

    What teams will surprise us all like this year's Cincinnati Bengals? Who will disappoint like the Philadelphia Eagles have?

    Without taking potential draft picks into consideration, here are 10 teams that will cause havoc and catch your attention in 2012.

Green Bay Packers

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    They are the defending Super Bowl champions and it wouldn't come as a surprise if they were able to repeat the same heroics this season.

    The truth of it all is that this team isn't getting any worse any time soon.

    At least not as long as No. 12 is their quarterback.

Detroit Lions

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    Staying in the same division as the Packers, the Lions have returned to relevance this season and currently sit at 9-5.

    This team is loaded with talent but often struggles to keep a good head on its shoulders and commits far too many penalties.

    If this coaching staff can stiffen up the discipline and get this team more mentally prepared heading into next season, there's no reason to think that Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can't take this team deep into the postseason.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    As a team that many picked to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl after their remarkable offseason, the Eagles' 2011 campaign has been tumultuous to say the least.

    From ill-timed injuries to key players, to poor defensive play and everything in between, the Eagles have limped to a 6-8 record yet still find themselves in the playoff race.

    The injury bug is the key for this team because as we've seen, when Michael Vick can stay healthy he's as dangerous as anyone in football.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the feel-good stories of the 2011 season, led by their two rookie phenoms, Andy Dalton and AJ Green.

    What I like most about this team is that they're only going to grow and get better as they become even more comfortable around each other.

    With Baltimore aging, the Bengals will look to overcome the Steelers to become the class of the AFC North once again.

Carolina Panthers

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    We all know about how good the Saints and the Falcons are in the NFC South, but what Cam Newton has done in his rookie year must be commended.

    Despite his team's putrid 5-9 record, Newton has shown that he can make it in the NFL and has found out how to make everyone around him better.

    If this team can stiffen up its defense and give Cam the help he needs when he's not on the field, he can be put in better positions to win football games and improve on that record from a year ago.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    No team in the NFL got hit harder with the injury bug than the Kansas City Chiefs.

    In Week 1, the team lost its best defensive player in Eric Berry and then followed up in Week 2 by losing its best offensive player in Jamaal Charles—both for the season.

    With a new coach at the helm in 2012—who most believe will be defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel—this team can do some serious damage in the AFC West and regain the division crown they held in 2010.

    If everyone comes back healthy and fresh, of course.

Houston Texans

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    OK, maybe this team benefited from a softened division but that does not take away from how good their defense played in the absence of Mario Williams.

    The Houston Texans made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2011 and now that they have the monkey off their back I like them to be perennial playoff contenders.

    Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson will return healthy next season to couple with Arian Foster in one of the best QB-RB-WR tandems in the league.

New England Patriots

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    The Patriots cause the entire league to worry the minute the step on the field and even if their defense is one of the worst we've seen, they still have Tom Brady.

    Bill Belichick is one of the smartest defensive minds in football and I believe he'll get the kinks straightened out for next season.

    The Patriots will continue to be the class of the AFC until someone comes and knocks them from the top of that division.

    Any takers?

San Francisco 49ers

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    The 49ers are one of the most complete football teams in the NFL and they are led by first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.

    On offense they rarely turn the ball over, while on defense all they do is turn you over and force you into 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long situations.

    They have a solid special teams and boast playmakers at almost every position.

    No one knew the 49ers were going to be this good in 2011; who says they have reached their peak yet?

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-4, sit tied atop the AFC North and have clinched a playoff spot for yet another year.

    This team's offense has the ability to run the football and beat you with speed receivers on the outside and on defense they love to punish opposing offense.

    If they can patch up some holes on the offensive line to protect their quarterback, I like this team's chances to return to the top of the AFC standings again in 2012.