CHICAGO, September 4, 2012 – Every year for the last fifteen years, there have been at least five new teams to make the NFL postseason that weren’t able to do so the year before. Does that seem like a reasonable number? No, but airplanes don’t seem reasonable either, and yet we all depend on them, so let’s just operate under the assumption that this will happen again.
In addition to this oddity, there always seems to be a division winner that not finished the previous season in the basement of that division. Whether it’s the miracle of Tim Tebow guiding you to the playoffs (Denver last year) or Drew Brees getting angry (2009 Saints), it’s going to happen.
So bearing these laws of the postseason in mind, let’s take a look at how the 2012 picture will shake out in the NFC. In order of seed:
San Francisco 49ers – These guys are just monsters. Their defense is easily one of the best in the league, forcing turnovers as well as anyone in the league on defense while hardly ever giving the ball away on offense. Coach Jim Harbaugh will continue to bring the best out of maligned quarterback Alex Smith, who beat Drew Brees in the postseason, by the way, and the arrow for this team is only pointing up. Oh, and have you heard of Randy Moss? He’s on this team now.
Chicago Bears – Looking forward to your emails about this one.
The Bears underwent massive upgrades over the offseason, including Jay Cutler’s thumb healing. The acquisition of Brandon Marshall finally gives Cutler a decent target, as well as the super-athletic though slightly raw rookie Alshon Jeffrey. Expect both to boost this offense easily into the Top 10 in the league, with a smart, stalwart though aging defense anchored by Julius Peppers (still the freakiest athlete in the league) and hopefully a returning Brian Urlacher.
Devin Hester further boosts this team by having nearly every punter kick the ball out of bounds, often leaving the Bears with excellent field position. New GM Phil Emery has successfully positioned this team to go very far in the postseason.
Philadelphia Eagles – Again, looking forward to your emails, but honestly, they’re going to be good this year! Michael Vick is going to play all 16 games, or at least 15, because frankly, he knows that Philadelphia will come crashing down on him if he doesn’t. The defense will step up and stop whining, and LeSean McCoy will lead a rushing attack that helps Vick reconnect with deep threat DeSean Jackson.
Or maybe they’ll stink the place up again, but have you seen backup QB Nick Foles this preseason? Even if Vick goes down, this team is in good hands.
Carolina Panthers – You can only keep Cam Newton down for so long, right? The offense will remain explosive, with the best running back tandem in the league and the Newton –Steve Smith connection anchoring the pass attack.
What’s really going to improve here is the defense, especially with the acquisition of rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly as well as the returns of Jon Beason and Thomas Davis. This team will still rely on its incredible offensive potential, but don’t expect the defense to lag behind this year.
Green Bay Packers – Yes, these guys will return to the playoffs. It’s probably a good thing for them that they won’t be winning their division this year, they sure stunk it up in their one playoff game at Lambeau last year. The biggest difference this year is that a team can only win so long while being outgained.
Even with Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and co., the Packers were outgained last year, gaining 405.2 yards per game while giving up 411.6. Pencil these guys in for a 10-win season.
Really, Clay Matthews? You’re going to put up with that?
Detroit Lions – Sorry, Falcons, Saints, Seahawks and Giants fans, Stafford-to-Megatron is just too freaking scary. The guy’s a legitimate monster, with one of the best gunslingers in the league flinging the ball to him. Young former Boise State standout Titus Young is also about to burst onto the scene with a stellar season. The running game will get a boost from the rookie season of Mikel Leshoure, and the defense has some guy named Suh that will continue to scare the pants off everybody, that is when he’s not serving a suspension for being a bad boy.
The Lions will sneak into the last playoff spot, showing everyone in the Motor City that they’re here to stay.
Close, but no cigar:
Atlanta Falcons – There’s no room in this picture for a team that’s just not getting better.
New Orleans Saints – Call when your head coach’s interim coach’s interim coach is done leading this team. But by then, it will be too late.
Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson looks good, but that’s the only real difference for a team that had a losing record last year. He’s not that good.
To contact Nick Goralka, see above to send him an e-mail containing a question, comment, or scathing insult. His work appears in Alley-oops for Touchdowns! and That Liberal Pinko in the Communities at the Washington Times Online.
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