It’s still months away before the NFL season really kicks off but it is never too early to look at teams that are poised to make a January run while others will be disappointed and see their seasons end after 16 games.
Let’s start with those teams having expectations to make the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks– With rookie quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm in 2012, he led the Seahawks to an 11-5 season and a playoff win against the Washington Redskins before ending the season with a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Barring a sophomore slump by Wilson, there’s no reason this team should not head to the postseason. Wilson has a new offensive weapon, former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin and the defense will get some help with the free agent additions of DE Cliff Avril, DT Michael Bennett and CB Antoine Winfield.
Denver Broncos – Adding quarterback Peyton Manning was a good move and unless he starts playing like a 38-year-old, the team should be poised to have another great season (13-3 in 2012)–maybe even better. Manning has two new offensive toys, receiver Wes Welker and rookie running back Montee Ball. The team will miss Elvis Dumervil but the rookie DT Sly Williams could be a great addition and LB Von Miller is always looking for the win.
San Francisco 49ers – With the recent news of wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s injury, there was immediate concern for this team’s upcoming season. But not so fast as it’s loaded with offensive talent: TE Vernon Davis, WRs Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham as well as RBs Frank Gore and rookie LaMichael James.
Oh, yeah, its defense and coach isn’t too shabby either.
Green Bay Packers– You can’t go wrong with quarterback Aaron Rogers as this teams field general as he is one of the league’s most talented quarterbacks. The team added two talented rookie running backs to their roster with Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.
Factor in offseason defensive additions such as rookie DE Datone Jones and team could improve from 2012’s 11-5 record.
Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons came so close but fell short last season. Again. Veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez wants one more chance and with the signing of former NY Giants DE Osi Umenyiora, two rookie cornerbacks and the addition of former St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson, this team is loaded with talent.
Oh yeah, there’s also the Falcon’s wide receiver duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
New England Patriots – Quarterback Tom Brady is already feeling pretty good about the upcoming season and has his new offensive weapon, wide receiver Danny Amendola. It’s hard to bet against the Patriots and after their 12-4 season in 2012, there’s no reason to not to believe they won’t be good this year.
Houston Texans – The postseason loss against the Patriots was a tough one but the Texans will be back this season and will try to avenge that defeat. Quarterback Matt Schaub is talented and has wide receiver Andre Johnson and possibly rookie DeAndre Hopkins as two solid weapons. Then there’s the defense with DE J.J. Watt and the offseason addition of veteran safety Ed Reed.
Here’s a solid team.
Washington Redskins – Quarterback phenom Robert Griffin III will return to form this season and continue moving his team in the right direction.
Other possible contenders include the New York Giants (not a lot of change), Cincinnati Bengals (young team, talented quarterback and wide receiver, fly under the radar defense) and the Kansas City Chiefs (there’s a new coach in town and he could elevate the play of his new quarterback Alex Smith).
And then we have the teams who are close but will fall short.
There’s Always Next Year
Chicago Bears – Change is coming for this team and expectations are rising for quarterback Jay Cutler with his new quarterback guru coach Marc Trestman. The defense will move into the post-Brian Urlacher era but this team may take a step back before it moves forward.
Dallas Cowboys – The team’s $100 million man, Tony Romo, is under even more pressure to perform this season. The defense struggled a lot last season and change has arrived; however, the talent pool hasn’t improved a lot so don’t look for a postseason run.
Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings had a great draft but Green Bay is tough to beat and if the good Bears show up, they could also contribute to this team not seeing a postseason run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs are improving but they’re not there yet. They need to figure out their franchise quarterback and improve on offense to compete.
Other teams that will come close but fall short include the Pittsburgh Steelers (old defense), the Philadelphia Eagles (too much change) and the Baltimore Ravens (gutted team, lack of leadership).