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As a general rule it's a safe bet that at least half the teams that made the playoff the previous season will miss it the following year. Conversely, half the teams that make the playoffs would have missed it the year before. For example, the 49ers, Giants, and Lions all made the playoffs in the NFC this last season despite missing them in 2010, while the Broncos, Bengals, and Texans did the same thing in the AFC.
There's no guarantee this will happen but it is surprising how often it does. So with that in mind I thought I'd list the 6 most likely teams (3 in the NFC, 3 in the AFC) to not make a return trip to the postseason and the 6 teams I think are most likely to take their place. I'll start with the NFC and move to the AFC in my next post. If you disagree with my flawless logic, and I'm sure many will although I can't imagine why, I only ask that you say who should take their place. Otherwise we end up with a scenario where most of the playoff teams make it back and I can guarantee you that won't happen. After all, this isn't the NBA.
1) The New York Football Giants
Some might argue that I'm simply putting the Giants on this list because I'm still bitter about what happened in the playoffs. To them I would say, no, I'm putting them at #1 because I'm still bitter about what happened in the playoffs, but I do believe they won't make it back. Let's keep in mind this was a team that finished worse in 2011 (9-7) than they did in 2010 (10-6). And I don't think I've ever seen a longer streak of good luck than the Giants had. If Tony Romo didn't overthrow a wide open Miles Austin in their week 14 matchup, the Giants would have finished the year 8-8 and missed the playoffs entirely. Then there was the Packers offense doing their best Keystone cops impersonation, the 2 painful Kyle Williams fumbles (they had only 5 fumbles all season), and Wes Welker's whiff (squeeze with your fingers Wes!). I know in any close game there's always something that can be singled out but this was not the Giants making a play, it was their opposing teams just blowing it, and last I checked Luck went to Indy. Sorry, bad pun. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants finish in last place in the NFC East. OK, that just might be my bitterness coming through again.
The Lions have a lot to feel positive about. A franchise QB and WR, a much improved defense, and Matt Millen nowhere to be found. But they're still the Lions, a team that made one of the best RB of all time want to retire early. I've seen the future and it has Matthew Stafford missing half the season due to injury, Ndamukong Suh missing several games after he breathed too hard on Jay Cutler and got suspended, Kyle Vanden Bosch going blind after he tried to tattoo his eyes red, and several weight room injuries no one could explain until Matt Millen was discovered hiding in the broom closet. OK, maybe the last two won't happen but last year was the first time Stafford was able to stay healthy for the whole season and Suh gets fined so often he had to have a special meeting with Rodger Goodell just to have the rules explained to him. Here's a hint, stomping on a guy's head is frowned upon everywhere unless you're a neo-Nazi in American History X.
Sure they still have Drew Brees and one of the best offenses in football but their defense was a question mark even before bounty-gate. I don't know why but every time I read bounty-gate I have a strange urge to buy paper towels. Then there's their bungling of Brees's new contract upsetting their most important player and eliminating any chance of putting the franchise tag on Carl Nicks. I have no doubt Brees will still help the Saint put up a lot of points but as the old saying goes, it's defense that wins championships. Unless it's the Giants, then it's luck that wins championships. Sorry, still bitter. Honestly, if they had just done what the rest of the city does and threw crappy cheap bead necklaces at their players for big hits they could have saved themselves a lot of headache.
This was the team many had dubbed "The Dream Team" before the start of last season but their dream turned into a nightmare after a 1-4 start. See what I did there? I did a play on words with "dream". Anyway, despite their rough start they still finished 8-8 including 4 dominant wins to close out the season. They also still have a talent laden roster and no longer have an offensive line coach running their defense (although it turns out they do even if his power has been reduced to refilling the gatorade cups). When you throw in the tragedy of the highly thought of Andy Reid losing his oldest son, the team will rally around him and live up to the expectations of last season. That is as long as nobody finds out about Michael Vick's cock fighting operation. Wait...I just had a Beavis and Butthead moment.
The Bears hosted the NFC Championship game after the 2010 season, a game they dutifully lost in order for the Packers to vanquish the ghost of he who shall not be named, but followed that season by going just 8-8 in 2011. Now they look like they're back after they gave Jay Cutler some new weapons in Brandon Marshal and Michael Bush, some extra push in motivation with new backup Jason Campbell, and a chance to see what it's like playing the game standing up instead of lying on his back after they fired offensive coordinator Mike "I've never seen a 7-step drop I didn't like" Martz.
Every year it seems like one team comes out of nowhere to make the playoffs. This year I'm looking at the Bucs. They won only 4 games last season but they also went 10-6 and just missed the playoffs in 2010. You know that annoying kid that runs around all crazy at the store or restaurant while the parent does nothing and all the while you're thinking, "Would I really be in THAT much trouble if I smacked him in the head?" Well that was the Bucs last year. Josh Freeman, who threw only 6 interceptions in 2010, threw 22 in 2011 and the Bucs finished with a league worst -16 in turnover ratio as well as finishing second worst in penalty differential at -221. Only the Raiders were worse at -371. Why am I not surprised. Getting rid of head coach Raheem Morris in favor of Greg Schiano should help the team cut down on mistakes and get Freeman back on track. After all, if he could turn Rutgers around how hard could it be to turn around the Bucs?