If the Cowboys are to make the playoffs this year, one of last year's playoff teams will have to give up its spot. Of course, a lot of other things need to happen for the Cowboys to make the playoffs, but let's go with the initial premise here.
Last season, exactly half of the NFC teams that made the playoffs in 2011 failed to repeat in 2012. The Super Bowl champion Giants, the Saints and Lions all failed to repeat their playoff appearances. And their failure to repeat adds further credence to a long-running NFL trend: every season only about half of the previous season's teams repeat as playoff participants.
Last year, almost to the day, Archie Barberio, KD Drummond and I predicted which 2011 NFC playoff teams would stumble in 2012. Archie picked the Saints not to repeat, KD picked the Lions not to repeat and I predicted that the Giants wouldn't repeat their playoff appearance. Emboldened by the fact that we're batting 1.000, the BTB frontpage writers re-visit last year's question and pick the teams we expect not to repeat last year's playoff appearances.
Last year, the NFC was represented by the following teams:
|No. 1 seed||No. 2 seed||No. 3 seed||No. 4 seed||Wildcard 1||Wildcard 2|
Here's a look at who our writers pick to not repeat this year. Tom Ryle and Archie Barberio both double dip and pick two teams each:
Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III is likely but not certain to be healthy to start the season, and unlikely to stay healthy. The rest of the league, and particularly the rest of the division, have now seen the read-option, which the Redskins probably will have to get away from a little bit anyway to protect Bob3. They also are still struggling under the Mara cap penalty. They should slide back just enough to miss the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson was unreal in 2012. Running backs just do not pick a team up on their back and carry it anymore in the NFL, which makes his performance coming back from knee injury all the more incredible. It is hard to imagine him having that good a season again, and there is still the little matter of Christian Ponder at quarterback. And then they traded away Percy Harvin, probably the second best offensive weapon they had. The draft picks they made may pay off down the road, but look for them to take a step back this season.
Minnesota Vikings: The Adrian Peterson show was remarkable last season. It's really amazing that he came back from a torn ACL and had a superhero performance, but he was primarily responsible for getting his team into the playoffs. I don't see them repeating postseason success because of their quarterback. Christian Ponder isn't a field general and cannot make the type of plays that are needed in the passing game.
It's pretty disappointing because the strong running game they have causes the opposing defense to stuff men up in the box. You would think that a mobile quarterback could cash in on playaction and the soft coverage that he gets because of Peterson, but Minnesota fails to capitalize on the advantage AP gives them and that is holding them back from becoming a truly dangerous football team.
The Vikings had one hell of a draft, adding three first-round players that will bring a serious influx of talent and playmaking ability. Unfortunately, I don't see them having a lot of success because of Ponder. Maybe their defense elevates their game and Peterson runs wild again, but in order for them to make some noise in January, Ponder must take the next step. While that's plausible, I am not a believer in him doing that in 2013.
Washington Redskins: First off, I absolutely love RG3. The kid is a complete stud and he is the type of field general that Ponder dreams about becoming when he goes to bed. Unfortunately these two can't switch teams, because if RG3 were a Viking, that would be one of the best teams in the NFL. The Redskins have a franchise quarterback, a great running back, a surprisingly solid offensive line, but they lack a dominant wide receiver who can stay healthy and have some serious question marks on defense.
It's true we should respect every team in the NFL, but there are teams you don't have to fear and the Redskins don't place any fear in my mind outside of RG3 and Alfred Morris. This team had a great season and has a seriously bright future. I don't see them repeating playoff success in 2013 because there are some holes that they need to address and while the franchise is on the right path, they still need to assemble some more pieces at key positions before they approach elite status.
Also consider that the NFC East is still a very difficult division to win in. Each team always brings it and stays competitive against each other. Every divisional game is a dogfight and battle, so it's very difficult to repeat success in a landscape that changes from year to year.
Green Bay Packers: One of these days, Aaron Rodgers won't have the luxury of wide open receivers populating his highlight reel. Also noting that he's one of the worst quarterbacks in the league when playing from behind, and the averages are bound to catch up with him eventually. I've always felt a large portion of Rodgers' success was due to his receiving corps (which is fading fast), and, additionally, I just don't like the guy. I predict him to drag the Packers out of the playoffs. And then complain that others aren't doing their jobs.
Seattle Seahawks: Seattle's offseason has shown that they are all in, so much so that they are willing to take some risks when building their roster. To wit: they traded their first round pick for Minnesota's troubled but talented Percy Harvin. In the draft they picked up several players (Christine Michael, Chris Harper, Jesse Williams and Therold Simon) who weren't even on the Cowboys board, largely for character concerns. Later, defensive end Bruce Irvin became the fifth Seahawk since 2011 to be suspended for using a banned substance (leading one wag to term them the "Sea-Adderall Seahawks"). As we saw in Dallas in 2008, going all-in and trying to "win now" with guys of questionable character is more likely to crash and burn than it is to lead to a Lombardi. Add to this the fact that the league has had an off-season to watch tape of Russell Wilson's rookie year, and the 'Hawks are poised for a return to earth in 2013.
San Francisco 49ers: I'm picking the 49ers, mostly because I don't like them and I hate the smug arrogance of their head coach, who is easily the NFL coach I dislike the most, even ahead of that sleazy guy in Detroit. Additionally, a running QB isn't going to surprise any teams in 2013; the 49ers are not going to be nearly as healthy as they were last year; the NFC West is going to be much tougher than it was last season; add that all up and the 49ers will lose out in the wildcard race to two other teams.
Who's your pick to not make it back to the playoffs this season? Leave your thoughts in the comments and place your vote in the attached poll.
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