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Who Will Be The New NFC Playoff Teams In 2012?

The Cowboys and Seahawks are probably two contenders for an NFC playoff spot this year.
The Cowboys and Seahawks are probably two contenders for an NFC playoff spot this year.

On Sunday, we asked the BTB community to vote on which three 2011 NFC playoff teams wouldn't make it back to the playoffs in 2012. Almost two and a half thousand votes later, the Saints (34%) and the Giants (23%) emerged as the popular favorites not to make it back to the postseason this year. The third team spot is a tight race between Lions and Falcons, and at last count the Lions (17%) were slightly favored to miss the playoffs.

Related: Which 2011 NFC Playoff Teams Will Stumble In 2012?

That leaves the Packers, 49ers and Falcons as the three teams expected to be back in the playoffs in 2013. Which brings us to our question of the day: Which new teams do you expect to make the playoffs for the NFC this season?

Since this is a Cowboys blog, I'm assuming that the Cowboys would get the bulk of the vote for a playoff spot this season, so I'm not putting them to the vote. This leaves the following nine teams competing for the remaining playoff spots:

Eagles (8-8), Bears (8-8), Cardinals (8-8), Seahawks (7-9), Panthers (6-10), Redskins (5-11), Bucs (4-12), Vikings (3-13) & Rams (2-14).

Place your vote in the attached poll. The teams that garner the most votes will be our collective favorites for a playoff spot this season. After the break, Rabblerouser, KD Drummond and I weigh in on who we think could have a chance at a playoff spot this season.

Rabblerousr - Eagles

As much as I hate writing (much less admitting) this, I think the Eagles are among the most talented and deepest teams in the NFC, probably ahead of New Orleans and just behind Green Bay. Consider the history of teams that miss and then make the playoffs; many of those are clubs that hovered around .500 the year before. Look at last season's 8-8 teams (Arizona, Dallas, Oakland, NY Jets, San Diego, Chicago) and ask: which of these is most likely to see a performance spike? For my money, it's the Eagles.

They are loaded: terrific talent at the skill positions; a very solid O-line, probably the deepest defensive line in football, much improved talent and depth at linebacker and, with their young safeties a year older, a potentially potent secondary. And, I think last year's bizarre defensive coaching problems have been adressed internally and won't loom so large this time around.

This optimism is tempered by what, to my mind, serves as their one glaring question: Michael Vick. Sure, the guy is an all-world athlete, and can do some incredible things. But I'm not sure he can play the kind of game that allows him to optimize his skillset and stay healthy over sixteen games. So, what do the Eagles go for? A scaled-back, injury-prevention Vick? A "let's get the most out of him until he gets too nicked up to play" Vick?

With a full season of a reasonably proficient Vick, I think the Eagles are a 12-4 team; with him playing guardedly or out of the lineup for an extended period? The question then becomes how guarded and/ or extended? If they don't crush the rest of the division, I think they'll at least squeeze in to the tournament.

And I'll root against them, as hard as I know how, every step of the way.

KD Drummond - Bears

Last season, Chicago started off 7-3 before losing Jay Cutler to a broken thumb for the season. Matt Forte was lost two games later to an MCL sprain and the season spiraled out of control for Chicago. What did they do? Fired Mike Martz, which will save Cutler approximately 635 times getting up off his back. Signed Michael Bush, one of the league's best backup backs the last few years, to supplement Forte. Traded for Brandon Marshall, who seems to have his bipolar disorder under wraps and just happened to combine for the most catches between QB and target over several years in Denver.

I picked the Lions to fall out of the playoff picture, and I firmly believe that the Bears will be taking their place. Side note: I have Dallas winning the East, no wild card necessary.

I think the team can easily split it's two games with the Green Bay Packers this season; and sweeping the Lions and Vikings.

OCC - Seahawks

One of the things that I like to do to gauge a team's strength heading into a new season is to look at how they played in the second half of the previous season. The Seahawks posted only a 5-3 record in their last eight games, but what impressed me the most over that span was their defense:

In the last eight games of the season, the Seahawks allowed only 130 points, the third lowest total in the league behind the Steelers (88) and 49ers (111). During the eight-game span to close the season, the 'Hawks allowed 23 points twice (in losing efforts) but held all other opponents below 20 points, and those opponents included the 49ers, Bears, Eagles and Ravens.

Over the entire season, the 'Hawks had the 6th best passing defense with a defensive passer rating of 74.8 (for comparison, the Cowboys ranked 25th with 88.4) and they have what I consider the best safety tandem in the league with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

For the Seahawks, the key to making a significant step forward will be a strong performance from the QB position. Tarvaris Jackson played with a torn pectoral muscle all of last season, and he'll face stiff competition from Matt Flynn, the unproven but much hyped backup QB formerly from Green Bay, for the starting spot. If they get it together on offense, the Seahawks should be able to make a push for the playoffs.

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