2013 Surprise Playoff Team
2007: Giants (9-7, won Super Bowl* maybe doesn't qualify because they did make the playoffs the year prior - they squeaked in and everyone was questioning Eli after a poor season - my rationale was that NO ONE was picking them after they lost Barber)
2008: Saints (8-8, missed playoffs)
2009: Bengals (10-6, won division)
2010: Rams (7-9 after 1-15 year prior)
2011: Dolphins (6-10, missed playoffs)
2012: Colts (11-5, made playoffs)
This year, I have some ideas but I need to lay out the ground rules for everyone.
1) A surprise team is a team that would surprise people who know football. The Rams this year would not be a surprise at all.
2) Teams that made the playoffs last year don't qualify. Even though Minnesota and Washington would be surprises akin to picking Carolina or Tampa, they don't count. We are looking for last year's Colts - there's at least one every year.
3) No one in the NFC qualifies as a true surprise team other than the Eagles and Cardinals. Every other team is too talented for someone to get credit for picking. The Panthers and Bucs are stacked.
4) The AFC is the way to go because of the strength of the NFC. Unless you really believe in Chip-Vick/Foles/Barkley or Palmer/Arians. It's the weaker conference and you have many more options.
With that said, here are your options for true surprise teams in 2013:
You have BALLS tier:
You might think you have balls, but you really don't tier:
Navigating through treacherous waters tier:
Who everyone's gonna pick because Jake Locker apologists exist for some reason and these teams aren't that bad tier:
Borderline shouldn't-really-qualify tier:
***Miami's not on the poll because the max is 10 and I debated even having them on this list in the first place (they aren't making the playoffs anyway so it's irrelevant and just gives the majority of voters a chance to make a correct ballsier pick).
I'm pretty confident the Titans will make the playoffs, they're a better team than last year, have an easier schedule, better coaching staff etc.
A less talented team went 9-7 two years ago and narrowly missed the playoffs, so I think to many we are further away than people think. We just need to pull out some division wins.
We should have a good run game and a good defense, so Locker shouldn't have to do much, but that doesn't mean he won't.
I'm glad Miami didn't make it on to the poll. They're clearly better than the rest of these.
I'm gonna go with Arizona. They have an averageish QB, a starting-caliber RB, a top wideout, an excellent wideout prospect, a much improved O line, a coach who knows offense, and defense that was good last year.
Yeah, they're in a brutal division and brutal conference...but now they at least have all of the pieces there to take advantage of a few lucky breaks should they occur.
First off, the Giants went 10-6 in 2007. The past couple months I see plenty of people saying 9-7, I don't know where it came from but they're wrong. Now...
My pick is Cleveland. I think their Defense is going to be very improved this year, I like Richardson and Gordon a lot. I see the Ravens and Steelers regressing this year and I would not be surprised to see the Browns go 9-7 or 10-6 and be a wild-card team. Last year most of their loses where pretty close too
Plus, their schedule this year is not that bad. I could see them beating 7 teams outside their division, and then it's not that unrealistic to say they'll get 2-3 wins in the division
Buffalo- The defense should be better (can't get much worse). I think a new offense and a new QB will really help out the defense. I'm not ready to predict them in the playoffs, but of the teams you included, I think they have the best chance. They have many winnable games. Two against the Dolphins and Jets, Browns, Panthers, Chiefs, Jaguars, and Buccaneers.
I could be cheap and say the Chargers, but would the be a surprise? They made the playoffs 5 of 6 seasons. Then the last three seasons, they've averaged 8 wins.
So many of these AFC teams just can not get away from being terrible. I know it's even more of a trap for me to lean towards Philly and Tennessee as I am tempted to do. I've tried to sort things out with my Bills and I still have no idea what to expect. It's probably not good, though. Some good elements to the offense and a new system but I don't know what to think of half of our line and the play under center. I know better than to expect anything from the defense before I see it by this point. It got better as the season wore on, but then you still saw things like the Russell Wilson Show. Shudder.
I guess the hype train's gone off for Miami if they don't qualify for this poll.
Eagles get the easy vote from me. Arizona would have been second with Tennessee being third.
I was soooo ready to be a homer and go with Miami, haha
Went with KC. Miami would of been the easiest choice on the board if they were there.
Voted Arizona after considering Kansas City. But I have a feeling Carson Palmer is going to have a big season and their defense is already really good.
Had to vote NYJ. I couldn't let them have zero votes
So I'll go with the safe pick and say miami.
Just from a quick glance, I would say that at least half of the teams listed are more talented than Carolina. (On paper.)
And their schedule could end up being brutal this year.
As for the poll, Im rolling with the same surprise team I picked last year: KC Chiefs.
Half of the teams are more talented than Carolina? No chance.
First of all they have a better QB than all of those teams save maybe SD.
They have terrific ends, improved at DT drastically, one of the best mike backers in the lg, potentially Beason, good RBs, Steve Smith, a good TE, one of the best centers in the league. Their OL isn't dominant but it's not a weakness. And their CBs are talented just not proven. I'd be worried about S opposite Godfrey- that would be the only "hole" on paper.
Basically, if you watched them down the stretch you would not be surprised to see them make the playoffs this year. Whereas it would be very surprising to see any of the other teams make it.
Their coaching staff was the problem last year. They're definitely wayyy more talented than all the teams on the list from top to bottom, save maybe the Chiefs, Phins, and for some reason the Titans Andy Levitrw difference-making kool aid.
Most impoetant Difference being the Panthers have a much better QB Than those teams..:
The afc west trio of KC/OAK/SD all have a good shot at making the playoffs in one of the wild card spots. The Broncos have that division locked up but all 3 of those teams have a decent shot if they get good QB play, especially KC. They have lots of talent and Smith is a obvious step up from what they had.
I have incredibly little faith in Arians at Arizona. Palmer is gonna get killed on the deep drops Arians forces with that OL. Luck made Arian look better than he is. Luck took a beating last year but he is a tank and thankfully didn't get injured. Palmer on the other hand has had a history of injuries and isn't nearly as mobile. I can't see him being healthy enough all year.
I went with the Eagles on a whim. I think if Kelly can get his high tempo offense straightened out he can surprise teams enough to make the playoffs. The NFCE isn't that strong and any one of those teams can win it. Heck the Giants won it with a 9-7 record the other year. The offense might not work over the long haul but it can really surprise teams this year at least.
+1 for KC. Underrated and talented roster, Alex Smith, and Andy Reid.
If Fisher plays even decent I think they're in store for a huge turnaround.
I don't think picking San Diego is "cheap." Their roster is really weak aside from their embattled QB who hasn't played well in two years.
There isn't a player on the team aside from Weddle that can be called above average.
If you're picking them, you're picking McCoy to get a lot out of replacement-level talents. Plus a big comeback from Rivers.
They aren't actually good at anything on paper. Passing, running, pass D, run D. Weak pass rush, weak secondary. Yuck.
imo, the answer is one of the AFC teams at the least. In the NFC, assuming last years division winners repeat, there's still the Seahawks, Saints, Bears, Vikings, and Giants who are competing for 2 spots. So even if 1-2 of those teams falter, there's still good teams competing.
In the AFC, an average/above-average team can sneak into the playoffs, but the NFC teams would have to earn it.
I'm going with cleveland. No explanation... just going with it
I went with Philly: the NFC East always seems to be competitive, and 9-7 may win it, so I went with them. Plus, I like Chip Kelly....
- We agree on the defensive ends and Luke Kuechly. No arguing there.
- Improved drastically at DT? Sure, Dwan Edwards was good last year. Those two rookies havent played a snap yet though. Lets see Star and Short actually do something in the NFL, before we start singing their praises.
- Beason have played 5 games in the last two seasons combined. Thomas Davis made an impressive comeback, but will his knees hold up? Furthermore they have no depth whatsoever at the position.
- Deangelo Williams is a 30 year old RB, who havent had a season with 1K rushing in more than 3 years. Jonathan Stewart is not a productive RB either. They are nothing but wasted cap space.
- Greg Olsen is a nice weapon.
- Steve Smith is getting older, and beside him there is not much to be excited about at WR.
- The o-line will probably get better this year, but once again that is a projection not a fact. It was downright awful at times last year.
- After the retirement of Chris Gamble, they dont have anything remotely close to a starting quality CB. I dont know which of those CBs you think are "talented just not proven", but I couldnt disagree more with the general statement. As you mention yourself, they dont have a safety besides Godfrey as well.
Add to that, that they face 3 very potent passing attacks in their division alone, and I could easily see the Panthers secondary get absolutely shredded next year.
- And finally, we agree about the coaching staff not being very good.
You only see one hole on the Panther roster. By my estimation they have holes on at least 6 positions, as well as below average coaching.
And Im not trying to make it sound like the Panthers will be one of the 5 worst teams next year. They have legit talent on important positions.
But they are not a "stacked" team by any stretch of the imagination.
... And they have a very tough schedule next year. Just wanted to repeat that one.
I'm not talking about coaches or schedules. I'm talking about the roster.
I don't think the backs are bad - I think the offense was stupid last year and Cam takes their production. Stewart is a good player.
I believe in Star and Short bc of what I've seen from them. They're both talented, which is what were arguing.
As for the corners, florende is a pro, Norman has all the tools to be a breakout player coming from a transition rookie year, and I've always like munnerlyn more than most. Not big names, but I think the majority of corners tend to be underrated bc people only remember when they get beat and not when they do their job.
There aren't 5 teams on my list more talented which was your initial claim.
And like you admit - they have legit talent at the most important positions... Which is way more than most of those teams can say...
If they're healthy with Beason and Stewart, they're a borderline top 10 roster from a pure talent stand point considering their QB is one of the most talented players in the lg.
I don't know, if someone said the Panthers would make the postseason and then they did I wouldn't be impressed at all. They finished the season on a tear last year to. Had a great draft, 3rd yr QB.
They're the definition of a trendy pick.
I picked Cleveland because I wouldn't consider Kansas City a surprise.
Out of those options, I go
Not sure they are surprise teams but:
(Really anyone could win the NFC east and others not far behind)
As a matter of fact, It's ridiculous the amount of teams that could make a legit playoff spot in the NFC. The AFC has a few dominant teams then a whole bunch of teams that could fall/rise. I don't recall a time in the NFL with so many franchise QB's / good teams. It's really a great time to be a fan of the game.
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