The NFL playoffs are a fickle thing, one year you're there, the next POOF! You're not. For the last 16 years, five teams have made the playoffs after missing them the year prior. Parity, people, that's what the NFL is selling. Last season, the six playoff teams from the NFC were the Super Bowl Champion Giants, the Saints, the Packers, the Falcons, 49ers and Lions. We took a guess at which three of those won't be there this winter.
So if three of them aren't going to be there, obviously someone has to replace them. Who will it be? Will another wildcard team go on to Super Bowl glory like the Giants and the Packers before them? Maybe, maybe not. Here's who I think will get a shot.
There's just something about Russell Wilson that makes you want to believe he can do this. He throws a great ball, he runs, and you can tell the team already respects him. His decision making is solid; he threw for 33 TDs against only 3 picks last year at Wisconsin. So far, his size hasn't mattered, and even if he's 5'10", he's six feet in cleats and in the preseason it hasn't been an issue anyway.
Marshawn Lynch could manage to avoid suspension for his summer DUI arrest and if the team has Lynch in full beast mode all year, that would take some pressure off of Wilson, not that he appears to feel any.
The Chicago Bears (8-8 last year)
The Bears were pretty injury plagued last year, and there's no guarantee it won't happen again. I'm betting it won't. Jay Cutler is finally ready to break out in Chitown and he's got his old Denver buddy Brandon Marshall there to help. They were a dangerous combo with the Broncos, and maybe having Marshall around will relieve the usually grouchy Cutler somewhat.
Matt Forte got the big money deal that he wanted, now he has to go out and prove he was worth it. He seems like the kind of guy to do just that. The defense might not have what it used to, but they still gave up the least amount of points (341) in the division last season. Look for the Bears to take the Lions' spot in this year's playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys (8-8 last year)
The Cowboys are going to surprise some people this year. Despite all the supposed rules being placed on him, Dez Bryant is going to have a breakout year. Tony Romo and Bryant will develop a chemistry that should carry the passing game, until Jason Witten is back to 100%, and they'll be even more dangerous. That passing game will open the field up for second year speed back, DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboy defense was solid last year, only surrendering 347 points. The offense needs to pick it up to equal things out. The front of the defense, especially ends Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman, looks stronger than last year. As long as the secondary can keep from getting torched too much like they did last season, the Cowboys should be in the playoffs. Whether they win or not when they get there is a whole 'nother story.