From Pretender to Contender, and Vice Versa

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Could Robert Griffin III (pictured above) help transform the Redskins from a pretender into a contender? Our very own Jeremy Powers thinks so.

By Jeremy Powers

The football season is upon us. Put a smile on your face.

Tonight, the Giants travel to the Jerry Jones Dome to revive the rivalry that received plenty of media attention as is typically the case this offseason.

I can’t wait to see which teams will take a step back and which teams will rise from the ruins and contend for a playoff birth. Let’s look at a recent example, shall we.

Last season, Tampa Bay stepped back from a ten-win season in 2010 to a 4-12 record and a last place finish in the NFC South. Ouch, talk about the opposite side of the spectrum. The Bucs were a pretender last season.

Cincinnati, who won four games in 2010—reached the playoffs with rookies leading the way on offense. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green made a formidable duo and the Bengals defense was stout all season long leading the team to a 9-7 record. The Bengals were a contender last season.

This season I expect some of the same parity that we see every season in the NFL. I see a few teams emerging as playoff contenders and some teams falling straight into the depths of their respective divisions.

Contender:

The Washington Redskins were 5-11 last season. Drafting Robert Griffin III is a huge upgrade at quarterback over Rex Grossman and John Beck that will result in two more wins minimum. Not to mention the addition of Pierre Garcon as a big-play threat. Washington’s defense is quite impressive on paper as well. Playing in a 3-4 base defense, the Redskins linebackers will lead them as veteran London Fletcher powers a group that also starts second-year guy Ryan Kerrigan, and All-Pro Brian Orakpo. I think the Redskins get to 8-8 this season, which puts them in the hunt for a wild card spot.

Pretender:

The Tennessee Titans had a nice season in 2011 playing in a weak division and using it to their advantage. This season, in the words of Lee Corso, I am saying not so fast my friend. Jake Locker has looked good in limited time, but this season will be hard on the youngster. The Titans defense lost their best corner and will give up a lot of yards and points under new head coach Mike Munchak. With improved Colts and Jaguars teams, and a Houston team, which may win the most games in the NFL this season, I see the Titans finishing 5-11 and reverting back to the proverbial drawing board.

Contender:

The Buffalo Bills had a fiery start last season until Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play dwindled and Fred Jackson exited the field to the injured reserve. With an improved defense that added former first overall draft pick Mario Williams, and the fact that they play in a division which consists of the Miami Dolphins and New York Tebows, I see the Bills stepping up and being more consistent this season. I tend to like teams that play under the radar and don’t receive much respect. Say goodbye to a 6-10 record and say hello to a 9-7 record in 2012. Buffalo, you deserve it. Chan Gailey and company will put an end to a 12-year playoff drought.

Pretender:

The Detroit Lions were the surprising team of 2011. Their passing game is still scary and the defensive line is raw. When you don’t address a need in the offseason, it will come back to haunt you, believe that. Detroit did nothing to address their secondary woes, which hurt them last season. Yes, they did just add Drayton Florence, but that’s because two teams fed him to free agency this summer and the Lions had no choice. He has been playing with the first team in practice already, so he is slated to start for the Lions, which shows their ineptitude at cornerback. In a pass happy division and league for that matter, I think Detroit takes a step back and finishes 7-9, missing the playoffs. Not a huge step back, but one that stings in Mo-Town.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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