NFL Cinderella: Who Will Go From Worst To First in 2012?
It’s the time of year when every football team (and fan) has hope that they can win it all. And, it turns out that that hope is not completely unfounded. Since 2002 (the first season the NFL adopted its current 8 Division format), at least one team has gone from worst to first in every season.
In 2003 the Panthers and Chiefs both did it; followed by the Falcons and Chargers in 2004. The Bears and Giants pulled in off in 2005; while the Saints, Eagles and Ravens turned it around in 2006. In 2007 it was the Buccaneers. 2008 was the Dolphins turn. The Saints did it again in 2009 and the Chiefs in 2010. Last season the Broncos and Texans claimed their worst-to-first badge. That’s a whopping 15 times over nine seasons that a team has gone from the cellar to the penthouse.
So which teams in 2012 are most likely to ride the parity train to playoff town?
With a 5-11 record in 2011, the Redskins have a big hill to climb. Is the excitement that Robert Griffin III brings enough to leap-frog two good football teams and the defending Super Bowl Champs? It might not be, but consider this: the Eagles and Cowboys both finished with disappointing 8-8 records last season and both (especially the Cowboys) have made a habit of underachieving. Also, while the Giants had a great run to the Championship, they were a 9-7 team in the regular season and had to win in week 17 just to get into the playoffs. They ‘Skins could close the gap in a hurry if they can pull off some more division wins. In 2011 they only won 2 games against the NFC East, but of course, those two wins were against the Giants with a combined score of 51-24.
The fall-from-grace that was the 2011 season has been well documented. The Colts finished 2-14, but both wins came in the last three games of the season. (They even won two games in a row. One more and they would have had themselves a winning-streak). It may seem ridiculous to even mention the Colts here…new rookie QB…team fairly dismantled…new coaching staff…new front office. A lot of things will have to fall just right, but the AFC South is a weak division and it’s there for the taking. The Texans front office seems to be content with their one playoff win, so content that they let talent walk out the door without so much as an “it’s not you, it’s me” excuse. The Titans of Tennessee feel like a team on the verge, but they have just as much potential to flop as they do to fly. And the Jaguars are not there yet, again…and might not be for a long time.
The 2011 Chiefs finished 7-9 after a roller-coaster season that saw season-ending injuries to Cassell and Charles, the firing of Haley, and a win over the previously perfect Packers. They were 3-2 in their last five contests and the players seemed to respond to Romeo Crennel. I know Peyton Manning now resides in Denver, but this division was won at 8-8 last season. A healthy Jamaal Charles and a hopefully semi-efficient Cassell should provide a couple more wins for the team that went worst-to-first and followed it up with first-to-worst.
The Bills shocked the football world at the beginning of 2011, but stumbled the rest of the way—finishing with a 6-10 record. Along the way, they proved to themselves that they could hang with the class of the AFC East when they beat the Patriots. However, a 1-7 road record hurt them terribly. Everyone knows that a good defense travels well, so the Bills loaded up theirs this off-season; most notably with the signing of Mario Williams. The Bills have habitually finished poorly over the last several seasons and 2011 was no different—going 1-4 over the last five. They will need to avoid that December slide in 2012 if they want the division. Oh, and someone should tell Ryan Fitzpatrick to hold off on growing his playoff beard until it’s absolutely necessary.
Who else do you think could go from worst to first in 2012? Comment below!