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NFL Teams Looking To Bounce Back

Last week, BettingSports.com took a look at those NFL teams that showed most improvement last season and questioned whether we could expect repeat performances this season.

This week, we’re flipping things around and taking a look at the other end of the spectrum.

We’ve established the teams that had the biggest drop-off from 2011 to 2012, and now we ask: will these teams improve over the course of this season?

Let’s get things started in Motown.


Detroit Lions

2011: 10-6 | 2012: 4-12 | Decline: -6

The Lions became a playoff team in 2011 after recording a 10-6 regular season record. During that campaign, Matt Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns. Calvin Johnson caught 96 receptions for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns.

One year later, Stafford threw for just shy of 5,000 yards, but only scored 21 touchdowns. Johnson meanwhile had 1,964 yards receiving but only five touchdowns. This inability to score led to the Lions winning just four games, despite being a preseason favorite. Stafford signed a three-year, $53 million contract in the offseason, so expect him to throw for 5,000 again this year. Johnson’s locked up for the long term, so expect him to go for nearly 2,000 once more. But will it be enough to turn the Lions around?

Pros: The Lions re-signed CB Chris Houston and S Louis Delmas while adding S Glover Quinn (from the Houston Texans) and DT Jason Jones (from the Seattle Seahawks), which mean the defense already looks better than last year when it allowed the sixth most points in the league … Signing RB Reggie Bush, who ESPN recently called the second most versatile player in the league, should help out a running game that ranked 23rd in the league and last in the NFC North a year ago.

Cons: Only the Carolina Panthers have a tougher strength of schedule than the Lions next season … Playing in the hardnosed NFC North is never easy, and with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears fighting for the division title and the Minnesota Vikings looking to prove last year wasn’t a fluke, wins will be hard to come by.

Verdict: The Lions should improve but it’s hard to envisage the side as a contender for the NFC North, much less the playoffs.


New Orleans Saints

2011: 13-3 | 2012: 7-9 | Decline: -6

If any team had mitigating circumstances for a big drop-off last year, it was the Saints. After 2011’s 13-3 campaign ushered in the ‘Bountygate’ saga, the team was depleted on the sidelines enough to really throw a spanner in the works. A hideous defense led to defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo seeking employment elsewhere.

Pros: Most importantly, the Saints will have Sean Payton back on the sideline, which means Drew Brees should be comfortable, which means potentially 5,000 yards through the air … Much of the pressure the Saints have come to expect as one of the league’s elite teams will be relieved thanks to higher profile NFC teams out west … Free agent pickups CB Keenan Lewis and LB Victor Butler, as well as S Kenny Vaccaro, the team’s No. 1 pick in the draft, has gone some way to improving what was a horrible secondary last season, and with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan at the helm, the Saints shouldn’t leak points at last year’s rate.

Cons: The Saints face the third toughest strength of schedule in the NFL and the third toughest road strength of schedule; fortunately, visits to the New England, New York (Jets) and Chicago all come before the weather really gets cold … The NFC South is fixing to be a dogfight this year, with both the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking like improving teams.

Verdict: The Saints will certainly top seven wins next season, but getting back to the 13-3 marker of two years ago looks unlikely. Still, expect the Saints to compete for the division title and a first round bye.


Kansas City Chiefs

2011: 7-9 | 2012: 2-14 | Decline: -5

Believe it or not, the Chiefs won the AFC West as recently as 2010. A 7-9 campaign in 2011 was followed by last year’s abomination of a season in which the team won just two games. While most fans would still be licking their wounds, Chiefs fans have a lot to be thankful for. A complete overhaul of the team has many questioning whether the side has postseason potential this year.

Pros: New head coach Andy Reid is all but a lock to turn the Chiefs in the right direction, just like he did the 3-13 Philadelphia Eagles side he inherited in 1999; he took that team to the postseason in nine of his 14 years in charge … In Alex Smith, the team now has a quarterback they can build around, providing he’s the Alex Smith of the past two years and not the Alex Smith of 2005-2010 … The Chiefs made some savvy moves in the offseason, including resigning WR Dwayne Bowe and bringing in CB Dunta Robinson and CB Sean Smith … The Chiefs will face the fifth easiest strength of schedule and third easiest on the road, and unlike some other teams’ so-called easy schedules, this one does look easy.

Cons: Rebuilding might sound easy but it’s not, so don’t expect the Chiefs to turn this thing completely around in one fell swoop (it took Reid two years to get the Eagles to the playoffs) … While few will point it out, Alex Smith having an exceptional season is far from a lock … History tells us not to trust the Chiefs; the team has had just four winning seasons in the last 15 years.

Verdict: Make no mistakes about it; the Chiefs are going to win more than two games. In fact, looking at their schedule, the team could/should win nine this season. However, rebuilding relies a lot on luck, and the Chiefs aren’t exactly lucky. Don’t pick KC to be playoff bound.


Philadelphia Eagles

2011: 8-8 | 2012: 4-12 | Decline: -4

The reason Andy Reid will be coaching in the City of Fountains this season comes from the drop-off his Philadelphia side experienced last season. With just four wins on the record and a 1-11 record to close out the season, the Eagles missed the playoffs for a second straight year, the only time that happened in Reid’s 14-year tenure. That means it’s rebuilding time in the City of Brotherly Love and it’ll be down to Chip Kelly to try and pick his way through what could be a very tough first year in the pros.

Pros: Having allowed 444 points last season – tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for third most in the league – the Eagles have made some nice defensive additions, including LB Connor Barwin, S Patrick Chuung and DT Isaac Sapoaga … The Eagles still have impact players at the skill position, including RB LeSean McCoy and WR DeSean Jackson; if they can find a system to match the team will be able to score more than the miserly 280 points (17.5 per game) it put together last year.

Cons: While the team’s overall strength of schedule is middle of the pack, road trips to Washington, Denver, New York (Giants), Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Minnesota and Dallas will all be tough (for the record: the remaining road game is in Oakland) … With Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley all reportedly in the hunt for the starting QB job, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Eagles, and there could easily be dissention in the ranks … College coaches don’t have a great history in the NFL; can Kelly be an exception to the rule?

Verdict: Philadelphia certainly looks better than last year’s four wins, but that side in itself looked better than four wins. If Kelly gets this team plugged in early, there are wins to be had, and with the NFC East a crapshoot once again this year, a postseason berth isn’t out of the question. It is unlikely though.



Three other sides also experienced a four-game drop-off last season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the season with an 8-8 record, missing out on the playoffs in the process. The previous year the team had been 12-4, finishing runners up in the AFC North and making a Wild Card appearance. The major factor that influenced this drop-off was an injury to Ben Roethlisberger. If he’s healthy this season, expect the Steelers to rebound and once again be a threat in the AFC.

After finishing the 2011 campaign 8-8, the Oakland Raiders fell to 4-12 last season, as they pinned their hopes on Carson Palmer. Palmer’s 14 interceptions were by no means all that was wrong with the team, but they certainly had their impact. Palmer’s now gone, replaced by Matt Flynn. Will that make a difference? Probably not.

The Green Bay Packers followed up their Super Bowl XLV run with a 15-1 regular season in 2011 before coming unglued against the New York Giants. Last season, the Pack recorded a 11-5 record, enough to win the NFC North but not up to the standards of a team that expects to excel year in, year out. It’s unlikely the Packers will win 15 games this year, but beating 11 wins looks more than plausible.

For the latest NFL Futures, visit Bovada.

For a complete breakdown of all 32 teams’ strength of schedule, visit ESPN.

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