Looking back on the 2011 season only makes me anticipate the 2012 season more. Each year brings surprises and drama. A team that you thought would be bad turns out good and a team you thought would be good is actually bad.
Here are my superlatives from last season.
Most Improved Team: San Francisco.
Had to think bringing in new coach Jim Harbaugh from Stanford was going to help improve things but could you see that much improvement that quickly? Well I couldn’t. To go from 6 wins in 2010 to 13 wins last year was outstanding and when you consider it was in a lock out season with a new coach, it’s amazing. These guys were good enough to make it to a super bowl and almost did it.
Biggest Tumble downward: The Colts.
While we realized they weren’t ready to move on without QB Manning just yet, it was difficult to foresee this train wreck. They were just awful in every phase. Bad enough to get the first pick in the draft. Can their “Luck” improve next season?
Biggest Under Achiever: Philadelphia.
This team looked mighty impressive on paper after some free agent additions, but finished a pedestrian 8-8 with no playoffs. Their play was inconsistent and the team lacked chemistry. However could they put it together in 2012? I get the feeling they have something to prove in 2012.
Biggest Over Achiever: Denver.
With a beaten down Coach John Fox coming in as head coach from Carolina, how could we imagine anything other than a rebuild year at best? And his QBs? Kyle Orton and Tebow. Really? Still they managed to win a playoff game. I couldn’t see this one coming, must admit. Considering what they had to work with at QB and a new coach in a lock out season, pretty impressive.
Dirtiest team: “NO” Saints.
Ndamukong Suh did everything he could to get the Lions this dubious distinction VIDEO But an orchestrated reward system that goes after injured players wins the title of “dirtiest team” for the No Saints.
Worst Post Game Hand Shake: Coach Jim Harbaugh-49ers.
After San Francisco defeated the Lions, Jim Harbaugh gave Lions coach Jim Schwartz a “drive by” hand shake. VIDEO. Previously after winning some close games, Schwartz had celebrated like he just won the lottery so it appeared Harbaugh was making a point. It didn’t go over good. This battle may not be over yet either.
Jim versus Jim part II? They meet again in week 2 of the 2012 season in a Sunday Night game for the whole nation to watch the next hand shake. The Vegas over and under is that NBC shows a replay of last year’s hand shake about 25 times before and during the game. (You have been warned.)
Team Your Most Likely to See a Parole Officer in the locker room: The Bengals.
Basically it’s which team seemed to get the most guys arrested in the past year? I don’t have a lot of hard facts to back me up but hey, the Bengals do have Pac Man Jones. At least three Bengals players were arrested in 2011. Besides Pac Man, there was Cedric Benson and Marvin White HERE
Biggest Missed Opportunity: The Packers.
After winning the super bowl, the Packers were cruising through the 2011 season unbeaten with an opportunity to have a perfect season. However late in the year, they lost to the Chiefs a team with a losing record. The Packers went on to finish with one loss then laid an egg in the playoffs at home against the Giants.
The Packers missed a chance at NFL greatness which doesn’t come along very often.
Most Impactful Injury to a Team: Chicago Bears lost QB Jay Cutler to injury.
The Bears were just cruising along in the 2011 season at 7-3 when Cutler injured his hand in a game against the Chargers. After losing Cutler, the Bears lost 5 of their last 6 games and consequently didn’t make the playoffs. Did it show us how valuable Cutler was or how unprepared the Bears were at QB depth? A little of both perhaps?
Caleb Hanie proved to not be the answer at back up QB and has now signed with the Denver Broncos to back up Peyton Manning. Bronco fans best hope Manning stays healthy next season…