Every season there are teams that look intimidating on paper, jam packed full of explosive talent, but fail to produce on the field. Let’s take a look at the three big teams I think fit this category this season.
Philadelphia Eagles[caption id="attachment_16050" align="alignright" width="200"] By all accounts McCoy and the Eagles should have a monster season.[/caption] After a free agency spending spree, 2011 promised so much for the Eagles. On paper they deserved the ‘Dream Team’ label that was bandied around the press as they looked like one intimidating unit. A potential problem that didn’t get much attention was how all these new pieces would come together without a preseason together. Even for Andy Reid, one of the most experienced coaches in the league, it proved too difficult a task as the Eagles lacked cohesion all season, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
I think the Eagles will look far better in 2012. Despite a somewhat disappointing season in 2011, Michael Vick is still one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. LeSean McCoy has become one of the premiere running backs in the league and now his contract issues have been dealt with, DeSean Jackson should be focused and start producing the numbers we saw in 2009.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles realised they had issues and they used the draft to address these problems. The biggest plus for the defence is the experience they gained from playing together last season. This experience coupled with a full preseason means there are no more excuses for the Eagles and they need to start producing.
San Diego Chargers[caption id="attachment_16052" align="alignleft" width="200"] Like the Eagles the Chargers are set on the ground with Ryan Matthews.[/caption]
Stop me if you’ve heard this before – "I think the Chargers will take out the AFC West". The Chargers have long been the perennial underachievers of the NFL. Every season when analysts are asked their teams to watch, the Chargers are regularly brought up as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, yet they continually fail to deliver the goods. In 2012, the Chargers will be looking to turn this worrying trend around - and they certainly have the squad to do it.
Phillip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and will continue to put up big numbers this year. After some nice free agent additions, Rivers still has a solid receiving corps to work with despite losing his favourite weapon in Vincent Jackson. Antonio Gates and Ryan Matthews look like they’re finally healthy and raring to go.
The Chargers' defensive unit is not that far removed from the one that finished first in total defence in 2010. Rookie Melvin Ingram will add to the pass rush and I'm expecting him to have a big year. They're hoping new defensive coordinator John Pagano can return the unit to its former glory after their drastic downturn under Greg Manusky last season.
Head Coach Norv Turner has the support of the organisation and his job is secure for now, but he knows results are required. Especially with the lineup he has.
Atlanta Falcons[caption id="attachment_16053" align="alignright" width="200"] Julio Jones represents the last piece of the puzzle for Falcons fans.[/caption]
I know it's a bit tough to put a team that has made the post season the past few years in this column, but even their most ardent fans will acknowledge the Falcons have one of the best rosters in the league yet have failed to produced when it mattered most.
While there are questions surrounding his performance in big games, there is no doubting Matt Ryan's talent. He can make all the throws and is one of the better quarterbacks in the league. The receiving duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White is one of the most dangerous and explosive in the NFL. Michael Turner is a beast who continues to clock up impressive yardage totals season after season.
Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Atlanta's already impressive defense will be even more aggresive and imposing. After the addition of Asante Samuel, the Falcons now have one of the best cornerback groups in the league. With some improved defensive line play, this defence has all the makings of an elite unit.
This franchise has taken big strides over recent seasons and produced some fantastic regular season results. But you don't win titles in December. The Falcons have struggled badly in the games that matter most which is puzzling considering the team they have. They will be looking to turn that around in 2012.
I'd also like to give an honourable mention to the Dallas Cowboys, or 'everyone's preseason favourite' as they're also known. Which team do you think fits the criteria? Let me know in the comments below.