32 Reasons To Be Excited About The NFL Coming Back
After a strong second half of 2011 featuring a sneaky-good defense, the Cardinals enter 2012 with a strong receiver corps (rookie Michael Floyd joins the mix) and a stronger D.
Just two seasons ago, this team went 13-3. Julio Jones has another year under his built to improve his chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan.
What is there to dislike about the game’s best all-around running back (Ray Rice) lining up behind your signal caller? Plus, Ed Reed, who will be Canton bound, is back for another year.
The defense got a makeover in a big way with Mario Williams coming up north. Fred Jackson will be back, and will hopefully pick up where stellar injury-shortened season left.
The Cam Newton Project enters year two after a historic rookie season. Mike Tolbert joins the backfield to give the Panthers the most dynamic running back arsenal in the league.
Brandon Marshall comes to Second City, giving quarterback Jay Cutler’s favorite weapon back to him. And, the former Commodore and tailback Matt Forté have a clean bill of health.
Andy “Shawshank” Dalton and A.J. Green are this generation’s Montana-Rice. Well, not really even close. But they are a very good budding duo.
The best running back out of the draft since Adrian Peterson -- Trent Richardson -- is rocking the brown and orange.
It’s the second year of Jason Garrett calling the real plays, which he secretly threw out when Wade Phillips roamed the sidelines. At least that’s the theory out there. The team finally upgraded its secondary (Morris Claiborne + Brandon Carr). It should play better than its 2011 iteration.
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Green Bay Packers
The Pack is coming off a 15-1 season. Disappointing end to it, sure. But they have the best signal caller in the game. They’ll be gearing up for another playoff run.
The defense is nasty. Matt Schaub is back. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are a sick one-two punch. They have no serious competition in their division. Lock ‘em in for at least one game in January.
Well, um… Andrew Luck! Yeah! There’s not much else to be chipper about besides the new franchise cornerstone.
Probably Maurice Jones-Drew (for approximately the 12th-straigth year) and rookie Justin Blackmon, who finally gives Jacksonville its first legitimate receiver since Jimmy Smith.
Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry are healthy after missing all of last 2011. Somehow, the Chiefs were a game shy of winning the AFC West without two of their best players.
A regime change is always nice: out with Tony Sparano, in with Joe Philbin, apparent quarterback guru. Plus, interception-machine Chad Henne is gone.
Apparently, for each Vikings win in 2012, they’ll have a boat party! Wait, no? Damn. Matt Kalil gives Minny legit protection for Christian Ponder or Joe Webb.
New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints
The Saints ended their inane dealings with Drew Brees, giving the star QB a new contract. He’s not mad anymore!
New York Giants
The Super Bowl champions are under the radar thanks to the cross-town rivals’ new addition…
New York Jets
With a fresh Darren McFadden, the almost-playoff-bound Raiders get their best offensive weapon back. And don’t forget Carson Palmer -- he has now worked with the team for a full offseason.
Vince Young’s “dream team” sentiments are long gone. This team is good to go. It has had time to mesh. Football success can’t be produced by throwing talent together and expected to be achieved immediately. Nnamdi Asomugha and the defense will be much better.
The Steelers picked up offensive linemen in the draft. In unrelated news, Ben Roethlisberger was seen jumping and clicking his heels in downtown Pittsburgh.
San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers played his worst season as a professional. The only way to go is up for one of the NFL’s best.
San Francisco 49ers
The league’s premier defense last season returns 11 of 11 starters. Scary. They won’t be as good as last year, but the Niners vicious front-seven will still cause opposing offenses fits.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider made strides to improve quarterback play, signing former Packers backup Matt Flynn to a club-friendly deal.
St. Louis Rams
New head coach Jeff Fisher should give the Rams a much-needed kick in the ass following a dismal 2-14 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs made a few key additions: new head coach Greg Schiano, wideout Vincent Jackson and rookie safety Mark Barron. Josh
The linebacking corps added Kamerion Wimbley -- a good player -- to its ranks. Jake Locker won the starting job, too. His season will be very interesting to follow.
Robert Griffin III and his electric play go to the country’s capital. Mike Shanahan thinks he found his quarterbacking muse. RGIII’s season will be a lot of fun.
Check out the companion piece: "32 Reasons To Feel Concerned About The NFL Coming Back."