Bernie Miklasz, friend of TST and traditional media paragon, dropped a Thursday piece examining the reasons why things are looking up for the Rams in 2013. It's something we've discussed often, understandably.
The lasting thing I took into the weekend, though, was the turnover among playoff teams year in, year out. The parity that exists throughout the NFL has received its due share of attention in years past, but it's something especially notable this offseason for Rams fans.
Every year, playoff shoe-ins get scrubbed from the postseason invite list while a team or two who were firmly locked in the bottom half of the preseason power rankings inexplicably makes that meteoric rise (hackneyed cliche 2 point bonus!) into new year competition.
As Miklasz noted:
For nine consecutive seasons — and 12 of the last 13 — we’ve seen a team jump into first place after finishing last in the division the year before.
In 2012, the 12-team playoff field included three teams that didn’t make it in 2011.
The 2011 tournament featured seven teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs in the previous season. There were five new playoff teams in 2010.
Take a look at the last five years of playoff teams and how many were repeat playoff teams vs. new ones:
If we're taking a top-level view, the reality is that nearly half of each year's playoff roster consists of teams that didn't make it the previous year. That's some significant turnover.
From a Rams fan's perspective, at least half of the six NFC representatives in the playoffs are newly successful teams...and yes, that 2008 season was every parity fan's dream. The Giants were the only NFC team to make the playoffs in both 2008 and 2007.
That being the case, here's my divisional rundown of a team from each division that could make the playoffs after missing out in 2012:
NFC East - New York Giants
This one's between the G-Men, Cowboys and Eagles. Honestly, this might have been the toughest call for me. While I think the Giants should be able to avoid a collapse, the Eagles and Cowboys are two of the more unpredictable teams in the entire NFL. Some, like Kenneth Arthur according to his recent Unpower Rankings, see the likelihood of Dallas falling apart. And the Eagles, despite the most interesting head coach turnover in the league, are coming off of a 4-12 season that saw them post a 2-6 home record to match their road slate. Figuring out the Michael Vick-Nick Foles-Matt Barkley trio is going to likely take a few losses.
NFC North - Chicago Bears
With the Packers and Vikings both in 2013 play earlier this year, only the Bears and Lions are options here. I'm not entirely sure Detroit's rookie class will be an impact one...and Matthew Stafford is as unpredictable as they come at QB.
NFC South - New Orleans Saints
You can't really go wrong here. The Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers all went 7-9 last year, but the Saints scored the third most points in the entire NFL last year. I don't see them allowing the second most points or repeating the ignominious all-time yards allowed record...they did fire DC and former Rams HC Steve Spagnuolo after all.
NFC West - St. Louis Rams
Oh come on. You knew this one was coming.
AFC East - Miami Dolphins
If I could have allowed myself to pick none of the above, I would've. Between the Dolphins, Jets and Bills, all split against one another...and lost their combined six games against New England. Do they repeat the shared mediocrity of the former? Perhaps. Do they repeat the incapability of the latter? Probably. I'll go with the Fins on the strength of a young QB with potential in Ryan Tannehill and a strong draft class.
AFC North - Pittsburgh Steelers
This offseason, more than any other in recent memory, has lacked Big Ben as a coverage staple. I'm not entirely sure why. Roethlisberger had a solid season, though he didn't make the top dozen in yards per attempt. But his TD to INT ratio was 6th best and was top 10 in completion percentage. Missing that trio of games with multiple injuries, especially the worrisome dislocated rib, showed both how vital he is for the team and how tough he is to finish the year out. Their running game was the big issue, and I'm not sure it improves a ton. Losing Rashard Mendenhall Mike Wallace doesn't help either. But counting the Steelers out at this point seems a bit dismissive of their successes the last nine years with Big Ben.
AFC South - Tennessee Titans
Like the AFC East, this was one I would've liked to have skipped. But if my only other option is the Jaguars, well I'm picking the Not The Jags.
AFC West - San Diego Chargers
This is my boom or bust division of the entire NFL. It's not just the Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs who missed the cut. Honestly, Denver's my most overrated team in the league. They were one of the healthiest squads in the league last year by season's end and enjoyed the comfort of playing the easiest divisional schedule of any team. Given how shallow they are and the age and combined frailty at some positions (see: Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey, Wes Welker & Quentin Jammer all 32 or older), their successes within the division have to be looked at separately from how they fare against the rest of their schedule, including the four NFC East opponents they face in the first half of their season before the bye. If nothing else, at least the AFC West has taken the conventional wisdom of holding mantle the NFC West did as the league's weakest division...unless you're a sad, sad Bleacher Report scribe holding on to a narrative, evidence be damned...
Which teams do you see making the postseason cut this year? Remember that table above -- if history holds, we'll see at least three teams in January that didn't play in the postseason after the 2011 season.
Can the Rams squeak in this year? If they do, will they have to be part of an NFC West trio including the 49ers and Seahawks?
Gladly, history at least indicated they'll have a shot. And if their improvement in 2012 says much, it's a decent shot at that.