Every year pundits make predictions before the season. They in most cases look a lot like the previous season's standings. This makes them very wrong in a league where so much changes year to year. In fact, since 1996 at least five Playoff teams from one year have missed the next year. I'll probably revise this as the offseason progresses, but here are my five current favorites to miss this year.
1. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are probably the easiest pick of the bunch. Their success was built mainly around their high octane passing game. They're replacing Kurt Warner at quarterback with Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, or John Skelton. Yikes. The new quarterback will also not have Anquan Boldin, an excellent target. I liked some of the moves they made over the offseason (Alan Faneca, Kerry Rhodes, Dan Williams), but such a major drop off at the most important position on the field seems like too much for them to overcome. Can a run game anchored by Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower make up for what they are losing in the passing game? My bet is no.
I know it sounds crazy, but we are coming off a decade where every year a team from the previous Super Bowl missed the Playoffs the next year. I think the term hangover is appropriate for a team from New Orleans. The Saints are coming off one of the most emotional triumphs in sports history. Can they return with the same fire? Everybody will be gunning for them this year. It's tough for me to pick against a coach-quarterback combination like Payton and Brees, but the last time the duo made the Playoffs, they missed them the next year.
Last year everything fell into place for them. Can they count on another year like that out of a quarterback in his 40's? There isn't even a guarantee he'll be back, which would leave them with Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. They also could be without the Williams Wall for games against the Dolphins and Jets, two of the best rushing attacks in the league.
You spend a decade giving your franchise quarterback no weapons. He still carries you to the cusp on the promised land on his back. Then when you finally get him some weapons, you dump him for a total unknown. I don't get it.
I don't have a good feeling about them. I don't think they'll go 6-0 in the division again. They played a bunch of tight games that went their way last year. Things like that tend to even out over the long haul. They finished the season terribly, and Carson Palmer is officially a major question mark. With the additions the Ravens have made, I think the North is Baltimore's for the taking.