Hopes are as high as the temperatures during NFL summer training camps, with a clean slate and the promise of the new season.
This time last year, football fans were sizing up the 2011 NFL season-win totals weighing the Denver Broncos’ chances of even sniffing more than five wins and how much of an impact Peyton Manning’s neck surgery would have on the Indianapolis Colts’ 9.5-win total.
As we all know, Tim Tebow became the biggest name in football behind an 8-8 season for the Broncos and Manning would never take another snap under center for the Colts, who finished 2011 with just two victories.
These weren’t the only two teams to defy the season-win total odds in 2011. Eight others finished well below or above their expected mark, with a difference of at least 2.5 wins. But what do oddsmakers think of those over and underachievers heading into the 2012 campaign? Arizona Cardinals
2011 season-win total: 5.5 /2011 record: 8-8 / 2012 season-win total: 7
Kevin Kolb was supposed to pick up where Kurt Warner left off but was unimpressive before going down with injuries. John Skelton jumped at the chance and now the Cardinals have a QB controversy on their hands. Cleveland Browns2011 season-win total: 7 / 2011 record: 4-12 / 2012 season-win total: 5.5
The Browns are taking a page out of their Ohio rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals’ book and leaning on rookies in 2012, looking to QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson to play beyond their years. Denver Broncos2011 season-win total: 5.5 / 2011 record: 8-8 / 2012 season-win total: 9.5
To compare last year’s Broncos to 2012’s version is like running on a treadmill: Sure, you’ll work up a sweat but it’s not going to get you anywhere. The Peyton-Tebow swap has drawn early over action.Green Bay Packers 2011 season-win total: 11 / 2011 record: 15-1 / 2012 season-win total: 12
Scoring a ton of points didn’t cut the mustard for the Packers in the playoffs. And instead, Green Bay cut the cheese and laid a stinker against the Giants. The Packers, who ranked dead last in defense, need their promising stable of linebackers to play up to their standards. Indianapolis Colts
2011 season-win total: 9.5 / 2011 record: 2-14 / 2012 season-win total: 5.5
The Colts proved just how valuable Peyton Manning can be with their ill-fated 2011 season sans the four-time MVP. Indianapolis is starting over with rookie prodigy Andrew Luck. The Colts went 3-13 in Manning’s rookie season.Minnesota Vikings 2011 season-win total: 6.5 / 2011 record: 3-13 / 2012 season-win total: 6
Adrian Peterson’s injury-plagued season didn’t help the Vikings’ cause in 2011, but it was the defense – more notably the pass defense – that doomed Minnesota. The Vikes, who ranked 26th versus the pass, were missing some major cogs in the secondary. They’re back in 2012. New Orleans Saints2011 season-win total: 10 / 2011 record: 13-3 / 2012 season-win total: 10
Bounty Gate threw a wrench into the Saints’ plans for 2012, but this team has been up against the wall before. New Orleans, with Drew Brees locked up with a monster deal, can start focusing on redeeming the franchise.San Francisco 49ers 2011 season-win total: 7.5 / 2011 record: 13-3 / 2012 season-win total: 10
Are the Niners really that good or were they a product of a weak schedule (30th in SOS)? San Francisco is the sexy Super Bowl pick but takes a step up in competition and has the pressure of those lofty expectations.St. Louis Rams2011 season-win total: 7 / 2011 record: 2-14 / 2012 season-win total: 6
New head coach Jeff Fisher inspires confidence but had his game plan scrapped when DC Gregg Williams was suspended for Bounty Gate. Third-year QB Sam Bradford should be farther along but has been stunted by injuries and coaching changes.Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2011 season-win total: 8 / 2011 record: 4-12 / 2012 season-win total: 6
Tampa Bay’s 10 wins in 2010 inspired many to take the over 8 wins in 2011. However, the Bucs suffered one of the bigger setbacks of the season. Greg Schiano is looking to find the form of two years ago, starting with QB Josh Freeman.