The NFL officially returns on Thursday, and Shutdown Corner is rolling out the red carpet, previewing everything to come for the 2013 season. We’ll finish it off by picking our individual awards and the Super Bowl winner on Thursday before the Ravens and Broncos kick off the season.
NFL observers analyze voluntary workouts, organized team activities, minicamps, training camps and the preseason before making their annual predictions. They all believe a team will look good or bad based on offseason acquisitions and preseason success. There were plenty of people who bought into Philadelphia’s “Dream Team” hype in 2011 before watching it become a nightmare.
[Slideshow: Candidates for breakout and broke down teams of 2013]
In 2011, Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans, Detroit and New York advanced to the NFC playoffs. However, Seattle, Minnesota and Washington joined the Packers, 49ers and Falcons in the 2012 playoffs.
The NFL changes rapidly. Teams we expect to be in the playoffs will have losing records. Teams totally off the radar right now will playing in January. It happens every year. Here are four non-playoff teams that could breakout this season, and four squads poised for a collapse:
New Orleans Saints
The return of Sean Payton means the resurrection of Drew Brees’ dominance. New Orleans just needs an average defense for Brees to lead the way.
Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs coach Andy Reid will know how to use running back Jamaal Charles, and quarterback Alex Smith has a lot of untapped potential. Seven of the Chiefs' first nine opponents did not have a winning record in 2012.
Romo played well in the preseason, and Dallas’ defense was a turnover generator. If running back DeMarco Murray stays healthy, this is one the NFL's top teams.
A team with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, James Jones and Stephen Tulloch has breakout potential even if their coach forgets NFL rules.
... AND FOUR 2012 PLAYOFF TEAMS THAT COULD COLLAPSE
Sure, they have Peyton Manning, but the Broncos are without Von Miller for six games, center Dan Koppen is out for the year, and none of Denver's running backs stood out during the preseason.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is ready to play in the season opener, but it remains to be seen how his knee will hold up after offseason surgery.
The Vikings needed everything to fall in place to make last year’s playoffs. Unfortunately, quarterback Christian Ponder could potentially sink this playoff ship.
Andrew Luck pulled off some last-minute miracles for the Colts last season. He cannot play Detroit’s defense every week in 2013.