As Wild Card Weekend comes to a close, I decided to recap the major story lines of the 2011 NFL season. It was a year filled with uncertainty, due to the lockout; but once the games got underway we were surrounded by huge surprises and major disappointments.
Out of the 12 teams that earned playoff spots, the three biggest surprises would have to be the Bengals, Broncos, and 49ers.
Although Cincinnati got eliminated in the first round, they far out produced anyone's expectations. Rookie Duo Andy Dalton and A.J Green, along with young pieces like Jermaine Gresham and Jerome Simpson, give the Bengals a bright future in the passing game. Cedric Benson is an unrestricted free agent and it's unclear, due to all his legal troubles, if they will look to resign him. Regardless, backup RB Bernard Scott still has one more season on his rookie contract and will see an increased workload in 2012.
Tim Tebow. He took over for Kyle Orton and ended up sending Denver to the playoffs as AFC West champs. Tonight he made a phenomenal throw in overtime to knockoff the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow and the Broncos head to Foxborrow to take on the Patriots next weekend, looking more different results than their first meeting.
Maybe Alex Smith finally found an offensive coordinator who he can develop a multi-year relationship with. One of the best defenses in the league is augmented by Frank Gore and San Francisco's run game. Alex Smith hasn't been asked to create much offense or be the focal point, which has evidently made him comfortable.
Now we look at a couple of teams who were expected to still be playing football well into January: the Eagles, Jets, and Chargers.
Being eliminated in Week 16 is not what Vince Young predicted when he called Philly the "Dream Team." This team did not meet their expectations by any stretch of the imagination; but the team has decided to retain Andy Reid as head coach and hope for a better showing in 2012. Hopefully DeSean Jackson's contract situation is resolved so he and Jeremy Maclin can return to being one of the most dominant pair of receivers in the entire league. LeSean McCoy was easily the best running back in the NFC this season. If Vick can stay healthy for an entire season, this offense will break records at a scary rate next season. The pieces are there on defense; a stronger commitment from some of their role players, as well as some additions through the draft should make Philly a scary force once again on both sides of the ball.