Every season we see teams come out of nowhere to suddenly become contenders in their conferences. Last season no one saw Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons coming, same goes for the Miami Dolphins and rookie head coach Tony Sparano. So what teams are going to come out this year and surprise us? There will be a few, and today we’ll take a look at those clubs:
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Coming off a 4-11-1 season, the Bengals played well at the end of last season, and some are saying this looks as if they could be a playoff surprise team in 2009. The Bengals have a player that could be the “comeback player of the year” in QB Carson Palmer, and their defense could be solid with a couple players that should get better and mature this year. They still have an issue with the run game, as Cedric Benson is going to be counted as the feature back. Three of their first five games are on the road and vs AFC North opponents, so a fast start is going to be tough to achieve though.
2. New Orleans Saints – Last season they went 8-8, but that’s mostly due to a miserable 2-6 record on the road. They lost some close games on the road (by 5 to Washington, 2 at Denver, 3 at Tampa Bay, 3 at Chicago). If they win even two of those games, they are a 10-6 team that is going to the playoffs. Their offesne put up 410 yards per game, and if Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush can hold down the fort at running back, the Saints look poised to be a 10-12 win team that will give team headaches in the playoffs.
3. St.Louis Rams – A new coach and a new style of offense is coming to the Arch in St.Louis, and Rams fans can forget about seeing 40 points per game and long bombs that made them “The Greatest Show on Turf” back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Now with Steve Spagnuolo as their head coach, the Rams will play smarter and better with a new style. Their O-line will be better, Steven Jackson will get to see the ball more, and the defense should have a more attacking style, which is “Spags” style. The Rams are not going to the Super Bowl, but they could win 6-8 games. Better than the four they have won the last two years combined.