One of the (many) reasons the NFL is so great is because at the beginning of every year nearly every team can legitimately claim they have a shot at making the playoffs. There's roughly a 50 percent turnover rate in the playoffs every year, which is how the NFL is able to keep every fan base interested at the beginning of the year.
This year is no different. Perusing the list of teams, we can make a case for each to make their own playoff run. Some are a little more far-fetched than others (see: Jaguars, Browns) while others are almost sure things (see: Steelers, Ravens).
SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber ran down the list of NFC teams and made a case for each of them in the playoffs. Here I do the same with the AFC teams.
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Pretty obvious. Tom Brady is one of the three best quarterbacks in the league, the Patriots had the third ranked offense, and the team won 13 games last season. The Patriots have missed the playoffs just once in the last decade, and even then, they won 11 games. The Patriots will make the playoffs because they're too good not to.
The Jets will make the playoffs once Rex Ryan gets the defense right again. Three years ago they were the top ranked defense, two years ago it was the sixth ranked defense and last year it was 20th. Ryan will fix that and return the Jets defense to elite status. I would say more about the quarterbacks, but their role should be to just not screw it up. Perhaps Sanchez and Tebow can do just that.
Related video: Mark Sanchez Talks Jets
The Dolphins will make the playoffs on the heels of another big year from Reggie Bush, who finished with a career high 1,086 rushing yards last season. Matt Moore -- who was actually decent last year -- will make the Dolphins' decision on Ryan Tannehill very difficult as Moore will put up his best season.
Related video: Dolphins Training Camp Battles
The Bills can make the playoffs because Chan Gailey is the most creative offensive mind in the NFL. Seriously, he'll put players in the spots to be successful. The Bills aren't far behind, either. They went 6-10 last year but you should also remember they went 5-3 in the first half of the season. That means, for at least one half of a season, the Bills played playoff-caliber football. They're not far.
Let's see here...the Steelers will make the playoffs because they have a top three defense and they haven't had a losing season in nine years. Throw in players like Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace (who will eventually show up) and you have yourself an 11 or 12 win team. Just like usual.
Related video: Steelers Training Camp Battles
See above. There are few guarantees in life but we know what Baltimore's defense will do. We know they'll be great and we know Baltimore will enter the postseason on their defense's back.
The Bengals can make the playoffs because Andy Dalton and A.J. Green should be even better this year. The duo led Cincy to the postseason last year and logic says they'll be even better in their sophomore year in the League. Add in free agent additions like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is a perfect fit for Cincy, and the AFC North is a three-team race.
Related video: Bengals Training Camp Battles
Cleveland will be in the playoffs this year because Trent Richardson is a man-child and will rush for well over 1,000 yards in his rookie year. Brandon Weeden will be good enough and the two rookies, a la Dalton and Green last year, will lead their team to the playoffs.
Related video: Browns Training Camp Battles
The Texans will repeat in the AFC South because they'll have a healthy Matt Schaub. Think about what they did last year. Schaub only started 10 games -- he went 7-3 -- before suffering a season-ending injury. T.J. Yates, a fifth round rookie, stepped in and led them to the playoffs. Another division title should be expected in Houston.
The Titans will make the playoffs because Chris Johnson is back. Or at least the Titans think he is. Johnson struggled last season but he will return to how he performed in his first two seasons, averaging at least 4.9 yards per carry.
The Colts will make the playoffs because Andrew Luck is that good. Peyton Manning led the NFL in interceptions his rookie year. Luck will be better than that. Reggie Wayne was a surprise return to Indy in free agency and that will prove to be key for Luck. I see 20-plus touchdowns for Luck in 2012.
Bear with me here, but the Jaguars will stun everyone and make the playoffs because Maurice Jones-Drew will eventually come back and he's going to be running mad. He wants a new deal, something the Jaguars won't be giving him this year. He's skipping out on camp but he will return and put up a career year that will force the Jaguars to reward him next season.
Related video: Jaguars Training Camp Battles
Peyton Manning? is that the right answer? The Broncos addition of Manning was the biggest free agent move all year and perhaps in the last few years. He's a major difference maker and adding him to a team that already went to the divisional round of the playoffs last year means a playoff appearance will be easier in 2012.
The Chargers will make the playoffs because Philip Rivers won't struggle as much as he did last year. Looking at his career, last year's 20 interceptions is the outlier. Rivers gets back on track this year and Robert Meachem proves to be a great fit for San Diego's offense.
Related video: Chargers Training Camp Battles
The Chiefs will make the playoffs because they have three of their most important players returning from injury. Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles all tore their ACLs by Week 2 and they're all returning at full health. Matt Cassel missed nearly half the season and he's returning healthy as well. Adding in Peyton Hillis, the Chiefs expect to have one of the top rushing attacks in the league this year.
Related video: Chiefs Training Camp Battles
The Raiders will make the playoffs because Carson Palmer has a full offseason with the team. He joined the Raiders midseason last year and never had a chance to fully integrate himself into the team. Darren McFadden has averaged over five yards per carry in each of the last two seasons but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. That changes this year and McFadden puts up big numbers as he and Palmer take the Raiders to the playoffs.