There are a lot of talented teams on the rise in the NFL this upcoming season. From the Oakland Raiders to the Green Bay Packers, every team has improved themselves for the 2011-12 season.
The notable teams (also known as "sleepers") are those same Raiders, the Tamba Bay Buccaneers and the St. Louis Rams.
For starters, the Raiders surprised a lot of teams and fans last season when they went undefeated (6-0) within the AFC West division. Even though they ended up 8-8 and missed the playoffs, they showed a lot of upside. Wide receiver Louis Murphy had a productive 14 game season last year for the Raiders with 41 receptions, 609 yards and two touchdowns. Another player in Jason Campbell, who's a reliable passer has a full year under his belt as the Raiders quarterback and they just drafted Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio St in the NFL Supplemental Draft earlier today. Pryor is a QB, who many analyst think will not make it as a quarterback, but has the athletic ability and potential to be a tight end or linebacker. If they can put together four or five wins outside of the division it is hard to see the Raiders not in the postseason in the 2011 season.
The Buccaneers are another "sleeper" in today's NFL. They came within the final game of the regular season before missing the playoffs at 10-6. Quarterback, Josh Freeman is an athletic and gifted young man. He gives this team hopes of turning back clock to the past to recapture that winning a Superbowl feeling this franchise experienced in 2003. Last season, Freeman (first-year as full-time starter) threw for 25 touchdowns, only six interceptions, over 3,400 yards and completed 61 percent of his passes. They also have another young talent in second-year running back LeGarrette Blount. In 13 games he ran for over 1,000 yards at five yards a carry for six touchdowns. Having a 11-5 or 12-4 record this year will still be tough to win the NFC South, but it still will give them a high chance of getting into the playoffs.
Last, but surely not least the Rams lost their playoff hopes during the final game of the regular season as well when they lost to their division rival Seattle Seahawks (earned last playoff spot). The Rams have a lot of upside with Sam Bradford as their starter quarterback and Stephen Jackson as their running back. Both are very talented and young. If they can put together some pieces for the receiving core and on the defensive end then this team can run away with the NFC West (who isn't known for good records). Their division winner, Seahawks had a 7-9 record, so it is safe to say that having a .500 or above .500 record could help any team in this division win it and make the playoffs. The Rams have that potential to do so for years to come and even this season.
"Sleepers," can be found throughout the NFL, but these three teams mentioned have shown bright spots that can get even brighter during the 2011-2012 season. The upside about all these teams is that they're all young and show a lot of promise. The Rams have the best chance opf making the playoffs out of all these notable "sleepers."