1. Green Bay Packers-Not really a dark horse, as they won’t come and surprise anyone if they’re good next year, but the Packers are a team no one is really talking about right now. With confident Aaron Rodgers, the Pack always feel that they have a chance. The Packers will have to deal with Greg Jennings leaving as a free agent and deciding what to do with Tight End Jermichael Finley. Fixing the defense that was atrocious again in 2012 will be a priority, as will adding a running back so that the Packers offense can mix it up more.
2. New Orleans Saints-With Sean Payton coming back from his year long suspension from “Bountygate”, look for Payton’s return to light a fire under the Saints. The Saints are much like the Packers, as they have a great QB in Drew Brees, but need to fix up their poor defense and add a running back who can help take the pressure off of Brees and open up more play action passes.
3. Dallas Cowboys- This may seem a bit over the edge, but I believe the Cowboys can figure it out and make a magical playoff run a la the Giants of 07 and 2011. The Cowboys have all the talent, on offense and defense. Tony Romo puts up good numbers, but he needs to man up and be the great QB NFL teams need to win the Superbowl. The Cowboys won’t go anywhere if they don’t fix up their awful offensive line though. Coach Jason Garrett is also on the hot seat, and he needs to shore up his play calling and learn how to manage games for the Cowboys to be better.
4. Minnesota Vikings- Minnesota was a great turn around story this past year. Many picked them to finish 4th in the rough NFC North, but Adrian Peterson literally put the team on his back and carried the Vikings to the playoffs. To take the next step, Minnesota needs more balance on offense. You can only rely on AP so much, and he needs to get some help so he doesn’t break down. The return of Percy Harvin should help, but he gets hurt all the time. Look for the Vikings to go after another wide receiver (Greg Jennings?) and give QB Christian Ponder some new weapons to throw to.
5. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck is the real deal folks. My personal pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Luck took a 2 win team to ten wins and a playoff berth in 2012. Luck set the rookie passing mark, as well as playing in every game, gaining valuable experience. Look for the Colts to add more to the offense, especially at running back. Coach Chuck Pagano will continue to be an inspiration to his team, and the players will continue to fight hard for their coach.