Picking the Super Bowl winner for 2012 is relatively easy from the standpoint of simply looking at the 2011 playoff qualifiers and selecting a Green Bay or San Francisco for a repeat high finish.
More intriguing is IDing a team that will be a major playoffSuper Bowl player despite not even making the playoffs the year before -- like the 2011 New York Giants.
A surprise here will be if the Bears are not high on that list. They were 7-3 and ahead of Detroit and the Giants on playoff rankings at the time of Jay Cutlers injury and the expectation is that with Cutler back and other obvious upgrades, this will be a team of note.
Indeed, a handful of NFL.com analysts have their handful of teams and the Bears are the only team to be picked by more than one expert.
Jason Smith and Steve Wyche both see the Bears as a definite prospect for being next seasons Giants. Jason LaCanfora thinks it will the San Diego Chargers; Pat Kirwan sees the Carolina Panthers riding Cam Newton to 16 or 17 wins. And Adam Rank has a thing for the Miami Dolphins.
A good point to keep in mind was that the Giants were in the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl, not through their excellence, but by virtue of jaw-dropping incompetence and largesse on the parts of a significant portion of the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys should have given the Giants a fifth consecutive loss in their first 2011 game with New York. Tony Romos pass to a stunningly open Miles Austin was beyond a disaster and the Giants had no real role in forcing that abomination pass.
The Giants were in the Super Bowl because a San Francisco 49ers punt returner loses two balls, one simply by being stupid enough to have it bounce off his knee.
And do you realize how many truly bad plays the New England Patriots had to deliver for the Giants to escape with a four-point victory?
Those things happen every year and as many games are lost as are won. But the Giants of 2011 are not a particularly high standard. Frankly, if the Bears are the Giants of 2012, meaning they are 9-7 and backing into the postseason, the Fire-Lovie-Smith calls will be deafening long before the wild-card round of the playoffs.