>San Francisco 49ers

Last playoff appearance: 2011 (lost in NFC championship)

Longest playoff drought: 12 seasons (1958-69)

Other notable drought: The 49ers are 0-5 in their last five Sunday Night appearances; they've got two on this year's schedule.

The good: They'll get to the Super Bowl if: Quarterback Alex Smith can lift the 29th-ranked passing attack with new weapons like Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.

The bad: They'll make an early playoff exit if: They can't generate the same amount of turnovers (38) as they did last season, and if a challenging regular season schedule wears them down.


>Seattle Seahawks

Last playoff appearance: 2010 (lost in divisional round)

Longest playoff drought: 10 seasons (1989-98)

Other notable drought: The Seahawks had three (Patrick Kerney, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones) first-team All-Pros in 2007; they haven't had one since.

The good: They'll challenge for a wild card if: Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is the real deal and Marshawn Lynch stays motivated after signing a big contract extension.

The bad: They'll regret their April decision if: Rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin can't prove all the draft experts wrong who said the Seahawks reached for him.


>Arizona Cardinals

Last playoff appearance: 2009 (lost in divisional round)

Longest playoff drought: 25 seasons (Twice, 1922-46, 1949-73)

Other notable drought: The Cardinals made the playoffs twice in 52 years from 1922-73.

The good: They'll get to .500 if: Patrick Peterson takes every punt he sees back for a touchdown and John Skelton consistently gets the ball to Larry Fitzgerald.

The bad: They'll fight to stay out of the basement if: Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams can't combine at running back to take some heat off Skelton.


>St. Louis Rams

Last playoff appearance: 2004 (lost in divisional round)

Longest playoff drought: 11 seasons (1956-66)

Other notable drought: Other than running back Steven Jackson, the Rams haven't had a Pro Bowler since 2007.

The good: They'll double their wins to four if: They can better protect their quarterbacks, namely Sam Bradford. The Rams allowed 55 sacks last year.

The bad: They'll have a mess in the secondary if: Rookie cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson don't overcome the character concerns that saw them drop in the draft.