There is always pressure in the National Football League. Pressure to win games. Pressure to put up good numbers. Pressure to keep your job. Pressure to stay healthy.
As we inch closer to training camp, let's take a look at which team, coach and quarterback will be under the most pressure in the 2012 season.
Team under pressure: Philadelphia Eagles
Over the last two years, the Eagles have made several bold moves and spent a boatload of money. Before the 2011 season, they moved Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator, handed Michael Vick a $100 million extension and traded "quarterback of the future" Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals. They also paid top dollar to sign free agents Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. The expectations were very clear in 2011: Super Bowl or bust. It's safe to say that winning only eight games and missing the playoffs was an enormous bust.
The bold moves and big spending continued this offseason, even though the team and longtime president Joe Banner decided to part ways. Lucrative contract extensions were given to DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis. The Eagles also traded away a Pro Bowl cornerback (Asante Samuel) and traded for a Pro Bowl linebacker (DeMeco Ryans).
The Eagles did have a few legitimate excuses last season. As a result of the labor dispute, the free-agent additions and new defensive coordinator weren't afforded the luxury of an offseason together. No such excuse exists this season. There is a tremendous amount of pressure for this team to make a deep postseason run in 2012. Coach Andy Reid, Vick and Castillo will all be facing intense scrutiny if the season starts poorly.
Coach under pressure: Norv Turner
No surprise here. There's a reason it feels like Turner always starts the season on the hot seat: He does. Under Turner, the Chargers haven't won a playoff game since the 2008 season and the San Diego fan base is more than a little restless. Despite having two years left on his contract, it was widely thought that Turner's failure to make the playoffs for the second straight season in 2011 would result in his dismissal. However, team president Dean Spanos decided to stay the course with both Turner and general manager A.J. Smith. I can't imagine they will be as fortunate if they fail to make the playoffs this season.
The AFC West has been one of the NFL's weaker divisions during Turner's tenure in San Diego. That could be changing this season. The defending division champion Denver Broncos have added Peyton Manning, while the Kansas City Chiefs will benefit from the healthy return of several impact players. The Oakland Raiders should also be better this season as their talented young players continue to develop. In order to keep his job, Turner will have to navigate a much tougher division in 2012.
Quarterback under pressure: Peyton Manning
There were several quarterbacks to choose from in this category. Guys like Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel and Blaine Gabbert will all face different types of pressure in 2012. The three rookie quarterbacks likely to open the season as starters -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden -- will also face pressure. However, no quarterback in the NFL will be under more scrutiny than Peyton Manning.
With a serious neck injury that called for multiple surgical procedures, Manning was forced to miss all of 2011. After a disastrous season without No. 18 behind center, the Indianapolis Colts were left with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. In March, the Colts decided to part ways with Manning and rebuild their roster around former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Manning quickly became the most sought-after free-agent quarterback in league history. He had his choice of several attractive teams, but settled on John Elway and the Denver Broncos. After Manning signed his lucrative long-term deal, the Broncos immediately went from a cute story in 2011 to a team expected to make a Super Bowl push in 2012.
Most of the pressure on Manning will be the result of his past production. His résumé is ridiculous: He's a four-time MVP and 11-time Pro Bowl selection. And he's thrown for more than 4,000 yards an amazing 11 times! Not counting last year, he's never tossed fewer than 26 touchdowns in a season. To put that in perspective, the Broncos haven't had a quarterback throw that many touchdown passes since Jake Plummer did it in 2004.
Manning's personal success has always led to team success: He guided the Colts to nine straight seasons of 10-plus wins. That 10-win mark hasn't been hit in Denver since the 2005 season. Fewer than 10 wins would be viewed as a major disappointment for Denver this season. In 2011, the Broncos found a way to win their division and a playoff game, despite having the NFL's 31st-ranked passing offense. Manning will be expected to drastically improve the passing numbers as well as lead the Broncos deep into the playoffs. Of course, he will be facing this mountain of expectations while still trying to recover from a very serious neck injury. That's a lot of pressure.