Only six teams from the AFC, and six teams from the NFC make it to the postseason. That means that only 12 teams out of 32 teams in the National Football League get to participate in the postseason. There are plenty of chances for every team to capitalize on their opportunities to be able to make a push to partake in the playoffs, and then there are others that struggle with those opportunities and see themselves on the outside looking in during the playoffs.
With that being said you could easily make an argument about any team that made the playoffs last season going back again in the 2017 NFL season, but there are teams that could potentially do a complete 180 and have a down season. There are teams that had things go right for them all year long, and it helped them to go into the post season. Injuries take place and that is why some teams did not have the opportunity to play football past December. The 20 teams that didn’t make the playoffs either had a detrimental injury that hurt the team in a significant amount, just did not have the luck on their side, or they could not capitalize on their game plan to help lead the team to victory. The focus of this article is to give you eight teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season, that can make it in the 2017 season, and seven teams that made it last season that might not make it in the 2017 season.
15 Could – Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore started off the 2016 season with a 3-0 record in the month of September, but then didn’t win a game in the month of October. They beat teams that they were supposed to beat, but they struggled with the teams that made it to the post season last year. They were 2-5 against teams that made it to the playoffs, and then they were 6-3 against the teams that didn’t make it to the playoffs last season. They finished 8-8 last season, and seven out of their eight losses were eight points or fewer. With Baltimore’s defense being in the top ten in points allowed per game, top five in rushing yards allowed per game, and top ten in both passing yards and total yards per game, look for Flacco to bounce back and help lead this young Baltimore team to the playoffs.
14 Won’t – Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr is coming off a fantastic season that ended prematurely due to a broken fibula. The Raiders without Carr are not a threat to anybody in the AFC, and he might not be himself this upcoming season. Coming off any type of injury is terrifying to think about to say the least, and to have broken your fibula puts a lot of concerns on people’s minds. Even with Carr playing phenomenal last season, Oakland won a lot of close games that could have gone either way, and could have given them a completely different outlook on their 2016 season. With nine out of their 12 wins coming with a winning margin of eight points or fewer, it looks like there could be some potential for the Oakland Raiders to be on the outside looking in this year.
13 Could – Jacksonville Jaguars
Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars finished 3-13 last season, but 8 of their 13 losses were by a margin of seven points or fewer. Nothing went right for Jacksonville last season as down the stretch in games when they had the chance to sneak out with a win, they would find a way to lose the game. The positive side of it all is that their defense was top ten in yards allowed per game, and top five in passing yards allowed per game. The Jaguars have added some help on the defensive side of the ball in Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Barry Church. Look for the Jaguars to take a turn into the positive side of the win loss ratio this season as they could become a contender if their rush defense improves as they were 19th in rushing yards allowed per game.
12 Won’t – Dallas Cowboys
It's safe to say that Dallas had one of its better years in franchise history last season, but with some key losses on defense it is going to be tough for them to go back into the playoffs. With the losses of Brandon Carr (Baltimore), Morris Claiborne (Jets), Barry Church (Jaguars), and J.J. Wilcox (Buccaneers) the Cowboys secondary took a big hit so during free agency. The Cowboys run defense was phenomenal last season as they were first in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed per game, but they needed to add some help in their secondary and they haven’t. Their offense could struggle as well this year as teams will start keying in on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot in their game planning for the 2017 season. Don’t be surprised if you see the Rookie Duo struggle in their sophomore seasons.
11 Could – Arizona Cardinals
With the Cardinals losing some key players on defense (Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Marcus Cooper, and D.J. Swearinger) they look like they could miss the playoffs, again right? Wrong. The Cardinals added some talent on the defensive side of the ball in Antoine Betha, Jarvis Jones, and Frostee Rucker. Their offense also had a down year as guys like John Brown, J.J. Nelson and the majority of their receiving core struggled to get anything going for them.
With Carson Palmer coming back after a pretty solid year to go along with the fantastic running game led by David Johnson who is coming off of a MCL sprain that he was lucky that he didn’t require surgery. Also with their scheduled opponents being who they are, if they can play like we all know they can we will see the Cardinals in January.
10 Won’t – Houston Texans
With the AFC South on the rise it is going to be tough for Houston to get into the playoffs with a 9-7 record like they did last season. The Texans’ defense was second in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and first in total yards allowed per game. They have the potential to be a top five defense year in and year out that is led by All-Pro J.J. Watt who is coming off of back surgery for a herniated disc. With the loss of A.J. Bouye their secondary could take a hit, but their offense will be their downfall in 2017, just like it was in 2016. Brock Osweiler is no longer in the picture, but right now Houston has two quarterbacks (Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden). If they don’t have a full time play caller by the time the regular season starts there is going to be a problem in Houston.
9 Could – Carolina Panthers
Carolina was all sorts of bad last season, after playing all year long with what looked to be one of the worst Super Bowl hangovers in recent memories. This offseason though they signed some talent on the defensive side of the ball which was atrocious last season when it came to passing yards allowed per game as they were 29th in the NFL in that defensive stat. The signing of Mike Adams, Captain Munnerlyn, Julius Peppers, with the re-signing of Kawann Short is going to be part of a huge turn around for the Panthers. Look for former MVP Cam Newton and their offense to bounce back into the way they were in 2016, and look for the Panthers to be a big-time threat to the whole NFC again this season.
8 Won’t – Seattle Seahawks
The Pete Carroll era in Seattle has been successful so far, but I think this could be the year that they take a step back. With some of the signings that they made so far it could work out great for Seattle or it is going to blow up in their faces. Eddie Lacy is the biggest one of them all for Seattle, as he has struggled in his previous two seasons due to weight problems, and not being healthy. If he can return to the Eddie Lacy that he was in his first two seasons in Green Bay then he could be a huge signing for the Seahawks, but I just don’t see that happening. Seattle only rushed for 99.4 rushing yards per game, which was 25th in the NFL last season. Their offensive struggles could see the Seahawks on the outside looking in next season.
7 Could – Cincinnati Bengals
Last season was just not the Bengals season, as they finished 6-9-1 and had six out of their nine losses coming by eight points or fewer. A.J. Green missing the final five games with a tear in his hamstring didn’t help the Bengals out either. If they can get a healthy squad for the majority of the year in 2017 they can easily be contenders. Andy Dalton and the offense were in the middle of the pack when it comes to Points Per Game, Rushing Yards, Passing Yards, and Total Yards Per Game in the 2016 season. We are so use to the Bengals being top ten in points per game and passing yards per game, so look for that to go back to normal again next season especially if they want to make the post season next season.
6 Won’t – Atlanta Falcons
I can hear everybody now saying that “you are crazy if you think that they won’t make the playoff next season.” Atlanta could have the type of Super Bowl hangover that Carolina had last season with the way that Atlanta’s offense played all season in 2016. They led the league in Points Per Game, they were fifth in rushing yards per game, third in passing yards per game, and second in total yards per game, and they were led by the MVP of the league in Matt Ryan.
Their defense on the other hand struggled at times in the regular season and that could be a big-time trend for the Falcons this season, especially if the Falcons are not putting up the offensive numbers like they were a season ago. For all the flak Kyle Shanahan took for his playcalling in the Super Bowl, he still constructed the offense that wiped opponents out. He's gone to San Fran now. Look for the Falcons to cool off, and potentially be watching football in January from home.
5 Could – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts struggled on the defensive side of the ball in 2016, as they were 25th in rushing yards allowed per game, 27th in passing yards allowed per game, and 30th in total yards allowed per game. They spent the 2017 off-season so far signing guys on the defensive side of the ball and got some serious help in their front seven with the acquisitions of Jonathan Hankins, Barkevious Mingo, and Jabaal Sheard. Indianapolis finished last season 8-8 with five of their eight losses coming by eight points or fewer. Their offense was eighth in Points Per Game, fifth in passing yards per game, and tenth in total yards per game, but they struggled in the running game as they were 23rd when it came to rushing yards per game. It is hard to win games when you can’t run the ball, but look for the Colts to bounce back and be a force to be reckoned with.
4 Won’t – Detroit Lions
The Lions finished 9-7 a year ago and thirteen out of their 16 games were decided by seven points or fewer. Detroit was one of the luckiest teams in the NFL last season when it came to comebacks, as eight of their nine wins last season came off of fourth quarter comebacks. Matthew Stafford in half of the Lions’ games last season led them to a comeback in the fourth quarter that lead to them receiving a victory. Detroit was nothing special last season, and barely squeaked into the playoffs with the NFC not being as deep as the AFC was a season ago. Look for the Lions’ luck to run out as they will take a step back as the NFC is poised to have a better all-around season next year.
3 Could – Tennessee Titans
Led by quarterback Marcus Mariota who has been a stud in his two years so far as the Titans’ quarterback. The Titans offense last season was third in the league in rushing yards per game, and finished with a 9-7 record because of how great Marcus Mariota played a season ago. Even though his season was cut short due to a fractured right fibula, Mariota finished by throwing for 3,426 yards while adding 26 passing touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The Titans were in almost every game that they played in 2016, as five out of their seven losses came by a margin of eight points or fewer. With Mariota coming back to go along with DeMarco Murray look for the Titans to be not only a threat in the AFC South, but a threat in the AFC as well.
2 Won’t – Miami Dolphins
One team that really overachieved last season was the Miami Dolphins. After starting off 1-4 they finished the season winning eight out of their last ten to finish with a 10-6 record, with eight out of their ten wins coming by a margin of seven points or fewer. They only thing that stood out for Miami was how hot Jay Ajayi was from week six on. Ajayi had three two hundred yard running games where he single handedly led the Dolphins to a victory. Even though Ryan Tannehill, and Jarvis Landry had consistent years for Miami’s offense last season, I don’t see them being the same team that they were from 2016. Miami is definitely going to cool off and to be the team they were which was the team who will win seven to eight games and struggle in the AFC East.
1 Could – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is one team that I am more than excited to see play next season. Tampa Bay finished 9-7 and barely missed the playoffs. I believe they were a better team than the 9-7 Detroit Lions last season. Anyway, led by now third year quarterback Jameis Winston the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be in the driver’s seat this season to earn their first playoff berth since 2007. The Buccaneers this offseason found Jameis a new target in DeSean Jackson, which will help spread the field out and give Mike Evans plenty of more looks, and will help with the running game. The running game was better than it was in 2015, as Doug Martin finally came back to his old ways when he played last season. They need him healthy and on the field in order to make an impact on the game, but watch out for those Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017.