Reasons For Every NFL Play Off Absentee To Be Hopeful

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So it’s official, we now know who will be playing in Super Bowl 54 in Miami. The Hard Rock Stadium will host the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday, the Chiefs looking to win their second Lombardi trophy while the 49ers will be looking to win their sixth.

In the 100th NFL season we have seen one of the best set play off games in history with the majority of the games being close or producing magic moments, whether that be the Titans magical run, Deshaun Watson’s houdini act against the Bills or the Kirk Cousins walk off touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph.

The AFC Championship game between the Chiefs and the Titans saw Mahomes arguably produce the greatest moment and arguably the greatest moment in his career, his 27 yard run for a touchdown something that will be shown for years and years, a fitting moment for the NFL’s 100th season.

One of the best parts of the play offs was that 3 of the 4 championship game teams were not even in the play offs last year, which shows the magic of the sport and how anything is possible.

This is further shown by the fact that the 49ers were the second worst team with 4-12 last season. This then allowed them to pick up Nick Bosa as the second overall pick and transform their defence.

A game changer of a player is something the teams first up in the draft will be hoping for with the Bengals, Redskins, Lions and Dolphins hoping to go worst to first in their divisions, like San Francisco did.

On the flip side, plenty of teams had great 2018 seasons but struggled in the 2019 season, some failing to make the play offs at all. The Bears, Chargers and Rams all failed to make the playoffs this season one year removed from a combined 37-7 record – the Rams even made it all the way to Super Bowl 53 this time last year, but couldn’t manage a play off run in 2019.

With plenty of reasons for teams to go from best to worst and from worst for first, here is reasons why teams can make next years play offs after not making them this year.

AFC EAST
New York Jets (7-9 in 2019)

The Jets finished with a 7-9 record in their first season and this was without off season acquisition C.J Mosley who was injured most of the season. To add to that, quarterback Sam Darnold missed several weeks with mono.

The Jets have $55 million in cap space which allow them to get a couple of good players in the roster. If Darnold and Mosley can stay healthy all season, along with the other weapons they have such as running back Leveon Bell and safety Jamal Adams, they will be in with a shot.

NFL star and play off absentee Sam Darnold

As well as that, NYJ have the chance to develop 2019 first round draft pick Quinnen Williams and build on his first season which showed some promise. It will be a tough task for the Jets to win the division, but they have a chance and will need these players healthy if they want to make a charge.

Miami Dolphins (5-11 in 2019)

The Dolphins had an encouraging end to the season, with a week 17 win in Foxboro to move New England from the second seed to a third season. Fitzpatrick had an excellent season and was named Dolphins MVP, with 10 touchdown passes in his his last five games and 3,529 passing yards over the whole season.

Devante Parker finally broke out, with 1,202 receiving yards and 9 catches for a touchdown and Christian Wilkins showing some potential late on. Brian Flores had an encouraging first season and showed some good credentials of being a top head coach.

You can tell from seeing locker room videos that he really cares and you have to admire the man after all the early season uncomfort after players such as Kenny Stills, Laremy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kenyan Drake all being traded and all having good seasons in different jerseys.

Everyone was predicting going 0-16 after the start Miami made but the franchise recovered well and ended the season with plenty of positivity that they can go and make a play off push.

AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8 in 2019)

The Steelers were only one win off sixth seed Tennessee who made the AFC Championship and this was without Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner who make up two thirds of the main three offensive threats in Pittsburgh.

Imagine what they could do with these players healthy and lets not forget their defence with players such as T.J Watt and the aforementioned Minkah Fitzpatrick having excellent seasons. What a job Mike Tomlin did, especially after the off season issues with Antonio Brown and Leveon Bell leaving the team.

Many wrote them off but Tomlin guided them from a 1-4 start to an 8-8 season, with them probably being a good quarterback away from making the play offs. I believe Pittsburgh may have a real chance of making the play offs, especially with the loss by Baltimore against the Titans in the play offs potentially showing a blueprint as to how teams can stop the Ravens.

Cleveland Browns (6-10 in 2019)

Disaster. Thats how you can describe the 2019 season for the Browns who had so much hype going into the season with the off season addition of Odell Beckham. In the end, it didnt turn out the way many hoped with plenty predicting the Browns to make the play offs and some even suggesting they’d make the Super Bowl.

Browns fans can be positive going into the 2020 season as these big names such as Miles Garrett, Kareem Hunt, Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Denzel Ward are still at the franchise.

Its a matter of getting all these egos to gel and with Freddie Kitchens gone and former Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski coming in as the head coach, this could be the key to a change in fortunes.

He’s worked with Steffon Diggs and Adam Thielen so he’s got experience in working with offensive talents. The Browns will look at the season just gone and want to improve and with a fresh set of ideas for this team, it may be just what they need.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-14 in 2019).

Joe Burrow. The two words that answer how the Bengals can go from the worst team in the league in 2019 to making the play offs. His college highlights show how good a player he can become and the national championship really showed his credentials as a NFL player.

His addition to the side, which is highly expected in the 2020 draft as the first overall pick, will help others take off. A J Green will hope to be healthy again come the start of next season and add him to John Ross and Joe Mixon around him, he will have some personnel to work with.

Their defence may well be still a problem for the Bengals but if those offensive talents previously mentioned, the offence has the capability to bail the defence out and win games. Zac Taylor has a full season under his belt and will look to build on that.

AFC SOUTH
Indianapolis Colts (7-9 in 2019)

The Colts were tipped to be a Super Bowl contender before Andrew Luck surprised everyone by retiring a week before the season starts. Jacoby Brisett came in and did an okay job, with 18 touchdown passes and just 6 interceptions but he was not enough to guide them into the play offs.

Colts fans can be optimistic as after all they were tipped for big things before Lucks retirement and whilst the quarterback position is the most important one on the field, they still have many other excellent options. Running back Marlon Mack, tight end Eric Ebron and wide receiver TY Hilton form a dynamic offense.

Defensively, Darius Leonard gives the, strength in the linebacker position. With Tom Brady rumours swirling they can easily get back into the play offs, especially with the unpredictability of the Texans and questionable coaching of their head coach Bill O’Brien. Frank Reich is a good head coach and will help guide the Colts back to where they feel they belong.

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10 in 2019)

The Jaguars were a quarter away from the Super Bowl in January 2018 before they bowed out to New England. They have struggled since both on and off the pitch with Doug Marrone questionably still in a job.

But every team has a chance of making it back to the play offs no matter how big or small that is and the Jaguars have some good players still at their disposal. DJ Chark had a breakout year, Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Myles Jack are able to give the Jaguars a defensive threat and who can forget Minshew mania?

Nick Foles had his injury problems but can come back and if he has even half of the success he had in Philadelphia then the Jaguars can certainly have a chance of making the play offs.

AFC WEST
Denver Broncos (7-9 in 2019)

The Broncos started off poorly under new head coach Vic Fangio and starting quarterback Joe Flacco. Enter Drew Lock. The 2019 second round draft pick out of Missouri threw for 1,020 yards in his first season which resulted in five starts, with 7 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, winning four of his five starts.

The only loss came against Super Bowl participants Kansas City. I don’t see the Broncos having much of a chance to top the division but can certainly challenge for that wildcard spot, especially with the defensive duo of Bradley Chubb and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller along with breakout receiver Courtland Sutton.

Las Vegas Raiders (7-9 in 2019)

The now Las Vegas Raiders were 6-4 and looked to be play off contenders, before four losses out of their last five put an end of talk of playoffs. However, them being 6-4 shows they are capable of wins and putting a good run together.

Josh Jacobs had a good rookie season, especially in the first half of the season and the Tom Brady rumours are lingering, even more so since the 6 time Super Bowl champion was seen talking to Raiders owner Mark Davis at the Conor McGregor fight.

However players aside, Jon Gruden will be the reason if the Raiders make the playoffs. He is an excellent head coach and immediately demands respect. He has the experience of winning a Super Bowl and knows how to motivate players.

Los Angeles Chargers (5-11 in 2019)

After a 12-4 season in 2018, Chargers were left with disappointment after this season, with the 2019 season resulting in a win count just one higher than their total games lost in 2019.

A lot of the results you can argue rests on Phillip Rivers, who declined huge in 2019 and his time in LA Chargers appears to be over, especially now he has moved himself and his family to Florida. A new quarterback will be the addition they need to help theif offense, with the help of wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Melvin Gordon as well as safety Derwin James.

The Chargers aren’t far off being a play off team and with a new quarterback, this could really elevate this team back to being play off contenders again. Will they trade up to get Tua or could they go for Justin Herbert?


NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys (8-8 in 2019)

The Cowboys missed the play offs in what was a terrible NFC East. This led to the inevitable firing of head coach Jason Garrett. Now he has gone and with ex Packer Mike Mccarthy in charge, maybe he is the guy to bring the good times back.

A team with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, Leighton Vander Esch and Demarcus Lawrence is capable of making the playoffs and more. The rest of the division are not good either so there is a definite opportunity for the Cowboys to make it back to the play offs.

New York Giants (4-12 in 2019)

The Giants also fired their head coach Pat Shurmur and have replaced him with former Patriot special teams coordinator Joe Judge. They have one of the league’s best running backs Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones with a year’s experience under his belt.

If those two along with wide receiver Golden Tate can connect then they are capable of making a play off push. With Joe Judge having won 3 Super Bowls alongside the game’s best ever head coach, he can potentially look at bringing some winning culture back to New York.

Washington Redskins (3-13 in 2019)

It says alot about the AFC East in the 2019 season that the Redskins are the third of the four teams to fire their head coach. Jay Gruden was fired mid season and was replaced by ex Panther head coach Ron Rivera who was also sacked mid season. Rivera is a winner and an excellent head coach appointment.

Even though he was sacked mid season, the Panthers looked much worse after he left. The Redskins were the second worst team in the NFL in 2019 but so were the 49ers in 2018 and look where they are now.

Chase Young is likely to be picked by the Redskins as the second overall pick in the 2020 draft, as was Nick Bosa in 2019 and he completely transformed the San Francisco defence.

As was said before, the NFC East is up for grabs and the Redskins will look at that plus getting the off season right as they aim to get back to playing football in January.

NFC NORTH
Chicago Bears (8-8 in 2019)

The Bears disappointed in 2019 after an encouraging 2018. Trubisky disappointed and stunk out Chicago but the Bears are only one year removed from being a 12-4 team.

Their personnel have mostly remained the same and if they can get Trubisky firing or get someone in that adds some juice to their offence then the Bears can once again make the play offs.

Lets not forget they have Khalil Mack, Akheem Hicks and Eddie Jackson in their defence and Tarik Cohen and Allen Robinson in their offence along with a good head coach Matt Nagy who won 2018 AP NFL Coach of the Year.

With the Packers not quite convincing the media despite a 13-3 record and the ever inconsistent Kirk Cousins, the Bears have a window open to get back to the play offs, where this defence belongs.

Detroit Lions (3-12-1 in 2019)

The Lions may have finished as the third worst team of the season, but they were 2-0-1 at the start of the season and then went on that bad run of form of 9 straight losses without their injured quarterback in the Matthew Stafford.

With him healthy and a good draft pick, the Lions have a chance to make the play offs. Going back to the 49ers, they had Garoppolo injured most of the season in 2018 which played a part in them getting a good draft position. I’m not comparing Stafford to Garoppolo but the similarities are there. The Lions can be optimistic.

NFC SOUTH
Atlanta Falcons (7-9 in 2019)

The Falcons’ inconsistent season left them with a 7-9 season and the head coach Dan Quinn kept his job despite the uncertainty of his position. This shows the faith that the owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have in him.

They also still have a roster full of stars with Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones. This team has every capability of getting back to the play offs, despite them not appearing to have recovered from the Super Bowl 51 loss. If they can get back to that form they showed only three seasons ago then they can be a danger once again.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9 in 2019)

The Buccaneers are one of the more intriguing NFL teams, with quarterback Jameis Winston becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to record 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Bruce Arians is known as a quarterback whisperer and in his first season at Tampa his quarterback became the passing yards leader.

If Bruce can get the interceptions out of the 2015 first overall pick then the Bucs have a chance of being a playoff team once again, especially with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin out wide.

Carolina Panthers (5-11 in 2019)

The Panthers have a real dilemma on their hands, do they keep Cam Newton, do they stick with Kyle Allen or do they draft a new quarterback? Cam Newton when healthy is one of the most exciting players to watch on and off the pitch, Kyle Allen initially showed a lot of promise and a new quarterback could be just what the doctor ordered.

New head coach Matt Rhule’s first press conference got fans excited but no one knows who will start for them. All three could all be primed for a great season as has been mentioned above and with star running back Christian McCaffrey to share the duties, their offence can guide them back to glory.

The jury is out on their defence but with the offensive weapons they could be a team that still makes it through to January football.

NFC WEST
Los Angeles Rams (9-7 in 2019)

The Rams lost in Super Bowl 53 but did not even make the play offs in 2019. A 9-7 record is not the worst record to have but they were a victim of the strength of the NFC West. LA Rams suffered from a Super Bowl hangover and will be hoping for a San Francisco Super Bowl in 2020.

At the end of the day, they still have a brilliant head coach in Sean McVay, Jared Goff as well as Todd Gurley who is one of the league’s best running backs when healthy. And of course they have arguably the league’s best player in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and one of league’s best corners in Jalen Ramsey. They simply just had an off year and i back them to get back to how they were in 2018 in the 2020 season.

Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1 in 2019)

The Cardinals’ first overall draft pick in 2019 Kyler Murray lived up to the hype with an impressive rookie year which saw Arizona end the year with 5 wins. Whilst this is their second lowest win total since 2012, there is plenty of optimism to be had for Cardinals fans. They are unfortunately in the strongest division in the NFL.

As said before, San Franisco, whilst i doubt it, could be a victim of the Super Bowl hangover and Seattle do not exactly have the best weapons for Russell Wilson and may have an off year.

Overall, i feel that the teams with the most genuine chance of making the play offs that didn’t this year are the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh from the AFC and the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and LA Rams from the NFC.

If there was to be a Super Bowl 55 between teams who didn’t make the play offs in 2019, i would be having the Steelers lead by comeback player of the year Ben Roethlisberger battling it out in Tampa against the LA Rams.

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