The NFL Playoffs are here after a wild, wacky Week 18. The extra week of games lived up to the hype, with the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders going down to the final seconds in one of the craziest games ever.
The playoff field is set, and several teams sit on their couch thinking about what could have been. As we get ready for the postseason tournament, it is time to examine a few teams that missed the field but should be there next season.
This is a no-brainer. The Ravens jumped out to a terrific 6-2 start but finished 8-9, including six straight losses to finish the season.
Lamar Jackson played just 12 games this year, and although Tyler Huntley filled in nicely at times, there were too many injuries for Baltimore to have any chance. Here are just a few players that missed time for Baltimore this year due to injuries:
- J.K. Dobbins
- Marcus Peters
- Gus Edwards
- Ar’Darius Washington
- Marlon Humphrey
- Otaro Alaka
- Iman Marshall
- Justice Hill
- Patrick Ricard
- DeShon Elliott
The list keeps going, but you get the point. Dobbins, Edwards, and Peters all suffered torn ACLs before the first game of the year, putting John Harbaugh’s team in a massive hole. The Ravens somehow found success with the revolving door of Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, and Latavius Murray at running back, with Freeman being the biggest beneficiary of the situation.
Mark Andrews had a career year and his first 1,000-yard season, and Marquise Brown also eclipsed 1,000 yards. The defense has pieces, and the offense has Jackson, Dobbins, Brown, and Andrews all returning.
Sure, there are questions, but one has to imagine that even a semi-healthy Ravens team would’ve made the playoffs this year.
Yes, the Broncos did not do well under Vic Fangio. However, the replacement for Fangio should be more than qualified to field a playoff team — especially with this roster.
The offense has a ton of pieces, including Javonte Williams and Jerry Jeudy. The defense is full of talent, with Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain II leading the way in the secondary.
The only thing missing? A quarterback.
Will it be Aaron Rodgers? Or does Denver make a run at Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson?
Either way, if the Broncos get a capable head coach and even an average quarterback, they will be a playoff team next season and a dangerous team for everybody in the NFL.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers will kick themselves all offseason long for just missing out on the NFL playoffs. The loss to the Raiders will be discussed for a long time, mainly due to Brandon Staley’s questionable timeout in overtime.
Nonetheless, this team has so much talent that it will be hard for them to miss the playoffs again. Justin Herbert went off, Austin Ekeler had a career season, and Mike Williams and Keenan Allen crossed the 1,000-yard threshold.
Joey Bosa and Derwin James Jr. are back next year, and the Chargers have a ton of cap space to spend in free agency. Add in some more talent on defense, some depth in the trenches, and another year of Herbert in this offense, and the Chargers will make the playoffs — and could compete for a Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are one NFC team that makes this list here. As a whole, the NFC is extremely top-heavy. After that, it is questionable, at best.
If it weren’t for the San Francisco 49ers’ upset of the Los Angeles Rams, the Saints would be in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to victory, and Sean Payton’s team missed out.
The quarterback position is up in the air, but Jameis Winston returning as the starter makes too much sense. Furthermore, if New Orleans can get a couple of new faces in the wide receiver room, they should be in the playoffs.
The defense is tenacious; just ask Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There is hope in New Orleans, and the offseason will be huge for this group.
Just missed the cut
Look, unless Baker Mayfield takes a giant step forward, this team won’t be going anywhere. The Browns seriously need to examine the future of the quarterback position because Mayfield didn’t do himself any favors this past season.
Carson Wentz played well, played poorly, and played average. But, which version of him will the Colts get? Furthermore, a season-ending loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars cost them a spot despite Jonathan Taylor posting an MVP-caliber season. The Colts also need to think long and hard about the quarterback position.
Mike Zimmer is gone, but Kirk Cousins is still around. If the Vikings make a huge splash for the next head coach, they could be back in the NFL playoffs next season.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference