I believe that all 18 of these remaining teams have a chance to get into the playoffs and even win a game. This means that the NFL is very wide-open this year. Unfortunately, I cannot stop here, so now it is time to hurt feelings and break the news to some fans that their team is simply not elite this year. Our next group are teams that would not surprise me if they made the playoffs, or even won a wildcard game, but they probably will not be going much further:
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in decline. They are well-coached, and still possess a few play makers, but it is obvious that they are trying to do a patchwork rebuilding job wow maintaining relevance at the same time. Ben Roethlisberger has not been the same Big Ben as the guy who took them to the Super Bowl. Their running game was once the prototype for the NFL, now it is filled with question marks. Their defense is still one of the league’s best, but they are the third best team in their division and they have to travel to New England, Minnesota and Green Bay this year. They will be lucky to limp in and win a wildcard game.
The Miami Dolphins are an average team with an easy schedule. They added some playmakers on defense in the draft and I think it will move them up a bit in terms of ability, but they will not have enough to take the division from the Patriots.
The Minnesota Vikings came on strong at the end last year and barely made the playoffs. In order to do this, they had Adrian Peterson playing lights out and almost setting the single season rushing record. I do not see that being the case this year. I think Greg Jennings will be more of an asset than people think, but they still play in a tough division. They will be lucky for a wildcard spot.
The Washington Redskins… this is where I am going to get the most hate. They came on strong at the end of last year, beat Dallas for the NFC East crown and appeared to be handling Seattle until RG3 got hurt. RG3 is a decent pocket passer, but he gets more time to pass due to his ability to scramble. I think the Redskins will focus more on keeping him safe this year and it will drop his productivity. I also would not bet on him finishing the season healthy. He is a smaller guy and those lineman keep getting bigger and faster. Also, they surprised a lot of people last year, I think teams will be more prepared for them this year.
Indianapolis Colts never quite fell off last year like everybody thought they would. They were never good enough to be labeled a powerhouse, but they pulled out a lot of late games and ended up going a very respectable 11-5. That being said, I think they will be a better team this year, even if they win less games. Their schedule does get very weak after the bye, so they should come into the playoffs hot, but I do not think they can make much noise. When will the monkey on Luck’s back conversations begin ?
The Chicago Bears might be one of the toughest teams to not make the playoffs. They got an upgrade on the offensive line to keep Jay Cutler upright. They have Bennett at tight end to provide him an extra target. Nobody doubts that the Bears are better than last year’s team that just barely missed the playoffs, but their schedule is BRUTAL. Starting your season off against the Bengals, Vikings, Steelers, Lions, Saints, Giants and Redskins is no easy task. They will be lucky to be 4-3 going into their bye week.
I saved the Baltimore Ravens for this late as a way to be respectful to the defending champs. It is time to be real though, they have lost too much talent to make it back to the Super Bowl. The players came together as a team and played big in some clutch spots and Flacco received much of the credit. He played above average during the season last year, but really well in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Ravens threw all of their money at him and let some of their vets go. Here is a shocker, I do not even think they win their division this year.
The New York Giants are one of the most head-scratching teams out there. One year they win the Super Bowl, the next the miss the playoffs completely They always seem to find themselves in a rough spot around week 11 and then they have to decide if they are going to play up and go on a run or if they are going to pack it in go home. Last year they couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot despite looking like the best team in the NFC East. This year, I think they will start off hot and cool down. Remember last year when they beat up the 49ers and everybody marked them as the team to beat in the NFC? Their schedule is easy enough to get to the playoffs, but I do not think they have the magic in them this year to make a championship run.
Now we have ten teams remaining…