Each year in the NFL, it seems a team or two comes out of nowhere to make the playoffs. Similarly, a team or two expected of big things falls short of their expectations. It takes a lot for NFL teams to make the playoffs; each game counts, and staying healthy isn’t guaranteed at all. I want to look at two teams, one from each conference, who made the playoffs last year, but will fail to return in 2016.
NFC Team: Washington Redskins
Redskins’ GM Scot McCloughan has Washington in the right direction after taking over last year, but I still don’t think they return to the playoffs in 2016. This isn’t particularly a knock on the Skins – the NFC East just proves to be wildly inconsistent and unpredictable year in and year out. There hasn’t been consecutive division winners since the Eagles 4-year streak from 2001-2004. The Redskins came out of nowhere to steal the east last year, but it only took nine games. Sure, the Giants won nine games to win the division (and then Super Bowl) in 2011, but other than that? The NFC East winner has won at least 10 games dating back to 1970 (Redskins won the east with an 8-1 record in 1982, but that was because the player’s strike shortened the season).
Unfortunately for the Redskins, they couldn’t pull off Giants-like heroics in 2015. They were eliminated in the first round, and their 9-win-division-winning playoff entry went to waste. Even more unfortunate for them is the competition of this year’s division. I expect the east to be way more competitive than it was last year, and I don’t think nine wins will be enough. The Cowboys and Giants both should be significantly better teams in 2016, and the Eagles are a complete wild card under new head coach Doug Pederson – I don’t think anyone knows how they’ll turn out.
If I had to guess, Dallas or NY is going to win the division this year. That speaks more about my feelings toward both teams more so than it does about the Redskins. Like I said, I think the Skins are truly headed in the right direction. It’s going to be a huge year for Kirk Cousins, who is set to play under the franchise tag. He has a ton of weapons to throw to, but there’s still concerns like who the running back will be for 16 games. On the defensive side of the ball, they have two converted cornerbacks starting at safety. Cousins and the Skins ended the season 6-2 to sneak into the playoffs, but they didn’t beat anybody good in those six games. I don’t have faith in them putting together a better 16-game season than the Giants or Cowboys this year.
AFC Team: Denver Broncos
It’s not rare the defending Super Bowl champions miss the playoffs the following year, and I won’t be surprised when Denver is watching football from the couch this January. Peyton Manning is being replaced by Mark Sanchez, and while Denver’s defense was the main reason they won it all last year, this significant downgrade is still going to keep Denver out of the 2016 playoffs.
The Broncos have won the AFC West for five consecutive seasons, but their time is up come 2016. I think the Raiders will finally win the division for the first time since 2002, and Denver will struggle competing within their own division. The Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers should all be competitive football teams, and I simply don’t trust the Broncos’ offense to put up enough points to stay relevant this season. Even if Sanchez is on the bench, rookie Paxton Lynch will surely experience growing problems, just as many rookie quarterbacks do.
Either way, it’s not a good situation on the offensive side of the ball in Denver, and it’s going to keep them out of the playoffs in 2016.
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