The NFL is an upwardly cell league. If a group is dangerous, there’s a good probability it is going to be good inside just a few years—the wage cap prevents groups from stockpiling expertise for lengthy and retains high-quality gamers shifting across the league. The opposite aspect of the coin is that it’s onerous to remain good for lengthy. There’s all the time strain from beneath, and the groups with playoff-caliber rosters will all the time must make onerous choices about which gamers to maintain and which to let fly off into free company.
This season is not any totally different, and we’ll inevitably see some shakeups within the NFL pecking order. With that in thoughts, let’s meet the 4 2020 playoff groups within the gravest hazard of lacking out in 2021.
The Washington Soccer Group
The WFT made the playoffs with a 7–9 file final yr, getting in by way of soccer’s final technicality of profitable the woeful NFC East. The Soccer Group doesn’t have a very good reply at quarterback this season—not that it did final yr, both. This yr, Washington will depend on 38-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick to sling the pig.
Fitzpatrick continues to be a fairly productive QB, and he may give the WFT higher play than both Dwayne Haskins or Alex Smith did final yr. However given the way it snuck in final yr, the WFT is in peril of falling out of the playoffs no matter Fitzpatrick’s efficiency. The NFC East is broad open: Each group has an opportunity, however there are not any shoo-ins this season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers haven’t had a dropping file since 2003. Since then, they’ve been the league’s most constantly at-least-decent franchise this aspect of the New England Patriots, they usually even sprinkled in just a few Tremendous Bowl wins within the aughts. I’m afraid that streak will finish in 2021, as each signal factors to the Steelers declining.
Ben Roethlisberger, the QB mainly accountable for the Steelers’ success, is 39 and throwing with a surgically repaired proper elbow. He appeared misplaced on the finish of 2020, and Father Time waits for no quarterback (aside from Tom Brady). Roethlisberger’s offensive line might be the worst within the NFL; in the event that they carry out wherever near common it is going to be an enormous achievement. The Steelers’ protection ought to stay one of many league’s finest, they usually’ll forestall the wheels from falling off, however one other playoff run looks as if loads to count on from Pittsburgh.
The Chicago Bears
The Bears had been the seventh seed within the NFC final yr (because of the NFL’s choice to develop the playoffs), however they bowed out within the Wild Card spherical to the New Orleans Saints. Then they made the sensible choice to let quarterback Mitchell Trubisky stroll in free company. They drafted Ohio State’s star QB Justin Fields to ultimately exchange Trubisky—a call that ought to make the Bears loads higher.
However they’re beginning this season on the border between out and in. Their finest participant, edge rusher Khalil Mack, turned 30 this yr and may solely stay a pressure for thus lengthy. Fields ought to be nice, however he may want a while to get churning, or the Bears may resolve to start out mediocre veteran Andy Dalton at QB for just a few video games at the start of the season. It wouldn’t be stunning if the Bears snatched a Wild Card spot once more (they received’t catch the Inexperienced Bay Packers atop the NFC North), however there’s additionally a great probability they might narrowly miss out.
The Indianapolis Colts
Final yr, the Colts managed a stopgap answer at QB once they signed Philip Rivers after his lengthy profession with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. Rivers averaged slightly below 8 yards per try and did sufficient to get the Colts to an 11–5 file. They even stored the Buffalo Payments shut of their Wild Card recreation. Now Rivers is retired, and the Colts have changed him with Carson Wentz, who hasn’t been an efficient QB since 2017.
The Colts hope Wentz, who fell out of favor with the Philadelphia Eagles, will thrive below his former offensive coordinator and present Colts head coach Frank Reich. That appears fanciful. Wentz has been in an across-the-board statistical decline for 3 years. Whereas that slide got here instantly after Reich’s departure from Philadelphia, three years is a very long time for a QB to languish earlier than rebounding. A turnaround appears unlikely for Wentz, and if he struggles, the Colts will probably be in peril of lacking the dance.
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