Last year, the Last Word On Pro Football department did a similar article about three teams that made the playoffs that wouldn’t have the same luck the next season. Those three teams were the Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, and Denver Broncos. The Texans were able to win the AFC South, but the other teams did miss the post-season. Which 2016 NFL playoff teams will suffer the same fate?
2016 NFL Playoff Teams That Won’t Be Back
Disclaimer. This article was written before the combine. That means that free agency and the draft haven’t taken place yet. Bill Belichick could’ve had a mental breakdown, trading Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to one of these teams for a bag of peanuts, completely changing the list.
This is a real bummer, because it looks like the Miami Dolphins are doing what they can to get better. After being a truly mediocre team for a long time, they finally made the playoffs in 2016 after going 10-6 in the regular season.
So why won’t they be back? It’s simple, they’re just not good enough. It’s true that they won ten games last season, but look a little closer at their schedule, and you’ll see why. The Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, and the Arizona Cardinals. It’s true that they also beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, but considering the Steelers decimated the Dolphins in their post-season rematch, it’s hard to credit them. They couldn’t even beat the New England Patriots without Tom Brady.
In 2017, their schedule is no cake-walk. Like every year, they’ll have to face off against Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, twice. Not only do they face the AFC Champions, but they also have to travel to take on the defending NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons. They’ll also have to face off against two other playoff teams from 2016, the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s without mentioning perenially competitive teams like the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, or the Carolina Panthers. Throw in their other divisional opponents and up-and-coming teams like the San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? That’s a tough run. It’s hard to imagine them winning ten games again in 2017.
The Detroit Lions are such a funny team. One week, they look like they’re kings of the world, ready to make a post-season run. The next, they’re being trampled by the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks. Yes, in their last three games, the Detriot Lions faced off against three of the NFC’s elite, and they were thoroughly outclassed.
For the Lions, making the playoffs in 2016 may have been fool’s gold. They enjoyed a winning season and a post-season berth, but their draft position fell as their 2017 schedule grew more difficult.
With the exception of the Chicago Bears, there’s not a bad team in the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers have an explosive offense, and who knows what Minnesota could do with a quarterback and a healthy defense. Unfortunately for the Detroit Lions, the fun doesn’t stop there.
They also face the NFC South, which includes the last two NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, as well as Drew Brees‘ New Orleans Saints. That goes without mentioning the division’s darkhorse, the young Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There will be many battles for the north this year as the NFC and AFC divisions will play each other. This means that the Lions will have to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals as well.
Throw in the New York Giants and the Arizona Cardinals, and it’s gonna take a lot of heart for these cowardly Lions to make a serious run. You might be thinking that good teams can overcome tough schedules, and that’s true. But it wasn’t true for the Lions in 2016.
The Hidden Truth
Despite winning nine games in 2016, and setting the record for most fourth quarter comebacks in a season, they didn’t beat any good teams. How many of Detroit’s nine wins came against teams with at least nine wins of their own? Zero. That’s right, the Lions didn’t beat anyone that finished the season with more than eight wins.
Their most impressive win was a 20-17 win over the Washington Redskins, who ended up being 8-7-1. There’s just no hiding the truth, the Detroit Lions were fine in 2016, but they really only made it into the playoffs because the NFC was very top-heavy.
Kansas City Chiefs
This one is a bit of a stretch. The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the AFC’s best teams over the last couple of seasons, and it’s hard to imagine the struggling or missing the post-season. However, when you look at the off-season struggles ahead of them, as well as the rest of the division, they’re as good a candidate for regression as anybody.
Less Money, More Problems
As of writing this, the Kansas City Chiefs have only five million dollars in cap space. Only the Dallas Cowboys have less money to spend, and they’re about to free up a bunch of it by dumping Tony Romo. The Chiefs are absolutely strapped for cash heading into the off-season, which is a bummer because they have some big names hitting free agency.
A total of seven Chiefs are hitting free agency, but two names really stand out. Star safety Eric Berry and massive defensive tackle Dontari Poe are both set to become free agents. Most people assume the Chiefs are going to cut some dead weight, like Nick Foles and Jamaal Charles, to keep one, but not both of these players.
While Poe is talented, re-signing Eric Berry has to be Kansas City’s priority. With their pass rushers spending more time on injured reserve than the field, it’s Berry that keeps the defense together. The Chiefs will struggle to make cap space, and then they’ll likely commit most of it to Berry.
Assuming they can keep Berry, they’re still going to lose pieces. Whether they need to be traded, released, or set to hit free agency, it’s almost impossible for Kansas City to put the same team back on the field in 2017. While they’re falling behind, the rest of the AFC West is only getting better.
The Kansas City Chiefs have arguably the toughest schedule in the NFL this year. Six of their games are committed to the AFC West against three teams that are loaded. The Oakland Raiders have the makings of a perennial offensive contender, the Denver Broncos have one of the league’s best defenses, and the San Diego Chargers are brimming with talented young players like Joey Bosa.
Outside of the AFC West, it doesn’t get easier. Hopefully the team can collect some frequent flyer miles, because the Chiefs are going all over the country. They have three games in the New England area as they travel to face the New York Giants and Jets, as well as the New England Patriots. They’ll also spend significant time in Texas as they’re taking on two 2016 playoff teams in the the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys.
Even at home, it’s no cakewalk. They host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who eviscerated the Chiefs twice last season, and like they do every year, their divisional rivals are coming to town. Throw in unpredictable teams like the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles and Arrowhead becomes a battleground.
All in all, the Chiefs will play half of their games against playoff teams from last year. Even if they can keep the majority of their stars from last year on the team, making it back to the post-season won’t be easy for Andy Reid and company.