February 13, 2017
By Matt Magill & Justin Lasher
2017 NFL Playoffs, Who’s in, Who’s out
It’s never too early to put on our Miss Cleo hat and forecast next year’s NFL season. Below, you’ll see this year’s playoff bracket followed by our take as to who could repeat in that format, and who may be left out in the January cold next year. The NFL prides itself on parity and there will undoubtedly be one or two teams that won’t repeat as playoff teams.
- New England
- Kansas City
Who’s in, who’s out next year:
New England should be a safe bet to return to the playoffs yet again, and I can see Pittsburgh getting back as well, at least as a wildcard team if nothing else. Here’s the case for each other team:
Kansas City: The Chiefs played well down the stretch this season, but if they let Eric Berry and/or Dontari Poe walk in the offseason, they will have a massive defensive hole to fill. They lucked into the #2 slot this year, so it’s no guarantee they repeat as AFC West champs. Possible usurper: Denver
Houston: The Texans played with house money this year and nearly got bit by the Titans. I don’t trust Osweiller, and I’m sure the Texans don’t either. Possible usurper: Tennessee
Oakland: With Derek Carr and Khalil Mack set to get a big payday this offseason, you never know what can happen. Plus, the Chargers are a lot better than they played this year and could surprise some people in their first year in Los Angeles if Philip Rivers is on-board. Possible usurper: LA Chargers
Miami: There are so many teams here that could take a step forward. Miami played great in the second half of the season, but you can’t expect a career year out of Jay Ajayi every year. They should be in the mix for this spot next year, but could easily lose out on a tiebreaker. Possible usurper: Baltimore
New England: I agree with Matt, that the Patriots should not have any problem returning to the playoffs to complete for yet another championship.
Kansas City: The Chiefs took advantage of a late season surge, coupled with a Derek Carr injury for Oakland, to steal the #2 seed in the AFC from the Raiders this year. I expect Oakland to win the AFC West next year with a healthy Carr, and another year under Jack Del Rio. John Elway will do everything he can to fix the offense in Denver, and replace Kansas City in the 2017-2018 AFC Playoffs. Replaced by: Denver Broncos
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are the 2nd most consistent team in the AFC, outside of the New England. They time and time again find themselves back in the playoffs. I believe that as long as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green remain healthy, that the Bengals will dethrone the Steelers as AFC North champions, however the Steelers still get in with the second wild card spot.
Houston: The Texans desperately need an upgrade at quarterback to continue to complete in the AFC South. Their defense will continue to lead them, but I believe Indianapolis and Tennessee will take greater steps forward then Houston, and give Houston a 3rd place finish in the division. Replaced by: Tennessee Titans
Oakland: The Raiders will get a health Derek Carr back, and will have a chip on their shoulder next season, as they believe they could have made a run this year to the Super Bowl. They continue to improve and become the team to beat in the AFC West and win the division next season.
Miami: I believe Miami took advantage of some injuries this past season and snuck in the playoffs. I don’t think they can keep the consistency required to return to the playoffs next year. Replaced by: Cincinnati Bengals
- Green Bay
- NY Giants
Who’s in, who’s out next year:
The NFC is wide open, primarily because the conference is so loaded with talent. While good young teams like the Cowboys and Falcons should be back, you never know. Seattle and Green Bay are playoff fixtures every year, but that can change in the snap of a ligament. Here’s who could dethrone who.
Dallas: There hasn’t been a back to back NFC East champ in years. If the Dallas rookies don’t take that next step (and yes, despite the accolades there is room for improvement) or if the defense doesn’t drastically improve its talent level, this could be a middle of the pack team next year. Washington, who just missed the playoffs this year could win the East, or the Giants, or Philly, hell, like every year this division is wide open. Possible usurper: Washington
Atlanta: The Falcons were one poorly played half of football away from winning it all this year, but that doesn’t guarantee their ticket is punched for next year, especially in a loaded NFC South. Tampa is only going to get better, New Orleans is always a threat with Brees at quarterback and Carolina is ever present. Possible usurper: Carolina
Seattle: Seattle is the most likely to return to the playoffs, but that has more to do with their division than how they played. If Arizona can put together another run, and Seattle doesn’t stop coasting through the regular season, their streak of playoff appearances could be at an end. Possible usurper: Arizona
Green Bay: Considering the fact that it took a miracle run to get where they did this year, Green Bay could easily be out of it next year. The Lions shouldn’t get too much worse next year as they seem to have found a good formula for success, the Vikings…who knows about the Vikings, and the Bears are a couple years away. If Minnesota can make some noise in free agency on their offensive line, they could be right back in the thick of things next year. Possible usurper: Minnesota
NY Giants: Another year older for Eli Manning may not be a good thing for Big Blue. Unless they can find a run game (Adrian Peterson?), Eli could be in trouble as father time catches up with him. Their defense will keep them in every game, but they may not be able to score enough to keep up. Possible usurper: Tampa Bay
Detroit: The Lions could win the North, or they could fall out of the playoffs completely, especially considering the fact that they backed into them this year. There are so many other decent teams in the NFC that they will have to be on point to survive. Possible usurper: Philadelphia
Dallas: The only thing I can see ruining Dallas from building on what they did this season, is Jerry Jones. If Jones keeps Tony Romo and declares him the starter, I don’t see Dallas repeating as NFC East champs, let alone making the playoffs. I think Jones will be smart though, and cut ties with Romo, therefore allowing the Cowboys to be led by Prescott and Elliott and winning the East yet again.
Atlanta: I think the Falcons losing Kyle Shanahan will be a bigger blow than most think and I believe the offense returns to mediocrity and the Falcons are one NFC team to miss the playoffs in 2017-2018 after going to the Super Bowl this season. Replaced by New Orleans
Seattle: We saw the Seattle offense be very inconsistent this year, and their defense take steps backwards from the dominance we had grown to expect and appreciate. I believe the backsliding will continue next season and Arizona will supplant the Seahawks as NFC West Champions. Replaced by Arizona
Green Bay: I said it all year that I didn’t like the mojo coming out of Packer land. I believe we see everything come to a climax next year and that will eventually cost Mike McCarthy his job. Detroit will continue to make forward strides and will replace the Packers as NFC North champs. Replaced by Tampa Bay
New York Giants: We now know that the Giants will be without Victor Cruz next year (cut today) and Eli will be another year older. The Giants will be a lot like this year’s Denver Broncos, dependent upon their defense. I can’t see them being good enough to win a wild card spot in a talented NFC. Replaced by Washington
Detroit: Matthew Stafford will have another terrific year as the Lions continue to shine without Calvin Johnson. As I mentioned above, they will win the division next year and I believe they will contend for the #2 seed in the NFC.
You’ve now heard from us. We want to know what you think? Are either one of us way off base? Be sure to let us know in the comments or drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook.