Poll: Which 2017 First Place Team Is Likeliest To Miss Playoffs In 2018?

In 2017, four first-place teams from the previous season did not earn postseason berths. Those clubs — the Texans, Cowboys, Packers, and Seahawks — all missed the playoffs for different reasons. Injuries, poor luck, off-field issues, and plain old regression to the mean all contributed in certain instances, and 2018 doesn’t figure to be any different for the 2017 first-place teams.

We’ve already asked PFR readers which 2017 last place team is likeliest to make the postseason in 2018 (the 49ers were the top choice, with the Texans following closely behind). Today, we’ll flip that question: which 2017 first place club is going to miss the playoffs during the upcoming campaign?

Let’s take an overview of the teams:

New England Patriots

With Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in tow, the Patriots have won at least 12 games for eight consecutive seasons, and earned playoff berths in 14 of the past 15 years. Despite some roster turnover, that streak doesn’t figure to end in 2018. Not only is the AFC weak overall, but the AFC East in particular isn’t going to offer much competition for New England. New faces such as running back Sony Michel, offensive tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown, defensive lineman Danny Shelton and Adrian Clayborn, and cornerback Jason McCourty should help keep the Patriots’ postseason streak alive.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are rolling it back, as the club won’t have many changes on either offense or defense. The only new factor on the offensive side of the ball figures to be rookie wideout James Washington, who will replace Martavis Bryant as Pittsburgh’s deep threat. On defense, linebacker Jon Bostic takes over for the injured Ryan Shazier, while Morgan Burnett and Terrell Edmunds will form an all-new safety tandem. Competition from within the AFC North might be improved, especially if the Browns don’t play like a winless team again in 2018.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Over the course of the 2017 season, the Jaguars posted the second-highest DVOA variance of any NFL club, meaning their performance wasn’t consistent from week-to-week. Now that they’ve brought back quarterback Blake Bortles, that doesn’t figure to change. In a passing league, Jacksonville will commit to winning via the run game and defensive dominance, and those two areas of the game aren’t nearly as correlated to win as passing offense.

Kansas City Chiefs

For what it’s worth, the Chiefs finished with the worst DVOA of any first-place team in 2017, and DVOA — Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric — is better at predicting future records than a team’s actual win-loss record. Kansas City is now deploying a new quarterback in 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes, and as Warren Sharp detailed on Thursday, the Chiefs and Mahomes will need to limit their turnovers in order to have success in 2018. Everyone’s favorite sleeper — the Chargers — also reside in the AFC West, while Denver and Oakland also have legitimate postseason hopes.

Philadelphia Eagles

Unlike a postmortem, which helps explain why things happened after the fact, a premortem examines potential crises before they actually occur. Let’s take a premortem approach to a hypothetically-flawed 2018 Eagles roster: Carson Wentz doesn’t recover quickly from his ACL tear and his replacement, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, looks more like the Rams version of himself. Philadelphia’s defensive line ages quickly and can’t match its 2017 dominance, and the Eagles’ defensive back depth chart — which is relying on young players like Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas — can’t hold up. And head coach Doug Pederson‘s aggressiveness, which led him to go for it on fourth downs a league-leading 29 times in 2017, backfires.

Minnesota Vikings

Two words: Aaron Rodgers. Sure, the Vikings were among the most complete teams in the league last season, and have since added both Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson to an already-stacked roster. But the return of Rodgers from injury surely strikes fear in the hearts of Minnesota fans, and we haven’t even mentioned the improvements made by the NFC North’s other two clubs, the Bears and Lions.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints undoubtedly have a lot going for them in 2018: a future Hall of Famer in quarterback Drew Brees, dynamic rushing and receiving weapons, and an up-and-coming defense that will add veterans Kurt Coleman and Demario Davis in addition to rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport. The real problem for New Orleans is the strength of the NFC South. Both the Falcons and Panthers made the playoffs in 2017 and figure to be in contention again, so there’s always a chance the Saints slip out of the postseason picture due to their intra-division competition.

Los Angeles Rams

For all the offseason hype regarding the Rams, there are still quite a few questions about the club’s roster construction? Will LA’s offensive line — fronted by aging veterans Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan — hold up? How long will All-World defender Aaron Donald continue his holdout? Can Brandin Cooks improve upon Sammy Watkins‘ performance as the Rams’ X receiver? And who exactly will be rushing the passer from outside linebacker in Wade Phillips‘ 3-4 scheme?

So, what do you think? Which 2017 first place team is likeliest to miss the playoffs in 2018? Vote below!

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30 comments on “Poll: Which 2017 First Place Team Is Likeliest To Miss Playoffs In 2018?

    • crosseyedlemon

      Andy Reid generally keeps his QBs under a tight reign so Mahomes won’t be asked to do any more than Smith did. The defense is going to be the bigger problem.

    • crosseyedlemon

      The morale of the players in Pittsburgh has to be at rock bottom after watching how management dealt with future Hall of Famer James Harrison and then Bell. I think the Ravens had a terrific draft and if they have a turnover ratio like last season (best in league) they will move past the Steelers.

      • grizzled sports vet

        There is no morale issue with the Steelers. Bothe sides know it’s a business, leaguewide. I’m not saying Pittsburgh has a Super Bowl roster but the other divisional teams haven’t done enough to catch up yet.

        Joe Flacco hasn’t had a good season since he signed his big contract (which also hurt Baltimore because they couldn’t sign other key personnel). Maybe if they favor Lamar Jackson at some point he can take the league by storm, as some rookie QB’s do, but Flacco doesn’t seem to be the answer.

        Cincinnati isn’t a terrible team but can’t get out of their own way. They can play with anybody on a given day but somehow end up playing to the level of their competition. And they also seem to get blown out once a season like they didn’t practice the week before.

        I think Cleveland will be much better this year, but they’re still young. Time will tell, but unless they didn’t draft well, they should be back in the playoffs sooner than later.

        With all that said, the Steelers will still be in the playoffs again by default.

      • the reaper

        Harrison quit on them. Bell is a head case. The ravens still start Joe Flacco so……..

        • crosseyedlemon

          The only head case in Pittsburgh is the owner who thinks you can treat your long serving veterans and very productive players like garbage and not suffer any consequences.

    • mgrap84

      I think the Steelers still win it. Browns are not winning the division nor the Bengals. Ravens are their only threat and while we definitely upgraded the WR core and still have an awesome defense, Flacco is still at QB. He is always all over the place and can never seem to play a solid 4 quarters. I know they have Lamar but i would not rush him out there. Steelers still have a solid group of weapons on offense and the defense is still pretty solid.

    • Mikel Grady

      Vikings Defense is so talented cousins doesn’t have to be anything but average

    • cjmask

      So do Case Keenum and Sam Bradford, yet still made the post season last year with those 2 as QB.

        • cka2nd

          Officially, Bradford was 2-0, but the reality is that he had to leave the game against Chicago after going 5 of 11 for 36 yards and taking four sacks. Keenum came in and won the game. The NFL needs some kind of a system whereby wins are not automatically credited to the starting QB.

    • Hannibal8us

      Cousins is definitely an upgrade over Keenum and Bradford even with Case playing out of his mind most of the season.

      • strosguy

        Case really wasn’t and this is coming from a Texans fan….. he had no O line here and still posted above average numbers

    • afsooner02

      Only made the playoffs cause ARod got hurt. Assuming he doesn’t go down again, pack will win the Norris.

      • dugdog83

        No way, Vikings are gonna win the super bowl. – a lions fan.

        Thats painful to say.

        • crosseyedlemon

          Folks in Minnesota are certain to sleep much better now, knowing they have an endorsement from a Lions fan. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Bear and Packer fans are not engaged in a similar fantasy.

          • cka2nd

            Outside of the OL, the Vikings have the best roster in the division. If the OL plays well enough, they’ll make the playoffs and contend for the Super Bowl. If not, Rick Speilman will keep his job, but fans will be baying for his head.

      • mgrap84

        Only won because Rodgers was hurt? I think the defense had a big role in getting them there lol

  1. Hannibal8us

    Chiefs any time you have an unproven QB behind center your playoff chances shrink. I also think the Saints could miss the playoffs, the Panthers are definitely a big threat and maybe they miss the wild card. The Steelers really don’t have anyone who’s going to challenge them in their division even though I think they’re not the strongest teams.

  2. acarneglia

    Saints. Carolina and Atlanta are serious threats and Tampa could screw around and win.

  3. Bearmeat

    Chiefs are the most likely to regress. The Saints are at risk too because the NFC is loaded at the top, so counting on a wild card is risky and the NFCS always has a lot of parity.

    I think the Packers win the NFCN, but the Vikings will probably still get in as a wild card. The Bears aren’t ready to compete yet and the Lions are just not a good team, so the NFCN will provide more easy wins than the NFCS.

  4. crosseyedlemon

    I assume we will soon be presented with a poll asking which of the last place division teams will improve the most.

    • cka2nd

      The Browns by seven-nine wins.

      The Jets by six wins, worst to first, winning the division title behind Teddy Bridgewater.

      The Broncos and Giants by five wins.

      The 49ers by four.

  5. mgrap84

    Im gonna go with Chiefs. I think Mahomes is going to be good but i don’t think it will be right away. If Oakland can stay healthy i think they win it this year maybe San Diego. KC has a ton of weapons but they will only go as far as Mahomes takes them.

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