It happens every year. A handful of top-tier teams will inevitably miss the playoffs. In 2018, a staggering seven teams who made the postseason in 2017 missed it the following season. So which of the 2018 playoff squads will underperform and miss the tournament in 2019?
The Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl champions, haven’t missed the postseason since 2008, when Tom Brady missed most of the season with an injury. The team has also produced double-digit wins in every campaign since 2002. Though they seem like a lock to extend that streak, the aforementioned Brady isn’t getting any younger, Rob Gronkowski retired following 2018 and the team’s defensive coaching staff is being headed by head coach Bill Belichick after the departure of Brian Flores to Miami and a deal with Greg Schiano fell through. Though the AFC East is perennially one of the worst in football, the Bills, Dolphins and Jets all have young quarterbacks who could take the next step and challenge New England in 2019.
The Ravens surprised in 2018, using an opportunistic defense and an unorthodox rookie signal-caller in Lamar Jackson to roll to a 10-6 record and a spot in the postseason. With an offseason to build the offense around its young quarterback, the Ravens could take another step in 2019. Or they could take a step back as opposing defenses catch onto the team’s run-heavy schemes. The Steelers are also due for a bounce back and the Browns have overhauled their roster in recent years to make a push not only for the playoffs, but for a Super Bowl run.
The Texans, the AFC South division champions, and the Colts, a Wild Card squad, have squads loaded with young talent. Houston boasts a loaded offense behind Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, and a strong defensive unit led by J.J. Watt. The Colts caught fire down the stretch, winning nine of their final 10 games to advance to the postseason. The team also fields the reigning Comeback Player of the Year (Andrew Luck) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (Darius Leonard). Though both teams should be strong again in 2019, only one can win the division, leaving the other to compete for one of the two Wild Card spots.
A pair of Super Bowl favorites, the Chiefs and Chargers both won 12 games in 2018 and are stacked with talent to inflate that number in 2019. Though the field the league’s MVP in Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have had a tumultuous last few months that has seen the departure of running back Kareem Hunt and legal troubles for Tyreek Hill. Though stacked on both sides of the ball, the Chargers have posted just one double-digit win season since 2009. Again, only one squad can win the division.
In the NFC, both the Cowboys and Eagles appear to be the class of the East, with solid quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott leading the charge. Both squads field excellent defenses and have plenty of talent at the skill positions. The question in Philly, however, is if Wentz can stay healthy. An MVP candidate when on the field, Wentz has missed eight regular season games and every postseason outing in the last two seasons. Though a strong unit in 2018, the Cowboys defensive front is not a deep one after Demarcus Lawrence and could be the weak link in 2019.
The Bears improved from a 5-11 squad in 2017 to a 12-win team in 2018. With a young quarterback at the helm and a loaded defense, Chicago is in good position for another division crown. However, how much will the team miss defensive coordinator Vic Fangio? The new Broncos head coach oversaw a unit that allowed the fewest points and third-fewest yards in the NFL. Chicago also plays in a strong division that features a Vikings squad poised to bounce back and an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team.
In 2017, the NFC South placed three teams in the playoffs. In 2018, only the Saints escaped the tough division. Atlanta and Carolina look ready to challenge for a postseason berth and a Bruce Arians-led Bucs squad could surprise. New Orleans is sure to be a Super Bowl favorite, but a tough division could see them underperform a hair and miss the tournament.
The NFC representatives in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams are still led by Sean McVay, a high-powered offense and a stout defensive front. The question with Los Angeles is an easy one, however, how will Todd Gurley fare in 2019? The NFL leader in touchdowns in each of the past two season, Gurley was a non-factor in the postseason and his health is a mystery. The Seahawks returned to the postseason following a one-year hiatus but can they do it again in 2019? The teams has to replace Russell Wilson‘s top target in Doug Baldwin, who retired in the offseason. How quickly DK Metcalf assimilates into that offense could determine Seattle’s postseason fate.
If you had to plant your flag on one of these teams missing the 2019 playoffs, which one would it be? Vote in the poll and give us your reasoning in the comments.