I can't WAIT to read the post on this....http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_ylt=AjJ5qVYBKWVM60nuqyFJO95DubYF?slug=sixnflteamsunlikelytomak&prov=tsn&type=lgns
In the first part of a three-part series, Mike Florio identifies six teams that aren’t likely to return to the playoffs this season after making it in 2007:
Of the 12 teams that qualify for the playoffs each year, roughly six of them don’t make it back the following season. Last year, for example, the Ravens, Chiefs, Jets, Bears, Saints and Eagles didn’t get back to the postseason after making it in 2006. (Taking their places were the Steelers, Jaguars, Titans, Redskins, Packers and Buccaneers.)
So the challenge for those of us who pretend we know more about how a given NFL season will turn out than the average fan is to try to identify the half-dozen teams from the 2007 postseason field that won’t return, and the half-dozen teams that will replace them.
And because the challenge for those of us who have to come up with two columns per week as part of a side gig with SportingNews.com includes doing so during the slow weeks of the NFL calendar, this idea has the makings of a trilogy.
In the first installment, I’ll try to nail down the six playoff teams that won’t get back to the postseason. Later in the week, I’ll predict (guess) six that won’t take their places. Finally, I’ll take a stab at identifying the six that will.
Without further ado, my six picks not to return to the playoffs.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers The Steelers of the free-agency era have developed a trend of exceeding low expectations and failing to meet high ones. In 2006, the Super Bowl champs didn’t make it back to play in January. A year ago, with no one expecting much from a team breaking in only its third head coach in nearly 40 years, the Steelers won the division.
This year, expectations are high again—especially with the Bengals imploding, the Ravens rebuilding, and the Browns generally regarded as overrated. In other words, the stage is set for the Steelers to fail.
If they do, it will happen because of an offensive line that got much worse after the departure of left guard Alan Faneca. Although the team used its first two draft picks on high-profile skill-position players (Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed), these rookies won’t make much of an impact with no one to block for them. The defensive line received no real upgrade despite the team’s desire to do so, and the linebackers and defensive backs are getting older but not necessarily better.
In all, six of 11 starters on defense will be 30 or older by the end of September. That’s not a good sign for a team that will need strong performances from the traditional strength of the franchise to prop up an offense that might not score points in bunches.
2. Tennessee Titans The Titans are the most likely ‘07 playoff team not to get back to the postseason. They snuck in last year because of, in part, a decision by Colts coach Tony Dungy not to contest to the wire a Week 17 game against the Titans that allowed them to secure a berth. And Tennessee has not done much to improve, despite having plenty of money to spend in free agency.
Quarterback Vince Young regressed just enough in his second season to get offensive coordinator Norm Chow fired. The move drew instant comparisons to the previous situation with Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, whose flaws as a passer were masked some by the franchise’s efforts to identify a continual string of scapegoats.
Although Mike Heimerdinger brings a new offense to Tennessee, Young hasn’t gotten much help on the field. At least having Vick’s former favorite target, Alge Crumpler, around will be helpful, especially because the receiving corps is mediocre and no effort was made to improve it.
In an ultra-competitive AFC South, with a high-quality Colts squad, an ascending Jaguars franchise and an improving Texans team, one of the four teams has to land in the basement.
And that team very well could be the Titans.
3. Washington Redskins The Redskins rallied late in ‘07, coming together as a cohesive unit after the tragic death of safety Sean Taylor. They unexpectedly qualified for the playoffs, sneaking in as the sixth seed and nearly shocking the Seahawks in the wild-card round.
But then came the unexpected retirement of coach Joe Gibbs, followed by the curious decision to hire Seattle quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn as the offensive coordinator, and then to promote him to head coach. Zorn very well might become a great head coach, but it’s a tall order to expect him to navigate a competitive NFC East and get back to the postseason.
The Redskins would have been wise to give the gig to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the Jaguars. In a league where continuity means more than ever before, making the next coach a guy with whom the players were familiar would have been the best way to get a roster that hasn’t seen much offseason overhaul (for a change) back into the playoffs.
4. Green Bay Packers The departure of quarterback Brett Favre creates a huge void at the most important position on the field. If the Packers truly believed Aaron Rodgers will be the answer, they wouldn’t have drafted Brian Brohm. Or Matt Flynn. Or both of them.
Although the Packers have a solid young team that showed real improvement as the ‘07 season unfolded, the retirement of Favre and the memories of a deflating overtime loss in the NFC title game will make it hard for Green Bay to separate from the pack in ‘08. That will create an opening for a team such as the Vikings to swipe the division title.
5. Seattle Seahawks With coach Mike Holmgren entering his final year on the sideline and the team’s next head coach (Jim Mora) already working in the building, there’s a strange vibe coming out of Seattle. Shaun Alexander, the league MVP in 2005, is long gone, and the hole in the left side of the line that was created by the departure of Steve Hutchinson in 2006 is still there.
The rest of the team seems stagnant, in a division with three other squads that could be getting better. If only one of them delivers, the Seahawks will lose their hold on the NFC West.
6. New York Giants Yeah, this is the shocker. How could the team that won the Super Bowl not make the playoffs?
Well, the Giants previously won the Super Bowl in 1986 and in 1990. In both instances, they didn’t qualify for the playoffs the next season.
Sure, the organization has changed dramatically in the 17 years since that last happened. But the point is, it’s not unprecedented for a team to win it all, and then to struggle the next time around.
The Giants got hot at the right time and stayed hot all the way through the Super Bowl. That’s a far cry from starting over with no wins and no losses—especially when they’ll have a huge bull’s-eye on their backs come September.
The pressure will be high, and the potential for dysfunction is still present. If the Giants stumble, and the media swarms and guys such as Michael Strahan, Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Burress begin to pop off, and Eli pulls his Manning-sized head back into its shell, the outcome in ‘08 could be far different from what it was in ‘07.