As the Wild Card games kick off, we will look back at those teams from last years playoffs and why they missed the playoffs.
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE:
1. New England Patriots(13-3)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers(13-3)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars(10-6)
4. Kansas City Chiefs(10-6)
5. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
6. Buffalo Bills(9-7)
PREVIOUS AFC TEAMS WHO MISSED PLAYOFFS THIS SEASON:
Houston Texans (4-12) REPLACED BY JAGUARS
Oakland Raiders (6-10) REPLACED BY TITANS
Miami Dolphins (6-10) REPLACED BY BILLS
For these three teams, it comes down to the health of their quarterbacks and how far they can take them.
They were able to make playoffs last season behind their defense, but this year it came down to the play of their quarterbacks. They traded Brock Osweiler to the Browns and drafted former Heisman and National Champions quarterback, Deshaun Watson. They started their season with Tom Savage, but he continued to struggle and Watson got the start. That was until he got injured and missed the rest of the season. Savage also got injured and the Texans had to rely on T.J. Yates to keep them in the game, but once Watson went out the offensive production dropped sufficiently and the Texans finished last in their division.
They had a strong start last season and made a Wild Card appearance. Unfortunately, quarterback Derek Carr got hurt and they didn’t get past the Wildcard round. This season, they brought back Marshawn Lynch from retirement in hopes to take pressure off of Carr until he eventually got banged up again. He was able to play through it but wasn’t on the same page with his receivers (Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper) who were also in and out of games due to injuries and even suspensions.
Their longtime starting quarterback went out with a season-ending injury before the season even started and they brought former Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler, out of retirement. Even though, Matt Moore was already there and had some knowledge of the offensive scheme that was run. They traded their starting running back, Jay Ajayi, for essentially nothing. And Cutler was in and out of the lineup and the offense was inconsistent.
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE:
1. Philadelphia Eagles(13-3)
2. Minnesota Vikings(13-3)
3. Los Angeles Rams(11-5)
4. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
5. Carolina Panthers(11-5)
6. Atlanta Falcons(10-6)
PREVIOUS NFC TEAMS WHO MISSED PLAYOFFS THIS SEASON:
Dallas Cowboys (9-7) REPLACED BY EAGLES
Green Bay Packers (7-9) REPLACED BY VIKINGS
Seattle Seahawks (9-7) REPLACED BY RAMS
New York Giants (3-13) REPLACED BY SAINTS
Detroit Lions (9-7) REPLACED BY PANTHERS
Each of these teams was affected by different injuries at different positions and key players.
It was injuries to the offensive line and defensive linebackers that were key to the Cowboys missing out on the playoffs. Left tackle Tyron Smith missed several pivotal games that resulted in Dak Prescott on his back more times than usual. Prescott was sacked 6 times by Falcons’ Adrian Clayborn in their game. Cowboys also played several games without their defensive captain, linebacker Sean Lee. Let’s not forget that superstar running back, Ezekiel Elliot, also served his suspension during the time that Smith was out and Alfred Morris took over as the primary back, but he was no Elliot. Without any protection or a run game, Prescott was forced to throw the ball more than he was used to and it wasn’t good for him or receivers Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley, who both saw a decrease in their performances this season.
GREEN BAY PACKERS:
They are very familiar with playing games with key players out, but the one player they couldn’t afford to lose for the season was the quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. All season and every season the Packers have key receivers like Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb missing games. Let’s not forget that they also have a receiver at running back in Ty Montgomery. But none of that ever matters when you have Rodgers as your quarterback. Unfortunately, in a game against the Minnesota Vikings, Rodgers took a cheap shot to his throwing shoulder and held him out for the rest of the season. He tried to make a comeback in week 15, but it was clear he wasn’t ready. The Packers miss the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
The last team eliminated from the playoff hunt. They were so close to being able t make the playoffs for the sixth straight season, but the defensive just wasn’t healthy enough to hold opponents down enough for Russell Wilson to have heroic comebacks. The defense that was once referred to as the “Legion of Boom” wasn’t on the field enough together. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were in and out of games and it cost them several losses. Division rival, Los Angeles Rams, had their biggest offensive performance amongst the Seahawks defense which was once the best in the league.
NEW YORK GIANTS:
They signed veteran receiver Brandon Marshall in the offseason to add some leadership to a young receiving core, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. They struggled early starting out 0-5 and losing a different player each week. Unfortunately, the Giants played most of their games without both Beckham and Marshall who had season-ending injuries and the devastating season went on without them. At one point, they benched quarterback Eli Manning and the head coach has gotten fired.
Though they didn’t deal with much injuries like the rest of the teams, they missed the playoffs and it’s because of the inexperience on the field. Yes, Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback and throws for 4000+ yards every season, but the issues are on the defensive side. Stafford isn’t the highest paid quarterback in the league just to be left out of the playoffs. He has two receivers (Golden Tate and Marvin Jones) over 1000 yards receiving and a running game that’s not even a factor, but the defense can’t hold onto the lead that Stafford gives them. That’s why he has the most comebacks in the 4th quarter or overtime. Hopefully, with the right personnel change, Stafford and the Lions could be better than a 9-7 team every year.
But until then, we’ll have to enjoy the games we have this season and hope that those teams who suffered injuries can come back stronger and compete again next year.
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