Four NFL Teams in Playoff Contention After Missing out Last Season

By Luke Ervin
Jun. 28, 2020

Each NFL season comes with a new set of twists and turns. Some teams improve from the last season, some get worse, and some stay the same. In this article, I'll tell you four teams that will be in playoff contention after missing the playoffs in 2019.

Cardinals

The Cardinals have been my sleeper team in the NFC for months now. I expect Kyler Murray to take a second-year leap similar to what we saw from Lamar Jackson. Adding DeAndre Hopkins to the mix makes things even more interesting. The offense might have some issues with the offensive line, but the skill positions are top-notch. The Cardinals should be a top ten offense this year.

The big issue for the Cardinals is the defense. The Cardinals allowed 27.6 points per game; which was the fifth-most points allowed in the NFL. More specifically a result of their defensive struggles was their secondary. The Cardinals allowed 281.9 passing yards per game; only the Lions were worse in coverage. Some of the young guys in the secondary will need to step up. A big part of that is this year's eighth overall pick, Isaiah Simmons. Simmons will be everywhere on defense. Budda Baker and Byron Murphy are other young players that need to step up in the secondary.

The NFC is loaded so making the playoffs might be difficult, but remaining in contention is a step in the right direction. After finishing 5-10-1 last season, I see the Cardinals somewhere around eight to nine wins. A nine-win season still may not be enough to reach the playoffs in the NFC but it would be a great stepping stone for a young Cardinals football team.

Broncos

My sleeper team in the AFC is the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are the opposite of the Cardinals. The offense only scored 282 points last season; 28th in the NFL. There's a lot of reasons to believe the offense will be much improved. It all starts at the quarterback position with Drew Lock. Lock started five games last season and went 4-1. He threw for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. There's a lot to like about Lock and his ability to lead a successful football team.

Beyond that, the Broncos made a number of offseason moves to improve on offense. The Broncos signed guard Graham Glasgow and running back Melvin Gordon. In the draft, the Broncos selected wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, along with center Lloyd Cushenberry and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. The weapons are there for Lock and the Broncos to succeed.

By most statistical measures the Broncos were a top twelve defensive team in the NFL a season ago. Von Miller is the key to the unit. An overlooked move this offseason came when the Broncos traded for Jurrell Casey. Casey is a productive interior defensive linemen that came cheap. He'll be a nice addition to a stellar defensive line. The corners are the weak link on the Broncos defense. A.J. Bouye might help that out. I expect the defense to hover around the top ten in the league once again this season.

Because of the additions on offense and the NFL adding an additional playoff team in each conference, the Broncos have a real shot to make the playoffs. The Broncos will likely be competing with the Texans, Patriots, Chargers, and Browns for that seventh and final playoff spot.

Colts

The Colts finished 7-9 last season with their star quarterback retiring in the preseason. That's pretty incredible when you truly think about it. The Colts took steps to remedy the quarterback situation when they signed Philip Rivers this offseason. Before the Rivers signing, aside from the quarterback position, the Colts were a roster ready to win now. Now with a quarterback, the time is now for the Colts. The Colts have a great offensive line, good running backs which includes second-round draft pick, Jonathan Taylor, and solid wide receivers. The one position the Colts are a bit weak at is tight end. Eric Ebron took off for Pittsburg in free agency. It would be a good idea for the Colts to add another big weapon for Rivers to target in the middle of the field.

On defense, the Colts were a middle of the road unit last season. It will help that the Colts traded for star defensive tackle, DeForest Buckner. Buckner had 7.5 sacks in 2019. The defense was top 20 last season, but I think they'll be around top 15 this season. It's not a huge jump, but with the improved offensive play the Colts won't need to rely on the defense.

The AFC South will be tough to win this season with the Colts, Titans, and Texans all having realistic shots to finish first. With that being, the Colts have the most complete roster when compared to the Titans and Texans. I predict around 10 wins for the Colts this season.

Steelers

Hopefully, nobody forgot about the Pittsburg Steelers. The Steelers missed the playoffs last season after going 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger. The offense was the main reason the Steelers missed out on a playoff birth. Devin Hodges and Mason Rudolph didn't cut it at the quarterback position. The Steelers finished 27th in points scored. Having Roethlisberger back will be a tremendous help. The other big move the Steelers made was signing Eric Ebron. Ebron will excel in the Steelers system.

Defensively, the Steelers were top five in the NFL. The trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick was well worth it. The secondary in general was one of the best in the NFL. The Steelers only allowed 194.6 passing yards per game; third-best in the NFL. Both Joe Haden and Steven Nelson are extremely underrated corners. It's not just the secondary though, the defensive front is also one of the best in the NFL. The Steelers have Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt on the inside, while T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree dominate the edge. Watt had 14.5 sacks last season, while Dupree had 11.5. The Steelers are scary on defense at every level.

The Steelers may not win the division with Baltimore playing at such a high level, but a top wild card spot is likely. All the Steelers need is some type of offensive production. I have the Steelers winning between 10 to 12 games.

How many of these four teams do you think makes the playoffs?