The NFL is all about winning, but it’s not a meritocracy. Remember when the Carolina Panthers made the 2014 postseason with a losing record? That was pretty amusing for some fans, but not to anyone cheering for the Bills, Texans, Chiefs, Chargers, or Eagles – all teams with winning records who ended up on the outside looking in.
The fact is, having a good season doesn’t guarantee a team a playoff berth. Teams like last year’s 10-6 Philadelphia Eagles can end up locked out of the playoffs because of tough divisions or conferences. It happens to quality squads every single year.
So which teams are likely to be frustrated this year? Here are our guesses.
The Bengals finished third in the brutal AFC North last year, and they headed to the playoffs with a Wild Card. We think they’ll finish third again, and we think they’ll have a winning record again, but that last part of their playoff equation is looking pretty unlikely.
With an improved Bills team in the AFC East and the solid Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, it’s going to be near-impossible for the AFC North to take both Wild Cards again this year. In fact, they might not get any – which would leave either the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens on the outside, too. We’re not ready to say anything that extreme yet, but we are ready to write off the Bengals.
The Detroit Lions lost Ndamukong Suh this offseason, which will make them a bit weaker this season than last. That tiny slip is all it takes to lose a Wild Card berth in the NFC, which remains a competitive conference despite how putrid the NFC South has become.
The Philadelphia Eagles are a whole new team this year, and if this experiment works, Philly could trade places with Detroit, leaving the Lions sitting outside of the playoff picture with a useless winning record.
Houston’s squad is getting Arian Foster back at some point, allegedly. That won’t be enough for them to take the division from Indianapolis, but the Texans should have fairly little trouble beating up on the rest of their division.
They’re a good team, but they’re not going to be quite good enough in a tough AFC. You can expect a winning record, you can expect 9 or so wins, but you can’t expect this team to make the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Broncos are getting older, San Diego is a confused team that could be moving to LA, and the AFC North seems destined to lose one of the two Wild Card spots they snatched up last year. All of that is good news for Kansas City, but we think they’ll come up a little bit short.
The Bills seem like a strong candidate to grab the Wild Card spot that the AFC North drops, and we think the Ravens or Steelers will hold tight to the other one. The Broncos aren’t quite ready to cede the division, so this looks like it will be another frustrating year in Kansas City.
We bet they wish they were in the NFC South.