The NFL Playoffs are some of the most exciting in all sports. The single-game eliminations, big-time moments, and numerous big storylines make each game incredibly important and fun to watch. A reoccurring theme with the NFL playoffs each year is the amount of turnover with which teams have made it to the postseason. From the 2013-2018 playoffs, only one team has gone to each of the playoffs. That team is the New England Patriots. The Chiefs come in at second with 5/6 appearances in that span. The 2014 NFL Playoffs saw a turnover of 5 new post-season teams from the previous playoffs. The 2015 playoffs had 4 new teams. 2016 saw 6 new playoff squads, 8 in 2017, and a whopping 9 in 2018. In the last 6 years, the average amount of new playoff teams we’ve seen each year is a pretty impressive 6.
With these facts in mind, it’s safe to say we’re going to see a handful of new playoff teams in 2019; and if the trend of the last two years means anything, we could be seeing half of last years playoff picture out of it this season. Now, let’s take a deep dive into what teams could be falling out of the playoff race this season and who will replace them in pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy.
Let’s start off with who our 2018 AFC Playoffs teams were:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
- Houston Texans
- Baltimore Ravens
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Indianapolis Colts
The 2018 NFC Playoffs saw these teams:
- New Orleans Saints
- Los Angeles Rams
- Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowboys
- Seattle Seahawks
- Philadelphia Eagles
The Predicted 2019 AFC Playoff teams:
- Los Angeles Chargers
- New England Patriots
- Pittsburg Steelers
- Tennessee Titans
- Clevland Browns
- Denver Broncos
And finally, the predicted 2019 NFC Playoff teams:
- Green Bay Packers
- Atlanta Falcons
- Los Angeles Rams
- Washington Redskins
- New Orleans Saints
- Philadelphia Eagles
With these team changes, these are the numbers:
New AFC teams: 4
New NFC teams: 3
Total: 7 new playoff teams in the 2019 season.
What happened to AFC teams that missed out:
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs cruised to a first-round bye last year by riding the momentum of MVP Patrick Mahomes who launched 50 TDs and 5,000 Yards in his first year as a starter. That type of production is something that historically can’t be maintained and even if Mahomes’ numbers are still sturdy, they likely won’t be at that elite level. On top of that, the run game won’t be as strong as it was when they had Hill at the beginning half of last season. Defensively, they may move up slightly, but with a likely dropoff in offensive production and an increased level of competition; a 7-9 Chiefs team seems plausible in 2019.
Houston Texans: The Texans may end up finishing 2019 at a .500 record of 8-8, but that won’t be enough to break into the AFC playoff contention in this scenario. Watson has posted sturdy numbers but has yet to truly become a game changer for the Texans. Defensively, the Texans look to remain stout, but there simply isn’t enough in the 2nd and 3rd levels of that defense to stop dynamic offenses (like we saw last year with the Texans). Hopkins is absolutely the best WR in the NFL, but the line is still suspect and the run game lackluster.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens managed a latter half of the year playoff run with an explosive and dynamic run game and an elite defense. During the offseason, they lost some of that pop on defense. Their backfield looks to have been bolstered with the addition of Mark Ingram, but NFL defenses have likely adjusted to Lamar Jackson’s game and we may see some more instances of the Ravens wildcard struggles this year. They did add to WR with a playmaker in the draft, but right now it’s not enough. 7-9 with some more tape on Jackson and a stronger division.
Indianapolis Colts: It would be easy to assume we’ll see the Colts back into the playoffs here, but it doesn’t seem realistic. They managed a hot run into the post-season with practically no real eye-popping names other than Andrew Luck and TY Hilton. Darius Leonard did become a star last season, but that level of production is likely a one-year thing until we can see more from the now 2nd-year defender. The Colts are still thin and shaky on paper and we see no real confidence they can catch fire and get back to the postseason this year, which is why they’re set at an underwhelming and shocking 6-10 record.
What happened to NFC teams that missed out:
Chicago Bears: The level of dominance we saw from the Bears’ defense last season is what years of great personnel moves had built up to. This is why last years performance looks more like a peak than something sustainable. Now they’re still very much a Top 5-10 defense on paper, but a falloff is looming, and with Trubisky not showing anything too exciting in year two, an 8-8 record looms over Chicago with Minnesota and Green Bay back on top with double-digit wins.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys benefited from a majorly injured Redskins roster and another pretty banged up team in Philadelphia to claim the NFC East in 2018 after an average start. Their defense became one to be reckoned with towards the latter half of the season, and the offensive play was lead by Elliot to be just enough. With Dak Prescott appearing to max out as a low-end production game manager that takes too many sacks, a good run game, and good defense may not be enough to compete for the playoffs in a division with two teams who looked very good when healthy last year. The QB who leaves too much to be desired and a tough schedule leaves Dallas at 9-7.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson continues to prove he’s among the best in the game at the QB position by playing out of his mind once again to drag a roster with some noticeable holes all the way to the playoffs. Their ground game was also among the top in the NFL last year but despite this, the Seahawks look to have a 7-9 season in their future. The loss of Chancellor, Baldwin, Thomas, Sherman, Lynch, Bennett, and more will finally take a real toll on Seattle. Although they succeeded without a few of those aforementioned guys last year, now they have even less remaining pieces from that Super Bowl squad.
Welcome to the 2019 AFC Playoffs:
Pittsburg Steelers: The Steelers narrowly missed the playoffs last year in a rather heartbreaking way, yet there’s no reason to believe that will happen again. Their offensive line has remained one of the most elite in the entire NFL for years now, and Conner seems to be able to do enough to make them not miss Bell too much. On top of that, they have a future HoF QB who is still doing his part and a likely legitimate star at WR1 in JuJu. The offense has no reason to not be amongst the best in the NFL, and the defense they have on top of Devin Bush sets them up for a top 15 unit or better. With all these things coming together, not only is this team back in line for the playoffs, but it isn’t a stretch to see them doing it with a very impressive 12-4 record.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans are one of those weird teams. Defensively, they’ve been among the NFL’s best for a couple of years now even without any real big name stars. In what already is shaping up to be a lackluster AFC South, the Titans combination of stout defense and a nasty run game can easily push them to the top of their division. If Mariota can stay healthy and manage games, then Tennessee is on their way to getting back into the playoffs after missing them in 2018. However, their playoff run here relies more on the rest of the division slacking than them truly being eye-popping. A 9-7 record could do the trick here.
Cleveland Browns: It wouldn’t be in the hypebeast spirit to not put Clevland on this list. The Browns are currently receiving even more hype than the 2018 49ers did, and that in itself is impressive. Unlike the 2018 49ers, the Browns are healthy right now and have legitimate stars at practically every position. Their defense will be their biggest question mark, but with an offense that can legitimately be a 28+ PPG team without a problem, an average defense isn’t too much of a concern. Even then, they will have a secondary with Ward who looks to cement himself as a legitimate CB1, and a massive steal in Greedy Williams. Garrett and Vernon on the defensive line are equally as nasty. This Browns team might not be quite as good as people think, but 10-6 and a playoff berth is still a massive improvement from the 0-16 record a couple years back.
Denver Broncos: Denver and Washington are probably the two biggest shocks on here, but let’s get into “Why Denver?” right now. While Joe Flacco may not be elite, he’s a capable QB with a history that shows winning. You can chalk the wins up to defense or a run game, but that’s the cool thing about this Denver squad right now: they have both of those things. A backend held down by still elite corner Chris Harris Jr, a pass rush with probably the best edge rusher in the game, and a solid growing talent in Chubb, the Broncos have just enough to handle themselves defensively. Offensively, they have receivers with potential, a decent line, and a running back who can emerge into an Alvin Kamara-type difference maker in year two along with a QB who knows what it takes to win. Denver will replace KC as the AFC West team not called the Chargers to go into the postseason this year with a humble 9-7 record.
Welcome to the 2019 NFC Playoffs:
Green Bay Packers: For several years the Packers were a guaranteed playoff team before missing it the last two seasons. Many people thought the record here would happen last season, but the level of surety in it typically wasn’t even close to as strong last year as it is this year. For the first time in a long time, the Packers really made a splash in the off-season. They took a key part in the elite defensive play of the division rival Bears when they acquired S Adrian Amos in free agency. On top of that, they added the Smith’s to really create an immensely improved OLB core coupled with a young and on the rise secondary for even more help. Offensively, they have a very much still elite QB, a fringe top 10 receiver, the best tackle in football, and a couple of running backs who can make some explosive plays. All signs point to 12-4.
Atlanta Falcons: Much like the next team on this list, Atlanta was a team with a ton of potential that was mauled by injuries. Unlike Washington, Atlanta never really got to show their potential. Their offensive line was immensely injured and the only comparably injured line also happens to belong to Washington. Even so, Atlanta’s line injuries were just insane. Their draft left much to be desired (2nd and final time using that phrase), but they can afford that because their roster is still very much in that win-now mode and the SB roster is still largely intact. A healthy Freeman is big, but even without him, Matt Ryan is a top QB in the league and Julio Jones is very much elite. Defensively, they have the speed and athleticism to finish as one of the best units in football in 2019.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins were somehow in the playoff race until the very end last year and that is impressive on its own. For the second straight season, Washington finished with the most players on IR and missing time due to injury in the entire NFL by a mile. When they were healthy though, this is a team that was a top defense in football and had compiled a sturdy 6-3 record. The Redskins became so offensively ravaged, especially at QB, that they had two practice squad tackles playing guard for multiple weeks and an AAF QB starting for them. With health, this is a team that has a legitimately dangerous offensive line, run game, and defense. With a safe QB like Case Keenum at the helm, there’s no reason to not see that same 6-3 Redskins team from last year.