NFL

Four NFL Non-Playoff Teams Who Will Make It Next Year

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There are 32 teams in the National Football League, however, only 12 are allowed to play in the postseason.

For two weeks, 20 organizations have been pondering on how their respective teams can get into the dance next year. Depending on the situation, it could take a complete overhaul or maybe just a tweak or two here and there could be enough to get a team over the hump.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the four non-playoff teams that’ll make it next year.

Oakland Raiders – After three straight seasons of not being able to garner more than four wins, the Oakland Raiders displayed tremendous growth this season with a 7-9 record.

The main reason for Oakland’s turnaround was the play of second year quarterback Derek Carr.

Carr finished the season with a touchdown to interception ratio of 32:13 to go along with a 91.1 passer rating.

Moving forward, the Raiders will not only need Carr to continue to get better, but they’ll also need their defensive unit to be at full strength.

Veteran Justin Tuck only played in a handful of games due to suffering a torn pectoral muscle and pass rusher Aldon Smith was hit with a full-year suspension in November for violating the substance abuse policy.

Although future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson has decided to walk away from the game, he’s optimistic about this defense going forward.

“But it’s a good, young, group, now,” Woodson stressed. “A bunch of young guys that this team is going to be able to grow with for the foreseeable future and it’s going to be exciting to watch them going forward.”

Whether Peyton Manning returns or not, you have to think Denver takes a step backwards, which leaves it to Kansas City and Oakland in the AFC West.

Dallas Cowboys – Let’s face it, everyone in the NFC East feels like they have a shot of making the playoffs heading into next season.

Nonetheless, if healthy, the Dallas Cowboys are the clear favorite. Sure, Kirk Cousins will most likely be getting a big payday from the Washington Redskins, but do you really believe in them to make the playoffs back-to-back seasons?

The Redskins haven’t accomplished that feat since the 1992 season.

This past season, Dallas had to play without the services of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for an extended amount of time, which is a bummer not only for the offense, but it makes you wonder how good of a team they could’ve truly been.

Although Dallas finished in the middle of the pack defensively, that was a lot better than most suspected it to be and if you couple that with the deadly duo of Romo and Bryant, this Cowboys team could’ve been prepping for the NFC Championship game this coming weekend.

At the end of the day, if Dallas can stay healthy at key positions next season, they’ll be your NFC East champions.

Indianapolis Colts – Similar to the Cowboys, the Indianapolis Colts suffered a big injury of their own.

Have you heard of some guy named Andrew Luck?

You know, the second coming.

Well, Luck was banged up the whole season and it came to an end in early November due to a lacerated kidney and a partial tear of an abnormal muscle.

However, even when Luck was playing, he didn’t look like his normal Pro Bowl self.

The 26-year-old finished his year with a touchdown to interception ratio of 15 to 12 to go along with a dreadful completion percentage of 55.3.

To his defense, the nagging injuries may have played a major role in his ineffectiveness.

Also, after parting ways with former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, Indianapolis is hopeful Ted Monachino can help bring a solidified pass rush to the table.

“There are a lot of different ways you can look at pass coverage but the way I look at it—the best pass defense is a good pass rush,” Monachino said.

Indianapolis ranked 22nd in sacks this past season.

All in all, assuming Luck returns 100 percent, there’s little reason not to believe the Colts will reign as AFC South champions for the third time in four years.

Detroit Lions – It was a tale of two seasons in the ‘Motor City’.

The first half of the season was horrendous to say the least.

“Losing before the bye week is one of the worst things that can happen to you as a player because you’ve got two weeks to sit on the most recent loss, and us being 1-7, we’ve got two weeks to think about us being 1-7,” wide receiver Lance Moore stated.

Instead of hanging their head, Detroit responded by going 6-2 in the second half of the season, which included wins over Green Bay, Oakland and New Orleans.

Detroit’s second half schedule was much lighter than the first half, but at the same time, head coach Jim Caldwell deserves tons of credit for keeping this unit together in a very difficult time.

One of the main reasons why Detroit experienced a great second half was due to the firing of former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

Matthew Stafford looked much more comfortable under Jim Bob Cooter.

“It’s just been good,” Stafford said. “Jim Bob and I have a good relationship. He’s a smart guy. He communicates well with the guys on our offense. He’s young in his job, but he’s not afraid. He’s aggressive. That’s fun. That rubs off on guys when a guy is aggressive and trusts us to go out and make good decisions.”

Heading into the 2016 season, most will have Green Bay as the favorite to win retake the NFC North crown, but there’s no reason as to why Detroit can’t obtain one of the wildcard spots.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.