NFL

Non-Playoff NFC Teams Have Tons of Work To Do

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With the NFL playoffs set to kickoff this weekend, there are 10 teams in the NFC who will be watching from the living room.

As these teams prepare for the off-season, there’s several adjustments they must make before the 2016 campaign.

Philadelphia Eagles – Well, where do we start?

After a three-year marriage with now former head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles find themselves starting from ground level.

Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie felt it was time to look in a new direction. 

“I have made a decision to release Chip Kelly this evening. I spent the last three seasons evaluating the many factors involved in our performance as a team,” Lurie stated. “As I watched this season unfold, I determined that it was time to make a change.”

The front office reportedly interviewed running backs coach Duce Staley.

Now, the organization allegedly has three candidates coming for interviews soon.

Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and New York Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

Once they come to a decision, their new coach will have to take a deep look at this roster.

First things first, who’s your guy under center moving forward?

Sam Bradford?

Mark Sanchez?

Someone not on the roster?

As important as quarterback is, Philly’s defense is probably the biggest area of concern heading into the off-season. This unit ranked 30th in the entire league in 2015.

New York Giants – The Tom Coughlin era in New York is over.

Sure, New York has dealt with their inconsistencies over the years, but you can never take away Coughlin’s two Super Bowl rings.

With that being said, for the Giants to get back into the playoffs next season, they must address their defense first and foremost.

New York finished dead last in total defense.

Players such as Jason Pierre-Paul, Prince Amukamara, and Cullen Jenkins are all free agents this off-season.

On the other side of the ball, New York must provide Eli Manning another weapon not named Odell Beckham, Jr.

Although Manning had one of his better seasons in recent memory, throwing for 4,436 yards while tossing 35 touchdowns, life would simply be much easier with another legitimate threat on the outside,

Victor Cruz is supposed to be that guy, but with his recent history of injuries it’s difficult to rely on him moving forward.

Nonetheless, with a rather weak wide receiver free agent class, the Giants may not have a choice.

Dallas Cowboys – Before the season, ‘America’s team’ was looked at as a legitimate Super Bowl contender and for very good reason.

Even with DeMarco Murray out of the picture, this team’s offensive line was good enough to make up for the loss.

Unfortunately, injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant absolutely destroyed their season.

After starting off 2-0, Dallas went on to lose seven straight. 

“I’m just really taken aback by the fact that we’re sitting here with four wins after this year,” Jones said. “This was never anticipated. As a matter of fact, I thought we did one of the best offseason jobs of addressing our needs and really acquiring some serious talent where we had the most need. I thought maybe we’d had the best offseason that we had had. The year before, I was a little skeptical. Last year, you guys made me the executive of the year. This year, I think I’m on my way out.”

With Dallas having a top-five pick in this upcoming draft, there’s speculation on whether or not Jerry Jones will elect to go quarterback.

After all, Romo will be 36 when the 2016 season begins.

Defense is where people thought Dallas would struggle, but they managed to finish right in the middle of the pack in points allowed.

Jones doesn’t need to necessarily tear things down, however, a few tweaks here and there wouldn’t hurt.

Most importantly, Dallas just needs to stay healthy next season.

Detroit Lions – This was a tale of two seasons for Detroit.

The Lions started off 1-7 and instead of just tanking the season away, Detroit finished the year 6-2.

Despite general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand both getting canned earlier in the season, Detroit’s finish to the campaign may have been enough for Jim Caldwell to keep his job.

“I don’t believe in defending myself,” Caldwell stressed. “But I do enjoy what I’m doing, I do like what we do, I do love the players that we’re coaching. I think we have a lot of great men and obviously, I think the city’s kind of welcomed me with open arms here. It’s been great.”

Considering the history of Lions coaches, Caldwell should go into the franchise’s Hall of Fame for going 18-14 during his two seasons.

Here’s a fun fact, during Ndamukong Suh’s last year in Detroit, the team totaled 42 sacks and without Suh this season, the team finished with the same amount of sacks.

The talent is there.

At this point, it’s just a matter of consistency and playing mistake free football in the ‘Motor City’.

Chicago Bears – This was an interesting year in the ‘Windy City’ to say the least.

Quarterback Jay Cutler had one of his most efficient seasons to date. He drastically improved his decision making, going from 18 to 11 interceptions in a year span.

A lot of the credit goes to offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is currently receiving heavy interest from multiple teams.

Chicago also experienced tremendous improvement defensively. In 2014, they finished 30th in total defense, but this year they took a major leap by finishing 15th.

For this prideful franchise to take the next step, they’ll desperately need to address the wide receiver position, which took a major step backwards with Brandon Marshall being shipped to the Jets.

Atlanta Falcons – Remember when they were 5-0?

It almost seems like that was years ago based on how Atlanta finished the season.

After their undefeated start, the Falcons went on to finish 3-8. Yes, 3-8.

How you ask?

Well, for as unfair as it may be, it all begins with Matt Ryan.

Ryan only threw 21 touchdowns, which is his lowest total since his rookie campaign when he threw 16 touchdowns.

For as bad as Ryan was, the bigger area of concern is Atlanta’s lack of a pass rush. The Falcons ranked dead last with only 19 sacks.

This is an area that must be addressed not only in free agency, but in the draft as well.

New Orleans Saints – There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Saints at the top.

Speculation of whether or not Sean Payton will return is the obvious headliner heading into the off-season in the ‘Big Easy’.

Payton has a career record of 86-57 to go along with three division titles and a Super Bowl title.

Considering all of that, New Orleans’ defense has continued to be the downfall of this team.

After acquiring Cameron Jordan, the franchise believed he would be the guy to turn things around. While he performed well individually, as an unit the defense didn’t improve.

“Hopefully, it would have translated into a playoff run this year, but that’s not the case,” Jordan stressed. “This year, that’s a great personal note for me, but it’s not enough for the team. There’s got to be more.”

In order for a quick fix, the front office should look to bring in some veteran leadership on that side of the ball.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – With such a young roster, no one realistically expected for the Bucs to make the playoffs. This season was all about growth and that’s exactly what they got.

The Bucs experienced a four-win improvement from a season ago.

However, this team needs to make major additions defensively. They allowed a little over 26 points per game, which ranked near the bottom of the league.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the team has only spent one draft pick on defense the past two drafts. Definitely expect for that to change.

St. Louis Rams – This bunch has been stuck in the mud for a while. After Jeff Fisher’s fourth season, the Rams finished under .500 yet again.

This is the third time Fisher’s finished with seven wins in St. Louis, but surprisingly, we haven’t heard much about his job being in jeopardy.

During his tenure, the Rams still haven’t found a franchise quarterback.  Offensively, they ranked dead last in total offense and 29th in points per game.

Their defense could use a few tweaks, especially in the secondary, but the primary focus is on the offense.

Fortunately, they have a star running back in Todd Gurley to build around.

San Francisco 49ers – Let’s start off with the good.

There’s no way San Francisco’s off-season can be worse than last year, right?

Jim Harbaugh left, multiple key players either retired or left for different teams.

Following another woeful season, the 49ers decided to can Jim Tomsula after just one season, which seems very bizarre.

Tomsula was put into an impossible situation to succeed and the front office knew that. This firing to me says the 49ers either have their eyes set on someone on the open market or that they’re admitting they made a mistake by hiring Tomsula in the first place.

For this team to get back to their winning ways, they must find someone who’s capable of changing the culture in the locker room.

Could it be Sean Payton? Adam Gase? Chip Kelly?

Whoever it is must first figure out who their quarterback will be moving forward.

Blaine Gabbert showed some signs of growth, but he’s clearly far away from being a lock at starting quarterback.

Does Colin Kaepernick get another shot?

That’s an immediate question the next Niners head coach must answer.


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.