Insiders

Several Teams Won’t Be Back For Next Year’s Playoffs

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Recent history shows us that 4-5 teams from this year’s 12-team playoff field will not be back next season.

Assuming that another wild-card team is not added next season — and that’s no sure thing since the drum beat for an extra team will likely grow louder with a sub-.500 division winner making the field — next year will likely be somewhere in the same range.

So which teams need to enjoy their taste of the playoffs while it lasts?

NFC South Champion: Regardless of whether Atlanta or Carolina is the division champion, neither is likely to make a return appearance to the playoffs next year. The biggest reason? This is historically the most volatile division in the NFL. If the Panthers beat the Falcons on Sunday, they’ll become the first repeat champion in the 12-year history of the division.

And then there’s the whole matter of neither of these teams being very good in the first place. Whichever one wins the division is actually more in need of a decent draft pick, which will be removed from the equation by making the playoffs.

Detroit Lions: Who will shore up the defensive line if Ndamukong Suh leaves via free agency?

The Lions also have some historic demons to battle, never making the playoffs in consecutive years since the Barry Sanders/Herman Moore heyday of 1993-95. Plus, Matthew Stafford is too Cutler-like in his decision-making for anyone to count on.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are this year’s best story, but it’s about to have an awful ending with Ryan Lindley honing his craft in a playoff game.

Arizona has the misfortune of playing in the NFL’s toughest division, and will have a tougher schedule next year after a second-place finish. If Carson Palmer comes back healthy there’s a chance of replicating this year’s success, but don’t count on it.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ignore the uniforms and tradition and pay attention to the reality — this team fattened itself on a week schedule, and that’s a good recipe for taking a step back next year.

In fact, the Steelers have the weakest schedule in the entire NFL, with opponents posting a .431 winning percentage. Things will get tougher for the entire AFC North next year with their crossover games coming against the NFC West, so it’s possible that Baltimore would be the fifth 2014 playoff team to miss the playoffs next year should the Ravens get the help they need from Kansas City this weekend to make this year’s field.


About Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey can vividly recall most significant NFL events going back to Walter Payton's final game in 1987, including the ones that didn't make him cry. Since 2008, his full-time job has been covering college football, specifically McNeese State, for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. Free time is spent informing, amusing or annoying you for Football Insiders.