NFL

Under The Radar NFL Teams

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The NFL is a cyclical entity. Even though every year is new, the same events occur over and over again. Every year, there are some teams who many project to be bad, but go on to become a playoff contender. Nobody expected the Carolina Panthers surprised everyone on their run to the Super Bowl, and while there may not be a surprise time who makes it to the Super Bowl, you can bet there will be a couple teams who make it to the playoffs.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at three teams who may surprise everyone and be contenders in the 2016 season.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have been one of the laughing stocks of the NFL since they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII (2002-2003 season). General manager Reggie McKenzie has done a fantastic job of building a team utilizing the draft and free agency.

In the last couple of drafts, they picked up cornerstone players such as Khalil Mack and David Carr and in free agency they picked up players such as Kelechi Osemele and Bruce Irvin. The Raiders still have a couple of holes at running back and cornerback, but they are extremely stout up front on offense and defense. In fact, their offensive line may challenge the Dallas Cowboys for the best in football, which should lead to an explosive offense in 2016.

Like most teams, the Raiders’ playoff chances rests on their quarterback’s shoulders. Carr looked great last year, but he will have to take the next step for the Raiders to become playoff and Super Bowl contenders.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars used their significant cap room and favorable draft luck to build a team that could contend for a playoff spot in the AFC South, which is ripe for the taking. They may have overpaid in free agency, but that doesn’t change that still good players who will improve their team.

Malik Jackson, Kelvin Beachum and Tashuan Gipson will make a big positive impact in 2016 while Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey were both huge steals and top-five talents who can become transcendent players at their positions.

The Jaguars possess one of the best receiver corps in the NFL with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns with Blake Bortles throwing them the ball. If Bortles can take the next step, like Carr, the Jaguars have a very good chance to win the AFC South.

The Jaguars are still likely a year or two away from being real contenders, but there is a good chance they challenge for the AFC South crown this year.

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears might be the most surprising team to make this list; however, they had a chance to be very good in 2015 if it weren’t for some bad luck. The Bears had a lot of misfortune as they lost both their overtime games to go along with three other games where they lost in regulation by three points or less. If the Bears can just get to average in tight games, they have a chance to push for a playoff spot.

Their front seven on defense is extremely stout with players like Jerrell Freeman, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Jonathan Bullard and Lamar Houston. Furthermore, their offensive line has a chance to be great with Kyle Long moving back to guard and the additions of Cody Whitehair and Bobby Massie.

Also, the Bears will have Kevin White return to the lineup, which, coupled with Alshon Jeffery, is a lethal combination at wide receiver. If Jay Cutler can build on his 2015 season, the Bears could push the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com