Turnover is extremely key in the NFL. Whether it’s injuries or free agency that dilutes some of the best rosters, teams that looked stacked a year ago can quickly plummet down the rankings the following season.
That can translate from playoff success to watching the playoffs from home very quickly and as NFL bettors, we need to find a way to project that far in advance. That doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with predicting the Super Bowl 52 winner just yet, but if we can start pinpointing which playoff teams of a year ago won’t be making it back in 2017, it certainly helps formulate the puzzle.
Several teams are candidates to take a step back in 2017 and history demands it. Just last season we saw the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos experience massive free falls. All three teams were either in the league’s title game or their conference title game the year prior, yet all three still failed to even make the playoffs.
Perhaps one or more of that trio bounce back and sneak back into the playoffs this year. If they or someone else is going to rise from the ashes, however, they’ll be taking another team’s place. Working off of the 12 playoff teams from 2016, here’s the three most likely teams to take a big step back:
The Lions are probably the easiest team to figure out in this list. They over-achieved greatly last year and barely hung on to make the playoffs, ultimately losing their final four games of the year.
Detroit does have a proven quarterback in Matthew Stafford and some talent on both sides of the ball, but they are already without top left tackle Taylor Decker (shoulder) and weren’t impressive along the o-line a year ago. Running back Ameer Abdullah is also their best bet at formulating a balanced offense, yet inconsistency, a shaky o-line and too many injuries make it unlikely he’ll live up to the hype.
If that all wasn’t enough to get you off of Detroit for 2017, let’s consider the Green Bay Packers are still the cream of the crop in the NFC North, while a healthy Vikings team is arguably superior to the Lions, as well. If Detroit isn’t a viable threat to take down the division (third best odds at +425 at Bovada), then why should we back them for a playoff spot? We shouldn’t.
Number two is that team from South Beach, the Miami Dolphins. This one is a little harder to kick to the moon with unequivocal denial, as Jay Ajayi was a true beast in 2016 and Adam Gase seems to really know what he’s doing. A healthy and hopefully improved Ryan Tannehill could have this Miami offense fully blowing up – in a good way – as well.
I’m not totally sold, though. First, the Dolphins have to contend with the defending champion Patriots, who went 14-2 last year and seem to only have gotten better during the offseason. New England doesn’t always win titles, but they do know how to lock down the AFC East, seeing as they’ve secured the division an insane eight years in a row.
New England’s reign of terror atop the AFC East won’t be ending in 2017 and per Bovada, Miami is second in the division by a wide gap thanks to their +500 odds to storm the castle. The odds could be even longer than that, too, considering Buffalo was pretty competitive in 2016 and seemingly improved. In a fairly loaded AFC where non-playoff teams like the Broncos, Colts, Bengals and Ravens all could be back to make some noise this year, it’s easy to sour on the Fins.
New York Giants
The G-Men rank third in this grouping, as they actually sported a pretty nasty defense for much of 2016 and have a two-time title winner backing them in Eli Manning. Can a 36-year old Manning push this team back into the playoffs and chase another ring? Sure, and maybe.
Big Blue really isn’t too shabby on offense, as they could be uncovering a gem in young running back Paul Perkins, Odell Beckham Jr. is an obvious fiend and the team added reinforcements by signing Brandon Marshall and drafting athletic tight end, Evan Engram.
The big problem here is the NFC East is no joke. Not only are the Dallas Cowboys viewed as the top team inside the division, but they also are regarded as one of the top Super Bowl 52 favorites with +1200 odds to win it all in 2017 at Bovada.
Yes, New York swept Dallas last year, but the ‘Boys will undoubtedly be out for blood in 2017 and there’s no real discussion as to which roster is more talented. Beyond this possible mental hold, the Giants have over Big D, they also have to worry about two solid and rising clubs in Washington and Philadelphia.
The NFC East might be the least of New York’s problems, too. Green Bay crushed them in the playoffs last year, while the Falcons and Seahawks both look like major problems for anyone trying to crack the NFC’s six-team playoff limit.
Of this group, the Giants are probably the safest bet to stay amongst the top playoff contenders. Teams with quality starting quarterbacks and strong defenses tend to at least stick in games and find a way to pull out of messes. That being said, Manning has been really shaky over the last few years and until 2016 the Giants had been disappointing NFL experts for quite a while. It’s not a reach to imagine them doing that again in 2017 and we fully expect the Dolphins and Lions to follow suit.
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