5 Under-the-Radar NFL Teams That Have the Best Shot at the Postseason
The NFL is a league of the haves and the have-nots.
For the past decade the usual suspects (Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, etc.) have consistently found themselves in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, other teams have wallowed in the depths of mediocrity, struggling to pull a .500 season and keep fans in the seats. However, there are always a few surprises.
Absolutely no one expected the Colts to make the playoffs in their first season in the post-Peyton Manning era. Even with the loss of their coach for the majority of the season, the Colts were able to shock the nation and make the playoffs.
Here are the five most-likely candidates to become next season's Colts.
Kansas City Chiefs
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Don't let the 2-14 record fool you, the Chiefs are a team with potential.
Like this past season's Colts, the Chiefs are a team that could possibly go from the bottom of the pack to the postseason.
This is a team full of exciting, young talent. They're full of Pro Bowlers. Yet, they've looked anything but during the regular season.
It's difficult to win games in a "passing league" when you're ranked 32nd in passing. It's also difficult to win when you average a paltry 13.2 points per game and have the highest turnover differential in the league.
However, Chiefs fans will be happy to hear that neither Brady Quinn or Matt Cassel will be taking snaps from under center next year. Watching these two last year made me feel as if I should strap on some pads and audition to become the Chiefs' quarterback. Like seriously, my grandmother probably could have put on a better performance than either of these two.
Despite their shortcomings, the Chiefs have a few options at the QB position. Of course, they can go for Geno Smith with the No. 1 overall pick. Or, they can go after Alex Smith, Matt Flynn, Kirk Cousins or another quarterback. Basically, anyone other than these two would be an upgrade.
When they find a capable signal-caller, expect the Chiefs to accomplish big things.
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Much like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills are a team that just can't seem to get it together.
Although the much ballyhooed signing of Mario Williams was expected to drastically improve the defense, they drastically disappointed. Williams had a slow start but was able to amass six sacks after Week 10 to salvage his disappointing season.
This defense was so bad they gave up 48 points to the New York Jets, a team whose offense has been anemic the entire season. They made Mark Sanchez look like Joe Montana.
Ryan Fitzpatrick played at an average level. But average will not cut it in today's offense-fueled NFL.
The bright spot is the fact that there is a high possibility that they will take Ryan Nassib with the eighth overall pick in this year's draft. Former Syracuse coach Doug Marrone has experience with Nassib and can probably unlock his potential more than anyone else.
Also, expect a revamped defense and team culture this season. I truly believe that the Bills can surprise teams this season because of all the positive changes they're making to a roster already brimming with talent.
San Diego Chargers
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For the majority of a decade, the Chargers have been considered a team with the potential to win the Super Bowl.
Although they still have QB Philip Rivers, he's simply not the same player that he's been. He's become a turnover machine and has thrown 47 interceptions in the past three years.
He struggles from the fact that almost all the dynamic stars that surrounded him in the past (LaDanian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Vincent Jackson) are no longer with the Chargers. Antionio Gates is aging, and the team must find a way to get a young stud to replace him.
The defense is inconsistent and has games where they range from excellent to atrocious.
However, the Chargers need to upgrade their offensive line more than anything. Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times this season, more than any quarterback in the NFL with the exception of Aaron Rodgers.
If they can acquire a LT to protect his blind side like Jake Long and get a deep threat like Mike Wallace, the Chargers may be able to sneak into the playoffs with a wild-card bid.
There's no chance this team steals the division from the Broncos.
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Outside of Calvin Johnson, the Lions were an epic disappointment in 2012.
Although he was a Pro Bowl alternate, Matthew Stafford took steps back in his fourth year as the Lions' franchise QB.
The Lions struggled to find a compliment to Johnson, and the offense relied too much on him to bail them out. Despite Johnson's record-setting season, the Lions offense still struggled at points throughout the season.
The defense will almost certainly undergo a massive facelift this offseason, in which we may actually see Cliff Avril go in free agency.
They have built a strong foundation of interior linemen in Fairley and Suh. When healthy, this duo is a nightmare for any team in the NFL to face.
Despite their problems, the Lions have impressive building blocks in Johnson, Stafford, Suh and Fairley.
They need to add some pieces, and it may be difficult to sneak into the playoffs in the cutthroat NFC. But, this team definitely has the talent. Their main issue is that they're extremely unpredictable.
St. Louis Rams
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The Rams made significant progress in the first year of the Jeff Fisher regime.
However, their biggest issue is the lack of weapons that surround Sam Bradford. I believe that Bradford has the ability to develop into one of the elite QBs of this league. However, with no deep threats, a shaky offensive line and a carousel of offensive coordinators.
The Rams have a incredible opportunity to build around Bradford through the draft with the first-rounders they got from Washington in the blockbuster trade that happened in last year's draft.
If they can get Bradford weapons, the Rams might be dangerous.
However, their biggest challenge may stem from the fact that they play in a division with the 49ers and the Seahawks, two teams that are favorites to make it to next year's Super Bowl.