The NFL sees perhaps the highest turnover rate every season in terms of which teams make the postseason. Every year there are surprise teams that find their way in the mix, and even on deep playoff runs. There are also teams that are usually regarded as locks for the postseason who surprisingly fall short.
Here are five teams that made the postseason in 2010 who, given the changes across the league, will likely not make the postseason in 2011.
Once one of the laughing stocks of the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs may be finally inching back to their glorious history and becoming a contender once more.
However, one season does not make a team. There is no question that the San Diego Chargers are still clearly the best team in that division, at least on paper. They finished last season with the best offense and the best defense in the NFL. And as they are being led by one of the finest quarterbacks in the league, Philip Rivers, the Chargers are likely destined to return to the postseason (as short-lived of a run as it may be).
The Chiefs have many pieces together, but their quarterback Matt Cassel is still inconsistent, Jamaal Charles is not utilized enough, and while their defense is improving, being the 14th best last season, it is still far from dominant.
The new kickoff rules may aid the Chargers enough to edge them back into the playoffs, at the expense of Kansas City.
In my mind, the Chicago Bears made the postseason in 2010 largely on good fortune. They had a very easy schedule and many of their games were close, despite being against mediocre at best opponents (winning a Detroit Lions game on a technicality). While the Bears defense appears to have returned, the Bears still have many problems, such as an awful offensive line and very poor receivers (no I do not think Roy Williams is the answer).
These problems are even more worrying when we consider that the rest of the NFC North is expected to be incredibly competitive this season. The Minnesota Vikings should be improved under more consistent play at quarterback with Donovan McNabb, and their defense looks as if it has moved closer to its 2009 form. The Detroit Lions are a young team who will surely take the next step together, and all reports (including a phenomenal preseason) seem to indicate that Matt Stafford is ready for a breakout year. And the Green Bay Packers, of course, are arguably the best team in the NFL.
Many other teams in the NFC are improved as well. It looks as if the Bears will be left behind in 2011 after an unexpected run in 2010.
New Orleans is a good team, but with the expected improvement of Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it would not be outlandish to expect them to miss the playoffs this season.
The truth is, the New Orleans Saints are carried very much by the play of Drew Brees. They have few playmakers on offense other than him. Marques Colston is perhaps the closest thing to a playmaker, but with the departure of Reggie Bush, the Saints offense has few weapons.
Their defense is also not the takeaway machine that it was in 2009. They are an offensive team, defense is not their strong point.
While Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, one player rarely makes a team, and teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are simply more well-rounded teams than the Saints. While experts may still pick the Saints to make it as a wild card, I believe that the increased competition in the NFC, especially in the NFC South, will be enough for the Saints to miss the playoffs this season.
The Baltimore Ravens are often regarded as among the best teams in the NFL. So why is it that I am picking them to fall short in 2011?
First of all, I would agree that they are a good team. A great team in fact. But in the NFL there is a huge turnover rate every season, and I can envision the Ravens missing the playoffs this season.
Joe Flacco has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of his quarterback play, but is still inconsistent and makes poor decisions too frequently. Additionally, his only playmaker now at receiver is Anquan Boldin. Todd Heap and Derrick Mason were allowed to walk and join other teams. I do not consider Lee Evans to be the playmaker he once was, so from a passing offense standpoint, this team is in trouble.
And furthermore, while the cliché police may arrest me for saying this as it is said every year, it may finally be the time when this Ravens defense wears down due to age. Ray Lewis is 36 years old, and Ed Reed is 32. Even if their play continues at a high level, losing either would be catastrophic to the defense, and at their age, injuries are more frequent.
This Ravens team is good, but they seem less talented on paper than last season. With the Pittsburgh Steelers not slowing down much, and the Cleveland Browns possibly improved if Colt McCoy can play well in 2011, the Ravens would not surprise me if they missed the postseason.
And finally, the Seahawks are a team that had no business making the postseason in 2010, and certainly have no business making it in 2011.
The team is utterly devoid of talent, save perhaps Marshawn Lynch. And worse, their quarterback is now Tarvaris Jackson. Only a breakout season by Jackson would give the Seahawks a shot.
A 7-9 team does not impress anybody. Especially when they are in by far the worst division in the entire NFL. This Seahawks team has many holes to fill and it will take many seasons for them to come near contention again.