Every years sees an average of four new participants in the NFL playoffs from the previous season. Which teams will accomplish that in 2014?
New England may still rule the roost in the AFC East but they no longer have it so easy. That was proven last season when the Miami Dolphins beat them once and should’ve beaten them a second time. Ryan Tannehill showed great improvement in his second year and should have better protection this season. If the defense plays like it should, the Dolphins will get back to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
A late-season surge came too late for the Baltimore Ravens last year. It marked the first time they had missed the playoffs in the John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco era. Don’t expect that to last long. The Ravens are a well-constructed and well-coached team with a good defense and potentially wider array of weapons on offense. They may not win the division but they will rebound for a wild card spot.
The St. Louis Rams are out of the race after losing Sam Bradford and the San Francisco 49ers appear all out of sorts. Things couldn’t be setting up better for the Arizona Cardinals. They went 10-6 last season, fielded one of the top defenses in the league and have made some noticeable improvements on the offensive side. If they don’t suffer anymore significant injuries they will be that second team out of the NFC West to follow Seattle.
Only a historically bad defense kept the Chicago Bears out of the NFL playoffs last season. Their offense is one of the best in football and may actually be deeper in 2014. Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman are entering their second year together, which typically should yield greater results. More importantly though, the defense got a much needed makeover. If they can pressure the passer and stop the run even mildly better than in 2013, this team should emerge with Green Bay from the NFC North.