Turnover is a fact of life in the NFL. Even as the league added two playoff teams to make the 14-team bracket in 2020, five of the 12 teams that made it to the postseason in 2019 did not make a return trip this season. This is a group consisting of 49ers who were top seeded in the NFC and its representatives in Super Bowl LIV, and the Patriots, who made it to the playoffs in 17 of the last 19 seasons. The Texans, Vikings and Eagles also failed to make it back in January, with two of the three not even coming particularly close.
Let’s try to project what the 2021 playoff picture might look like to us by the end of next season. Let me start with the obvious: this is going to be wrong. We also don’t know who will be coaching the Eagles or Texas or whether their starting quarterbacks will be there for the second season. To do this, I am predicting that Deon Watson or Carson Wentz have a small chance that one of their more outspoken suitors will be traded as the Dolphins or Jets.
We know the Colts will have a new starting quarterback, as Phillip River announced his retirement on Wednesday, but Drew Breeze’s future with the Saints is still up in the air. We also don’t know if fans will be able to cheer at the stadiums coming in September.
I am leaning on the facts that we know – namely, how each team has performed in 2020 and what it will look like in at least 16 matches in 2021 – to help make educated guesses about next season’s playoff zone for. Where I have made particularly surprising choices, I have tried to give some historical context for teams that have made a comparative leap or similar decline.
Let’s start with the team that is perhaps the least surprising of all, the defending champs:
Jump to a team:
ATL | Hair | BUF | CHI | CLE
Team | GB | Ind | JAX | How
Saliva | MIA | NE | No | Pit
Sf | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH