The Tennessee Titans
Im making the same mistake as everyone else here by underrating and overlooking this team.
They were my dark horse to make the playoffs last season and not only did they make the playoffs but they won a playoff game on the road vs the chiefs which no one seemed to care about for some reason.
The Titans arent flashy they play old skool smash mouth football and play a gritty physical brand of football for 60 minutes which is why they werent on anybody’s radar last season even during the regular season.
Alot of people probably didnt know they won a playoff game last season but i think they fall back this year and heres why..
First of all they have lost running back Demarco Murray who was a huge part of their smash mouth running game, they also have a first time new head coach and the jury is still out on young quarterback Marcus Mariota who seemed to regress last season.
The underrated defense is still solid and running back Derrik Henry looks like a future star in the making, he will be expected to carry the load but he hasnt been a full time starter yet so its still a question mark to whether he can consistently produce week in and week out.
They have productive Tight End Delanie Walker but dont seem to have much on the outside but hopes are high for potential break out star Mike Davis who was a top 10 pick last season. A potentially dangerous group but still somewhat unproven
Making things more complicated is the sudden rise of the other teams in the division. Jacksonville have a great GREAT defense and look prime to take the next step and i would be putting them in the AFC Championship game already if it wasnt for their sub par Quarterback Blake Bortles who i truly believe will hold this team back and the Houston Texans also have a very good defense with star quarterback Deshawn Watson coming back healthy.
So it looks like the Titans are the odd man out but they have been counted out before and surprised everyone so while it wouldnt be a huge shock that they get in but i think they just miss out.
The Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are in rebuilding mode. After trading underrated winning Quarterback Alex Smith they have turned the team over to second year player and first round pick Patrick Mahomes.
Its not that im not a fan of Mahomes but we havent seen much from and its so hard for young Quarterbacks to step in and produce right away. Along with offensive and team leader Alex Smith they have also released long time Chief veterans like Line Backer Derik Johnson and Defensive End Tamba Hali. They also traded perhaps their best player and turnover machine Marcus Peters who was surprisingly traded to the L.A Rams and while some of these players might be beyond their prime their veteran leadership in the locker room will surely be missed.
Overall this team is going to look very different and alot of new young players are going to have to carry this team, The Chiefs have been among the league winners and in the playoffs the last few seasons but its hard not to see a drop off but heres the good news….
They still have very explosive players all over the place already and added free agent Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins, they also have the best deep threat in the game in Wide Receiver and Punt Returner Tyrek Hill and even the leads leading rusher in 2nd year player Running Back Kareem Hunt and of course All Pro Tight End Travis Kelce.
Eric Berry the All Pro Safety will also return this season after missing all but one game last year along with one time NFL sack leader Line Backer Justin Houston and they brought in top slot Corner Back Kendall Fuller who came with the Alex Smith trade and obviously we cant forget the great Tight End Travis Kelce. These players might be able to still provide the veteran leadership that this young team will need
Actually the more im writing about this the more im excited for the Chiefs future and the offense has a chance to be very explosive but as i stated earlier its so hard for a first year starter to be highly productive and it could take a year or two before he really learns the game. Remember Alex Smith has been the best at not turning the ball over which was a huge reason for their success so with him gone i expect the turnovers to at least double but overall the teams future looks great….just not sure about the present.
The Carolina Panthers
This one has more to do with how good the division is.
Last season three teams from the NFC South made the Playoffs which is rare and as much as i like the Panthers i have to pick them as the odd team out.
It starts with Cam Newton. When this guy is on his game he is the most dominant player in the NFL the problem is he can be streaky and inconsistent and somewhat controversial. When hes winning and on a roll this team seems to have fun but when he struggles its a different story. He must be consistent if they are to have a chance
The defense has some great players in place including Line Backer Luke Kechley who is one of the best 5 players in the NFL but they still lack in some areas like Corner Back and Safety. The ageless wonder Julies Peppers will be back for his 100th season as well as Line Backer Thomas Davis so as much as i love the front 7 the defensive back field is very suspect. I dont think they have recovered from losing All Pro Corner Back Josh Norman a couple seasons back.
The offense loses long time starter Running Back Johnathan Steward and it remains to be seen if early first round pick Running Back Christian Mcgaffrey can take the next step, hes shown great versatility and is a great receiver out the backfield but hes been inconsistent as a runner and with Steward leaving they have to get another running back to help take the load off him and keep defenses honest.
They also traded number 1 Wide Receiver Kevin Benjamin last season leaving mid tier starter Kevin Funchess as the go to guy but hes not a dominant number 1 wide receiver so theres question marks there as well. Cam Newton needs more help around him he cant always do it all and keeping him healthy is number 1 priority.
I like this team alot and they are expected to make the playoffs by most people but like the Titans i see them losing out due to two other teams in their division as i have the Saints and Falcons getting in but with a few additions they can be right there in the mix so the offseason and draft is huge.
This one is such a reach and they are always in the playoffs and have so many great players but i cant help but wonder if this is the end of their little dynasty.
The best Running Back in the NFL Levon Bells contract is a yearly messy situation and the defense has been terrible, also there have been rumblings in the locker room and even small rumors that Head Coach Mike Tomlin has lost the team.
Also future Hall of Famer Ben Rothlisberger doesnt have his full heart in the game and threatens to retire every year it seems. I just feel a real messy downhill season could be on the horizon but they are in a weak division so if all goes well they should make it in but the Steelers are one of the proudest organizations in the world and have a very high standard to keep so an average season even a first round playoff loss could be the end for Head Coach Mike Tomlin
This is cheating cause it looks obvious that they wont get into the playoffs.
They surprised everyone by scratching and clawing their way in last season but they lost so many players over the past two seasons and dont have a proven Quarterback on the roster. They traded for free agent Quarterback AJ Mcaron but whos that? The defense is likley to take a step back as well but they still have the great Running Back Leshawn Mcoy but overall i think they return to their usual ways of not getting into the post season.