Each year, a few teams seem to exceed their season expectations and make a run for the playoffs. In 2016-17, we saw the Cowboys and Raiders contend at a high level and make a playoff push, even with their preseason perspectives being set below that bar.
So, who can we see make a similar turn-around in 2017-18? Let’s take a look and see who could crash the playoff party this upcoming season:
- Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have improved greatly over the past few seasons. After taking a steady fall during the Chip Kelly era, the franchise went through a quick rebuild last season. Drafting Carson Wentz and putting their trust in him seems like it is going to payoff dramatically. If it weren’t for such a tough division, the Eagles would have likely been in the playoffs last season.
However, Philly has taken advantage of a plentiful off season and has improved even more. They have added key veterans such as LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Smith and Chris Long. They drafted a potential star in DE Derek Barnett and a highly underrated running back in Donnel Pumphrey.
Overall, Wentz looks like he will have a great barrage of offensive weapons, and an improved defense to help the Birds keep games out of reach. Keep your eyes on the Eagles this season, even if they are still contending in a tough, tough division.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
It will be interesting to see the Chargers roll out their new-faced franchise this year, after officially making the move from San Diego to LA. However, it is not the location move that will help them improve as a team.
The Chargers went and drafted star WR Mike Williams out of Clemson to go along with Keenan Allen. They are also ready to let Melvin Gordon run loose, as well as let Joey Bosa grow out of his comfort zone.
On top of that, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates have always been deadly, but now with newly acquired tight end Hunter Henry, the Chargers offense certainly looks deadly. Their defense doesn’t look half bad either, with Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, and rookie James Onwualu. Look out for LA.
3. Tennessee Titans
Yes, it sounds like a long-shot, but the Titans are poised to compete. Last season ended dramatically, with Marcus Mariota going down with a season ending injury in the teams final game, which would’ve kept their season alive if they had won. However, this season could be a lot different.
The Titans have a great mix of young, talented players as well as veterans who are not quite ready to hang up the cleats. The addition of DeMarco Murray last season proved to be a crucial one, as he again found himself as one of the leagues leading rushers. This year, the Titans have again upgraded their offense, adding veteran WR Eric Decker as well as Corey Davis and Jace Amaro to go along with potential stud Kendall Wright.
Their defense, which doesn’t turn heads on paper, should not be overlooked. Last year, they played conservatively, and I expect more of the same this season, but with better outcomes following an improved offensive force.
4. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have improved greatly since drafting Jameis Winston #1 overall a few years back, and they have proven that they will only go as far as he takes them. The team did a fantastic job adding weapons for Winston, such as DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. The defense should also improve. Adding DT Chris Baker will make things easier for fellow tackle Gerald McCoy to wreak even more havoc than he already does. If Tampa’s younger players such as Vernon Hargreaves take their game to the next level, this could be a threatening defense. Combine that with a potential top-10 offense, and the Buccaneers should be competitive in a tough NFC South.
Kyle Hirshkind is the managing editor for Full Press Coverage's New York Jets channel. Originally from Long Island, New York, Kyle has been an avid Jets fan for 20+ years.