It seems that in the NFL offseason, every football fan and analyst is searching for the next surprise playoff team. This past season, there were seven new teams to make the postseason as the playoffs looked much more different compared to the 2016 postseason. Which teams will turn it around and clinch a playoff berth this season?
The San Francisco 49ers started off 1-9, with their only win coming against the dysfunctional New York Giants.
Something needed to change, and at the trade deadline, general manager John Lynch decided to pull the trigger and send the New England Patriots a second round draft pick for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo sat out one game to learn the offense, but once he took over the starting reigns he never let them go.
San Francisco went 5-0 in their last five games, taking down the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, two playoff teams.
With head coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the offense clicking, it seems that the 49ers only need to fill up a few more spots in order to produce a winning season.
The team has a large amount of cap space to spend in free agency and they still have a good draft pick since they only finished 6-10. They’ll also be getting wide receiver Pierre Garcon back, who was having a great season before being placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. The NFC West is also a division that can be taken by a new team, as the Los Angeles Rams proved this past season.
The Los Angeles Chargers started the season 0-4, and in what seemed like another disastrous “what could’ve been” year, the Chargers bounced back and showed some fight.
They finished the season with a 9-3 record and nearly qualified for a playoff berth. Quarterback Philip Rivers became locked in and the defense started rising to the occasion. Their best showing was their week 11 game against the Buffalo Bills, when they recorded five interceptions in the first half of the game while also scoring a defensive touchdown. Pro Bowl Cornerback Casey
Hayward showed he could handle the load with the loss of Jason Verrett, and Keenan Allen won Comeback Player of the Year after tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2016 season. Los Angeles needs to fix their offensive line, but they have a balanced offense with some talented pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
The Arizona Cardinals are two seasons removed from their magical run to the NFC Championship during the 2015 season. Their 2016 campaign felt like a slump for everyone, but the roster was hit hard with injuries in 2017, with starting quarterback Carson Palmer and starting running back David Johnson out with season-ending injuries by the midway point of the season.
Instead of laying down and dying, Arizona fought hard and finished 8-8, winning their last game against the Seahawks in Seattle to officially throw them out of the playoffs. Although they need a quarterback, with Larry Fitzgerald and Johnson coming back, Arizona still has a potent offense and a free agent like Sam Bradford or Case Keenum could help inch the team in the right direction.
New head coach Steve Wilks will be taking over a talented defense and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has had a good resume of success of his time across the NFL. Players like Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones and Markus Golden can help solidify a relentless defense, and help create an intense home-field atmosphere.
Every team’s goal is to make the playoffs at the start of the season, but what has happened in seasons before has no impact on what occurs in the 2018 season. Some teams just need a spark to start winning games, and one game or play could change a season within the blink of an eye. For these three teams, that dream could possibly become a reality.