Hope springs eternal for several quality NFL teams that missed out on the 2018 playoffs. Be it through poor coaching, injuries, or just plain old bad luck, some of the best players in football were left watching the playoffs at home on TV like the rest of us. If these five teams hit their stride and play as well as the back of their football card claims they are, they should easily coast into the playoffs this season.
5. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota went into last year with Super Bowl aspirations that were quickly dashed after average quarterback Kirk Cousins turned out to be...an average quarterback, albeit one with an $84 million price tag. Even with the Cousins albatross, the Vikings have talent and depth across several key positions, most notably defensive line and safety. That defense should be good enough to get them in the playoff conversation, but Cousins needs to put them over the edge.
4. Tennessee Titans
With Marcus Mariota injured last year and Blaine Gabbert forced to start three games, the Titans still came within one win of a playoff birth. Mike Vrabel has built a rugged, physical team that will run Derrick Henry at you 25 times and leave it to a reliable defense to get the job done on that side of the ball. If Mariota can stay on the field, Tennessee could surprise a lot of people in a wide open AFC South.
3. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers had everything working against him last season. Stuck in Mike McCarthy's high school offense, Rodgers was saddled with rookie receivers and a defense akin to a slice of Swiss cheese. With Matt LaFleur at the controls this season, plenty of draft capital invested on defense, and more experience at the skill positions, Green Bay should be back in the playoff hunt.
2. Cleveland Browns
I'm not sure if you heard this, but the Cleveland Browns cleaned up this offseason. From the appointment of Freddie Kitchens as head coach to the trades for Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon, Cleveland figures to be a favorite in the AFC North. However, if Baker Mayfield and company fail to gel, this whole experiment could blow up in their face.
1. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons had legitimate Super Bowl hype last season. However, it's sort of difficult to make the Super Bowl when half of your starting defense gets hurt. While Matt Ryan and the entire offense continued to hum along, the losses of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, among others, made it almost impossible for Dan Quinn's unit to function. With Jones and Neal on the field again, expect big things from Atlanta.