The 2014 season was very exciting. There were battles to make the playoffs in both the AFC and NFC until the very last week of the season. Now that the season is over, there are a number of teams that are already looking towards next year’s campaign with the goal of not missing the playoffs for another year in a row.
This is one list nobody wants to see their team on. For those of us who have to watch as a couple other teams get to continue to compete for the Lombardi Trophy instead of our favorite, we can rest assured that the 2015 season could bring about very different things. Since this season had such tight competitions for playoff spots, many of the teams who are sitting at home in January and February will be able to make the leap and become playoff contenders next year.
This list looks at the best teams that did not make the playoffs this time around. Everything is taken into consideration when deciding the rankings. This includes how a team performed in 2014 in all three phases of the game and how strong their competition is within their division. It also looks at what may need to happen this offseason to ensure that the team makes the playoffs in 2015.
10. St. Louis Rams – 2014 Record: 6-10
The St. Louis Rams always seems to be a popular sleeper pick to go to the playoffs. That was true this season and it will be the case going into the 2015 season as well. The team is led by one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Robert Quinn is the best defensive lineman in the league outside of the J.J. Watt. The problem with the Rams is their offense. Sam Bradford just cannot seem to stay healthy. However, even if he were to make it through an entire season, it’s hard to tell at this point if he would actually be that much of an upgrade over the two backups. Still, with a defense that is as strong as St. Louis’ it is very hard to rule them out as a possible playoff contender.
9. New York Giants – 2014 Record: 6-10
The Giants would make the playoffs every season if they could only get off to a strong start. It seems like every year they start poorly and then are forced to play catch up. This used to work when the division was more evenly matched, but with how good the Cowboys and Eagles have become it is hard to imagine a team losing a bunch of games at the beginning of the season and still win the division. The Giants are still the same team that won two Super Bowls. They are built the exact same way even though some players have come and gone. As long as Tom Coughlin is the coach and Eli Manning is the quarterback, the Giants have a chance. If Eli can limit his mistakes in 2015, there is simply no reason they could not win their division.
8. Kansas City Chiefs – 2014 Record: 9-7
After being the turn around team of 2013, the Chiefs were a bit disappointing in 2014. This could be attributed to a few injuries to key players. However, the most likely reason for the team missing the playoffs this season was probably their schedule. The Chiefs had the easiest schedule in the league in 2013. In 2014, they had the toughest. This does not look very good and is the major reason why the Chiefs have to be listed this low. If the team cannot beat the top teams in the league, then there is no reason to think they can compete for a playoff spot. The AFC West is a very tough division. The Chiefs really need to focus on getting some receivers for Alex Smith to throw to. If they can get an offense that can compliment their defense, they would be a playoff contender for years to come. However, until this happens there is not too much to get excited about here.
7. Buffalo Bills – 2014 Record: 9-7
Believe it or not, the Buffalo Bills were one of the last teams in 2014 to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. They most interesting thing about the Bills is that they are really a team of no-names. Every starter on the team is good, but no one stands out as one of the NFL’s best. At some point this will change. This team is very young. They are only going to improve as the years go on. The Bills are great on special teams and their defense is very stout. If the youthful receivers show a vast improvement this year, they may very well give the Patriots a run for their money. Another thing that would help the Bills chances is Tom Brady retiring. Until the Patriots fall off, nobody can say anyone else in the AFC East has a good chance of making the playoffs, but with Rex Ryan as the new head coach, we might be in for a surprise.
6. Miami Dolphins – 2014 Record: 8-8
Like the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins really need the Patriots to decline. The Bills and the Dolphins are very similar; however, the Dolphins have more experience under their belt. This is especially true for the offense. Once Ryan Tannehill develops into the gunslinger he is expected to be, the Dolphins may become one of the best teams in the NFL. Their defense is already one of the most solid in the league with a good amount of depth. No matter who they throw in there, those players tend to perform very well. At the end of the day, their all comes down to Tannehill. Tannehill seems to improve a bit every season, but it’s time for him to make huge leaps. These little baby steps are not going to win a division title.
5. San Francisco 49ers – 2014 Record: 8-8
The San Francisco 49ers are probably the toughest team to put a ranking on for the purposes of this list. The team was decimated by injuries in 2014. They also had many locker room distractions going on as a result of problems between the front office and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Now Harbaugh is out and Jim Tomsula is in. Had it been any other coach who was hired, the 49ers would be much lower on this list. If Harbaugh was still the head coach, the 49ers would have been the number one ranked team here. The roster does not look like it will change very much. Their 2015 season comes down to whether Tomsula can get better results from the team than Harbaugh did and if the players can stay healthy.
4. San Diego Chargers – 2014 Record: 9-7
The San Diego Chargers were so close this season. Unfortunately, close does not mean a thing. The team has such a talented lineup. They are good in all three phases of the game. The thing that hurt them the most this season was the injuries to their running backs. The Chargers need to get strong performances out of their running backs in order to win. They use the run to set up the pass. Without a solid running game, they become one dimensional. Although they always got good production out of their starting running back, that’s just not enough for this team. The Chargers use a running back tandem to keep defenses on their feet. They need two running backs to play well in order to win a game. When this happens, Philip Rivers is able to completely take over a game. The good news for Chargers fans is that next season, running backs Ryan Matthews, Donald Brown, and Branden Oliver will all be back.
3. Houston Texans – 2014 Record: 9-7
The only thing that needs to be said about the Houston Texans is… J.J. Watt. Watt is the best player in the NFL. He may be the best defensive end in the history of the game. Eventually, the Texans will find an offense that can help out this defense. This has to start at the quarterback position. Drafting Jadaveon Clowney with the first overall pick in the 2014 draft was a good decision because there was not another player in the draft that had his talents. However, it could end up hurting them. The Texans need a franchise quarterback who can come in and contribute immediately. Rotating through free agents and lifelong backup quarterbacks is not going to give them the firepower on offense to compete with Andrew Luck and the Colts. If they do not bring in a young quarterback this year, it could be a very long time before they can feel comfortable with their starter. It takes a while for a quarterback to develop, so the sooner they jump on this the better. With that said, the Texans have such a powerful defense which is able to score and completely take over games that it’s hard to believe they don’t have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs in 2015.
2. New Orleans Saints – 2014 Record: 7-9
The fact that the New Orleans Saints are sitting at home during the playoffs this years is unbelievable. The Saints really are one the best teams in the league. Unfortunately for them, their record did not reflect that. The offense is just as strong as it has always been. That will be the case as long as Drew Brees is the starter. The problem the Saints have and have always had is their defense. They simply must get better play out of the defense. One thing everybody learned this season is that relying on their ability to win shootouts is not a sure fire method of making the playoffs. The NFL proving again that defense wins championships. Though offense is still the most important aspect of the game, if a team does not have a suitable defense, they cannot compete.
1. Philadelphia Eagles – 2014 Record: 10-6
The Eagles crumbled late in the season. This can be partly attributed to the injury to starting quarterback Nick Foles. Though Foles was not performing on the same level he was in 2013, he was still a much better option than Mark Sanchez. Foles definitely needs to return to his 2013 form. If he does, there is no way the Eagles will not make the playoffs next season. Every other skill position on their offense is loaded with talent. The offensive line should definitely be addressed this offseason. The defense completely outperformed expectations. That is a really positive thing considering that was such a concern for the team coming into the 2014 season. At the end of the day, the Eagles are going to live and die by how well their quarterback plays.