Updated: Sep 3, 2019
When it comes to the playoffs in the NFL, there’s constant turnover on a year-to-year basis in both conferences. In fact, only five teams from the 2017-2018 season made the playoffs in 2018-2019 (Patriots, Chiefs, Rams, Saints, and Eagles). With questions looming around multiple playoff teams from last season, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's surprising retirement, the Cowboys and Chargers both dealing with running back contract issues (Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon), and Texans starting running back Lamar Miller suffering a torn ACL in the team’s third preseason game, there’s bound to be change yet again in the 2019-2020 NFL playoff picture. Here are five teams that you should be on the lookout for heading into the NFL’s 100th season.
Green Bay Packers
2018 season record 6-9-1
2019 season prediction: 10-6
With new head coach Matt LaFleur in and long-time Packer head coach Mike McCarthy out, it seems as though it’s time for a new era in Green Bay. This is especially true for running the football.
In 2018, the Packers ranked dead last in the league in rushing attempts (333) and 22nd in yards per game with 104.2 yards per game. That should change this season with running back Aaron Jones as the featured back. Jones thrived in an expanded role last season, rushing for 728 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 206 yards and a touchdown receiving in 12 games. The third year back out of University of Texas El-Paso (UTEP) also led the NFL in yards per attempt at 5.5.
Green Bay’s schedule is also favorable the first half of the season as five of their first seven games are at Lambeau Field. Getting off to a quick start this season will be crucial as four of the Packers final six games are on the road. In one score games, the Packers went 3-6-1 in 2018. Look for that number to vastly improve with superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers under center, star receiver Davante Adams lined up at receiver and a revamped defense built through free agency and the draft. There’s no doubt the Packers should be in contention come playoff time.
2018 season record 7-9
2019 season prediction: 10-6
The 2018 Falcons season can be summed up in three words: a roller coaster. After losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round in 2017, their season got off on the wrong foot in 2018. While Atlanta turned it around to get to .500 at 4-4, the ups and downs took a turn for the worse. The Falcons lost five straight games, getting outscored 141-88 and not scoring more than 20 points in that span.
The injury bug also hit the Falcons hard. It affected impact players on both sides of the ball such as running back Devonta Freeman, linebacker Deion Jones, and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen all spent some chunk of the season on injured reserve.
With a plethora of injuries and poor play, Atlanta’s defense was its downfall finishing 25th in points per game (26.4). However, the Falcons offense shockingly finished 6th in points with 25.9 points per game, one of three teams to finish in the top 10 and not make the playoffs (Buccaneers and Panthers).