Around the NFL  

 

Ranking teams most likely to end playoff droughts

Print

For each and every Patriots fan riding high through the skies, there's a forlorn football follower wondering if success, joy and trophies will ever come.

Case in point: The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since wiping out the old Houston Oilers 41-14 on Jan 6, 1991. That's a ridiculous streak of ineptitude, but Cincinnati is also one season removed from a five-year run of postseason play.

How about the hideous collection of teams that haven't even sniffed a playoff berth in a decade-plus? WHAT ABOUT THEM?

All cursed and terrible things must come to an end -- even something so untenable as Cleveland and Buffalo's seemingly eons-long absence from the league's annual Super Bowl tournament.

One of these scorned franchises needs to end this nonsense and make the playoffs -- right? Of the six star-crossed teams below, who's got the best chance of doing so? Here's my guess:

1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9 seasons without a playoff appearance)

The Buccaneers are for real. If their weakness -- the offensive line -- can keep Jameis Winston in one piece, Tampa fans should be in for a rowdy campaign. First, the Bucs signed free-agent deep threat DeSean Jackson to pair with Pro Bowl wideout Mike Evans and productive pass catcher Adam Humphries. Then the Bucs watched O.J. Howard, the draft's top tight end, fall into their lap with the 19th overall pick. He'll pair nicely with Cameron Brate, who already gave the club a legitimate talent at the position. The Bucs are also raving about the re-emergence of Doug Martin, with general manager Jason Licht telling "Good Morning Football" that the running back has "looked as good as I have seen him." With a defense that played well down the stretch, Tampa has a chance to be a special story in the NFC.

2) Tennessee Titans (8 seasons)

The Titans are a playoff threat in the AFC -- and much more. Tennessee has the DNA of a team being constructed for long-term success by Jon Robinson. Few general managers have done more over two offseasons to reshape and engineer the look and feel of a roster now equipped to bash teams on offense with a smothering line and power ground game. A fully healthy Marcus Mariota is needed under center -- his first two seasons ended in injury -- but few young quarterbacks have shown as much promise so soon. Exciting rookie wideout Corey Davis fills the roster's most dire need, while cornerback Adoree' Jackson gives ageless defensive play-caller Dick LeBeau a premier athlete who fits the scheme. Book it now: The Titans will take the AFC South.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars (9 seasons)

We're already in bleak territory. It's not that the Jaguars don't have talent -- they have a bunch -- but no team has done less with its own parts. Another expensive free-agent haul -- cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive behemoth Calais Campbell, safety Barry Church and more -- give back-from-the-dead coach Doug Marrone plenty of pieces, but the biggest impact might come from rookie power back Leonard Fournette, who figures to become a centerpiece right away. I believe Marrone can help this team, but it won't mean much in 2017 unless spiraling quarterback Blake Bortles suddenly casts off his rash of mechanical flaws and learns to win close games. Are they even the third-best team in their division?

4) Buffalo Bills (17 seasons)

This proud and loyal fan base deserves much better, but patience is required. While Tyrod Taylor brings excitement to the quarterback position, new coach Sean McDermott must make the most of a defensive roster littered with a hodgepodge of players drafted for three different regimes. McDermott needs Bills ownership to provide him and new GM Brandon Beane the space and time to build that unit -- and this entire team -- in a way that will bring a consistent winner to Buffalo. This is a club that refused a fifth-year option on wideout Sammy Watkins and might not even have Taylor in uniform after this season. Far too much remains in flux to kick around the idea of a playoff appearance in a division still ruled by the Patriots.

5) Los Angeles Rams (12 seasons)

Another team mired in transition and mystery. Moving on from Jeff Fisher was critical for a franchise in need of a fresh start. Success today boils down to 31-year-old coach Sean McVay finding a way to do what his predecessor never could: develop talent on offense. The challenges are real. First overall pick Jared Goff was a boiling mess under center last season, while running back Todd Gurley was stymied from wire to wire against opponents that stacked the box. Fix these issues -- while leaning on coordinator Wade Phillips to run your defense -- and Los Angeles could be in for some fun. If the problems repeat themselves, the Rams will contend with the Niners for last place in one of the NFL's worst divisions.

6) Cleveland Browns (14 seasons)

Cleveland's front office deserves credit. The Browns shored up their offensive line by signing center JC Tretter and uber-reliable guard Kevin Zeitler in free agency. Then they added three first-rounders -- once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher Myles Garrett, jackknife defensive back Jabrill Peppers and freaky tight end David Njoku -- in the draft. They already own Houston's first- and second-round picks in next year's selection process and have the requisite ammunition to top anyone in a trade if they need to move up to grab a coveted quarterback. That is, unless they hit on rookie passer DeShone Kizer. There's a lot to like about the future of the Browns, but it's premature to expect this roster to mesh in time for September.

Print

Fan Discussion