What The NFL’s Top Non-Playoff Teams Need To Do
The 2019 Super Bowl is still more than a month away, but fans of 20 NFL teams must already start looking toward next season. The playoff picture is decided, and so is the year for many franchises.
Some teams saw their early departure coming weeks ago, but a few experienced heartbreaks as their fate came down to the wire. Here’s what the teams that just missed the playoffs need to do to change their direction in 2019.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Bringing peace to the locker room
This season was tough from start to finish for Steelers fans. Star running back Le’veon Bell made the internet-breaking decision to not take the field this season in a holdout for a bigger, longer-term contract than the tags Pittsburgh tried to place on him during the offseason.
The team found a solution for a Bell-less backfield in former-Pitt running back James Conner, but this wasn’t the end of the drama for the team.
In the final week of the season, word broke that a fight between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown caused Brown to skip practice leading to a healthy scratch in a season-deciding game for Pittsburgh. Brown is now spending his time trolling Steelers fans with some friendly banter with San Francisco 49ers players.
Drama with three of your team’s biggest stars is never a good sign for an organization. If the Steelers want a playoff spot next season, it’ll be on head coach Mike Tomlin to salvage what he can and rebuild a healthy team culture.
Tennessee Titans: Feeding the Former-Heisman-Winner
Just a couple years ago, the Titans were running all over the league with a young and talented offensive line and the running back tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
Henry, a second-round pick, seemed like an afterthought despite Murray’s departure and was even shopped around before this year’s trade deadline. But, in the latter half of the season, Henry proved his Tennessee’s best asset.
Henry finished the season with over 1000 yards and enough huge plays to rival his college highlight real.
The interior of the team’s recently great offensive line took a beating this year, and the Titans need to look to improving some spots there. But, with a dominant ground game in recent memory, Tennessee has a path to the Super Bowl in their young stud of a running back.
Minnesota Vikings: Getting Their Money’s Worth
Vikings fans will be spending the offseason wondering why exactly quarterback Kirk Cousins was paid $84 million. The holder of the league’s first-ever fully guaranteed contract finished tenth in yards passing, ninth in passing touchdowns and threw the second-most completions for negative or no yards.
It was a bad start for what will be a long and expensive relationship.
All Minnesota can do is hope the issues aren’t because of Cousins himself, or at the very least the issues are fixable. A few weeks ago, the team fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski to the interim job. Stefanski was blocked by the team from interviewing with any other team for a job last season, so it seems the Vikings think highly of him and believe he may be the answer for the team’s offensive woes.
Minnesota’s job: give Cousins no excuses. He has the offensive weapons, and the team needs to spend this offseason improving his blockers and finding a system that works for him, or else they’re in for a long ride out of a salary-cap ditch.
Cleveland Browns: Finally, Being Optimistic
Yes, believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns, just a year removed from a winless season, were only a few games away from a playoff spot. This year’s success was on the shoulders of Baker Mayfield, their quarterback of the future, as he broke records and made a case for rookie of the year.
He, along with several members of the Browns rookie class, including cornerback Denzel Ward and running back Nick Chubb, gave the city of Cleveland something they haven’t had in a long time: hope.
The 2017 Browns and the 2008 Lions are the only two teams to have a winless season, and comparing years after for each team, Cleveland is off to a much better start.
There’s still a lot of work to be done with this team, but general manager John Dorsey proved in his first year with the team that he can handle the job. While improvements will be made all over the roster this offseason, the Browns need to trust that the young stars they have are only going to keep getting better.
Francesco de Falco is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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