Since the NFL playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, at least four new teams have made the postseason each year. Here are four that missed out in 2020 that could play extra football this winter along with their NFL odds to make/miss the playoffs.
Odds & Predictions NFL Playoffs 2021Cincinnati Bengals (+350 make playoffs | -550 miss)
Cincinnati finished 4-11-1 last year but surely would have won at least a few more games if last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Joe Burrow, had not suffered a season-ending injury after 10 games. The former Heisman Trophy winner from LSU is fully healthy now, although he surely will not play in any preseason games to protect that knee. The true test for Burrow will come when he gets pressured in the pocket for the first time.
Burrow, who struggled on throws over 20 yards as a rookie, focused on improving his downfield accuracy this offseason. The Bengals could have one of the NFL’s top passing offenses after the team took wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick, pairing him with veteran slot receiver Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, last year’s second-round pick who led the team in receiving as a rookie. Boyd led the Bengals with a 21 percent target share in Burrow’s nine full games.
Cincinnati hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015. If the Bengals aren’t in the playoff hunt in December, that could mean Coach Zac Taylor isn’t back next year. The Bengals are 3-point home underdogs for their season opener on Sept. 12 vs. Minnesota.Jacksonville Jaguars (+300 make playoffs | -400 miss)
This obviously largely depends on how good quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence is right out of the gate. He is considered the top QB prospect to enter the league since Andrew Luck and is the favorite to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. It’s worth noting that the Jaguars added Marvin Jones at wideout, and the offense will twice see Houston and Tennessee — two pass defenses that ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2020. Thus, Lawrence could put up big numbers.
How will coach Urban Meyer transition from college football to the NFL? He has had some hiccups already. Since 2000, only nine college coaches have entered the league without previous NFL backgrounds. Of those, the only one with a winning record is Chip Kelly, whose tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles ended poorly.Philadelphia Eagles (+240 make playoffs | -300 miss)
The Eagles have a new head coach in former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and a new starting QB in Jalen Hurts, although he did start the final four games last year and looked good at times, shaky at others. But with upwards of three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL draft, the Eagles are hedging their bets. If Hurts doesn’t bump up his passing numbers (52% completion rate, 6 TDs, 4 INT), then the Eagles can look at QB in next year’s draft or trade for Deshaun Watson.
The offensive line is a major question mark. The defense should be solid. Philadelphia’s defensive line was already high-powered before the signing of Ryan Kerrigan, and the additions of Eric Wilson at linebacker, Steven Nelson at cornerback, and Anthony Harris at safety also should boost the unit. It might only take seven wins to capture the NFC East again in 2021.Atlanta Falcons (+190 to make playoffs| -270 to miss)
The Falcons slipped to 4-12 and last in the NFC South last season, which led to a new head coach (Arthur Smith) and GM (Terry Fontenot) – plus the team traded future Hall of Fame receiver Julio Jones this offseason. Even without Jones, the offense should be pretty good under former MVP Matt Ryan. Calvin Ridley had supplanted Jones as the No. 1 wideout regardless, and fourth overall pick Kyle Pitts has a chance to be a game-changing tight end.
Perhaps the key is not letting Ryan throw so much. Ryan led the league in completed passes (407) and attempts (626) during the 4-12 season a year ago. He has exceeded 600 attempts the last three years, and the Falcons have finished below .500 each time. Mike Davis is the new featured back. The Atlanta native comes home after two seasons in Carolina, the last one spent tallying a career-high in carries. He had 642 yards and six touchdowns on 165 yards, for a 3.9-yard average.
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