In August, every NFL team thinks it is a legitimate playoff contender, even if that’s a pipe dream. Here are three clubs who might be playoff teams in the eyes of the public or even NFL oddsmakers but that we believe are pretenders this year – with odds to make the postseason.
Predicting NFL Playoff 2021
Minnesota Vikings (-105 to make playoffs)
What could bring this team down? The fact that starting quarterback Kirk Cousins refuses to get the COVID vaccine. Earlier in camp, Cousins was placed on the team’s COVID-19 protocols when he was named a close contact of a teammate who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week. Cousins said he was “at peace” with his choice. Holland Hospital in western Michigan ended its relationship with Cousins over his stance on COVID-19 vaccines – Cousins is from Holland. The Vikings have no experienced QBs behind him.
To make matters worse, rookie first-round pick and projected starting offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw is now healthy. Darrisaw has core muscle surgery in January and had to have another procedure last week. Darrisaw has yet to take part in any live reps during camp and has only taken part in limited walk-throughs with the second team. The 23rd overall pick in the 2021 draft, Darrisaw was a first team All-ACC performer during his final season at Virginia Tech. Coach Mike Zimmer recently described the injury as one “nagging all the time,” going as far to say the rookie has been “one step forward and two steps back.” The Vikings re-signed veteran Rashod Hill as insurance.
New Orleans Saints (+100)
While star receiver Michael Thomas and Coach Sean Payton apparently have made nice and the Saints won’t trade Thomas, he’s still not going to play for at least the first four games due to ankle surgery. Some believe it isn’t and that the two sides are barreling toward a trade in the future, even if it would be financially cumbersome for the Saints to do so. Defensive tackle David Onyemata is suspended the first six games of the season, Pro Bowl kicker Will Lutz is expected to miss eight weeks and Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore could be suspended any day now for a March arrest.
Lattimore said the legal limbo he’s in doesn’t and hasn’t affected his approach to training camp: “I gotta be ready regardless. “It don’t really change nothing. It don’t change my mindset or nothing like that. It ain’t knocking me off of my game or nothing. If it comes, it comes. It is what it is. Of course, I don’t want to get suspended but it is what it is. It’s out of my hands.”
Pittsburgh Steelers (+160)
Still hard to believe this team started last year 11-0 as it then fell off a cliff. Pittsburgh is 2-0 this preseason but that means nothing as Ben Roethlisberger has yet to take a snap. With Roethlisberger watching from the sideline, Mason Rudolph started in each of the Steelers’ first two preseason game. Rudolph was outplayed, however, by fellow backup Dwayne Haskins in both games. Pittsburgh’s next preseason game will take place at home against the Lions on Saturday and Big Ben will play.
Big Ben’s backup will be either Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins. Haskins looked sharp in Thursday’s 24-16 preseason win over the Eagles, completing 16 of 22 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown. In the process, Haskins led four scoring drives and impressed head coach Mike Tomlin. Rudolph again got the start again but was stymied by holding penalties and a sack and was unable to get the offense in the end zone for the second game in a row. There’s no way Big Ben makes it a full 17 games healthy, and neither backup inspires much confidence.
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