"Last year's AFC playoff teams were the Colts, Patriots, Ravens,
Chargers, Chiefs and Jets. Which team that didn't make the playoffs last year is
the most likely to make it this year ... and at which team's expense?"
That's the question we posed to our Scout
NFL team experts. Find out what they had to say about it in this exclusive
Matthew Postins, BucsBlitz.com
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Injuries to either Steve McNair or Willis McGahee could make the Ravens'
offense irrelevant. But I'll stick with my first instinct for who will drop out
of the playoff picture in 2007 -- the Chiefs. They snuck into the postseason
Damon Huard is nothing more than a good NFL backup, and Brodie Croyle hasn't
taken a meaningful game snap yet. Larry Johnson might hold out. That offensive
line, one of the NFL's best just a few years ago, is getting older. And who's
the No. 1 wide receiver? Eddie Kennison. And the defense hasn't actually played
defense since the days of Derrick Thomas.
Who takes their place? I'll take Denver.
Jay Cutler looked pretty good last year and should improve. Travis Henry
gives ballast to the run game. Javon Walker could be even better after a year in
the system. They added Dre Bly to partner with Champ Bailey. The only real
concern is whether they did enough to shore up the run defense. Still, I think
they're the team with the fewest question marks in that 9-7 to 7-9 group from a
Denis Savage, SilverandBlack.com
The New York Jets were a surprise entrant into the playoffs last year and
will be hard-pressed to return to the postseason. Their top runner gained 650
yards last year and Chad Pennington's soft-tossing ways will eventually be their
demise, despite his uncanny accuracy and strong leadership. While their defense
has improved, they have yet to replace the pressure John Abraham was so adept at
putting on the opposition. That puts more pressure on the cornerbacks and rookie
Darrelle Revis will be a frequent target.
|Bengals QB Carson Palmer|
(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
No team has the talent - or the police blotter - of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Carson Palmer stepped up as a leader last year when he called out his own team
for their digressions. A talented offense with multiple weapons is the focal
point and a favorable schedule in November and December will make a team no one
wants to face when January beckons.
Todd Korth, PackerReport.com
Green Bay Packers
Denver will have an improved defense this season behind new assistant head
coach/defense Jim Bates. In his one and only season in Green Bay (2005), the
former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator/head coach took a lousy defense to
the top 10 in the NFL (seventh overall). The Broncos' Bates-powered defense
should be enough to give Denver's offense a better chance to score more points
The Broncos will replace the Kansas City Chiefs, who squeaked into the
postseason last year, to gain a wild card playoff spot behind the mighty San
Diego Chargers in the AFC West.
Alain Poupart, DolphinDigest.com
It's hard to imagine any AFC playoff team from last year more likely to
tumble than the Chiefs. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them fall all
the way to last place in the AFC West. They're going with a first-year starter
at quarterback (Brodie Croyle), their once-potent offensive line took another
hit with the retirement of Will Shields and their defense remains mediocre.
As for the non-playoff team most likely to join the postseason party, there
are several good candidates, but let's go with Cincinnati. Yes, there are
off-the-field issues galore with this team, but the offense should click from
the start this season now that Carson Palmer is more than a full year removed
from his knee injury. The Bengals missed the playoffs last season only because
they couldn't execute a simple extra point, but they won't cut it so close in
Charlie Bernstein, JagNation.com
The team I expect to fall out of the playoff picture in '07 is the Jets. New
York's 10 victories were mostly a product of a soft schedule as they were ranked
25th in total offense and 20th in total defense last season. Although I like the
additions of Thomas Jones and Darrelle Revis, I still can't see the Jets winning
more than eight games this year.
|Jaguars LB Mike Peterson|
(Doug Benc/Getty Images)
I believe that the team most likely to take their spot in the AFC playoffs is
Jacksonville. The Jaguars placed 15 guys on the injured reserve list in 2006 and
still managed to blowout the eventual Super Bowl Champion Colts, Dallas,
Pittsburgh, and both New York teams en route to an 8-8 record. Without a
late-season meltdown by backup quarterback David Garrard, the team would've
coasted into a wildcard spot.
The Jaguars will benefit from the healthy return of their starting quarterback
Byron Leftwich, as well as their best linebacker in Mike Peterson, and their top
pass-rusher, Reggie Hayward. Offseason free agent acquisitions of wide receiver
Dennis Northcutt and right tackle Tony Pashos, along with safety Reggie
Nelson, linebacker Justin Durant and wide receiver Mike Walker through the
draft, adds even more talent and depth.
Aaron Wilson, RavensInsider.com
Honestly, I could see the Cincinnati Bengals as a legitimate
wild card team with the Baltimore Ravens defending their AFC North title in
The team I could foresee left out of the playoff fraternity when the music stops
this year is the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm not sold on their quarterback outlook
with Damon Huard and Brodie Coyle, and this Larry Johnson contract situation
looks like it's going to get real ugly, real soon.
Michael John Schon, BroncosUpdate.com
Conspicuously missing from the 2006 AFC Playoff picture were the Denver
Broncos. Only two short years ago, Denver came within one game of advancing to
the Big Dance, losing out to the eventual Lombardi trophy winners, the
Pittsburgh Steelers. With a change at starting quarterback, running back and a
vast majority of the defense, 2007 may prove to be quite different.
Mike Shanahan has rolled the dice in assembling what he believes will be the
team that returns Denver to dominance in the AFC West. And the likes of Jay
Cutler, Travis Henry and Dre Bly will all play key roles in this process.
Standing in their way will be the San Diego Chargers, who’ve seemingly
undergone more changes than the cast of 24, predominantly at head coach
where Marty Shottenheimer has relinquished the reigns to one-time Oakland
Raiders guru Norv Turner. San Diego’s housecleaning, combined with the Broncos
recent additions, will undoubtedly open the door for a change atop the AFC West.
Ed Thompson, ScoutNFL.com
The Chiefs are the most likely to fall out of the playoff picture in 2007.
After narrowly making the playoffs last year, they lost more talent than they
added during the offseason, they have question marks at key positions and
they're being led by a head coach who just doesn't think outside of the box
while other teams make clever adjustments as the game progresses.
Meanwhile, the Broncos were very aggressive at adding new talent that should
push them into this year's playoffs. Defensive tackle Sam Adams, cornerback Dre
Bly, wide receiver Brandon Stokley, running back Travis Henry and tight end
Daniel Graham are new faces that will have a significant impact on the Broncos'
success in 2007.
Denver has one of the coolest quarterbacks in the league in Jay Cutler. He's not
easily phased or distracted and is mature beyond his years. He's poised for a
big year thanks to the addition of new talent, the game experience he gained
during his rookie year, and the team's elimination of any possible quarterback
controversy with the trade of Jake Plummer to Tampa Bay.