There is still a lot of football to be played. The postseason is a ways off, especially with there now being 17 games instead of 16.
But if last week taught us anything it’s that, once again, this is a league of haves and have nots. Yeah, parity is real, but there is still a substantial gap between the best and worst teams in this league, as the slew of blowout games in Week 7 spoke to. We continue to see some huge betting lines on NFL games and I suspect that remains the case moving forward.
There are a host of teams that are simply not ready for prime time, even though every team is now guaranteed of at least one appearance at night, and it’s not too early to start closing the book on many teams for 2021. It’s essentially over for them. Whatever meaningful football games they are playing this season, have already taken place, and although it’s not yet Halloween they are playing for draft position from here on out.
That’s just their reality, whether they have come to grips with it or not. I’m not telling you I know every team that is going to reach the playoffs, or in what order, but I am certainly able to write a fairly significant number of teams out. It’s over. See ya next year.
This exercise brings me no joy, but enough is enough for these teams, and they’d best embrace the whatever opportunity awaits before Tuesday’s trade deadline to add draft picks or young assets or anything else that might help them down the road. Because they’re going to need it. The following teams will not be in the postseason. Bank it:
- The entire NFC East besides Dallas (each 2-5): What a bleepshow this division is yet again. The Cowboys are legit – which is better than 2020, when none of these teams was legit – and they will win the division by a ton of games. WFT, we thought you at least had a defense; we were wrong. The Eagles are a looooonngg way off right now with rookie coach Nick Sirianni taking his lumps. The Giants are really bad, too. None of these three teams have much to hang their hat on besides a few individuals here or there. They haven’t displayed the ability to play anything close to consistent football on either side of the ball. They won’t be catching Dallas. Even an expanded wild-card field is a pipedream.
- Detroit (0-7): I love what Dan Campbell is establishing there, but after suffering one soul-crushing loss after the next, it’s on to 2022. It was never about 2021 for the Lions, anyway, early on in a deep rebuild.
- Chicago (3-4): Hard to imagine there will not be sweeping changes coming to this franchise by 2022. Hopefully they don’t break Justin Fields before then. The defense has fallen mightily from what it once was. The offensive line is negligent.
- Atlanta (3-3): Cool story with them battling back to .500, and nice resilience shown by rookie coach Arthur Smith and this group after a very rocky start. But too many defensive shortcomings for this long-stuttering franchise to get over the top this season.
- Carolina (3-4): You need to have at least a QB worthy of being able to start on half the teams in the league, at a minimum, to make the playoffs most years. They have nothing close to that. The offense is brutal. Christian McCaffrey ain’t enough to save the day when he comes back. Four straight humbling losses have major questions being asked of Matt Rhule and where this program is headed.
- Seattle (2-5): It’s too late. Monday’s loss cements it. Whenever Russell Wilson comes back (and Week 11 is likely the earliest we’ll see him), it’s too late. The defense is terrible. Can’t cover or rush the passer. The offense is erratic at best. No longer a tough out at home, either.
- San Francisco (2-4): Kyle Shanahan taking serious heat, and justifiably so. Wins are how coaches are measured; he doesn’t do it nearly consistently enough. Injuries are a factor, sure, but now he has a QB controversy on his hands. This defense ain’t nearly what it was two years ago, either.
Okay, brief interlude here before we shift to the AFC. Yeah, I pretty much have called the entire NFC Field. Dallas, LA, Arizona, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa and New Orleans will represent this conference in the playoffs. On to the AFC!
- Houston (1-6): The goal all along has been to get the first-overall pick. They are well on their way to stay in that mix. A 16-game losing streak to finish the season seems within their reach.
- Jacksonville (1-5): Urban Meyer is still their coach and they lost to Houston. Tells you all you need to know.
- New York (1-5): Tough gig being a pro football fan in The Big Apple. Not much cause for hope. Zach Wilson hurt, a terrible offense and a cratering defense that looks worse each week. Giving up 54 to the Patriots last week, sadly, probably won’t be an anomaly.
- Miami (1-6): Six straight losses and counting. Players not buying what the coach is selling. Massive issues on both sides of the ball. And no, Deshaun Watson is not going to rise in and save the season even if they do trade for him.
- Denver (3-4): It’s not just how bad they have looked in their four straight defeats, it’s who the three wins came against. The dregs of the NFL. Vic Fangio is on borrowed time as head coach, his defense isn’t scaring anyone anymore and they won’t be beating any of the better teams in the league. Lot more divisional Ls on the way for this outfit, and their home field advantage ain’t what it used to be, either.
Full disclosure – I came really close to putting Pittsburgh and New England in this group. The Patriots have lost four home games already and have limitations on both sides and their next six AFC games are the Chargers, Browns, Titans and Bills, Colts and Bills, and they already blew an AFC lay-up by losing to Miami Week 1. Not enough conference wins to be a wild card, I don’t think, but because of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels I will reserve final judgement. And the Steelers offense and Ben Roethlisberger are a massive problem (wins over Denver and Seattle just masked the problems), but because of Mike Tomlin’s genius and the overall strength of the organization I’m not going to write them off at 3-3, as much as I think this conference and division is just too deep for them to be among the seven teams who advance at the end.