NFL 2021: Six Upstart Teams That Could Surprise

by Wayne Root

ON AVERAGE, ONLY ABOUT HALF OF LAST YEAR’s PLAYOFF TEAMS WILL RETURN THIS YEAR. 
 
WHICH OF THESE SIX THAT MISSED LAST YEAR WILL MAKE IT?    
 
The league increased the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams to feature seven teams per conference. There will still be four division winners. However, an extra wild-card team has been added in the NFC and AFC. 
 
From the 1991 postseason through 2018, the average number of returning teams is nearly 6.4 per season. Just over half.
 
Can these theses that were close in 2020 get into the playoffs this year; replacing six from last year?
 
Dallas
Now, heading into this season, there’s at least some good news. One, Dak Prescott is expected to make a full recovery and the O-line is healthy as well. Two, they added players such as first-round pick Micah Parsons and fourth-round pick Jabril Cox to light a fire under Smith and LVE. Three, they have the second easiest schedule according to ESPN.
 
Miami
In 2021, not only will he be more comfortable but the Dolphins also added Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle to help him improve. Their defense should also continue to shine as an already strong unit just added Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland in the draft. Head coach Brian Flores has done a great job re-tooling that defense and they just became even more dangerous with those two potential starters.
 
Arizona
Now looking ahead to 2021, they could be a team to watch. Not only are Murray and Hopkins going to have a full year together, but Arizona also added A.J. Green on offense. As for their defense, Chandler Jones should return after missing 11 games in 2020 and he will have some help in J.J. Watt and Zaven Collins. All that should be enough to finally give them a winning season, helping them to secure a spot in the playoffs.
 
Minnesota 
Expect the defensive-minded coach to get their defenders playing well again and the offense should be even better in 2021. Not only has Kirk Cousins been underappreciated but he and running back Dalvin Cook have even more help with Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis joining an offensive line that really needed an infusion of talent.
Don’t be surprised to see a bounce-back from this team as they get back to the playoffs in 2021.
 
LA Chargers
As far as their defense goes, Joey Bosa is still the leader on that side of the ball and another year of experience for Kenneth Murray should help him improve. There’s also Asante Samuel, Jr. who could end up being a star at cornerback for them. The Chargers have everything needed in order to be a playoff contender this coming season. While it will be hard for them to knock off the Chiefs in the AFC West, it wouldn’t be a shock at all to find them as one of the top seven in the AFC.
 
NY Giants
Add to that the growth of quarterback Daniel Jones, who is entering year four in the NFL, and the return of running back Saquon Barkley from a torn ACL suffered in 2020, and New York should be back in the mix for the NFC East title with a Wild Card spot as their fall-back option.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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