In the NFL, a decade is a lifetime. The average NFL career is 3.3 years, or 6 years for athletes who make the roster as a rookie. This makes it incredibly difficult for organizations to determine skill level, injury history, work ethic, and personality to put together a championship roster. One bad draft pick could be the difference between selecting the first overall draft pick and contending for a Super Bowl. We saw this in the 2014 draft when Johnny Manziel was selected a round before Derek Carr. These setbacks take years to correct, and this year we have two NFL playoff teams that have successfully righted the ship and will make the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
The Tennessee Titans will be the biggest surprise in the NFL this season and end their nine-year playoff drought will come to an end. Countless players have started and ended their careers without playing a competitive Titans team, and that ends here. Marcus Mariota will be one of the top finalists for comeback player of the year after a gruesome leg injury ended his 2016 campaign and the playoff hopes of the organization. Tennessee used their fifth overall pick to snag one of the preseason candidates for rookie of the year, Corey Davis. Their receiving corps consists of several young guys fighting to make a name for themselves, and Eric Decker who will make an impact on the field and in the locker room. Last season Tennessee’s defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed, and the front office made several changes to address the problem. They signed 8 free agent defenders, most notably Logan Ryan, and Johnathan Cyprien. The Titans then used their 18th overall pick on standout USC cornerback Adoree Jackson, to round out an entirely different secondary. Tennessee addressed the biggest holes in their roster and will win the AFC South.
In the NFC, 5 of the 6 playoff seeds are almost guaranteed to be the Cowboys, Packers, Seahawks, Giants, and Falcons. That leaves one space available for the rest of the conference, and it will go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs only competition will be the Washington Redskins who will fall short because of their lack of weapons on offense, and their more difficult strength of schedule. Keep in mind these NFL predictions on what teams will make it to the playoffs for a chance at a trip to Super Bowl 2018 are being made prior to the start of the regular season. Anything can happen from now to then. The Buccaneers added three-time Pro-Bowler DeSean Jackson to take the focus away from Mike Evans who has tremendously improved in each of his first three seasons. The Buccaneers are jam-packed with explosive playmakers that can score every time they touch the ball. The Buccaneers will finish in second place in the NFC South, and their 10-6 record will be enough to earn the sixth seed in the NFL playoffs.