NFL Teams Unlikely to Return to the Postseason in 2021

By Dan Vasta in Sports
| August 13, 2021 5:04 pm PDT

The NFL has players, teams, and coaches changing every offseason. Many either get better or worse. If you feel a team stayed about the same, that is not good. Teams that don’t evolve or improve their roster will always get left in the dust in due time.

Since 1990, there have been at least four new teams to reach the playoffs every season. That means there are four-plus teams that fail to return to the postseason from the year prior.

That includes an increase in one wild card per conference. Expect this trend to continue for years to come.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the NFL teams that won’t return to the playoffs in 2021 after making it last year.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have failed to reach the postseason only once with Russell Wilson as the starting quarterback. He has won double-digit games in eight of his nine seasons with Pete Carroll.

We have seen Seattle advance to the Divisional round in all but two of those eight playoff appearances. Seattle made two Super Bowl appearances in his first three years, and the future Hall of Famer looked like he would appear in several more.

The Seahawks changed their roster, however. Their dynamic secondary lost pieces like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Brandon Browner.

All of them but Sherman are out of football, and times have changed. Just look at where the Seahawks ranked against the pass in 2020.

  • 285 passing yards allowed per game (31st)
  • 450 completions allowed (32nd)
  • 45% opponent 3rd down conversion rate (26th)

The pass defense has been abysmal against better competition. Even against suspect teams, the lack of production from the defensive backs has been a growing concern.

No playoff team can go deep and make a Super Bowl run without star players. Seattle is missing a ton in their secondary.

The Seahawks have had among the worst offensive lines in football these past few seasons, too.

Seattle’s Sacks Allowed by Year
Year Sacks Allowed
2020 48 (5th most)
2019 48 (9th most)
2018 51 (8th most)
2017 43 (10th most)
2016 42 (6th most)
2015 46 (6th most)

That isn’t a top-10 list you want to be part of year in and year out.

The struggles came to a boiling point last season. Chris Carson couldn’t stay healthy in the backfield, and the depth was only worse in terms of health and production.

The squad has allowed at least 40-plus sacks since 2013, which is nearly the entire career of Russell Wilson. He can hold the ball for too long as he often abandons the pocket and scrambles to search for a first down.

However, the blocking woes are not all his fault.

The lack of premier blockers has been an issue for a decade. The health of Wilson is vital, and the team had four straight losing seasons before he arrived with Seattle. He can only do so much magic in the pocket.

Of course, his presence forces people to buy the Seahawks even when they shouldn’t.

Seattle will be one of the more overrated teams in the NFL. Some believe they will reach the Super Bowl. I am not picking Seattle to make the playoffs until they can shore up their line and run the ball downhill with conviction. The playoffs are out of the question until they can do that.

The NFC West is arguably the toughest division in football, of course. To see where we ranked it, out our 2021 NFL division power rankings.

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Indianapolis Colts

Carson Wentz getting injured before preseason games even start is tough to overcome. Frank Reich was hopeful he would replace Philip Rivers.

While Wentz should be back earlier than some originally had thought, this is quite the obstacle.

An early return isn’t necessarily good enough for this franchise to make a run towards the postseason. The health and play of Wentz have been dicey in recent memory.

Avoiding the health bug is tough enough for Wentz, but the turnover bug is even worse. He was among the league’s worst decision-makers in 2020.

Check out how he measured up to some turnover-happy passers last season.

Quarterbacks With Most Turnovers in 2020
Carson Wentz Drew Lock Kirk Cousins Russell Wilson Jared Goff
19* 18 18 17 17

Wentz barely played three-fourths of the season last year. Yet, he led the NFL in turnovers. Wentz has struggled for years at taking care of the ball.

Forcing passing into tight windows does not work in the NFL unless you are Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes. Only the elite passers can get away with that.

Wentz is hopeful his teammate Quenton Nelson can recover quickly from the same injury. Their ground game should keep them in ball games, but the schedule early on is brutal.

There is a strong possibility that the team starts out winless in their first five games. Who are they going to beat early on?

Seriously, look at this schedule.

  • VS. Seahawks
  • VS. Rams
  • @ Titans
  • @ Dolphins
  • @ Ravens

0-5 would make it next to impossible to win the division. Even with three wild cards this season, grabbing a wild card berth will be out of the question if they start 4-8.

At the start of the offseason, I thought the Colts had a strong shot of winning their division. The Titans added Julio Jones, and now Indianapolis cannot even stay healthy at critical positions.

If they had everything going their way, I could see them make a playoff push. However, this is a steep hill to climb. I am selling the Colts and believe they are in store for another losing season.

New Orleans Saints

The preparation for losing one of the ten best signal-callers in the history of the NFL is easier said than done. The production Drew Brees is leaving behind will make it difficult on whoever is the next player under center.

Brees was a magician in the pocket and was able to lead his team to victory after victory.

The regular season was dominated at times by Brees. He was a surgeon under center, dissecting NFC defenses with the best of them. He is leaving behind one of the best careers we have ever seen, and New Orleans won’t be the same on offense.

Brees put up staggering numbers every year. While he ranks second behind Brady on a few of these lists, he ranked several times on the single-season passing yardage. He has his name on four of the top six and five of the top 11 in single-season passing yardage leaders.

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Dan Marino are only on the list once. It speaks volumes what Brees meant for the Saints in the huddle.

Suffice to say, replacing him (and succeeding without him) won’t be easy.

Sean Payton is a wizard but has gotten his ego in the way a few times over the years. Recently, he tried to make Taysom Hill into a superstar. He looks like Uncle Rico out there at times, failing to connect on simple passing plays.

Hill has four career passing touchdowns! Perhaps, Payton will transform into a star in 2021. I am not buying the product and believe the team cannot win enough with him under center.

If Jameis Winston is the starter, that will also be a cause for concern. He became only the 12th passer in NFL history to throw for 30-plus interceptions in a single season. They won the division last season and now have a better chance of finishing third than first.

Fast starts are often mandatory to contend for a playoff spot. Don’t look at the schedule early on for the Saints. It starts off with a showdown with the Packers, and doesn’t get any easier.

Have a look at their first seven games for 2021.

  • VS. Packers
  • @ Panthers
  • @ Patriots
  • VS. Giants
  • @ Washington
  • @ Seahawks
  • VS. Buccaneers

It could get ugly in a hurry. Even with 17 games, getting to eight wins will be difficult. I am out on the Saints making the playoffs and believe they will fall short by more than a game.

Chicago Bears

I don’t have to go on and on about the quarterback woes for the Bears. Perhaps, they will solve them with Justin Fields taking the helm. He will need time to develop, but he could be a budding star in the next season-plus.

This team miraculously made the playoffs after Arizona crumbled against the NFC West. The Bears avoided disaster at the end of the season, but the offense struggled to run the football.

David Montgomery had a solid season due to an abundance of touches, but the offensive line was among the worst in the league. The issue with the offensive struggles is that they have wasted great performances from their great defenses over the years.

To see more about the Bears, check out our 2021 NFC North strengths and weaknesses.

The defense is not going to be borderline elite forever. Eventually, a suspect offense will put this team in a hole.

A few bad games will start to occur. That will bite the Bears if they cannot carry their weight offensively.

Taking a look at the schedule, it ranks among the worst in the entire league from a cupcake standpoint. There are hardly any easy wins in the NFL, but this schedule is brutal with a capital B.

Just look at these key showdowns from weeks 1-11 in 2021.

  • Week 1 @ Rams
  • Week 3 @ Browns
  • Week 6 VS. Packers
  • Week 7 @ Buccaneers
  • Week 8 VS. 49ers
  • Week 9 @ Steelers
  • Week 11 VS. Ravens

I believe they may win three of their first five, but it picks up quickly after that. The Bears are likely to run into seven playoff teams before Thanksgiving, and they may go winless in those seven.

This team had a winning record last year. They are a lock to post a losing record in 2021. Bank on the Bears sitting on their couch for the playoffs, and it should be by a few games at the minimum.

Other Teams That Could Miss the Playoffs in 2021

  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Washington Football Team

There are a few NFL teams that won’t return to the playoffs in 2021. The Bears probably lead the charge, but the Seahawks, Colts, and Saints are all on watch, as well.

It’s easier for teams to make the playoffs these days (14 total spots), but two other franchises could bow out in the Steelers and Washington.

Both are presently led by aging quarterbacks, and operate out of loaded divisions.

Every team broken down here has an uphill battle to make the 2021 NFL playoffs. With some rising squads hoping to break into the playoff picture, someone has to regress.

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