Dark Horse playoff contenders for 2018

Posted: February 15, 2018 in Football, New entries, NFL

The Chicago Bears faced the toughest schedule in 2017 with a rookie QB and and an offensive so lacking in playmakers they swung a trade deadline deal for backup Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman who became one of Trubisky’s most targeted players upon arrival. The Bears showed signs of life in 2017 with wins over Carolina and Pittsburgh early in the season. The Bears new head coach, Matt Nagy, is expected to resurrect the Bears offense like he did for Kansas City in 2017 with Alex Smith. While there is no scientific basis for assuming Fox’s departure will make Chicago competitive, the Denver Broncos won the SuperBowl immediately after firing John Fox as HC in 2015.

Assuming the Bears have even a moderately softer schedule in 2018, see some development out of Mitchell Trubisky, and bring in some receiving options for Trubisky, the Bears will take opponents by surprise and contend for a wild card spot.

The Houston Texans could take the AFC South as division champs if DeShaun Watson can stay healthy for sixteen games. More than one thing went wrong for the Texans last season. Stalwart defenders J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were lost to injury. The Texans were 3-3 when Watson went down, and had only lost to playoff teams (Jax, NE, KC) and by one possession or less at that. Other teams fared better than Houston without their starting QB (see Philadelphia) but it’s clear that the version of the Texans that features DeShaun Watson behind center is extremely entertaining and just as competitive. Tennessee and Jacksonville who tied for the league’s easiest schedule both scraped by with barely nine wins or more. If Bill O’Brien can protect his blue chip passer he will reclaim the AFC South crown in 2018.

The San Francisco 49ers may not be much of a dark horse playoff contender after finishing the season five and O and garnering a dark horse mention by human-energizer bunny Colin Cowherd. The fourth place NFC West team seemed to improve all over the field when Jimmy Garoppolo became the full time starter. The 49ers, like most teams, lost core pieces to injury during the season, like ILB Reuben Foster, SS Jaquiski Tartt, and RT Trent Brown. Important for San Francisco will be winning key matchups with Seattle and Arizona who should be fighting until the very end of the season for playoff status. Seattle looks to take a step back from their grip on the playoffs with so much uncertainty around Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Sheldon Richardson for the future. If Shanahan can find a Julio Jones-esque wide receiver this offseason, the 49ers will push deep for the playoffs after a last place finish in 2017.



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