Seahawks slump, Chargers return to norm - Five 2018 playoff teams who will miss 2019 postseason
This season's NFL playoff field looks to be one of the strongest in recent years but, as history has often shown, making the postseason one year is no indicator of future success.
Seven teams who were in the playoffs last season will watch this term's finale from their sofas.
And, though plenty of teams in the final 12 appear excellently set up for the future, there figures to be at least a few who will endure a let-down in 2019.
Here we look at the five teams most likely to miss out on a repeat trip to the playoffs next campaign.
The Cowboys have plenty of ingredients for sustained success, as they possess a talented young quarterback in Dak Prescott, arguably the league's best running back in Ezekiel Elliott, an offensive line that has declined but remains a strength and a promising defense that throttled the New Orleans Saints. However, they still lack options in the passing game, with Amari Cooper's promising start to life with Dallas having tailed off in recent weeks, and they have been consistently hindered by the decision-making of head coach Jason Garrett. A division title will keep him around another year and, with one playoff win to his name in his seven full seasons, that could be more of a blessing than a curse.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks surprised many by making the postseason, and with their quarterback's deep-ball brilliance and art for extending plays, they are capable of competing with any team. However, the offensive line continues to be extremely porous in pass protection and has contributed to struggles on the road, where the Seahawks do not present anything like the challenge they do within the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field. Seattle's issues on their travels, a difficult division in which the San Francisco 49ers could well join the Los Angeles Rams as contenders next year and the potential losses of defensive end Frank Clark and linebacker K.J. Wright, along with the long-anticipated likely departure of free safety Earl Thomas, point to a let-down in 2019.
Los Angeles Chargers
On the surface, there is little to stop the Chargers being a force for years to come. Thirty-seven-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers is still playing at an elite level surrounded by a young and exciting supporting cast and the defense boasts numerous difference-makers, with the likes of Joey Bosa and Derwin James very much in the infancy of their careers. However, let-downs, late-game collapses and epic instances of misfortune have almost become the norm for the Chargers, who have continually struggled to sustain any success. A frailty on the offensive line has been ruthlessly exposed by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens in recent weeks, and that could potentially be part of a recipe for a disappointing 2019 in an AFC West division filled with pass rushers who can take advantage of that weakness.
Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins have a claim for being the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in football, while J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney form a fearsome pass-rush duo. So what's not to like about Houston? How about an abysmal offensive line that often has Watson running for his life, a lack of a consistent running game or a supporting cast to take the strain off Hopkins, and a pass defense that has been below average even with Watt and Clowney providing consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Watson, Hopkins, Watt and Clowney have helped mask those flaws, but the Texans could soon let slip control of the AFC South to a rising Indianapolis Colts team if they do not address them properly.
With a dominant defense possessing playmakers at every level, and a young quarterback in Mitch Trubisky under the guidance of a talented offensive mind in Matt Nagy, many would expect the Bears to be playoff contenders for the foreseeable future. Yet in being led by their defense the Bears are something of an anomaly in 2018 and, even with Nagy at the helm, do not appear to have the offensive attack to compensate if their defense struggles. The running game has been average and the passing game has struggled often as Trubisky has failed to display consistent accuracy throwing the football. Quarterbacks do not tend to get more accurate as they develop, and the Bears could be in trouble if the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings surge next season and Trubisky continues to flounder.