It’s finally time for some football. Yes, this Thursday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin their title defense against the Dallas Cowboys. Last season will be one of the most memorable season for multiple reasons. But, last season is in the past. Every team starts with a clean slate as they all begin to what they hope is a championship season. As always, there will be a team or two who missed the playoffs last year that will make it this year. Who will those teams be? These are three NFL non-playoff teams that can make a playoff push in 2021.
Obviously competition is a little steep right now in the NFC South. But, that shouldn’t stop the Carolina Panthers from making a playoff push. In the offseason they made a trade for quarterback Sam Darnold from the New York Jets. Now, Darnold comes to an offense that has talent. Obviously the offense has running back Christian McCaffrey and rookie running back Chuba Hubbard. But, now Darnold has actual wide receivers. Darnold is reuniting with Robby Anderson, and now has the likes of DJ Moore and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr.
The defense on the other hand needs to be respected more. The defensive line consists of Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, DaQuan Jones and Morgan Fox. Not to mention that Yetur Gross-Matos will also be lining up in the defensive line. All of these guys are underrated. Especially Brian Burns who continues to develop in a positive way. He’s coming off of a nine sack season. As for the rest of the defense, the linebackers and secondary is lead by Shaq Thompson who took over as the leader after Luke Kuechly’s sudden retirement. The Panthers as a whole are an underrated team that will make noise this season.
Yes, the Denver Broncos are a team that can make a push for the playoffs. Why? They got a quarterback that can win them games in Teddy Bridgewater. Denver has Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams in the backfield with Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton at the wide receiver position. Not to mention Noah Fant who’s projected to have a big year at tight end. This Denver offense blends nicely together. If they can stay healthy, Denver has to potential to have a top 15 offense this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the main attraction is not Von Miller. It’s their secondary. By far the Broncos have one of the best secondary’s on paper. It’s lead by Justin Simmons who is severely underrated and should be respected all around the league. The secondary also features Kyle Fuller who was signed in the offseason and rookie Patrick Surtain from Alabama. With the pass rush lead by Bradley Chubb and Von Miller’s presence, the Broncos are going to be a force to reckon with in the AFC.
New England Patriots
Mac Jones came away the winner of what might have been the most talked about quarterback battle. Now, it’s time to see what the rookie can really do. The Patriots bought a new team this offseason. They added the likes of tight ends Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and drafted Rhamondre Stevenson and resigned James White and improved their offensive line. Jones impressed this preseason and now he looks to be the leader of the offense. With talent all around him and the offensive line protecting Jones, there should be no reason as to why the Patriots don’t score points often.
As for the Patriots on the defensive side of things, this hands down is a top ten defense in the league. Kyle Van Noy is back as well as Dont’a Hightower. The Patriots also added Matt Judon from the Baltimore Ravens who shockingly did not resign the star defensive end. The one question is the secondary. With Stephon Gilmore out for six weeks, J.C. Jackson is the next best cornerback on this team. Jackson is a stud in himself and he should prove it with Gilmore sidelined. If healthy, this defense will be a nightmare to handle.
With all of that being said, the Panthers, Broncos and Patriots are the three NFL non-playoff teams that can make a playoff push in 2021. Do not sleep on these teams. Ignoring these teams will be a big mistake for all their opponents.
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-Matt Burnett (@mattthew_jordan on Twitter)