While almost every team improved this offseason with their sights on making the playoffs, the reality is only seven from each conference will make the playoffs. Making the playoffs is not easy, especially when some divisions are filled with talented teams. However, each season there are teams that missed the playoffs the previous year but make it the next.
Seven teams made the playoffs in 2021 that missed it in 2020, four coming from the NFC, while three came from the AFC. Below, we will pick five teams that were not playoff teams in 2021 but could be in 2022. Due to the vast improvements made by many AFC teams, we believe that the AFC picture could look a lot different.
The Chargers had perhaps the most active offseason, making many moves to improve their playoff hopes for 2022. While they had talented players in 2021 including star quarterback Justin Herbert, the Chargers missed the playoffs by just one game.
Had a couple of things gone differently, they would’ve been a playoff team. In 2022, the Chargers bolstered their defense by adding Khalil Mack, J.C. Jackson and Sebastian Joseph-Day, and helped their offensive line by drafting Zion Johnson. The AFC West is a very difficult division, but Los Angeles has made the right moves to ensure a playoff spot in 2022.
Denver is another AFC West team that made many key improvements hoping to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Broncos had talented rosters, but health and the lack of a franchise quarterback caused them to miss the playoffs.
As a result, the Broncos made perhaps the biggest deal of the offseason, by acquiring future HOF quarterback, Russell Wilson. Pairing Wilson with talented offensive weapons and an ascending defense should give the Broncos a good chance to make the 2022 playoffs.
The lone NFC team on this list, New Orleans overcame some difficult cap gymnastics this offseason and will get many key starters back from injury. Although Dennis Allen will be in his first year as the head coach, New Orleans’ roster is still talented enough to get back to the playoffs.
The Saints return their talented defense and get back their best player in Michael Thomas, who did not play at all last year. More importantly, Jameis Winston is back as the team’s quarterback after going 5-2 as a starter before an injury. After Winston went down, the Saints finished 4-6 using three different quarterbacks.
New Orleans also used the draft and free agency to add offensive tackle Trevor Penning, and wide receivers Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry. Those additions should help the Saints bolster weaknesses from last season.
Returning to the AFC, Miami made significant roster upgrades and a coaching change. While the team is different, the returning players have finished with two straight winning seasons., They’ve been on the cusp of the playoffs and will be hungry to get in.
Third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s improvement will be the determining factor in how good Miami can be. On defense, the Dolphins have key young players in Jerome Baker, Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland, and two high-end cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.
On an offense with Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gisicki, Miami added Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Chase Edmonds and Cedrick Wilson. Miami’s improvements will make Tagovailoa’s life easier, which might result in a playoff appearance this year.
The Colts might’ve been the most surprising team to miss the playoffs in 2021. They controlled their own destiny as they sat at 9-6 with two weeks left. But, Indianapolis’ offense melted down in those last two weeks including a loss to the lowly Jaguars.
The Colts decided to make changes at the quarterback position, moving on from Carson Wentz in favor of Matt Ryan who has proven that he can still play despite his age.
With Ryan, the offense should be stabler and take better care of the football. Additionally, pairing Ryan with their young WRs and high-powered run game could be a dangerous combination. Their talented defense also added important contributors in Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue. These improvements should be enough to send this near playoff team in 2021 to the playoffs in 2022.