There is absolutely no argument that the goal for all 32 NFL franchises each season is to win as many games possible. Achieving postseason status and an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl is the ultimate reward.
Winning more than losing also saves face around the league. For some teams not quite Super Bowl-bound, more victories are a must to secure coaching jobs and keep loyal fans from bolting (slight pun intended). Becoming a team that wins on a more consistent basis will certainly help a new Los Angeles-based franchise repair its broken fan base.
In addition, we have also covered some teams whose quarterbacks will eventually fall victim to Father Time. The pressure is on for those particular clubs to get to the playoffs this year before the clock runs out.
It is crunch time for the following eight NFL teams to win as much as possible in 2017.
The Bengals took a staggering step backwards in 2016, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010. A third-place finish with only six wins earned head coach Marvin Lewis a spot on the hot seat.
Lewis is a lame duck at this point. And not only does he have to get the Bengals back to the playoffs to secure his job, Cincinnati must go deep into the postseason. Remember, Lewis remains winless in seven playoff games as the Bengals’ head coach.
Quarterback Andy Dalton should be feeling some preassure as well. The 29-year-old quarterback returned from an injury-plagued 2015 campaign, passing for a career-low 18 touchdowns. On top of not making the playoffs this time around, Dalton has yet to nudge past the Wild Card round since getting drafted in 2011.
He is under contract through 2018. But Dalton could be released for poor performance after this season, which would cost the Bengals only $2.4 million in dead cap. On the flip side, if the team can’t succeed with Dalton, it is going to have even more difficulty becoming a contender with A.J. McCarron under center.
As a whole, the Bengals averaged just 20.3 points per game in 2016. Playing in division that houses the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens is rough, but Cincinnati falling extremely short a second year in a row won’t cut it.
Quarterback Carson Palmer’s career longevity is holding on by a thread. He committed to playing in 2017 which might be the final year he suits up. Furthermore, future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will not play forever either.
“I would’ve bet that they were going to play just because I know how both of them are wired,” general manager Steve Keim said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, (h/t Josh Weinfuss of ESPN). “There’s no two players in our locker room who are more competitive and more passionate about the game.”
After a dismal 7-8-1 finish to the 2016 season, it is win or bust for the Cardinals starting in 2017. The Cardinals housed the No. 2 ranked defense in 2016. At the same time, the Cardinals offense slipped to No. 9 from a No. 1 mark the previous season.
The team must squeeze all of the juice possible out of Palmer to regain playoff status this year. Plus, Fitzgerald is probably the most deserving of any player in the league to have not yet earned a Super Bowl ring. Time is clearly ticking away here.
If the Cards can’t get the job done now, all involved should shudder at the thought of backup Blaine Gabbert attempting to take the team to the promise land in the near future.
New Orleans Saints
How is it that a team with one of the most elite quarterbacks in the league cannot succeed? The New Orleans Saints have not won their division since 2011 and have visited the postseason only once since in 2013.
Each of the past three seasons saw the team produce underwhelming 7-9 records. Drew Brees is a future Hall of Fame quarterback that headlines a team with one of the worst defenses in the NFL. From this point forward while Brees is still healthy enough to sling the ball, the Saints need to find their balance between offense and defense.
This past season saw Brees pass for 5,208 yards, marking the fifth time in his career that he has topped the 5,000-yard plateau. The questionable thing here is the Saints have yet to extend Brees’ contract which pays him only through 2017. He said he wants to play a few more years.
Would the New Orleans’ brass actually let Brees walk and test free agency in 2018? The team is already stuttering. Things would only stand to go from mediocre to terrible if the team lost its 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
It is now or never for the Saints to make their way back into the playoffs. Head coach Sean Payton’s job is certainly at stake if the Saints hang up their cleats at the close of Week 17 this upcoming season.
New England Patriots
Some might find the Patriots an interesting choice for this list. When have quarterback Tom Brady and Co. ever not been winning more than losing?
This is why continuing the trend before Brady becomes a senior citizen is key. Just because the Patriots have won five championships with Brady doesn’t mean they are going to roll over and play dead.
The head coach/quarterback duo of Bill Belichick and Brady won’t rule the NFL forever. Belichick might just step down once Tom Terrific does. The Patriots’ organization would then be starting from near scratch.
Brady turns 40 in August and envisions himself playing for several more years. It would be quite miraculous if that came true. But the Patriots should keep the mindset that each year Brady plays could be his last.
Furthermore, the Patriots declined to trade backup Jimmy Garoppolo despite the fact they could have received a pretty large ransom for him. Does Belichick and the team know something about the longevity of Brady that we don’t know?
Either way, the Patriots should ride the Brady train while it is trudging down the tracks, full steam ahead.
The Broncos are no longer the sure horse to bet on in the AFC West race. It was only a matter of time before another team ousted Denver out of its top status.
Many would not have thought that the Oakland Raiders would have tallied 12 wins to make the postseason in 2016. The Kansas City Chiefs also put the shaft to the Broncos with their own dozen wins.
Meanwhile, the Super Bowl 50 champions ate crow and won just nine games with its young quarterback cast. This is not a status that a John Elway-run organization is used to seeing. Since 2001, the Broncos finished only one season worse, coming in fourth place in the division in 2010.
Denver’s fourth-ranked defense ran a tight ship in 2016. Unfortunately, the offense could not keep up and finished 27th. If the Broncos want any shot at a playoff berth, they can’t afford to lose anymore than a small handful of games in 2017. That is how brutal their divisional competition has gotten.
As such, both Trevor Sieman and Paxton Lynch are under tremendous pressure to improve over the summer. How that situation plays out will likely determine the Broncos’ status in 2017.
The urgency for the Steelers to make it postseason and to ultimately play in a another championship game is at its boiling point.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just told the Steelers’ organization that he would not commit to playing past 2017. This solidifies Roethlisberger’s earlier talks regarding retirement. In January, Roethlisberger was not even sure he would play this upcoming season.
The Steelers basically have just one season to take advantage of Big Ben’s services as things currently stand. Roethlisberger, a former first-round pick in 2004, has 13 years of wear and tear on his body. He has not completed a 16-game season since 2013.
Fortunately, the Steelers still managed to play in the postseason the past three years. They got close to the team’s fourth Super Bowl in Roethlisberger’s tenure just this past January.
But the last Super Bowl the Steelers won came in 2008. This means a vast majority of younger Steelers players would surely hope this is the year they go all the way before Big Ben jumps ship.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have a slew of bitter, angry fans on their hands. These unhappy campers come as a result of owner Dean Spanos ripping the team from its roots in San Diego to move the Charges to Los Angeles.
The very least the organization can do now to help ease the pain is strive for winning more games in 2017. Fortunately, the Chargers are loaded with talented players both offensively and defensively. They should be a slam dunk to win more than the five games the club accomplished in 2016.
Quarterback Philip Rivers remains one of the healthiest in the league at the age of 35. He is also stocked with some amazing receivers, including the newly drafted Mike Williams out of Clemson. His tight ends, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, also represent one of the best tandems in the league at that position.
While Rivers is still in full commission, the Chargers must get back on course. If they don’t, fans based in San Diego are going to be even more tempted to not show up and support the team.
This is something that has been a growing problem in recent seasons.
New York Giants
The Eli Manning era is on its last legs, and the Giants have done everything possible to make sure they can win a third Super Bowl before the future Hall of Fame quarterback calls it quits.
Manning, like Rivers who we discussed earlier, has yet to miss a game as a starter. Knock on wood for that. The two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback is 36 years old though.
In preparing for Manning’s eventual demise, the Giants recently added Geno Smith and drafted rookie Davis Webb. If one of these guys were to start, visions of Super Bowl dreams could be out the window for years.
For now, Manning is in good shape. So, if Pro Bowl receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall want to earn their first Super Bowl ring, there is no time like the present.
Manning’s career countdown is not the only thing the Giants have to worry about. The team must find ways to win more than a suddenly scorching hot Dallas Cowboys football team. The race to the top of the NFC East could easily become a repeat battle between these two organizations.
Last season saw the Giants tie for second in the NFC with 11 wins. They must continue striking while the iron is hot.