The NFL season is officially one month away. Last season, we saw the San Francisco 49ers go from a 4-12 team in 2018 to Super Bowl runner-ups, Lamar Jackson take the NFL by storm, and the quest for back-to-back division titles for any NFC East team continues (no team in the NFC East has won the division in consecutive years since the Eagles did it back from 2001-04).
As we get set to kickoff the 2020-21 season, let's take a look at five teams who missed the playoffs last year, but are poised to make it in this year:
1- TAMPA BAY BUCS- Probably the most obvious one on this list. They add Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and LeSean McCoy on top of keeping Jason Pierre-Paul and last year's sack leader in Shaquil Barrett. They solidify the offensive line by drafting right tackle Tristan Wirfs and add more depth at running back when they selected Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the third round. This team will also greatly benefit from having the 11th easiest schedule next season. Did I mention they added Tom Brady?
2- DALLAS COWBOYS- I mentioned it at the beginning, no team has won the division in consecutive years since the 2001 Eagles team that won it four years in a row. The Cowboys added wide receiver CeeDee Lamb to an already loaded offense that featured two 1,000 yard receivers last year in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Speaking of Cooper, the team locked him up long-term and also inked tight end Blake Jarwin for three years as he will try and replace the departed Jason Witten, who signed with the Raiders. On defense, there's a lot of new pieces as they add corner Trevon Diggs in the second round of the draft and signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy, and Aldon Smith. Mike McCarthy takes over for Jason Garrett as the head coach and his aggressive approach will be a welcomed sight for Cowboys fans after 10 years of conservative play-calling and poor clock management.
3- PITTSBURGH STEELERS- The Steelers surprisingly went 8-8 despite having one of the worst offenses in the league. Now they get back Big Ben and he has new weapons in second-round draft pick Chase Claypool and tight end Eric Ebron. James Washington showed flashes last year and the team returns one of the best offensive lines in the league. The defense was also one of the best in the league last year with 54 sacks, 20 interceptions, 18 fumble recoveries, and three defensive touchdowns. While it isn't fair to expect them to repeat that kind of production, they do return most of their personnel and will have a full year of Minkah Fitzpatrick. Pittsburgh will also have the ninth easiest schedule.
4- DENVER BRONCOS- This team won four of their last five games last year and Drew Lock looked like the real deal. They add probably the best wide receiver in the draft in Jerry Jeudy with their first pick to go along with Courtland Sutton and also add Melvin Gordon from the division rival Chargers and pair him up with Philip Lindsay, who had over 1,000 rushing yards last season. On the defensive side of the ball, they added A.J Bouye and Jurrell Casey (both via trade) and return Justin Simmons and his 93 tackles and team leading four interceptions on the franchise tag. The schedule is a bit difficult to begin with new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur should get the offense rolling and put some points up on the board and this defense will hold up on their end.
5- INDIANAPOLIS COLTS- Upgrading at the quarterback position with Philip Rivers of Jacoby Brissett, but still keeping Brissett on as a backup was a smart move. The Colts used their first-round draft pick to bring in DeForest Buckner in a trade with the 49ers and pair him up with Justin Houston on that defensive line as well as Darius Leonard at the linebacker position and this front seven looks scary. On offense, the Colts added Michael Pittman Jr. with their second-round pick and should be getting a healthy T.Y. Hilton back as well as add depth to the running back position by drafting Jonathan Taylor. They replace Eric Ebron with Trey Burton at tight end and also bring in former all-pro corner Xavier Rhodes. The Texans and Titans could take steps back this season which would open the door for the Colts.
PHOTO CREDIT- GETTY IMAGES