The NFL season is close to starting, but there are a few fan bases that probably should lower their expectations. Here are some predictions from FanBuzz on a couple teams who won't be back in the playoffs, and who their replacements will be.
Won't be back in the playoffs:
Bengals: Cincinnati is the easiest pick to miss the playoffs despite one of the league's longest active playoff streaks. Hugh Jackson has headed north in Ohio to take over the Cleveland Browns, which leaves the Bengals without the coordinator who helped turn Andy Dalton into one of the league's most consistent performers. Two of Dalton's favorite targets (Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones) are also playing with different teams this year.
But beyond what the Bengals have lost, there's no way you can look at their schedule and think they're going win enough to get back. Aside from four conference games with Pittsburgh and Baltimore (more on them later), Cincinnati has road games at Dallas, Houston and New England and home games against Denver and Washington.
If Cincinnati can get to 10 wins with that schedule, it's a major accomplishment. Eight wins seems more likely, and that's not going to be good enough for a Wildcard spot.
Redskins: Washington made the playoffs last year with a 9-7 record after not beating any team with a winning record. Their "quarterback of the future" Robert Griffin III is gone, and Kirk Cousins is back. Cousins had a great second half last year, but now he'll have to lead the team through 16 games. There's also questions about the Redskins' running back and linebacking corps, where they appear to lack depth and don't have much experience.
Washington will also have to contend with Dallas in the NFC East. The Cowboys have added a few key pieces, and Tony Romo looks healthy. If Dallas will be as improved as we think, we can't see the Redskins winning the conference this year or earning a Wildcard spot with all the other strong NFC teams.
Who will be in the playoffs that wasn't in 2015:
Ravens: Joe Flacco is back, and whether you think he's elite or not, he's helped lead the team to plenty of playoff wins and a Super Bowl. The team has plenty of veterans, and if they can all stay healthy, this group could not only make the playoffs but, also, make another deep run.
Baltimore has a more favorable schedule than Cincinnati, and we think the team will be improved enough that it will grab a playoff spot. The AFC North has a great recent record of sending two teams to the playoffs, and we believe if Baltimore doesn't beat out Pittsburgh for the league title, they'll at least earn a Wildcard spot.
Cowboys: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick are back from injuries, Ezekiel Elliott looks like one of the league's most promising rookies, and Dak Prescott looks like a solid backup quarterback. Put simply, the team looks like it'll be much better on offense, and Prescott looks to provide depth at quarterback if Romo is injured again.
There are questions on defense, but it helps that the NFC East isn't strong — including Washington. With Dallas' offensive playmakers healthy again, we like them to win the East and earn the division's bid to the playoffs.
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