Immediately after a team is eliminated from the playoffs, it is time for the front office to think about what went wrong and how to fix it in the offseason. What should the teams that lost in the Wild Card do to make a Super Bowl run next season? Here are my thoughts.
New England Patriots
After a subpar regular season, the Patriots struggled in the red zone during the first 30 minutes of their playoff matchup against the Titans and failed to score in the second half, which led to a 14-13 loss. It is clear that the Patriots need to address their offense if they want to get back to the Super Bowl. Adding weapons on the outside, finding a replacement for Rob Gronkowski at tight end, and bolstering the offensive line are imperative, but determining whether Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will return will be top priorities.
Brady is a free agent and could end up in a different uniform for the first time in his storied career. McDaniels is interviewing for head coaching positions and could be out of Foxborough, as well. If either or both depart, replacing them will be difficult. New England will still have arguably the greatest coach of all time and a defense that was dominant during the first half of the season and should be a major force again next season.
The dynasty is likely over and the six-time champions may have a starting quarterback other than Brady in the season opener for the first time since 2001, but with Bill Belichick on the sideline, I expect the Pats to remain competitive.
The Bills took a big step forward in quarterback Josh Allen’s second year, but they blew a 16-0 lead and eventually lost in overtime to the Texans in the playoffs. they still have a ways to go before they are ready to win a Super Bowl.
Buffalo has plenty of talent on defense but could use another pass rusher to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Their major need, though, is a wide receiver to complement John Brown and Cole Beasley, preferably a bigger target. The Bills also could use an upgrade at tight end, but this will all be for naught if Allen cannot learn to play with more consistency and become a better decision maker.
The former University of Wyoming signal caller showed his upside in the first half against Houston on Saturday, but also illustrated just how far he is from being a championship quarterback during the second half. With a coaching staff that made some serious mistakes in the Wild Card round but is likely to learn from the experience, and a defense that led the way to a 10-6 record in 2019, there is reason for optimism moving forward. However, I am far from convinced Allen can become the quarterback the Bills need to get them back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1993.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints played poorly for most of their Wild Card-round contest against the Vikings and suffered their third straight gut-wrenching playoff exit. Despite the disappointing end, their roster is without too many glaring holes.
Quarterback Drew Brees did not perform at his best against the Vikings, but he was on fire heading into the postseason. If the future Hall of Famer wants to play another year, the Saints will welcome him back with open arms. If not, they will probably turn to backup Teddy Bridgewater, who will be tough to hang onto otherwise, because at least one franchise in search of a starter is likely to throw big money at the former Louisville Cardinal.
Whether it is Brees or Bridgewater, there is little doubt New Orleans needs to bolster its receiving corps. Michael Thomas was otherworldly in 2019 and caught just about anything thrown in his direction, but he got little help from the other Saints wideouts. I expect the front office to find a solid complement to one of the NFL’s best and most reliable pass catchers.
What a throw by Brees and what a catch by Michael Thomas pic.twitter.com/kJuVMcUrON
— DailySportsDosage (@OfficalDSD) January 5, 2020
The Saints defense under Dennis Allen has done its part, and they have continued to get off the mat after brutal losses. New Orleans should be a major player in the NFC again next year.
Many analysts, including yours truly, had the Philadelphia pegged as a Super Bowl contender, but injuries and a lack of team speed prevented the Eagles from reaching their ultimate goal.
Quarterback Carson Wentz proved his value by willing his team to an NFC East title, despite a number of their key players being sidelined or at less than 100% down the stretch. The Eagles ground out a division title, but to get back to the offense they had when they won their first Super Bowl a couple seasons ago, they need to revamp their wide receiving corps. Look for the Birds to make major changes on the outside, including moving on from veteran pass catcher Alshon Jeffery.
On defense the Eagles were at their best when their front four wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks, but they struggled to cover when quarterbacks had time to look downfield. Philadelphia’s cornerbacks were terrible during the first half of the season and improved later in the year. They need to improve in the secondary if they want a chance to win their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
The Eagles are a well-run franchise with a number of key pieces in place. I trust their front office to fill the holes and contend for an NFC title in the near future.