That's the question we posed to our Scout NFL team experts. Find out what they had to say about it in this exclusive Scout.com feature!
Matthew Postins, BucsBlitz.com
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Injuries to either Steve McNair or Willis McGahee could make the Ravens' offense irrelevant. But I'll stick with my first instinct for who will drop out of the playoff picture in 2007 -- the Chiefs. They snuck into the postseason last year.
Damon Huard is nothing more than a good NFL backup, and Brodie Croyle hasn't taken a meaningful game snap yet. Larry Johnson might hold out. That offensive line, one of the NFL's best just a few years ago, is getting older. And who's the No. 1 wide receiver? Eddie Kennison. And the defense hasn't actually played defense since the days of Derrick Thomas.
Who takes their place? I'll take Denver.
Jay Cutler looked pretty good last year and should improve. Travis Henry gives ballast to the run game. Javon Walker could be even better after a year in the system. They added Dre Bly to partner with Champ Bailey. The only real concern is whether they did enough to shore up the run defense. Still, I think they're the team with the fewest question marks in that 9-7 to 7-9 group from a year ago.
Denis Savage, SilverandBlack.com
|Bengals QB Carson Palmer|
(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
No team has the talent - or the police blotter - of the Cincinnati Bengals. Carson Palmer stepped up as a leader last year when he called out his own team for their digressions. A talented offense with multiple weapons is the focal point and a favorable schedule in November and December will make a team no one wants to face when January beckons.
Todd Korth, PackerReport.com
Green Bay Packers
Denver will have an improved defense this season behind new assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates. In his one and only season in Green Bay (2005), the former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator/head coach took a lousy defense to the top 10 in the NFL (seventh overall). The Broncos' Bates-powered defense should be enough to give Denver's offense a better chance to score more points this season.
The Broncos will replace the Kansas City Chiefs, who squeaked into the postseason last year, to gain a wild card playoff spot behind the mighty San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.
Alain Poupart, DolphinDigest.com
It's hard to imagine any AFC playoff team from last year more likely to tumble than the Chiefs. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them fall all the way to last place in the AFC West. They're going with a first-year starter at quarterback (Brodie Croyle), their once-potent offensive line took another hit with the retirement of Will Shields and their defense remains mediocre.
As for the non-playoff team most likely to join the postseason party, there are several good candidates, but let's go with Cincinnati. Yes, there are off-the-field issues galore with this team, but the offense should click from the start this season now that Carson Palmer is more than a full year removed from his knee injury. The Bengals missed the playoffs last season only because they couldn't execute a simple extra point, but they won't cut it so close in 2007.
Charlie Bernstein, JagNation.com
|Jaguars LB Mike Peterson|
(Doug Benc/Getty Images)
I believe that the team most likely to take their spot in the AFC playoffs is Jacksonville. The Jaguars placed 15 guys on the injured reserve list in 2006 and still managed to blowout the eventual Super Bowl Champion Colts, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and both New York teams en route to an 8-8 record. Without a late-season meltdown by backup quarterback David Garrard, the team would've coasted into a wildcard spot.
The Jaguars will benefit from the healthy return of their starting quarterback Byron Leftwich, as well as their best linebacker in Mike Peterson, and their top pass-rusher, Reggie Hayward. Offseason free agent acquisitions of wide receiver Dennis Northcutt and right tackle Tony Pashos, along with safety Reggie Nelson, linebacker Justin Durant and wide receiver Mike Walker through the draft, adds even more talent and depth.
Aaron Wilson, RavensInsider.com
Honestly, I could see the Cincinnati Bengals as a legitimate
wild card team with the Baltimore Ravens defending their AFC North title in
The team I could foresee left out of the playoff fraternity when the music stops this year is the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm not sold on their quarterback outlook with Damon Huard and Brodie Coyle, and this Larry Johnson contract situation looks like it's going to get real ugly, real soon.
Michael John Schon, BroncosUpdate.com
Conspicuously missing from the 2006 AFC Playoff picture were the Denver Broncos. Only two short years ago, Denver came within one game of advancing to the Big Dance, losing out to the eventual Lombardi trophy winners, the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a change at starting quarterback, running back and a vast majority of the defense, 2007 may prove to be quite different.
Mike Shanahan has rolled the dice in assembling what he believes will be the team that returns Denver to dominance in the AFC West. And the likes of Jay Cutler, Travis Henry and Dre Bly will all play key roles in this process.
Standing in their way will be the San Diego Chargers, who've seemingly undergone more changes than the cast of 24, predominantly at head coach where Marty Shottenheimer has relinquished the reigns to one-time Oakland Raiders guru Norv Turner. San Diego's housecleaning, combined with the Broncos recent additions, will undoubtedly open the door for a change atop the AFC West.
Ed Thompson, ScoutNFL.com
The Chiefs are the most likely to fall out of the playoff picture in 2007. After narrowly making the playoffs last year, they lost more talent than they added during the offseason, they have question marks at key positions and they're being led by a head coach who just doesn't think outside of the box while other teams make clever adjustments as the game progresses.
Meanwhile, the Broncos were very aggressive at adding new talent that should
push them into this year's playoffs. Defensive tackle Sam Adams, cornerback Dre
Bly, wide receiver Brandon Stokley, running back Travis Henry and tight end
Daniel Graham are new faces that will have a significant impact on the Broncos'
success in 2007.
Denver has one of the coolest quarterbacks in the league in Jay Cutler. He's not easily phased or distracted and is mature beyond his years. He's poised for a big year thanks to the addition of new talent, the game experience he gained during his rookie year, and the team's elimination of any possible quarterback controversy with the trade of Jake Plummer to Tampa Bay.