It pains me to have to write this piece now that the divisional round has passed. My beloved Green Bay Packers got their hearts ripped out in overtime for the second year in a row, with Aaron Rodgers watching again on the sidelines as his defense lets up a big pass play and ultimately loses the game. But from an entertainment standpoint, this might have been the most entertaining game I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. The other didn’t have quite the feeling, but they were good games nonetheless. The Patriots beat the Chiefs once again due to the great play of Tom Brady, the Broncos barely edged out the depleted Steelers, and the Panthers showed just how dominant they can be against who we thought was the best defense in all of football.
We now take a look ahead once again to each of the eliminated teams. Some have clear needs, some do not, but I go ahead and find an area(s) where each team can improve this off-season. First up, my Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay Packers: The best thing the Packers have to look forward to next season is undoubtedly the return of stud wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Even with his return though, two wideouts that emerged this season, should still get a lot of run next year, Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis. The emergence of those two players makes James Jones (free agent) expendable, and also makes next year a prove-it year for Davante Adams. James Starks is also a free agent, but I’d expect him back in the green and gold next year. The one thing this offense needs is an athletic tight end. They haven’t had one since Jermichael Finley, and I don’t think Richard Rodgers is that guy. He’s a solid #2, but he’s not very good at getting yards after the catch, and he showed many times this year that he’s not very capable at gaining separation either. If there’s someone that stands out during the draft process, like a Maxx Williams from last year, the Packers shouldn’t hesitate to use their 1st or 2nd round pick on one.
The defense is another story. It’s the 2nd year in a row they’ve played real solid, only to blow games in overtime in the playoffs. They have a pretty solid core in the secondary, as Demarious Randall and Quinten Rollins proved their worth during the year, and they have a very strong defensive line. The only area that needs improvement is the linebackers, especially in the middle. Too many times this year have their linebackers gotten burned in pass coverage, so I hope that the Packers can find a few athletic studs to put in that corps.
Summary: Athletic pass-catching tight end, and linebackers that can defend the pass.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs once again had a solid year under Andy Reid. The offense finally got some touchdowns to wide receivers, and the defense was one of the best in the league. As for where they can improve? It’s tough, they played great all year until Tom Brady picked them apart so, the defense I don’t think has to improve in many aspects. The offense I think, could use another weapon for Alex Smith to go with Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. I also don’t think they’re capable of winning a Super Bowl with game-manager Smith as they’re quarterback, but that’s a whole other story.
Summary: Solid #2 wide receiver for Alex Smith.
Pittsburgh Steelers: On offense, the only place the Steelers need to improve is the offensive line, and Ben Roethlisberger’s injuries this year proved that. Once Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell come back next year, this offense should be just as explosive. So that means they have to improve on the defensive side of the ball. The defense improved during the season, but they still have a bit to go. I think the secondary needs to be improved (3oth ranked pass defense), but other than that they’re pretty solid. They ranked in the top 5 against the run, and had the 3rd most sacks in the league. So they’re run defense is good, and they have a good pass rush as well.
Summary: Upgrade the secondary and the offensive line.
Seattle Seahawks: They’re main defensive players are already signed to long-term deals, so their secondary and their linebackers should be set for next year (minus Bruce Irvin). We might have seen the last of Marshawn Lynch in a Seahawks uniform, but undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls was a stud in his replacement until he broke his ankle. Russell Wilson is an elite quarterback, and Doug Baldwin has a very strong end of the year along with stud rookie Tyler Lockett. The place where this team needs to upgrade is the offensive line. Russell Wilson was sacked 46 times this year (5th worst) and hit another 114 times (3rd worst). Russell Okung can’t stay healthy, and they traded their pro bowl center for Jimmy Graham who they often failed to utilize correctly. If Seattle has plans on getting back to another Super Bowl, they need better protection for their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson.
Summary: Offensive line desperately needs help.
Before the end of this article, I have one mini rant I need to go through. Maybe it’s just my Packers bias showing here, but the NFL overtime rules NEED to be changed. The NFL the last 2 playoffs have had games end where the league’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, doesn’t even touch the ball. I don’t mind the coin flip aspect, but if you can’t have the game possibly end by playing a game of chance. Which a coin flip basically is, a game of chance. The NFL is doing itself a huge disservice by keeping their star players on the sidelines.
So how do they improve this rule? Simple. You can keep the coin flip to decide who gets the ball first, but then the team that doesn’t win the toss gets a chance to come back and score. If both teams score touchdowns, or if both teams kick a field goal, then go to first score wins. At least give both teams a chance to win.
Article by Thomas Mooney