It feels like the NFL season just started, but it is already time to start looking toward the playoffs. Week 13 marks the first chance a team (Philadelphia Eagles) has to secure a spot in the playoffs and the first time for a team (Carolina Panthers) to be eliminated from contention. Here is a tracker of all the teams that have been eliminated from this year’s playoffs and are turning their attention to the 2024 NFL Draft.
What went wrong: Poor start to the season.
Denver’s 2023 campaign was no where near the disaster 2022 was, but it was looking that way early on. With Sean Payton now manning the ship as head coach, the Broncos got off to an abysmal 1-5 start, a stretch that included an embarrassing 70-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins. However, the team made a sharp 180 turn by rattling off five straight victories in a stretch where Russell Wilson was finally looking like his old self.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to carry that momentum into the Christmas season as they lost three of their first four games in the month of December. In a surprise move, the Broncos made the decision to bench Wilson for the final two weeks of the season and it has sparked a controversy that is bound to carry into the offseason.
How eliminated: Lost 25-17 to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17
What went wrong: Joe Burrow injuries.
The 2023 season for Cincinnati will be defined by star quarterback Joe Burrow being banged up from the word go. He suffered a calf strain during training camp and it was immediately apparent that he wasn’t healthy as the Bengals stumbled to a 1-3 start. However, the team began heating up in October by ripping off four straight wins, only to fall back to the pack with a three-game losing streak. Their Week 13 matchup at the Jaguars was a turning point as Burrow tore a ligament in his wrist that promptly ended his year.
Veteran backup Jake Browning proved to be game as he kept Cincy in the postseason hunt with three straight victories. However, back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Chiefs towards the end took them out of postseason contention.
Las Vegas Raiders
How eliminated: Lost 23-20 to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17
What went wrong: Trusting Josh McDaniels.
The second year of the McDaniels era in Vegas immediately began to resemble the first as the Raiders stumbled out to a 1-3 start to the season. Newly acquired veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo proved to be ineffective through the first half of the season as the offense struggled despite having Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams. A Week 8 loss to the Lions proved to be the final straw as McDaniels, offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi, and general manager Dave Ziegler were shown the door afterwards. Jimmy G was also benched for rookie Aidan O’Connell.
With linebackers coach Antonio Pierce serving as the interim head coach, the vibes were at least more positive for the Silver and Black as they beat both New York teams on back-to-back weeks. But vibes could only carry them so far as a 2-4 mark over their next six games doomed their faint playoff hopes.
New York Giants, 5-10
How eliminated: Lost 33-25 to Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.
What went wrong: The Giants will rue their lapses in one-score games. Even though New York saw starting quarterback Daniel Jones go down for the season and tight end Darren Waller miss extended time, this team was in the mix for the postseason. Losing to the Eagles might be easier to stomach considering the game was a blowout at halftime before New York’s defense stepped up, but losses to Buffalo and the Jets will loom large.
There are some positives to take from this campaign. The Giants appear to have a legitimate defense, and Wan’Dale Robinson could emerge as a solid complement to whoever ends up being the team’s No. 1 receiver. The hope will be Jones can get to 100% by the the time the 2024 season rolls around.
Los Angeles Chargers
How eliminated: Lost 24-22 to the Buffalo Bills in Week 16.
What went wrong: Everything. The team lost Justin Herbert to a season-ending finger injury, but they were 5-7 and en route to a loss in Week 14 when he got hurt.
The team entered Week 16 ranked No. 20 in overall DVOA with a 17th-ranked offense and 28th-ranked defense. Head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco were both fired in Week 15 after an embarrassing 63-21 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The offense struggled even with Herbert viewed as the long-term option, and the defense was a disaster. They’ll head into the offseason with what will likely be a top-five draft pick, but likely needing to slash through a roster that is currently projected to be more than $34 million over the cap. They’re in a weird spot because they have what seems like a great quarterback, but they’ll need to rebuild a lot of their roster.
Arizona Cardinals, 3-11
How eliminated: Lost 45-29 to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15.
What went wrong: Honestly, not much. This was the expectation with QB Kyler Murray missing half the season.
Arizona was expected to have a pretty bad year and go full-on tank mode for a high draft picks. It worked/is working. They currently hold the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The only discussion now is whether or not the Cardinals have enough faith in Kyler Murray to be their franchise quarterback. If so, they may not have this high of a pick in the near future, so they may want to go ahead and re-vamp at QB in a strong class. Otherwise, they should be able to add a premiere rookie with a focus on competing next season.
How eliminated: Lost 28-20 to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15.
What went wrong: They traded away Chase Young and Montez Sweat at the deadline, and the riverboat seems to have left Ron Rivera.
Washington is under new ownership and will likely be heading to a new coaching staff. The defense was awful without its two main staples to set the defensive line. Quarterback Sam Howell showed promise this season, but Washington is likely in for a rebuilding year in 2024.
New York Jets
What went wrong: One Achilles injury derailed the start of the season and too much faith in Zach Wilson.
The Jets had all the hype coming into the season, with veteran QB Aaron Rodgers set to play for a different team for the first time in his career. Tearing his Achilles in Week 1 threw the entire team’s outlook into question, but backup Zach Wilson led a big comeback win over the Buffalo Bills. The Jets also somehow beat the Philadelphia Eagles but overall had way too much faith in Wilson’s ability. New York waited too long to make a move and then allowed themselves to only choose between Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian.
How eliminated: Lost 19-16 in Week 15 overtime to Houston Texans.
What went wrong: Tannehill no longer looked like a serviceable option under center, and despite early heroics, neither did Will Levis.
The Titans had some big wins this season, like a Week 2 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers and even beating the Miami Dolphins by a point in Week 14. Tennessee couldn’t build momentum, stay healthy or recapture last year’s success on offense. Veteran running back Derrick Henry tried to shoulder the load once again, but the Titans didn’t have the passing attack to support it.
New England Patriots
What went wrong: Mac Jones and the offense remained stuck in the mud.
The Patriots hoped bringing back OC Bill O’Brien would help right the ship with QB Mac Jones, but the downward trajectory continued this year. The lack of wide receivers didn’t help of course, but Jones continues to show inability to elevate those around him. Bailey Zappe played much better than Jones in Week 14 and just showed that the team needs a good draft pick for a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft.
How eliminated: Lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13.
What went wrong: Everything
It may seem like recency bias of an all-around disappointing season, but seriously, what went right? Carolina traded up for Bryce Young, who didn’t develop as the team hoped. That’s not world-ending, but then the front office continues to tell everyone Carolina tried to trade up to No. 2 for CJ Stroud, but when that deal fell through, they traded up to No. 1 and just took Young.
Head coach Frank Reich was given a shorter leash than Urban Meyer, who wouldn’t travel home with the team after away games and was kicking players, and Carolina will look for its third head coach in as many seasons. Adam Thielen looked good, but DJ Chark, Miles Sanders and Hayden Hurst were all free-agent flops. To top it all off, the Panthers don’t have a first-round pick this year to try and swiftly right the ship.