Projecting six new NFL playoff teams for 2024, including Aaron Rodgers' Jets, Kirk Cousins' Falcons



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Every year, 14 of the NFL’s 32 teams make the playoffs. And on average, only about half of them return the following year. The other half are replaced, with something like six new contenders on an annual basis. It’s a true testament to the league’s parity, and perhaps the greatest argument for the existing salary cap, which requires all franchises to restock and rebuild.

As we look ahead to the 2024 season, which teams are primed to return to the dance after missing the postseason a year ago? Here’s our early rundown of the six best candidates:

2023 finish: 7-10 | Last playoff season: 2017

The Falcons had all the ingredients for a wild-card run in 2023, except a legitimate signal-caller. Now Kirk Cousins is under center, and while his career suggests more of a steady hand than a special talent, he’s got enough ascending skill talent and underrated defensive support to warrant an instant playoff berth in the wide-open NFC South.

2023 finish: 9-8 | Last playoff season: 2022

The best ability is availability, and both Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins should be healthier after an injury-riddled 2023. Couple their return with a mildly improved lineup — Zack Moss in for Joe Mixon, Mike Gesicki at tight end, Sheldon Rankins and Geno Stone on defense — and it’s not hard to envision the stripes leaping right back into the AFC title mix.

2023 finish: 9-8 | Last playoff season: 2022

Doug Pederson has kept this team in the mix despite some mercurial play from both sides of the ball, and Trevor Lawrence should be better off with Mitch Morse anchoring the line. Gabe Davis is a capable replacement for Calvin Ridley out wide, and the defense still has lots of upside, with Arik Armstead aiding the already strong front seven.

2023 finish: 7-10 | Last playoff season: 2010

It all hinges on Aaron Rodgers (again). At 40, fresh off a season lost to an Achilles tear, are his MVP Packers days a distant memory? They could be. But at least his O-line and weaponry are slightly upgraded after the additions of Tyron Smith and Mike Williams. Robert Saleh’s “D” also remains fierce at every level. If not now, then when?

2023 finish: 9-8 | Last playoff season: 2022

They’re clearly in transition, sidelining Pete Carroll for first-time head coach Mike Macdonald while openly admitting long-term uncertainty under center. But the skill talent is still apparent, from DK Metcalf to Kenneth Walker III, and Macdonald has savvy pieces at every level of the defense. If he maximizes the talent there, why can’t they be scrappy again?

2023 finish: 6-11 | Last playoff season: 2021

Some of their free agent spending has been puzzling; are they really at a stage where they should be paying top dollar to guys like Calvin Ridley, 29, and L’Jarius Sneed, 27, when protection for young quarterback Will Levis is paramount? Maybe not. But new coach Brian Callahan has some playmaking at his disposal. And he’ll bring a more contemporary offensive approach.





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