What’s next for NFL teams out of playoff race?

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Updated: December 6, 2017

With four games left to play in the 2017 season, some NFL teams already have turned their attention to the 2018 offseason and what they have to do to become playoff contenders. No doubt coaching changes will be part of the equation.

But can teams turn it around in one season? You bet. Just check out the Rams under coach Sean McVay. And look at what the Saints have done by drafting Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore, likely the offensive and defensive rookies of the year.

ARI | CHI | NYG | SF | TB | WAS
AFC: BUF | CIN | CLE | DEN | HOU | IND | MIA | NYJ


NFC

Arizona Cardinals

What has gone wrong this season? Injuries, injuries and more injuries. The Cardinals lost all-everything running back David Johnson in Week 1 when he fractured his wrist and was lost for the season. The hits kept on coming. The offensive line kept breaking down: Left guard Mike Iupati went on injured reserve, and later in the season, left tackle D.J. Humphries suffered a knee injury that ended his season. In London in Week 7, quarterback Carson Palmer broke his left arm and was put on IR. And that was just on offense. But those pieces were enough to put Arizona’s offense in neutral — where for the most part it has remained throughout the season. When the offense isn’t moving the ball and staying on the field, the defense tends to play more snaps than it’s accustomed to, and it’s an obvious domino effect.

What needs to happen in offseason? The Cardinals could go with a complete roster overhaul, including releasing Palmer and backup QB Drew Stanton. They also could part ways with receivers John Brown, Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden, all upcoming free agents. And they could start rebuilding the defensive line. The other train of thought is that if the Cardinals’ core — coach Bruce Arians, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Palmer — return for another season, then Arizona should draft a quarterback and add another playmaking receiver. They also should keep Adrian Peterson on the roster.

Is a coaching change the answer? Maybe changes in the front office are in order, but as of now, a coaching change isn’t the answer. Yes, there have been times when Arians’ playcalling has been questionable. But for the most part, injuries have hampered the Cardinals’ ability to consistently move the ball as they have in the past. If Arians returns and the Cardinals have another losing season, then a coaching change would be necessary. But not yet. — Josh Weinfuss

Chicago Bears

What has gone wrong this season? For starters, the Bears lost starting wide receiver Cameron Meredith to a torn ACL in the preseason. Former first-round draft pick Kevin White followed Meredith to injured reserve in Week 1. Quarterback Mike Glennon, whom the Bears guaranteed $16 million in 2017, turned the ball over eight times in four games and was so bad that the Bears replaced him with rookie Mitchell Trubisky, who’s very raw. Chicago’s 2017 free-agent class of Markus Wheaton, Quintin Demps, Marcus Cooper and Glennon turned out to be a bust. Team leader Zach Miller suffered a catastrophic knee injury in late October. The defense, which had been the strength of the team, began to wear down because of injuries to Leonard Floyd, Willie Young, Adrian Amos and Danny Trevathan. For the grand finale, ex-kicker Robbie Gould, whom the Bears shockingly released in 2016, hit five field goals, including the game winner, in Sunday’s embarrassing 15-14 loss to San Francisco. That about covers it.