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Texans’ remarkable turnaround offers hope for the 18 NFL teams that missed the playoffs

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Don’t worry if your favorite NFL team failed to make the playoffs. A quick fix to that fixer-upper isn’t out of the question even if a new coach or quarterback is needed. Just look at the Houston Texans’ turnaround. They won the AFC South one year after finishing in last place, and they’re the first team in the Super Bowl era to win its division with a rookie head coach (DeMeco Ryans) and a rookie quarterback (C.J. Stroud). In 19 of the last 21 seasons, at least one team has won its division a year after finishing in last place. In all, six teams reached the playoffs after missing them a year ago. Joining the Texans in the AFC field are the Steelers and Browns, who earned a wild-card berth a year after finishing last in the AFC North. In the NFC, the Rams, Packers and Lions are all in after missing out in 2022. The 18 non-playoff teams have a head start on their roster rebuilding over the 14 franchises still harboring hopes of winning Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas on Feb. 11. There’s hope for a quick turnaround even for the New York Jets, who haven’t reached the playoffs in 13 years, or the Denver Broncos, who haven’t been back to the postseason party since winning Super Bowl 50 eight years ago. Here are the non-playoff teams by draft order: 1. CHICAGO BEARS (7-10) (from the Carolina Panthers 2-15). The Bears acquired Carolina’s 2024 first-round pick as part of a blockbuster trade last March that also netted Chicago sixth-year WR D.J. Moore, who set career highs in catches (96), yards (1,364) and TDs (8). COACHING CHANGE? The Bears are bringing back HC Matt Eberflus but fired OC Luke Getsy. QB QUANDARY? Justin Fields showed enough progress to give the Bears flexibility. They could bypass a college QB and draft WR Marvin Harrison Jr. or trade the pick to stock up on more draft picks. 2. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (4-13). The Commanders lost their final eight games after opening with back-to-back victories. COACHING CHANGE? Yes, Ron Rivera was fired after going 20-46-1 in four seasons. He did reach the playoffs in 2020, albeit with a 7-9 record that won the middling NFC East. QB QUANDARY? Sam Howell became the first Washington QB to start every game in a season since Kirk Cousins in 2017, but the Commanders are in prime position to land a premier prospect in the draft. 3. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (4-13). Bill Belichick had a fizzling finish to his incredible 24 seasons in New England. COACHING CHANGE? Yes, the Patriots moved fast by promoting Jerod Mayo as Belichick’s replacement just one day after Belichick agreed to part ways with the Patriots after an unparalleled run that included six Super Bowl victories with Tom Brady. QB QUANDARY? Since Brady left in 2020 and immediately won a seventh Lombardi trophy, the Patriots have cycled through Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. Mayo has the opportunity to follow in Belichick’s footsteps and draft a foundational QB. 4. ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-13)….

 

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