Unless you’re a nerd like me and enjoy the draft as much as the actual games, it’s going to be awhile before we get to see football again. With Super Bowl 51 concluded and an eye towards the 2017 season, which non-playoff team can make a Super Bowl run in 2017?
Super Bowl 52 takes place in Minnesota in the shiny new U.S. Bank Stadium that opened up this past year. That just so happens to be the birthplace of future hall of fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald. For those who don’t know, Fitz was the ball boy as a kid for those exciting Vikings teams that had Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Is there a better Super Bowl story than that for next season? Let’s not forget the Cardinals have a loaded roster and have $32 million in cap space. Some of that will have to be redirected towards keeping Chandler Jones but they still have some room to play with. Take a look at the Cardinals roster with David Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson. This team has star power. Does Carson Palmer have one more run left in him? If not could the Cardinals become a prime landing spot for Tony Romo? Could you imagine Romo throwing passes to Larry Fitzgerald in the Super Bowl?
It’s a flat out joke that the Colts can’t make the playoffs in the AFC South with Andrew Luck. Keeping head coach Chuck Pagano probably takes them out of this discussion but what if things go right for Indy? There is no denying that Andrew Luck is a budding superstar, he just needs some help. Luck has never lost a game when his defense has held opponents to under 20 points. This Colts roster is putrid but $50 million in cap space can quickly change things. Frankly is the AFC scary outside of New England? Ryan Kelly is a blue chipper on the offensive line. T.Y. Hilton is a nice receiver. Now it’s time for new G.M. Chris Ballard to build this roster the rest of the way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
No this is not a joke. Crazier things have happened in the NFL. Tampa has $65 million in cap space to work with and has a nice foundation of young players. Year 3 could be the season that Jameis Winston really cements himself as a franchise quarterback after making huge strides in 2016. Mike Evans might quietly be the best wide out in football. Tampa’s defense is also very similar to Atlanta’s with a ton of young talent in Kwon Alexander, Levonte David, and Vernon Hargreaves. A surprise NFC South team made the Super Bowl in 2015 and 2016, why can’t the Bucs do the same to make it a 3 peat?
Sometimes you just have a bad year. The Panthers went from representatives in the Super Bowl to a lousy 6-10. Cam Newton didn’t look right all season because of a porous offensive line that will surely be upgraded this offseason. Carolina also has $50 million in cap space to do some serious damage in free agency. What if Carolina comes out of this offseason with Leonard Fournette and a bunch of quality offensive lineman? When this team is playing well they are hard to beat. I expect Carolina to right the ship pending a quality offseason.
*All salary cap projections courtesy of Overthecap.com