Every NFL season, fans bear witness to something completely unexpected. For instance, after a Superbowl appearance the year prior, the San Fransisco 49ers fell out of the playoff picture in 2020. The Jaguars went from bottomfeeders in 2016 to title contenders in 2017. It goes to show how unpredictable the league can be from year to year. Another thing we tend to miss is the unidentified flaws that sink some teams in the end.
We know that these things will come, but rarely can we accurately predict how they’ll show and who they’ll affect. That said, it never stops us from trying. Looking at every team and what they’ve done this offseason, this article names some teams that many might think too highly of. I’m judging it based on every team’s preseason projected win totals, schedule, and, of course, roster makeup for this list. These are the most overrated NFL teams heading into the 2021 season.
Pittsburgh made the playoffs as the AFC North champions in 2020. Starting 11-0 for the season, they looked like early championship favorites. Unfortunately for them, it all went downhill from there. Closing out the year with a 12-4 record, optimism fell to an all-time low. Then came the wild card match against Cleveland. Many wondered if the team that thrived at the season’s beginning was a mere mirage following their late-season collapse.
In the offseason, they have made some efforts to solve the issues at hand. They drafted Najee Harris with their first-round pick and addressed the offensive line in the 3rd and 4th rounds. On the front of finding a successor to Ben Roethlisberger, that depends on how you feel about Dwayne Haskins. With his aging and the prospect of his decline on the horizon, the Steelers have their work cut out for them.
A projected over/under of 9 wins sits them at third in the division behind Cleveland and Baltimore. Considering their losses this offseason and the competition they’ll have to contend with as division champions, I doubt they’ll make the playoffs. Between their lack of a top wide receiver, the uncertainty of the o-line, and the questions surrounding the QB, I see them finishing below .500.
You never really know what to expect from the NFC East. The division hasn’t had a repeat winner in nearly two decades. Each team in that group has glaring flaws that should bar them from playoff contention. However, because every squad lives under such conditions, each team has a chance every year. This season, the Cowboys line up as favorites to take the division. Oddsmakers set their win total at over/under 9.5.
With Dak Prescott returning from injury and their coach going into his second year in charge, they have a lot going for them. However, while Prescott’s return should raise their ceiling, the Cowboys should have looked better than they did in 2020. The running game struggled to get going. The defense hadn’t performed as advertised. Mike McCarthy looked out of place with some of the play-calls he made at different points throughout the season.
They addressed the defense in the draft. Of their 11 picks, eight were defensive players. While they needed it, I can’t say for certain that anyone they’ve selected will immediately contribute, especially under a new defensive coordinator. Maybe they do, and maybe Dak returns at the same level before his injury. Maybe Mike McCarthy gets a better feel for the modern game, and Ezekiel Elliott bounces back from a down year.
All of these things can happen, but I am weary of it all coming together in one season. Because it’s the NFC East, they could land a playoff spot regardless. Although, I wouldn’t bet on it.
New Orleans Saints
In what could end up as the most competitive division in football this year, the New Orleans Saints are at a disadvantage going in. Due to the cap, they couldn’t change much of anything on their current roster. Though viable, their inability to succeed in the postseason signaled a need for change. Especially with the defending champions in the division coming back with all their starters, they can’t afford to step back.
The Saints enter this season without a definitive starting quarterback. Despite this, their projected win total stands at 9.5. This likely correlates to the talent that remains on the roster despite Drew Brees’ departure. While he did play as a diminished version of himself, Brees persisted as a driving force of New Orleans’ offense. The lack of consistent pass-catching options beyond Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara may rear its head throughout the year.
Tayson Hill showed that he could manage a game under center but has yet to prove that he can dominate. Those familiar with his time in Tampa Bay know the story with Jameis Winston. The former first overall pick in 2015 has the size and talent to become a top QB. However, his knack to turnover the ball often outweighs the great plays he makes. Both players appear as viable options to start. But would either give the Saints an edge on any given Sunday? I doubt it.
Though the Saints have a tremendous collection of talent, without a true starting QB, I can’t see them clinching a playoff berth this season.
A small blip of excitement came over Titans fans this offseason as the team made a significant move weeks ago. They acquired Julio Jones from the Atlanta Hawks. The trade adds arguably the best wide receiver of the last decade to an offense led by the game’s best running back. The reigning offensive player of the year, Derrick Henry, commands much attention from an opposing defense on his own. This gives QB Ryan Tannehill leeway to break open a game through the other targets. However, the offense wasn’t Tennesee’s problem going into the offseason, to begin with.
The Titans were one of the league’s worst defensive teams in 2020 and only did but so much to address it in the offseason. Moreover, the team lost its offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, ironically, to the Atlanta Falcons. Even with the addition of Julio Jones, I’m not sure that he can make up for the loss of both Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. Moreover, we can’t fully expect the same results from the offense under a new coordinator despite the talent.
All things considered, this feels like a down year in the making for the Titans. Although they appear to have as potent an offense, their games should be fun to watch.
This one will take people by surprise. You may think this is just a hot take for the sake of having one, but I really have doubts about the Bills this year. Not only have teams in their division improved, but I don’t know that they themselves have.
In fairness, making the AFC title game can convince any team that they have the essential pieces already. However, the Bills have some minor issues that may cost them in the long run. They still don’t have a legitimate starter at running back. Their defense, while good, I wouldn’t consider elite. And while they do boast an underrated receiving corps led by a superstar in Stefon Diggs, I feel that the lack of diversity in the offense may cost them. Especially in a division with two of the best defensive minds in the NFL in Brian Flores and Bill Belichick.
Josh Allen still has room to improve, of course. He flashed the superstar potential that made him a top-ten pick back in 2018 all season long. That said, as good as his team became last year, the Chiefs still picked them apart. Since I don’t think they’ve gotten much better than other teams within the conference and their division, I see Buffalo taking a step back this year.