The Indianapolis Colts were the first to exit the stage, followed later in the day by the Seattle Seahawks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Football Team playing Saturday night. Three more games complete the super wild-card weekend Sunday and the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers will join the playoff party next week after enjoying a first-round bye.
So what’s next for the teams that were eliminated from the playoffs this week? NFL Nation digs in.
What went wrong: The Seahawks’ offense hit a wall around midseason and could never break through it. Russell Wilson was throwing touchdowns at a historically prolific rate early on, carrying a defense that was setting records for futility for the first two months. But Wilson and Co. started cooling off right around the time their defense began its turnaround. All of that was still good enough to score the most points in franchise history, win the most games since 2014 and secure their first division title since 2016. But it wasn’t good enough for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, which, as it turns out, the Seahawks would have gotten had they not inexplicably lost to the Giants at home in Week 13. The Seahawks could have used that week off to rest Jamal Adams and avoid the Rams, who held Seattle’s struggling offense to only 20 points in the wild-card round and got a key pick-six.
Biggest offseason question: It all centers around Adams: Can they get a deal done? If so, how massive will it be? And if not, then what? This season Adams validated the Seahawks’ bold decision to give up two first-round picks in last summer’s blockbuster trade. He was arguably their most impactful defensive player, setting the sack record for DBs. He brought an attitude their defense was lacking. Adams still has one year remaining on his current deal, and giving up as much as the Seahawks did for Adams leaves no doubt they want him long-term. But negotiations could be tricky since he’ll undoubtedly want to be paid like more than just a safety. The NFL’s decreasing salary cap could complicate matters. The Seahawks figured they could get a strong return for Adams this offseason if they weren’t able to get a deal done and had to trade him. They’re without picks in the first and third rounds after giving them up for Adams, so they have incentive to figure out before the draft if he’ll be around long-term. — Brady Henderson
What went wrong: It’s hard to say something went wrong when you finish with double-digit victories for just the second time since 2014. But the Colts didn’t give quarterback Philip Rivers a one-year, $25 million contract to simply lead them to the first weekend of the playoffs. Owner Jim Irsay wants to win “multiple Lombardis,” but they haven’t won any since the 2006 season. They had the talent to make the postseason, but the 2020 season proved there was little room for error. And Indianapolis nearly had one error too many. The Colts didn’t qualify for the playoffs until the final week of the regular season when they beat Jacksonville and then got help from Buffalo beating Miami.
Biggest offseason question: Who will be the starting quarterback and left tackle in 2021? After spending the first 16 seasons of his career with the Chargers, Rivers proved critics wrong by showing he could still compete at the highest level. But he’s 39 and has a high school head-coaching job waiting for him in Alabama when he retires. The risk of keeping Rivers — if all sides want that to happen — is his production falling off, which would force the franchise to hunt for a new starter in 2022. Fourth-round pick Jacob Eason spent this season as the team’s third-string quarterback, learning behind Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. It’s unknown if Eason is ready to push for the starting job next season. The Colts could re-sign Brissett, who will be a free agent, or look for a starter via free agency or a trade (Carson Wentz or Matthew Stafford). Starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo will be 33 in August and he, like Rivers, has not committed to playing beyond this season. Castonzo flirted with retirement last winter. The only player currently on the roster who might be able to fill in is All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson. — Mike Wells