2020 NFL season in review: What went wrong, what's next for eliminated playoff teams

The divisional round of the2020 NFL playoffsgot underway Saturday, and two teams said goodbye to this NFL season.

The Baltimore Ravens closed out their season after a 17-3 loss at the Buffalo Bills. They join the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Football Team, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bearsand Pittsburgh Steelers as playoff teams whose runs have been cut short.

The top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs will open their playoff run against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS), followed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking on the New Orleans Saints (6:40 p.m. ET, Fox).

So what's next for the teams that were eliminated from the playoffs? NFL Nation digs in.

Jump to:

Ravens | Rams | Steelers | Bears

Titans | Washington | Seahawks | Colts

Baltimore Ravens (12-6, 2nd in AFC North)

How the season finished: The Ravens' championship run came to a painful end when quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered a concussion and was ruled out of the fourth quarter in Saturday's divisional playoff game against the Bills. Jackson's injury came two plays after his second pick-six and first red zone interception of his pro career. A week after capturing his first postseason victory, Jackson delivered one of his most frustrating performances, failing to produce a touchdown for the first time in 39 straight games (which was the longest streak in the NFL). The last time Baltimore advanced to the AFC Championship Game was 2012, when Joe Flacco delivered the Mile High Miracle. To Baltimore's credit, this team overcame plenty of adversity to get to the playoffs: Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas getting cut after allegedly punching a teammate, All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley suffering a season-ending ankle injury and the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in professional sports. The Ravens then took a significant step this postseason, from quarterback Lamar Jackson winning his first career playoff game to Baltimore exacting revenge on the Tennessee Titans from last year's playoff loss. Now, the question that will linger over Jackson and the Ravens is this: Can a perennial Super Bowl contender finally get to the Super Bowl?

Biggest offseason question: Will the Ravens decide to acquire a No. 1 wide receiver for Jackson? A proven playmaker on the outside is the missing piece for an offense that ranked No. 1 in rushing but No. 31 in passing. Last offseason, the Arizona Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins to give QBKyler Murrayan elite receiver, and the Buffalo Bills acquired Stefon Diggs for Josh Allen. It'll be interesting to see whether the Ravens get just as aggressive in bringing in a top target for Jackson, or if they will put their faith in Marquise Brown, who finished the season strong and totaled 109 yards receiving in the wild-card win in Tennessee. -- Jamison Hensley

Los Angeles Rams (11-7, 2nd in NFC West)

How the season finished: Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey anchored a Super Bowl-worthy defense that finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the NFL and was the driving force behind a playoff run. However, with Donald limited because of a rib injury, the defense could not slow quarterbackAaron Rodgers and the Packers' top-ranked offense. In a wild twist, the Rams' offense -- which struggled to establish consistency throughout the season -- finished on a high note in the divisional-round playoff loss behind quarterback Jared Goff, who underwent surgery on his throwing-hand thumb on Dec. 28. They put together a nearly flawless performance against the Packers. The defense, without a doubt the downfall in the season finale, had been leaned on throughout the season by Rams coach Sean McVay and the offense. McVay's playcalling too often put the offense in a difficult position, and Goff's inconsistencies and turnover-plagued season did not aid the situation.

Biggest offseason question: The offense performed well in the loss to the Packers, but the question moving forward remains how it can perform at that level consistently. McVay produced an offensive juggernaut that lit up the NFL in his first two seasons and was among the league's highest-scoring units. But ever since a disappointing 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, the offense has not been able to consistently return to form. McVay must go back to the drawing board, and perhaps most importantly, he must figure out how to get the most out of Goff, who has four seasons remaining on his $110 million guaranteed contract. The Rams entered the season without an experience backup or competition pushing Goff when they elected to keepJohn Wolford, an undrafted free agent in 2018, as his lone backup. Wolford started in Week 17 and earned an 18-7 win over the Cardinals to clinch a playoff spot, and McVay felt confident enough to start him in the divisional round against the Seahawks. So perhaps Wolford can provide meaningful competition behind Goff. But if not, the Rams should consider signing a veteran quarterback to push Goff in 2021 or use a mid-round selection in the NFL draft to bring in a young QB who can provide daily competition and be inserted into a game if Goff goes on a turnover spree.-- Lindsey Thiry

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5, 1st in the AFC North)

How the season finished: The Steelers maintained the best record in the NFL through 11 games with an unblemished start, but the wheels fell off in a three-game stretch as weaknesses with the run game and short passing game were exposed, not to mention the injuries on defense. The Steelers rebounded for a division-clinching, comeback win against the Indianapolis Colts, but a first-round exit out of the playoffs after an 11-0 start is a disappointment -- especially with the first-quarter meltdown that led to a 28-0 deficit in Sunday's wild-card playoff loss to Cleveland. This team had Super Bowl LV aspirations, and anything less than a trip to Tampa, Florida, in the twilight of quarterbackBen Roethlisberger's career is a failure.

Biggest offseason question: Roethlisberger is committed to playing at least through the end of his contract in 2021, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, but what remains to be seen is how much of the current team the Steelers can retain around him. With nearly 20 free agents hitting the market and a $41.2 million salary-cap hit on Roethlisberger's deal, the Steelers will have to pull off major wizardry to bring back anyone significant -- such as versatile defensive backsMike Hilton andCam Sutton or wide receiverJuJu Smith-Schuster. -- Brooke Pryor

Chicago Bears (8-9, 2nd in the NFC North)

How the season finished: Despite starting 5-1, the Bears' offense spent much of the first 11 games of the 2020 season in hibernation. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky got benched in Week 3 in favor of Nick Foles, who fared even worse. Trubisky took the job back in late November and played mostly inspired football, but the damage was done. The Bears ignored running back David Montgomery-- partly because the offensive line play was so subpar early on -- for much of the season until he got on a hot streak to close out the regular season. But failing to establish the run for the first three months of the season hurt Chicago. The Bears backed into the playoffs in Week 17 by virtue of the Los Angeles Rams' win over the Arizona Cardinals, but Chicago went one-and-done in the postseason. After Sunday's 21-9 loss at New Orleans, the Bears are 1-7 against playoff teams in 2020. The whole season felt like a wasted opportunity.

Biggest offseason question: The Bears need to determine what organizational changes are necessary despite reaching the playoffs two of three years. A strong argument can be made to retain coach Matt Nagy, but upper management might be a different conversation. General manager Ryan Pace, whose fate is intertwined with Trubisky, has one year left on his contract. The civic cries for team president and CEO Ted Phillips to step aside grow louder each year. The Bears also have a big decision to make at quarterback. Trubisky's fifth-year option was declined, and Foles looked ineffective. Do the Bears draft another quarterback? Do they re-sign Trubisky (gulp)? Do they find another veteran? The story remains the same in Chicago. -- Jeff Dickerson

Tennessee Titans (11-6, 1st in the AFC South)

How the season finished: The major issue for the Titans has been the defense. When a team doesn't have a stout front end and back end of the defense, the results are typically not good. They signed free agents Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley to shore up the pass rush and take the defense to the next level. But instead, they've regressed. The Titans finished with 19 sacks -- third worst in the league. Losing Adoree Jackson for 13 games because of a knee injury hurt the secondary severely. Outside of Malcolm Butler, the Titans have especially struggled on third downs, where they've allowed an NFL-worst 51.8% conversion rate.

Biggest offseason question: How can the Titans find a way to generate a pass rush? The same issue from last offseason carries over to 2021. The Titans will have limited salary-cap space to add a premier pass-rusher, so they'll have to bank on signing a player with upside who hasn't had a breakout season. Tennessee could also turn to the 2021 NFL draft. The offense is too good to have another season wasted away by the issues on defense. The Titans also have to hire a defensive coordinator. -- Turron Davenport

Washington Football Team (7-10, 1st in NFC East)

How the season finished: A variety of things. But, keep in mind, Washington wasn't expected to be much more than a six- or seven-win team. In a tumultuous year, it won four more games than last season under first-year coach Ron Rivera. Washington won five of its final seven games to win the division. But the offense needed to be more productive. Quarterback was an issue as Dwayne Haskins was ineffective, benched early and eventually released; backup Kyle Allen lasted four games before a broken ankle ended his season and Alex Smith's strained calf cost him down the stretch. His leadership and comeback story mattered, but the offense sputtered too often and needs more consistent wide receiver play, and playmakers, beyond Terry McLaurin. The defense played well, but needs to start games better. It also allowed too many big plays and was inconsistent against the run; it needs to strengthen the linebacker and safety positions.

Biggest offseason question: Who will be the quarterback in 2021? Washington cut Haskins, and it would be awfully hard to rely on Smith as a starter next season at age 37. Smith was a fantastic story, but can he last 16 games and be effective? The team must consider its options and can save $13.6 million by releasing him. Because the defense is ready to win now, with its talented and youthful front, Washington can't afford to wait long for a young quarterback to develop. Washington could contend in the NFC East for a while by adding a veteran and perhaps drafting a quarterback in the middle rounds to develop. Rivera said Allen could have done what Smith did in leading the team to a division title. But if they deem Smith as worthy of returning, then it must draft a quarterback who could provide immediate help, if this offense wants to make a jump. And Taylor Heinicke showed that he should be in contention for a roster spot with a 306-yard passing day against the Bucs in the wild-card round. Washington's inability to develop, and keep, a quarterback has contributed mightily to its poor record under owner Dan Snyder. He can't be the one leading the charge, as he was when the team acquired Haskins, Robert Griffin III and Donovan McNabb. -- John Keim

Seattle Seahawks (12-5, 1st in NFC West)

How the season finished: 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 & 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 20 points in the wild-card round and got a key pick-six.

Biggest offseason question: It all centers around Adams: Can the Seahawks 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 because 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

Indianapolis Colts (11-6, 2nd AFC South)

How the season finished: 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

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