2. Chicago Bears
Listen, I know the Chicago Bears finished 7-10. I realize that a team that lost 10 games isn't typically going to be recognized as one that could have made some noise in the postseason.
But let's consider a handful of things that make the argument for the 2023 Chicago Bears as one of the ones that got away from making the NFL Playoffs that much more intriguing.
The Bears finished a respectable 5-3 in the second "half" of the season after starting an abysmal 2-7, which included a loss against the Denver Broncos where Chicago held a 28-7 lead. Combine that with a six-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings in October, and you could be looking at a 9-8 Chicago Bears team if they had found a way to get the job done early in the season.
Despite an injury causing Justin Fields to miss time this season, the Bears still ranked 2nd in the league in rushing, an aspect of their team that would play exceptionally well in playoff games, especially those in cold-weather climates.
The Bears were 12th in the NFL in third down offense this season, and 13th in red zone conversion rate. Considering where this team finished -- and the fact that they fired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy -- those are pretty good numbers.
I think Justin Fields is one of the best and most interesting QBs left out of this year's postseason. The Bears' defense also really turned things up after acquiring pass rusher Montez Sweat in a trade with the Washington Commanders. Sweat's presence off the edge was the missing piece the Bears' defense needed, and Chicago went 5-4 with him in the lineup.
They also allowed more than 17 points just three times in the nine games Sweat played for them.
Call me crazy, but I think Chicago would have been an interesting Wild Card inclusion in 2024.