While for 12 NFL teams the season keeps on going into January due to the playoffs, for the other 20 teams in the league, their season ended last Sunday when they played their last game of the regular season.
After the postseason is over and the Super Bowl has been played, all NFL teams will start building towards the 2018 season, and one of them will be featured on the annual documentary series Hard Knocks in September.
The filming for Hard Knocks takes place during the NFL preseason, but the team for each year is usually announced around March/April time, so it will only be a couple of months until we find out which team will be featured this year.
However, thanks to the rules set in place by the NFL in 2013 to avoid all teams passing on being involved in Hard Knocks, we can find out which teams are in mandatory contention for the 2018 version of the documentary. Reddit user bossebaltros has worked it out.
According to the 'Hard Knocks' rule, teams are exempt from being forced to participate in the show if they meet one of three circumstances (They can still take part if they wish to do so):
- They have appeared in the past ten years.
- They have a first-year head coach
- They reached the playoffs in either of the two preceding seasons.
Teams that will have a new head coach in place include the Bears, Lions, Colts, Giants, Raiders, and Cardinals.
Teams that have had a playoff berth in the last two seasons include the Bills, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, and Vikings.
Teams that have appeared on "Hard Knocks" in the last 10 years include the Cowboys (2008), Bengals (2009), Jets (2010), Dolphins (2012), Bengals (2013), Falcons (2014), Texans (2015), Rams (2016), and Buccaneers (2017).
So, under the league rules, 26 teams are eliminated from mandatory inclusion, leaving us with six teams. These teams are:
San Francisco 49ers
Seeing John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan in their second year as general manager and head coach respectively, as well as Jimmy Garoppolo preparing to enter his first full season as a starter (if he signs a new deal with the team) makes this an exciting prospect for Hard Knocks this year.
Head coach Vance Joseph in his second year and in search of a starting quarterback. The team has struggled ever since Peyton Manning retired, so it will be interesting to see if the team looks for one through free agency (Kirk Cousins) and how they develop at the team during training camp.
Off the back of a 0-16 season, head coach Hue Jackson will have a now-or-never season in 2018 to turn things around for this franchise. With 12 selections as of writing in the 2018 draft, they'll have a lot of new arrivals at the team, including a potential future starting quarterback, which should make for an intriguing training camp.
Los Angeles Chargers
In their second season in Los Angeles, and after just narrowly missing out on the playoffs, it will be interesting to see what the Chargers do to change their fortunes in training camp. This could potentially be Philip Rivers' last season with the team considering he has an out in his contract in 2019, and possibly in the league as well.
A lot has changed since the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012. After missing out on the playoffs this season, they've only been to the playoffs once since their Super Bowl win. 2018 could very well be the last chance season for head coach John Harbaugh in Baltimore, which makes Hard Knocks at the Ravens very interesting.
With Kirk Cousins potentially on his way out, the Washington Redskins could be on the hunt for another quarterback during this offseason, so it will be interesting to see who will be their quarterback by training camp. Head coach Jay Gruden will be under pressure too, as the team has only made the playoffs once since he took over in 2014.
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