July and August is a time for optimism in the NFL. It wasn't really hard to find four NFL teams who could make the leap into the playoffs after missing out in 2015. In fact, I had a few extras I wanted to include.

Not really so much when it comes to teams who will miss the playoffs this year. There are 12 teams to pick from (as opposed to 20), and it's not hard to avoid the Patriots, Packers, Panthers, Cardinals, Seahawks and Steelers. That leaves six teams to pick from. You could certainly argue some of the other teams are candidates to miss, but it's a very bold call.

Of those six we're basically looking at divisions that are a little more fluid than other situations. I narrowed it down to four, including a full-blown flip in the AFC West -- zero chance that backfires! -- and additional upheaval in the AFC South and the NFC East.

The beauty of the NFL is there will be wildly unpredictable turnover from year to year. Here's one guess at four teams to miss. Hopefully it looks better than last year's predictions from our crew (Panthers, Cardinals and Bengals!).

Washington Redskins

2015 Record: 9-7

2016 Over/Under: 7.5

Overview: The Redskins were the consensus last-place team in the NFC East before 2015 began and for a lot of people, potentially the worst team in football, which proves that we, like Jon Snow, know nothing. It was understandable given they were planning to sit Robert Griffin III for the entire year (and avoid guaranteeing his fifth-year option money) and just see what Kirk Cousins could do as a starter. Then a really weird thing happened and Cousins led the NFL in completion percentage, while putting up obscene numbers down the stretch, leading Washington to an NFC East title and a home playoff game.

Why they won't make the playoffs: A big part of "not making it back to the playoffs" is about regression to the mean. And there isn't a bigger candidate than Cousins. Washington fans should feel both great and terrible about the way contract negotiations with Cousins went this offseason: no new deal means he's hyper-motivated to prove the front office wrong, but if Washington doesn't value him at more than a reported $15 or $16 million a year, what does it say about their belief in him repeating last season?

Cousins averaged a whopping 9.41 yards per attempt in the final eight games of the year, completing 73.6 percent of his passes, throwing 19 touchdowns and two interceptions. None of that is remotely sustainable over the course of a season (only three people post merger have ever averaged 9.4 yards per attempt for a season.) The Redskins didn't vastly outperform their Expected win total (8.2, they won 9) but they also didn't beat a single team with a winning record.

Their nine victories came against teams that went 56-86 total. That's not their fault, per se, but it doesn't necessarily bode well if the schedule gets harder. (Their seven losses came against teams that went 61-51 combined for what it's worth.) Josh Norman is a very good cornerback and a big-time offseason addition, but he will face a murderer's row of wideouts, including Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant out of the gate.

Kirk Cousins is a prime regression candidate for 2016. USATSI

Why they could be back in the playoffs: For starters, the schedule. We don't know what is going to happen with the NFC East, but if it's as bad as it was last year, then Washington could easily win 9 or 10 games. The Cowboys being bad on defense and suffering offensive injuries, the Eagles being dysfunctional and struggling at the quarterback position, the Giants not really addressing all their issues with their offseason spending -- all of those are real possibilities.

Cousins doesn't have to completely regress: even if he puts up numbers equivalent to his first half of the season he would be an effective quarterback. Cousins completed 66.9 percent of his passes, 244 yards per game and threw for 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. His bet on himself could pay off handsomely for everyone involved. The Redskins will need some players to really take a leap forward too. With Junior Gallette going down for the year again, there are major concerns about the pass rush in Washington. The running back position should be a concern too, with Matt Jones showing explosion in his rookie year but also a tendency to fumble the ball.

Denver Broncos

2015 Record: 12-4
2016 Over/Under:

Overview: Pretty, pretty, PRET-TAH good year for the Broncos. They flew under the radar for most of the year because everyone was screaming about whether or not Peyton Manning was washed up. The reality was the defense carried the team and it was historically great, particularly when the playoffs rolled around and Von Miller turned into a destructive force.

Denver was actually in danger of missing the playoffs down the home stretch and then magically picked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Broncos weren't great on offense, but the NFL's No. 1 defense covered that up. Denver got a little lucky early in the season and then white-hot down the stretch and through the Super Bowl. There isn't a concrete magic formula for winning in football's postseason -- sometimes you have to get lucky and make sure to capitalize on that luck.

Why they won't make the playoffs: The Expected Win total for the Broncos stands out in a big way: they should have won 9.7 games last year but ended up with 12 wins. There were a number of games early in the year when they managed to outright steal a victory (against in the Chiefs in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football and in overtime against the Browns in Week 6 both stand out). So even if the Broncos back at full strength, a little regression wouldn't be out of the question.

Denver is far from full strength, however, losing a number of key players on the defense to free agency. Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, both key players in the Broncos run, left for Jacksonville and Chicago, respectively. Brock Osweiler, the presumptive starter for the upcoming season, signed a huge deal with the Texans. These offseason moves aren't impossible to overcome or indicative of Denver doing a bad job: when you win a title, people leave. But there's no telling how the quarterback situation with Mark Sanchez/Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch will play out. It could be a disaster. The division will be better, with the Raiders and Chargers improving.

Von Miller Broncos
Can Von Miller and the Broncos avoid the Super Bowl hangover? USATSI

Why they could be back in the playoffs: The biggest reason people point to about a possible Broncos regression is the quarterback play. But the funny thing is the trio of Sanchez/Siemian/Lynch might not even be that much worse than Peyton Manning/Brock Osweiler. 2015 was by far and away the worst season of Manning's career, as he managed to miss five weeks of the season and still hold the NFL interception lead.

Maybe that vaunted trio is BETTER. Maybe Demaryius Thomas doesn't drop a ton of balls. Maybe bringing back C.J. Anderson looks like a great decision (even though it's impossible since he could have been MUCH cheaper). The division could be worse than we expect and Denver's defense could meet the standard it set last year. This team did bring back Brandon Marshall and Von Miller to pair with the best secondary in football after all.

Houston Texans

2015 Record: 9-7
2016 Over/Under:

Overview: Bill O'Brien pulled off one of the all-time underrated coaching jobs in 2015. The Texans struggled out of the gate to a 2-5 record after a loss to the Dolphins in late October. It was an all-time bottoming out, with the Texans' most important offensive player, Arian Foster, going down for the season and Ryan Mallett missing the game because he overslept. The Texans looked dead in the water, but would somehow rip off four straight wins while also winning seven of their last nine games to take the AFC South.

The playoff game against the Chiefs didn't go, um, so well, which led to Houston completely revamping the offense. They signed Brock Osweiler for $72 million, inked running back Lamar Miller to take over in the backfield and added the combo of Will Fuller/Braxton Miller in the draft to pair alongside breakout wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Why they won't make the playoffs: This isn't a pick against the Texans, who did a lot of smart things this offseason. It's more a pick of circumstances and the difficulty of integrating a ton of new pieces into the offense.

Osweiler is an upgrade, but it's not like they added Aaron Rodgers here. We have limited knowledge about what he can do on the field, they only talked to him for 10 seconds before signing him and John Elway, the guy who drafted him, wasn't willing to pay up for his services. Additionally, the division will be better. The Jaguars are a hot pick to improve quickly. The Titans retained Mike Mularkey but they're still going to improve with Marcus Mariota in a second year. And the Colts should return to form.

J.J. Watt isn't healthy coming into the year, which is a major red flag for their defense. He's a top-five non-quarterback in terms of difference makers. Six of their 10 non-division games are against playoff teams from last year.

Brock Osweiler faces huge expectations in his first year in Houston. USATSI

Why they could make the playoffs: If all the offseason acquisitions click, the Texans offense will be fun to watch. Hopkins is a top-five wide receiver in the NFL right now and he'll be catching passes from his best quarterback yet. Fuller/Miller are fun toys to throw in the mix and we should finally find out what happens when Miller gets a full workload. Watt could come back by the start of the season because he's a freak and Jadeveon Clowney could be prepped for a breakout season.

There are lots of fun pieces on both sides of the ball. They get to play the Patriots without Tom Brady. Bill O'Brien's work in Houston really is underrated: he's won 9 games in back-to-back seasons despite having Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Tom Savage attempt passes for him. That's the 1927 Yankees of bad quarterbacking. Any upgrade is a pretty massive upgrade.

Kansas City Chiefs

2015 Record: 11-5
2016 Over/Under:

Overview: Much like the Texans, the Chiefs were a stunning playoff team last year. Not because they weren't good, but because they were 1-5 at one point early in the season, had just lost Jamaal Charles for the year and looked dead in the water. Andy Reid pulled off an incredible coaching job -- maybe the best one of his career -- as the Chiefs ripped off 10-straight wins to close out the season, before thumping the Texans in the playoffs and falling just short of an AFC Championship Game berth against the Patriots.

Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware filled in admirably for Charles, Alex Smith was his usual efficient self and Jeremy Maclin justified the hefty contract Kansas City gave him. The defense was a revelation, with Marcus Peters emerging as a stud rookie, Eric Berry uniting the secondary as Comeback Player of the Year and a mish-mash of pass rushers producing nicely without going up top.

Why they won't make the playoffs: There are some red flags abounding here. Justin Houston dealt with an injury during the second half of the year and had surgery in February that should keep him out through the start of the season. Berry is holding out because the two sides couldn't work out a deal (that has created plenty of issues when it comes to defensive anchors in the past) and Charles is recovering from a second ACL surgery. He bounced back nicely before but a second ACL tear is a second ACL tear. It's a concern.

Sean Smith departed in free agency and Husain Abdullah retired. The secondary isn't the strength it was heading into the year and the team's top pass rusher isn't necessarily going to be ready. Bob Sutton is a stud defensive coordinator but how much duct tape can one man purchase? The Chiefs get to play the AFC South and NFC South this year, but those two divisions might be the most improved in football before 2016. Of the Chiefs' 10 wins down the stretch last year, two were against playoff teams.

Can Alex Smith get the Chiefs back to the postseason? USATSI

Why they could make the playoffs: If Charles is healthy, this offense will still hum. Mitchell Schwartz was an underrated addition in the offseason and Alex Smith never gets the credit he is due because he's not exciting. Three of four games down the stretch are at home, with two of those being division games (the Chiefs close at San Diego).

Vegas loves them too -- a 9.5 over/under win total is pretty stout (although no one who made the playoffs last year has anything less than a 7 win total). The Chiefs aren't very exciting but they're really well coached. Reid gets the most out of his squad and you can say the same for Sutton. Additionally, there's a lot of hype around the Raiders (and some people are hyping the Chargers too) but it could just be hype: the Chiefs might be the best team in a division that is impossible to predict at this point.

Honorable Mention

Bengals: Couldn't pull the trigger because this team is too consistent. Consistency wins in the NFL. The losses of Hue Jackson and all their non-A.J. Green wideouts are concerning.

Vikings: Too much talent on the defensive side of the ball with the possibility of the defense taking a leap this year. Teddy Bridgewater is underrated and he should have better weapons this season. Adrian Peterson continues to run angry.