Every team handles the sudden, harsh end to a season differently. But it doesn't take long for those behind the scenes to start working on 2016. We're taking a look at one big area each losing team in the Divisional Round needs to work on this offseason (we looked at something to improve for all the losing wild-card teams last week).
Kansas City Chiefs: Keep the defense together
This was the best Chiefs season in at least a decade and there are legitimate questions whether they can win a title without more explosive players on offense. Yet the focus for this offseason needs to remain on what made this Kansas City squad special: The defense.
Eric Berry, Jaye Howard, Derrick Johnson, Sean Smith and Tamba Hali all face uncertain futures. These are not just role players. These five players represented more than 4,500 snaps in 2015 and provide a big part of the foundation of the defense. The Chiefs already started their offseason work by signing defensive end Allen Bailey to an extension. Berry and Howard figure to be priorities because of their age. It's hard to imagine Johnson or Hali in a different uniform.
Green Bay Packers: Fix the front seven
General manager Ted Thompson's solid drafting and planning has resulted in a depth chart without a ton of big holes. That's how you make the playoffs seven straight years. We know Thompson isn't into quick fixes in free agency but he's going to be busy making sure the front seven is well-stocked this offseason. Re-signing Mike Daniels was a huge start, but Mike Neal, Nick Perry, B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion are all set to be free agents. Julius Peppers' future is uncertain because of a big salary number. Coach Mike McCarthy announced Monday that linebacker Clay Matthews is expected to move back to outside linebacker, which is a smart ending to an unfortunate experiment.
Some of the names above (Neal, Perry) show Thompson's mixed results drafting defenders up front. There are a lot of high picks like former first-rounder Datone Jones who are ultimately role players. While coach Mike McCarthy needs to make the Packers' offense look like the Packers' offense again in practice, Thompson has plenty of work to do setting up the pieces for Dom Capers' defense.
Seattle Seahawks: Get more help for Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson's growth in the 2015 season was hard to miss, and the best sign yet that Pete Carroll's Seahawks will be a force in the NFC for a long time to come. It's incredible how many of their core players are signed long-term. They found a new promising vertical receiver and returner in Tyler Lockett this season and Jimmy Graham had mixed results before his injury, but Wilson still needs more help.
It should start up front, where left tackle Russell Okung and guard J.R. Sweezy are free agents. Then again, Sweezy was part of the problem for an offensive line that played better down the stretch but is still below NFL standards. Okung suffered a dislocated shoulder in the team's loss to the Panthers and reportedly wants to test the market. With Marshawn Lynch very likely to move on, Seattle should also get backfield help to pair with Thomas Rawls.
The pieces remain in place for the Seahawks' defense to be strong, but it needs reinforcements to stay a top-five scoring offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Fix the secondary
This need probably sounds familiar to Steelers fans. Pass defense has been an issue throughout the Mike Tomlin era, and the 2015 season was no different. Things could get worse before with William Gay, Will Allen, Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin all slated to be free agents. Pittsburgh's defense was better than people think in 2015, but it was mediocre defending the pass.
Pittsburgh has found some front-seven forces in Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier. They will want to improve the pass rush and might have to replace James Harrison. But any work on this team has to start in the secondary, where it feels like the Steelers are practically starting over from scratch. They will want to re-sign Gay and all his dancing skills. Safety Mike Mitchell was effective in his return to Pittsburgh. After that, it's a mystery. Pittsburgh has perhaps the best offensive group of players in the NFL, so this team should remain in the playoff mix. But one playoff win in the previous five years of Ben Roethlisberger's prime is a problem Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert must solve.