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    Which of the 3 Teams That Can Be Forced To Do Hard Knocks in 2024 Is Most Likely Choice?

    The NFL rules for Hard Knocks leaves 29 of 32 teams exempt of participating in 2024 if they choose, so which of the three remaining will it be?

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    It has only been a little more than a week since the Miami Dolphins’ playoff run ended along with the in-season version of Hard Knocks that had been chronicling the team since mid-November, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the candidates who can appear on the show in 2024.

    We can start by whittling down the list using the three exemptions the NFL adopted a decade ago.

    Which Teams Are Candidates for Hard Knocks 2024?

    Teams always can volunteer to do Hard Knocks, as the Cincinnati Bengals did twice in 2009 and 2013. But more recently it has come down to the NFL telling a franchise it has been selected and the team agreeing to appear.

    Although, that was not the case last year when the New York Jets didn’t want to do it but had no choice.

    The first of the three exemptions belongs to teams with a new head coach. That eliminates 25% of the league with eight teams in that position:

    The Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, and Washington Commanders.

    The second exemption is for teams that have made the playoffs in either of the last two seasons. That removes another 19 teams:

    The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Green Back Packers Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams.

    The final exemption belongs to teams who have appeared on the main or in-season version of the show in the last 10 years, which exempts the Indianapolis Colts (in-season 2021), Arizona Cardinals (in-season 2022), and Dolphins (in-season 2023) for years to come.

    That leaves three franchise that can be forced to appear:

    The Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, and New Orleans Saints.

    Let’s look at the reasons why each team would be a good choice for HBO and the NFL and rank them in the order of likelihood to appear.

    Chicago Bears

    There are so many factors pointing to the Bears being the choice, and one big factor why they might not be the selection.

    Let’s start with the obvious, Chicago is the country’s No. 3 media market.

    The Bears have the No. 1 pick in the draft and likely will be pairing a quarterback with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, a storyline ripe for the Hard Knocks script, especially with Justin Fields in the conversation.

    the Bears have the league’s fourth-longest drought without a playoff victory and the longest among the three teams that can be forced to do the show. Chicago hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2011 season.

    That’s not quite on par with the Detroit Lions ending a 30-year run of futility this year, but it’s an interesting storyline nonetheless — especially if the Lions reach the Super Bowl, leaving the division-rival Bears trying to somewhat follow in their division rival’s footsteps.

    MORE: 2024 Free Agents by Position

    The Bears also have the eighth most money under the salary cap, leaving open the possibility for some big acquisitions that tend to draw the focus on Hard Knocks.

    The one thing working against Chicago — or for it, if the goal is to avoid doing the show — is head coach Matt Eberflus. He’s not exactly a needle-mover in the mold of some of the recent head coaches to appear, but it is a make-or-break season for him, which comes with built-in drama.

    Denver Broncos

    Sean Payton has a good shot at being in the Hall of Fame when his career is finished, and he’s media savvy after spending a season working for FOX.

    The Broncos and Payton will likely be moving on from Russell Wilson, whether it be with a free agent quarterback or a rookie draft pick.

    Denver is one of the most scenic cities in America, and Hard Knocks does a great job with visuals on top of the stories. There will be no shortage of chances to follow players to their homes for scenic backdrops and interesting off-day hobbies.

    The Broncos have a roster short on star power, but sometimes the stories on the lesser-known players resonate most with viewers.

    New Orleans Saints

    New Orleans is another city perfectly set for a television show, and the Saints probably have the most star power of any of the three teams involved with Alvin Kamara, Tyrann Mathieu, Derek Carr, and young receiving star Chris Olave, among others.

    The cameras and viewers would love Cameron Jordan, plus Foster Moreau’s battle with Hodgkin lymphoma would no doubt be the focal point of an episode.

    MORE: 2024 NFL Head Coach Interview Tracker

    As is the case with Chicago, Dennis Allen is not a coach who would have a huge national draw, but this could be his final season in New Orleans if the Saints don’t make significant progress.

    There obviously are dozens of other stories that will be uncovered from starters, backups, and longshot hopefuls regardless of which team the NFL selects.

    Perhaps there will be a wild card with a team volunteering. The creation of the in-season version makes the training camp Hard Knocks the lesser of two evils. A team that knows it could be coming off the exempt list in the next couple of years might volunteer to do the summer episodes just to ensure they won’t be forced into the far more intrusive regular-season version the way the Dolphins were this year.

    As far as when we’ll know, there hasn’t been a standard date for making the announcement. It was July 17 last year when the league announced it would be the Jets. In 2022, the show announced the Lions on March 28.

    In 2021, it was July 2 when we found out it would be the Cowboys. And in 2020, it was April 7 when the league announced the first dual version with the Rams and Chargers.

    Want to predict the results of the 2023 NFL postseason with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? How about looking into in-depth breakdowns of team depth charts or the NFL playoff schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with all that and more!

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