The National Football League is a bottom-line league, where success is judged by wins and losses. However, this doesn't mean that franchises cannot feel good about campaigns that don't ultimately result in the postseason.

Championship contenders usually aren't built overnight, and a team showing progress today could easily look like a perennial contender a year from now. The Cincinnati Bengals are a prime example of how incremental growth can foreshadow future success.

In 2020, Cincinnati finished with a lowly 4-11-1 record. However, they found their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow that season, identified key building blocks like Tee Higgins, Vonn Bell and Sam Hubbard, and then fleshed out a championship-caliber roster in the 2022 offseason.

We could see several teams follow a similar path in the coming months, especially with the salary cap possibly jumping to more than $220 million in the offseason.

Here, we'll examine six teams that may not be playoff-bound this year but are building a lot of momentum heading into 2023. We'll dive into where these teams have shown growth and what might lie in store during free agency and the upcoming NFL draft.

 

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears are an outlier on this list because they haven't started stringing together wins. Chicago has dropped six straight and just lost 28-19 to the Green Bay Packers.

However, Chicago may have accomplished its biggest goal by finding a franchise quarterback. Second-year signal-caller Justin Fields has morphed into a dangerous dual-threat under the guidance of the new coaching staff led by head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.

Heading into Week 13, Fields had posted a respectable passer rating of 86.2 while rushing for 834 yards and seven touchdowns. With a solid supporting cast, Fields could easily become the sort of high-end signal-caller that we see in Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen.

And the Bears will have plenty of offseason assets with which to build around Fields. Chicago is projected to have a league-high $115 million in cap space and could end up with a top-five draft selection.

Expect Chicago to focus on reloading the defense and improving Fields' supporting cast during the offseason.

Just as importantly, the Bears have shown that they have plenty of fight left in them. Despite lacking offensive weapons, missing Fields for one start and trading away key defenders in Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, Chicago has kept it close against teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and, of course, the Packers.

Yes, Chicago lost by nine to Green Bay, but it also held a 19-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.

A scrappy team with a dynamic young quarterback and what appears to be a solid coaching staff—coupled with a glut of cap space—will be one to keep an eye on heading into the offseason.