Every year around the NFL, teams come out of nowhere to go from worst to first place in their own divisions, and we fully expect that to continue in 2019.
Looking at the eight last-place teams from the 2018 campaign, which ones have the best chance to keep the trend alive? That’s what we’re looking at here as we rank the NFL teams that can go from worst to first.
8. New York Giants
Sorry to break this to you, Giants fans, but Big Blue will keep singing the blues during the 2019 season. There’s no way around this. Eli Manning is still the starter under center. Sans Odell Beckham Jr., the team’s receiving corps is already a shambles. The offensive line is still not great. Saquon Barkley cannot do it all by himself. We have no idea what to expect from the new-look defense. But even if it is stellar, there’s not enough offensive firepower to turn out a winning record. This team is stuck in the basement for the foreseeable future.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
We’d love to be bullish on Sean McVay’s former assistant Zac Taylor having a big, positive impact on the Bengals. Unfortunately, that’s a tough sell. He’s never even been a coordinator at the NFL level. Worse still, the Bengals are already well behind the eight ball heading into the preseason. First-round left tackle Jonah Williams is likely out for the year with a shoulder injury. Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green is once again dealing with a lower-body injury that could keep him out early in the season. And the team’s defense is a glaring question mark.
6. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders added a ton of intriguing talent to their roster this offseason. In particular, the offense has a chance to take flight with Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and rookie running back Josh Jacobs pounding the rock behind a revamped offensive line. However, the truth is that Oakland has some big challenges that will be difficult to overcome. First among them is the team’s brutal schedule. Then there’s the simple fact that the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers are two of the NFL’s top teams. It’s not likely that Oakland will win the AFC West in 2019.
5. Arizona Cardinals
There is plenty of excitement swirling around the Cardinals this summer. Rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury is installing a version of the Air Raid offense the NFL has never before seen. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray has done nothing but impress his new teammates. Yet the Cardinals are going to be without All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson for the first six games of the season, and this defense was already lean on talent before his suspension hit. Furthermore, the highly competitive NFC West is loaded with brutally tough defenses that could rain on Murray’s parade as a rookie.
4. New York Jets
Before he was axed, former general manger Mike Maccagnan made big moves during the offseason to load up on talent, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Le’Veon Bell will give Sam Darnold and the offense a supercharged boost, especially running behind former Oakland guard Kelechi Osemele. Adding linebacker C.J. Mosley, then drafting Quinnen Williams, gives the defense quite a punch. If it weren’t for the pesky fact that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still entrenched as the lords of the AFC East (and honestly the NFL as a whole), the Jets would be a bit higher on this list.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
General manager Jason Licht aggressively attacked what was a problematic defense in 2018 with some strong draft picks. Linebacker Devin White out of LSU looks like an instant-impact star. Defensive backs Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards all have a chance to contribute as rookies. With Bruce Arians running the show, and with rising coaching star Byron Leftwich guiding Jameis Winston, there is a chance the offense will become a lethal unit. It all comes down to whether Winston can banish the compulsion to make big plays happen when the defense dictates there is nothing there.
2. Detroit Lions
The NFC North sure feels wide open this year, despite Chicago’s big surge last season. Any of the four teams could win it and it wouldn’t be a massive shock. Though, Detroit is certainly riddled with questions that we have no answers to at this time. Chief among them is whether the team’s big moves in the offseason to bolster the defense will pay off, whether head coach Matt Patricia can get everyone on the same page long term, and whether Matt Stafford’s offense can find balance. If the answer to those two questions is “yes,” then the Lions could be dangerous.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville’s descent into the AFC South’s cellar last year was a stunning fall from grace. A team that was a trendy Super Bowl pick before the 2018 season, the Jaguars fell apart every way imaginable. Now with Nick Foles starting under center to solidify the offense, this team has a real chance to make a playoff push once more. The biggest reason being that Jacksonville’s defense is still scary good. If Foles can replicate the success he had in Philadelphia, the sky is the limit.