Looking ahead to the 2019 season, we’re particularly intrigued by the way some NFL teams have upgraded their rosters, which should lead to success. Other teams are just in great shape to build upon their success and take the next step.
With that in mind, here’s a look at eight NFL teams poised to take a big leap in 2019.
A team that has long been seen as cursed to dwell in the NFL’s cellar, Cleveland suddenly has the makings of a potential Super Bowl contender. Adding Odell Beckham Jr. to the receiving corps is a move that should supercharge the offense. The Browns aced the draft as well, bringing in a beautiful defensive haul highlighted by one of the biggest steals — landing Greedy Williams in Round 2. Now that they have a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the sky is the limit for these Browns.
Washington has gone 7-9 the past two seasons and appeared destined to the same fate in 2019. Then the team landed quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the middle of Round 1. By itself, that move gave the franchise hope for a brighter future. Then, Washington moved up to land one of the draft’s top defenders in Montez Sweat (No. 26 overall), before continuing to put together a masterful overall draft. A healthy Derrius Guice should also be a big boost. There’s a lot to like about this young team.
New York Jets
New York’s defense is going to be formidable. Adding linebacker C.J. Mosley in free agency, then selecting ‘Bama product Quinnen Williams in Round 1 of the draft are moves that will pay immediate dividends. Offensively, there’s a lot to like about what the Jets will feature. The underrated move of the offseason was trading for guard Kelechi Osemele. Of course, the big one was landing running back Le’Veon Bell in free agency. Assuming San Darnold progresses well in Year 2 under the guidance of Adam Gase, this team has a legitimate chance to push for a playoff berth.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bruce Arians is a quarterback guru. He’s going to get Jameis Winston to play the best football of his young career. Despite losing DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay still has plenty of offensive weapons — especially at tight end. Rookie linebacker Devin White out of LSU is going to fly around and make impact plays, and Vita Vea is poised to have a strong sophomore campaign. If Jason Pierre-Paul can play this season (neck injury) the defense should be fierce, indeed. A run at the playoffs could be on the table for these Bucs.
Obviously, the Colts were a strong team last year with a 10-6 record and a playoff win over Houston. We expect much more in 2019. General manager Chris Ballard made one of the best moves in free agency adding star pass rusher Justin Houston. Then he went out and aced the draft (again). Indy’s defense should continue improving, and the offense has everything Andrew Luck needs to succeed. A Super Bowl berth isn’t out of the question.
San Francisco 49ers
General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have a ton of pressure on their shoulders to put together a winning campaign. Thankfully for them, they have the pieces in place to do just that. Adding Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander in free agency, then landing Nick Bosa in the draft, gives San Francisco one of the NFL’s most frightening defensive fronts. A healthy Jimmy Garoppolo has all the weapons he could hope for on offense, and we know the 49ers can run the ball at will. There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this team’s potential.
Los Angeles Chargers
One of the best teams during the regular season last year, Los Angeles may finally have what it takes to give Philip Rivers the ring he so desperately covets. Particularly, the reason we’re expecting the Chargers to take a giant leap in 2019 is that their defense should be lights out. Adding pass-rushing defensive tackle Jerry Tillery in Round 1, then selecting safety Nasir Adderly in the second round to play next to Derwin James are moves that will instantly upgrade this already-formidable defense.
One of last year’s surprise overachievers, Chicago should continue to grow into a true contender in 2019. Head coach Matt Nagy worked wonders with Mitch Trubisky and the offense, which got better. Mike Davis and rookie David Montgomery will mesh well with Tarik Cohen to give Chicago a better backfield than it had last year. Of course, the acquisition of pass rusher Khalil Mack turned the defense into one of the league’s best. Underrated safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a solid free-agency addition who should make a big impact.