Unless you are a Tom Brady or New England Patriots diehard fan, your focus as an NFL fan turned to 2019 before the last piece of confetti hit the turf in Atlanta after the Super Bowl.
Hope and potential are the currency of an NFL offseason. Every fan-base believes that star player returning from the IR will come back better than ever, that rookie who showed flashes last season will develop into the next stud, and your GM will not only land the best free agents but will go full-out Kevin Costner on draft day and parlay a handful of picks into the foundation for a true dynasty.
There is a lot of off season maneuvering left to be done, but already at this early juncture there are teams poised to turn the corner after a subpar 2018 campaign. This list breaks down two teams from each conference that failed to qualify for the NFL playoffs last year, but are in great shape to play beyond Week 17 of 2019.
The Broncos won 11 games the last two seasons combined, and they will need to win close to that amount in 2019 to qualify for a playoff berth. The division is tough with the Chiefs and Chargers being two of the AFC’s elite teams. And hey, the Raiders have to be better going forward given the wealth of draft choices they have in 2019, but the Broncos have already taken an aggressive approach to get back on top.
John Elway has proven to be one of the game’s top GM’s, just as he was a top QB. After firing coach Vance Joseph, Elway brought in a savvy veteran mind in Vic Fangio. The defensive guru inherits a talented defense built around a stout linebacker unit, so defense will be the name of the game in the Mile High City. The Case Keenum era looks to be short-lived after a trade for former Ravens QB Joe Flacco who knows a thing or two about playing smart, protective football to keep from putting a stalwart defense into difficult situations.
The Browns are an obvious choice to be one of the NFL teams that will turn it around after a meteoric rise last season. After years of draft day futility and bad options under center, GM John Dorsey seems to have hit on a QB with Baker Mayfield. Cleveland still had its share of woes and drama with a midseason firing of longtime coach Hue Jackson, but the team rallied and played strong enough down the stretch to remove the word “interim” from coach Freddie Kitchens nameplate.
The off-season gamble of signing Kareem Hunt is intriguing, but the former Kansas City running back faces league discipline for an off-the-field matter. Nevertheless, the Browns have RB Nick Chubb to take some of the pressure off of Mayfield.
The Redskins were on pace to win the NFC East last season and it all went away in a snap. Our apologies to Alex Smith and the Washington faithful for the word choice because the season ended for both on one gruesome play. The Redskins have broken fans hearts in recent years, but the storied franchise owns two of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. If they find a signal caller they could surprise again in 2019.
Smith’s injury hurt for many reasons and leaves Washington in salary cap limbo, but the team can find a QB (Maybe Teddy Bridgewater) via free agency or trade. The NFC East is still ripe for the taking and at least on paper, the Redskins have the easiest schedule for 2019. That’s why they have a chance to be one of the NFL teams that will turn it around.
Call it a hunch, but every year some team shocks by coming out of nowhere in a worst to first jump. The Lions might be that team in 2019 based on three factors: Coaching, roster, and divisional opponents.
- Like him or loathe him, New England coach Bill Belichick knows how to win and manipulate the press. Of all his pupils, Lions coach Matt Patricia seems to have a embraced his mentor’s style of match-up adaptability. The Lions showed moxie by not only beating several top teams, including the
Patriots,but were in a position to win more games before the wheels came off.
- Another year of tweaking by Patricia and staff as well as changes to the roster to better fit the team identity, and the Lions will be in shape to surprise a lot of teams.
- Plus, the NFL Central is ripe for the picking. The Bears were the dominant team in 2018, but their defensive coordinator is gone, and the hangover of that missed kick in the playoffs is the kind of thing that will linger for an offense that wasn’t all that potent
tobegin with. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers felt yet another year older, and the Vikings’ magical playoff run after the 2017 season seems to be mostly smoke and mirrors. Put it all together and the Lions are one of the NFL teams that will turn it around 2019.
The magic 8 ball says …
This early in the process the results are hazy, but teams fade back to the pack while others rise every season. Will the success turn into a Patriot-esque dynasty or a Jaguar-like blip on the statistical radar?