Every year a sleeper team rises from the ashes of NFL mediocrity and becomes a franchise on the verge of greatness. It can be as simple as health. Other times, a new coach may better mesh with an established unit. A free agent, a new teammate, a leap by a young superstar … Many elements can create NFL sleeper teams. Which will it be this season?
With only three wins, Arizona did not succeed much in the 2018 season. But they’ve stacked the team with young players who can create a scary core. Kyler Murray is poised for an outstanding rookie campaign. Add a new coach — with a strategy that caters to youth — and the Cardinals could return to relevance.
Murray is easily the most hyped young quarterback in recent years. While these expectations can prove to be a bad thing, it’s hard to see him failing after everything else we’ve witnessed from him so far.
At 5-11, the Jaguars did not impress anyone with their mediocre play last season. They were at the AFC title game just one year earlier. But Jacksonville struggled to reach consistency.
This year, the team has a new QB in Nick Foles, two valuable rookies, and a massive coaching overhaul. The Jaguars’ mediocrity may be short-lived. The Texans and Colts are question marks, so it is not impossible to see the Jacksonville overtaking the division.
The Raiders could have a disastrous year. Possibilities: The team won’t mesh with Jon Gruden in the second year of his comeback tour. The addition of some players with questionable behavior comes back to bite them. And the team’s strange drafting strategy proves to be the wrong move.
However, there’s also a chance Derek Carr stays healthy, Antonio Brown returns to his superstar form, and Gruden brings the team back to glory. Perhaps the hardest NFL team to predict, Oakland could go either way. If everything works, they have a talented roster, a top-tier coach, and the competitive drive to get further than expected.
New York Jets
Like the Raiders, the Jets’ season could go either way. The offseason has been tumultuous. The team took the unusual step of firing its general manager after the draft. However, despite this caution, the Jets could achieve far more success than they get credit for.
With defensive help from the addition of Jamal Adams and rookie Quinnen Williams, the team could give other offenses fits. With Le’Veon Bell and Sam Darnold manning the offense, the team may erupt on other defenses if they can mesh. Time will tell which path the Jets take, but it would be foolish to write them off.