For the remaining teams, there isn’t a lot of hope that can be had for this season. So instead of making ridiculous playoffs cases for each, we’ll take a look at what needs to happen or be learned this season in order to set up a successful future.
Cincinnati Bengals: Think hard about a complete teardown
The Bengals can release Andy Dalton this offseason and incur a dead cap penalty of $200,000.
Hitting the reset button by ending the Dalton era might be the right thing to do. This roster is in putrid shape. The offensive line is starting the likes of Bobby Hart at one of the tackle spots due to first-round pick Jonah Williams’ injury. The defense ranked 28th in DVOA last season and is only getting older, though they are bringing back Preston Brown at linebacker. They can’t keep AJ Green healthy, as he’s missed six or more games two of the three previous seasons.
There is some talent for a young quarterback to come in and work with if the Bengals bottom out. Joe Mixon projects as a long-term Bengal, so does John Ross III and Tyler Boyd. But would Cincy want to risk bringing in someone to such a bad situation? We’ve learned that may not be the right thing to do.
Buffalo Bills: Let Josh Allen show you what he’s got
It’s kind of up to Josh Allen now.
The Bills have an underrated defense which has just two holes (One at safety and one on the d-line, which may not matter at all given the talent there). They went out and got him some receivers in John Brown and Cole Beasley. And the offensive line, while not fantastic, is much better thanks to the signing of Mitch Morse and the drafting of Cody Ford (A steal!).
The offensive line might be even less of a problem due to Allen’s running abilities. It was perhaps his most impressive trait last season, which isn’t necessarily a good thing considering what we need Allen to show is his hopefully improved accuracy.
It’s not an overwhelming group of receivers (Devin Singletary and TJ Yeldon can do some nice things out of the backfield), but if Allen is going to show us why he was taken No. 7 overall, then he should be able to get it done. If he can’t, the Bills might have some reshuffling to do, because this roster is much closer than people think.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Let this season be Jameis Winston’s last chance
Tampa Bay’s decision to run it back with Jameis Winston after watching him stumble his way to 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while averaging 7.9 yards an attempt last season is confusing. Winston has thrown 58 interceptions in 56 career games and has been nothing but a distraction off the field.
Bringing in Bruce Arians, a 66-year-old coach who “retired” two seasons ago, to “develop” him (Did you know 25-year-olds can be developed?) feels like a scapegoat move. It’s been clear to tell since Winston’s second season that he’s not moving the needle for you; that a team can’t live with the interception totals since the most touchdowns he’s thrown for in a season tops out at 28. That year, Winston threw 18 interceptions to go along with it.
Despite a defense that was the worst in the league last season by DVOA, there is talent on this Buccaneers team. Mike Evans is one of the best receivers in football, Cameron Brate is a reliable target and Chris Godwin could burst onto the scene this year.
Winston has to be the guy to make all of those things true, though.
Arizona Cardinals: It might be early, but make sure the receivers work
Kyler Murray is going to be good.
But the Cardinals can’t let what happened to Josh Rosen happen to Murray. They can’t surround him with zero weapons and no offensive line. They can’t let the 5’10 Murray take the beating Rosen did last year, or else he’ll be out of the league quickly.
The Cardinals have hopefully fixed one of those two issues. After drafting Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson (And Hakeem Butler, who’s out for the season unfortunately), signing Michael Crabtree and bringing back Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, they’ve given Murray not only a boatload of weapons, but weapons that fit the Air-Raid scheme Kliff Kingsbury is going to run.
When running the Air-Raid, you need each receiver to have one of two traits: Speed or jump-ball ability. Run through each receiver on this roster and they’ve got one of those.
They’ve just got to execute it. The sketchiness of the scheme is that it’s solely based on execution; you need the perfect players for it to work. It’s extremely boom or bust. If the weapons on the Cardinals bust, Murray is going to be in for a long season. If it goes the other way, then watch out.
Miami Dolphins: For the love of God, play Josh Rosen and just see
There’s a chance the Dolphins have already given up on Josh Rosen given that he couldn’t beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick in camp.
But tanking the season away and potentially wasting it on a quarterback you don’t need instead of taking a different foundational player is squandering an insane opportunity.
The problem is that an accurate assessment might not be possible. This Dolphins roster is somehow worse than the one the Cardinals trotted out last season. I mean, DeVante Parker is the No. 1 option to throw to, besides Kenyan Drake screens out of the backfield.
And the defense has zero pass rush and no real impactful linebackers. The secondary is fine, but it only came in at 24th overall in pass defense DVOA last season.
Rosen probably won’t show them anything because he won’t be able to. But it would be disastrous to move on without having him play a snap. If he comes in and is terrible (Whether it’s his fault or not), there’s at least a basis for moving on next offseason.
New York Giants: Hope Daniel Jones is good?
The Giants are in an incredible scenario in which they have two quarterbacks who should not be playing.
Eli Manning should not be playing because he’s old, sucks and has a high first-round pick waiting behind him.
Daniel Jones should be playing because, well, he likely sucks too.
We should give him a bit of the benefit of the doubt. His preseason was quite impressive and had Twitter looking like a minefield of takes. The guy hasn’t played a real snap yet and everyone is counting him out.
But the problem is that Jones went sixth overall. That distinction will never leave him and always taint his value, because he’s likely never going to come close to living up to that ceiling.
Jones being “good” is him not being a disaster. It is year one, so perhaps that’s where the benefit of the doubt is. But the Giants are on thin ice with this one.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Figure out how to restock the core around Foles
The Jaguars are all-in with Nick Foles so much so to the point that it’s not worth discussing how they should get out of him.
They put themselves into the Foles hole, so we should focus on how they can maximize it.
If we learned anything about Foles in Philadelphia, it’s that you need the right infrastructure in place to make him the guy we saw leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory.
The Jaguars don’t have that yet.
They first need Leonard Fournette to have his best season ever. After being injured for half of last season and rushing for not even 1,100 yards his rookie season, Fournette will have to carry the load for a Jags teams that has zero reliable receivers and a weakened defense.
Foles has a bunch of “maybes” to throw to. While Dede Westbrook could be a fun downfield threat alongside Marquis Lee (Who’s working his way back from an ACL tear), we can’t be sure that either will emerge as a No. 1 option who Foles can rely on. The same goes for second-year receiver DJ Chark in the slot.
Jacksonville’s defense is still good, but it may not be the type to carry this team to .500, especially with Foles’ lack of help. The Eagles collective group in 2017-18 is much better than this one.
The line is still a force. Marcell Dareus clogging the gaps with Calias Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue rushing the passer is terrifying. Then throwing in Myles Jack in the middle and Jalen Ramsey above that creates a monster. But the holes are there. Ramsey playing corner leaves the safety spots in question with Tashaun Gipson’s departure. Besides Jack the linebackers spots are iffy (Shouldn’t matter as much with that line though). The offensive line is troublesome aside from Andrew Norwell (Taylor was a massive steal in the second round but has been dealing with injuries already).
Getting full value out of the Foles deal will be tough, but Jacksonville needs to do all they can to maximize it. That should start immediately.
New York Jets: Push close to .500
A 6-10 season for the Jets would be a huge step forward.
Getting close to .500, which might be in range, would be monumental.
The possibility is there. The Jets signed Le’Veon Bell and gave Sam Darnold other intriguing weapons. They signed CJ Mosley away from Baltimore, putting an impact linebacker in the middle of their D. Quinnen Williams and Leonard Williams are a borderline unstoppable duo up front.
But eight wins seem really high. The secondary has two holes aside from Jamal Adams and Trumaine Johnson. The offensive line got help it desperately needed when they traded for Kelechi Osemele, but aside from him the situation is bleak. When healthy, the weapons as a whole could lead to Darnold tearing things up, but Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa have had trouble staying on the field due to injury. The same goes for Robby Anderson, but that’s been a mix of on the field and off the field issues.
If injuries occur and the holes are too much to overcome, Bell is there for Darnold to lean on. He’s got fresh legs and is one of the best running backs in the league. His presence can’t be underrated.
Detroit Lions: Stay above or at .500 in a brutal division
It’s amazing how Detroit spent all the money they did and still end up being a mediocre team.
While Trey Flowers was a much-needed and smart signing by them, it doesn’t necessarily move the needle. Neither does Mike Daniels. Neither does Danny Amendola.
The Lions are stuck in an extremely good division with a fine roster. Matthew Stafford will put up numbers and has a good set of receivers (Watch out for TJ Hockenson. That could be a needle-mover pick). The defensive line got better with Daniels and Flowers. But the linebacking core suffered a setback it didn’t need with Jarrad Davis’ injury in the third preseason game (He may or may not play Week 1). Detroit also brought over Justin Coleman from Seattle to pair with Darius Slay (Underrated, by the way), which makes the group quite talented along with Quandre Diggs, but Tracy Walker is still inexperienced at the other safety spot.
It feels heavily like 8-8. That might be a best case scenario in this division.
Washington Redskins: Put Dwayne Haskins in ASAP and build
Dwayne Haskins was an absolute steal for Washington at 15th overall. To get even better return on that pick, they need to see what they have immediately so they can make him the future.
They have various holes. Despite wowing people in camp, wide receiver Terry McLaurin isn’t enough. Sure, the return of Derrius Guice combined with Adrian Peterson will help out (The offensive line isn’t bad either!), and Haskins has the chance to make it work with whoever (His combination of arm strength and accuracy is unreal). But as we’ve seen with Aaron Rodgers up in Green Bay, even the greats need some help.
The defense is much closer than the offense to becoming a force. There’s spots here and there that need upgrading, but the talent in the front seven has the potential to develop nicely. Keeping Case Keenum in at quarterback delays the identification of those holes.
Oakland Raiders: Decide whether Derek Carr is the guy
Despite all the nonsense that has taken place this summer, the Raiders made a lot of smart moves. Their draft was close to a travesty, but they made smart trades and spent their money well otherwise.
They basically went out and told Derek Carr “Show it to us.” The Kyler Murray rumors circling around them at the draft seemed quite real; Jon Gruden is crazy enough to do that.
It seems as if this is Carr’s last show. There’s no excuses this time. He has one of the best receivers in the league in Antonio Brown, along with Tyrell Williams (LOVED that signing) and speedster JJ Nelson. They have two utility backs aside from Josh Jacobs, who figures to see a heavy workload. The right side of the offensive line is stacked, the left side a little less so (That Kolten Miller pick needs to turn around fast).
Oakland may not win a lot of games, but that’s not necessarily the point. The defense is relying on a lot of young talent and a lot of guys to step up. They weren’t very good in either department last season (The front seven should be better however).
The defense doesn’t affect how Carr individually performs. That’s all that matters this season. Once they have that sorted out, they can then go about improving elsewhere.
Tennesse Titans: Make this Marcus Mariota’s last chance
Five years later, the two top picks of the 2015 NFL Draft are in the same scenario, and it’s not necessarily a good one.
It’s rare to have a situation where both guys might just suck. Usually there’s a bust and a star. Or two solid picks. Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston could both be with different teams, or not on a team, after this season.
Like Derek Carr, the Titans need to really see what they have in Mariota. They first need him to stay healthy in order for that to happen. If another injury occurs, then that could be their answer right there.
The problem with the Titans is that, despite their best efforts, their receiving core around Mariota is still weak. Corey Davis might be another miss at the top of the draft, and Adam Humphries is fine. They did draft AJ Brown, who could come in and be a No. 1 target right away. Counting on a rookie to do that may be too much to ask though.
The Titans may not need an answer right away because this roster is still far from contention. But until then, you can lock down more mediocrity. After three straight 9-7 seasons (which features just one playoff berth), this could be the year when things crater.
San Francisco 49ers: Know what defensive holes need to be plugged
Despite some concerning rumors emanating from San Francisco about their quarterback situation, we’re going to operate as if Jimmy Garrappolo is the guy going forward. Whether they think he is or not, he kind of has to be given that contract.
In order to maximize that, the 49ers need to plug some holes. They’ve been working on it. They brought over Kwon Alexander this offseason after adding Richard Sherman before 2018-19. They’ve also invested heavily in the defensive line which is a bit crowded but should be fantastic on paper.
But their holes defensively could be fatal. They need another linebacker and another safety. They need to make sure they’re going to be able to defend the run and not just rush the passer.
The extra linebacker hole is worrisome given the run defense. I guess that’s why Alexander is there.
The offense is also concerning given the lack of a true No. 1 receiver and impactful weapons, but I trust Kyle Shanahan to make things better than they are. Here’s to hoping they have the right man under center.
2019-20 RECORD PREDICTIONS:
- New England Patriots, 12-4
- Buffalo Bills, 6-10
- New York Jets, 6-10
- Miami Dolphins, 2-14
- Cleveland Browns, 11-5
- Baltimore Ravens, 10-6
- Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-7
- Cincinnati Bengals, 3-13
- Houston Texans, 11-5
- Indianapolis Colts, 7-9
- Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-10
- Tennesse Titans, 5-11
- Kansas City Chiefs, 13-3
- Los Angeles Chargers, 11-5
- Denver Broncos, 8-8
- Oakland Raiders, 6-10
AFC Playoff Seeds:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
- Cleveland Browns
- Houston Texans
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Baltimore Ravens
- Philadelphia Eagles, 12-4
- Dallas Cowboys, 10-6
- Washington Redskins, 6-10
- New York Giants, 3-13
- Minnesota Vikings, 12-4
- Chicago Bears, 9-7
- Green Bay Packers, 8-8
- Detroit Lions, 7-9
- New Orleans Saints, 12-4
- Atlanta Falcons, 11-5
- Carolina Panthers, 9-7
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4-12
- Los Angeles Rams, 12-4
- Seattle Seahawks, 10-6
- Arizona Cardinals, 6-10
- San Francisco 49ers, 5-11
NFC Playoff Seeds:
- Philadelphia Eagles
- New Orleans Saints
- Los Angeles Rams
- Minnesota Vikings
- Atlanta Falcons
- Seattle Seahawks