Looking at 4 teams on the rise and 4 teams at risk of falling off in this year’s NFL Season
On The Rise
Detroit Lions (3-13-1 in 2021)
Most people who watched the Lions last year would probably agree that they weren’t as bad as their record suggested. The numbers would back that up as well, as Detroit finished 4th in the league against-the-spread and lost six games by a single possession. With the additions of DJ Chark and Jameson Williams at wide receiver, Jared Goff now has plenty of great options in the pass game. On defence, the drafting of Aidan Hutchinson will certainly help the defensive line’s impact on the game as well. If this team can get some solid production out of their young players and learn how to win close games early in the season, the Lions could sneak up on a lot of people in this division.
Los Angeles Chargers (9-8 in 2021)
The Chargers missed out on the playoffs last season by nothing more than a wild time-out call in the last minute of the year’s final game. Then, they grabbed J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack, and locked up Derwin James for another five years. They have game breaking talent all over the field on both sides of the ball. The only things working against the Chargers this season are a lack of experience in big games and a historically difficult division. With that being said, I think we should expect at least 10 wins out of Herbo and the Bolts this season.
Denver Broncos (7-10 in 2021)
This is an easy one for the list. The Broncos went 7-10 last season, and their new star quarterback has only had a losing record once in his career. With the addition of Russell Wilson likely to improve Denver’s passing game by a considerable margin and the emergence of Javonte Williams at RB, the Broncos have a very exciting offence on paper. However, like the Chargers, they also play in the historically difficult AFC West. Divisional wins will be very hard to come by against the likes of the Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers, but this team will almost certainly be improving on last year.
Carolina Panthers (5-12 in 2021)
For Carolina, the season’s success largely rests on two things. Baker Mayfield’s play and Christian McCaffrey’s availability. If both can exceed the expectations that many fans have placed upon them, the Panthers could make a run at a wild card spot. We know that Mayfield can be a solid quarterback at the NFL level. He may never be in any MVP discussions, but he can lead a team into the playoffs. As for CMC, he’s probably the most dynamic and dangerous back in the NFL when healthy but coming off two big injuries in two years certainly raises questions about whether he could ever stay healthy for a full season. The answer may be to simply limit his touches, but that’s a tough thing to do when you’re taking a threat like him off the field.
New England Patriots (10-7 in 2021)
It seems like almost every team in the AFC got better this offseason, but the Patriots did not. The team did make playoffs last year after a 10-7 record relying primarily on the running game and defence, but the conference is simply too strong to expect this again. They also face a very difficult finish to the season, playing Arizona, Vegas, Cincinnati and Buffalo twice in the last five weeks. Even with the difficult schedule and reported offensive issues in training camp, at least Belichick is still on the sideline.
Tennessee Titans (12-5 in 2021)
The Titans are probably the only other AFC team that are in serious danger of missing the playoffs after making it last year. Not only did they make it, though, they were the conference’s top seed overall. Even with a healthy Derrick Henry returning, I do not expect Tennessee to be in the position they were in last season. For starters, their primary divisional competitor got better in the offseason. If they cannot win the division, the Titans will be in one of the most competitive Wild Card races we’ve seen in a long time. With Henry and Tannehill one year older and A.J. Brown no longer on the team, Tennessee’s offence may not have enough to hang with the big boys in the AFC this season.
Seattle Seahawks (7-10 in 2021)
Barring a miracle, it won’t be a season we’re used to seeing from Seattle. It’s only expected when a team loses a talent like Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll will most likely get back to his roots with a run-heavy offence and aggressive defensive strategy, but without a solid NFL starter at quarterback, it’s hard for any team to get far. Seattle may have some hope for the future if they can take care of their quarterback issue through a trade or next year’s draft, but it will be a tough stretch for the Hawks until that gets sorted out. On the positive side, rookie corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant both have a ton of potential and could be part of another formidable Seattle secondary with Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs if everyone sticks around the PNW.
Atlanta Falcons (7-10 in 2021)
The Falcons are projected to be one of the worst teams this season and it’s easy to see why. For Atlanta to succeed, they’ll need Marcus Mariota to exceed expectations, Drake London to make an immediate impact, Kyle Pitts to take another step, Cordarrelle Patterson to play like he did last year and for the defence to improve greatly. However, like Seattle, if this team does finish in the bottom 5 this year, they will get a chance to draft one of the great QB prospects in next year’s NFL draft. If there was any year that you’d be OK with your team tanking for a QB talent they don’t currently have, this may be the year.