32. San Francisco 49ers ~ The 49ers just suffered through a nightmarish offseason filled with injuries, suspension, and out of the blue retirements. This makes them the team with the most to prove in 2015. Their roster is still equipped with talent, but the problems seem to be filtering down from the top. Unless they can find a solution soon, this could be a forgettable season for a team who appeared to be on top of their game not that long ago.
31. Washington Redskins ~ Just a few years back, this team was on the rise with a decent defense, devastating running back (Alfred Morris) and a hot shot QB (RG III). Now with a few crucial injuries and bad luck, they find themselves at the bottom of the pile in an improving division. With all the controversy surrounding the Skins, it seems unlikely they will turn things around anytime soon.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars ~ The Jags were downright awful on both sides of the ball last season. Fortunately for them, a few of their recent draft picks seem to be paying off. So even though the near future still looks bleak, there appears to be a light at the end of their long dark tunnel.
29. Oakland Raiders ~ At the beginning of the offseason it looked like the Raiders might be one of the most stacked and exciting teams to watch this year. They had a ton of money to spend, and we’re going into a free agency pool loaded with big names. As we all know, that didn’t happen. Somehow they still have managed to create a buzz of excitement through their hungry fan base, even though they did little to improve their roster besides making a couple of strong picks in last year’s draft.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ~ With the fourth easiest schedule, three huge receiving targets, two hungry running backs, and a budding star at QB, the Bucs should be a very fun team to watch in 2015. Don’t get too excited just yet however, because that’s probably where it ends for them this season.
27. Chicago Bears ~ The Bears offense seems to underachieve on a regular basis because of talented, but inconsistent quarterback Jay Cutler. Now that the defense has fallen to the same level of depravity, and they have encountered key injuries to their receiving core, there isn’t much hope for anything but a decent pick in next year’s draft.
26. Tennessee Titans ~ There seems to be a recent trend in the NFL where scrambling QBs find success in their first season. The Titans are hoping rookie Marcus Mariota can prove that true, and get off to a hot start by connecting with a few of their dynamic young receiving options. If he does, they should have no problem adding a few wins to last year’s total.
25. Cleveland Browns ~ Its scary to think how good this team could be if they hadn’t wasted so many high draft picks searching for a QB. It’s even scarier, that after one of their hottest starts in a long time, they have finally realized their folly, and started to spend the picks on bolstering the rest of the team.
24. Atlanta Falcons ~ Despite a slough of injuries, the Falcons flashed signs of brilliance last year. If new Head Coach Dan Quinn’s defense can provide any form of support for their high powered offense, this team could make a push in their division. If not, look for another season of highscoring games in which they fall just short.
23. New Orleans Saints ~ Drew Brees had a “letdown” season in 2014, throwing for “only” 4952 yards, and 33 TDs. That was enough for the Saints to get rid of their best receiving threat, and switch their focus to running the ball. As cynical as I may sound about this, I think it could actually help get them win a few more close games. The catch is that it will most likely take away the dynamic edge which made them such a strong contender in the past.
22. New York Giants ~ The Giants won the Super Bowl four years ago, and also, four years before that. I’m sure they hope that mini-streak continues this year. However, they have a couple of key players on offense (Victor Cruz), and defense (Jason Pierre Paul), fighting their way back from serious injury. So it seems highly unlikely that they will even compete in their own division this season.
21. Detroit Lions ~ Its a known fact that the Lions have a ton of weapons on offense. Yet the stabilizing factor last season seemed to be the defense. Now with Ndamukong Suh gone, the offense will have to be more consistent. If rookie running back Ameer Abdullah can help bring a second dimension, and Calvin Johnson can stay healthy, this squad could be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
20. St. Louis Rams ~ The Rams defense is one of the best in the league and should be able to keep them in most games. The problem is, they have major questions at almost every skill position on offense. If and when those questions get answered, this team should be a force.
19. New York Jets ~ Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the future of the Jets. However, he is surrounded by a ton of offensive talent, and a superb defense. If he can resist his trademark competitive nature, and be happy with just not losing games, this team has the opportunity to exceed many expectations.
18. Houston Texans ~ The Texans are built on a crushing defense, and a run game driven by one of the best running backs (Arian Foster) in the league. Losing Foster is a big blow, but not a completely devastating one. The Texans have a number of strong backs waiting their turn, and one of the better young receivers in the league, in DeAndre Hopkins. They will be competitive, but lack the strong leader on offense to separate them from the rest of the pack.
17. Minnesota Vikings ~ The Vikings have had talent on both sides of the ball for quite sometime, but still always seem to struggle to find a way to win. The emergence of Teddy Bridgwater, coupled with the return of Adrian Peterson, gives this offense led by Mike Zimmer a chance to make some noise. The challenge now, is to keep tight end Kyle Rudolph healthy, and to find a couple of big play targets from their healthy stable of young receivers.
16. Carolina Panthers ~ After losing big-play receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the year, and with Cam Newton coming off another questionable season, Carolina will be back to putting a ton of faith in their defense. The saving grace for the Panthers, is that due to playing in the weakest division in the league, they are blessed with a very soft schedule in 2015.
15. Dallas Cowboys ~ The Cowboys front office wants you to believe that their offensive line was responsible for Demarco Murray’s stellar season running the ball last year. The truth is, Emmitt Smith (the all-time rushing leader) had arguably the best offensive line in NFL history, and still never managed to have the type of year Murray had in 2014. The most frightening part, is that we all are very familiar with what happens when Tony Romo comes under pressure. I’m afraid he will once again be facing a ton of it this season.
14. San Diego Chargers ~ There wasn’t a more balanced team in the NFL last year than the Chargers. The Bolts scored exactly as many points as they gave up in 2014. That puts the pressure on rookie running back Melvin Gordon, to place the team on his back and push that balance forward into their favor. This team has a reputation for underachieving, but it appears that the pieces may have finally fallen into just the right place for them to start tasting some of the success that seems to slip just out of their reach on a yearly basis.
13. Buffalo Bills ~ The Bills were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the offseason. They bolstered their offense by bringing in a top running back in LeSean McCoy, electric receiver in Percy Harvin, and versatile tight end in Charles Clay. The frightening part, is that with the naming of Tyrod Taylor as the starting quaterback, none of these key pieces took a snap for the same team last year. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Rex Ryan is exactly known for bringing order to chaos.
12. Baltimore Ravens ~ Watching the Ravens play on Sunday has a similar dramatic effect as a rain drop sliding down a window on a dark and dreary day. Fortunately for the Baltimore faithful, that effect translates well to the football field. Because of that, the Ravens have been a very consistently strong team for quite some time. If they can overcome a couple key losses on defense, and develop a couple of their young playmakers on offense, this systematic team could develop into a devastating storm.
11. Indianapolis Colts ~ The Colts had very little trouble moving the ball last year, but also seemed to struggle to keep opponents from doing the same. So the front office made what they must have thought was the logical choice. They brought in a couple of injury prone, aging superstars to bolster their offense, and did very little to address their defensive needs. It is precisely this type of logic that can not only impede the development of a young team, but can also send them into a downward spiral. Instead of rewarding their young superstar QB by taking some of the pressure off of him, they will spend 2015 seeing just how broad Andrew Luck’s shoulders really are.
10. New England Patriots ~ Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Shane Vereen, Vince Wilfork, Stevan Ridley, Dan Connolly, Tom Brady and Legarrette Blount, are the main contributors from last years Championship team who won’t be on the field for opening night this year. We all know “the Hoodie” is one of, if not the greatest coach of all time, but even he might have his work cut out for him this time around.
9. Kansas City Chiefs ~ It’s easy to think you know exactly what you have with Alex Smith. What he hasn’t ever had, is a top-tier playmaking receiver. Now with the addition of Jeremy Maclin, this offense has explosive potential at each position, and Alex Smith has a chance to show off the talent which once made him the number one overall pick. However, the big secret in K.C., that not even the experts seem to realize, is that opposing teams scored fewer points against the Chiefs last year, than any other team in the NFL.
8. Miami Dolphins ~ Ryan Tannehill passed for only 64 less yards than Tom Brady last season. This year, the young rising star has the confidence of his team, and a fresh crop of receiving targets at his disposal. It should be a fun year for Phins fans, and a challenging year for opponents, as the Dolphins, who also added defensive stalwart Ndamukong Suh, carve out their place as one of the new powerhouses in the league.
7. Denver Broncos ~ Before he was even drafted into the league, critics and the media have been trying to tell us that there is a better QB back out their than Peyton Manning. Back then they twisted facts and logic to make us believe that it was Ryan Leaf. Now they have labeled Manning a choker, and tried to convince us that collecting jewelry as a member of a championship team makes you a better quarterback than…well… being a great QB. No matter what they say, I have a feeling that Peyton will use what will probably be his last season, to remind us just how lucky we have been to have him in the league for the last 16 years.
6. Arizona Cardinals ~ If I was convinced that we would see a healthy Carson Palmer for a full schedule this year, I would probably have the Cards at the top of this list. This team is loaded with talent, and ready to explode at almost every position. Without the consistent leadership however, they are just another young team trying to find their place at the top.
5. Philadelphia Eagles ~ How did Chip Kelly make the Eagles the laughingstock of the league this offseason? First off he got rid of highpriced talent that didn’t fit his system. Then he added last years top running back in free agency, drafted a receiver who is faster then, and has the exact measurements as Jeremy Maclin, and then traded for a quarterback who had a better rookie season then Tom Brady and Big Ben in their first years as starters. Crazy right? It would just make sense that the same experts who have been trying to run Kelly out of town this offseason, were the same people who were the most excited over the Eagles “Dream Team” from a few years back.
4. Cincinnati Bengals ~ So much focus is put on Andy Dalton’s inability to win a playoff game, that you could almost forget he plays a team sport. Also lost in that discussion, is the fact that he is only one of two players in league history to take his team to the playoffs in each of his first four years in the league. With an improving offense and a solid defense backing him, my money is on the “Red Rifle” to finally start silencing his critics once and for all.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers ~ When running back Le’Veon Bell is on the field, there is not a more lethal trio in the league than the Steelers “Killer B’s” (Quarterback Ben Rothelisberger and Wide Receiver Antonio Brown). The problem is he missed the playoff game that got them eliminated last year, due to injury, and will miss the beginning of the season this year, because of a drug suspension. If he can stay healthy and straight when he returns, he should finish as one of the top backs in the league, and help carry this team deep into the playoffs.
2. Green Bay Packers ~ The loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson could turn out to be the best thing that happened to the Packers. Green Bay has a stable full of young, talented receivers waiting in the wings for their chance to shine, and they are all in the exact right place for that to happen. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a wide receiver making machine, who is always looking for his next favorite target. With a knack for turning average receivers into superstars, he could be enroute to the most exciting season of his career.
1. Seattle Seahawks ~ What would happen if the Seahawks front office brought in a top tier receiving target and finally cut Russel Wilson loose to wreak havoc on the NFL with his arm, as well as his feet? Stayed tuned. I have a feeling we are all about to find out.