With the NFL Draft now come and gone and a fresh NFL schedule released hot off the press, the 2021-22 season is just around the corner. There have also been plenty of offseason moves and many players on new teams in the NFL. That being said, last season is in the past and there are teams that need to step up and improve in 2021. Some obvious teams need fixing this season, but then some may surprise you as far as “getting better”. Let’s count down the top-five teams that will need to step up in the NFL in the 2021-22 season.
5.) New England Patriots (7-9 last season)
In their first season without Tom Brady, the Patriots performed at the level many feared they would. Finishing at 7-9 and in third place in the AFC East, New England fell short of many goals they hoped to hit without Tom Brady at the helm. Cam Newton performed well below what he is capable of and the offense just did not exist for most of the season. The Patriots defense continued to perform rather well, but unfortunately, that was one of the only positives for the 2020 Patriots.
Now, fast forward to March 14th of this calendar year, Bill Belichick and company signed 13 free agents ranging from wide receivers to defensive ends. This mass signing day should be the start of their comeback in the AFC East. Belichick was also gifted Mac Jones in the draft this year, all but solidifying his team even further.
While it is not clear who will start for the Patriots at QB in week one, giving Belichick options is not a good idea for his competition. New England reloaded on offense as well as adding onto an already strong defense. I would not be surprised if New England reemerges as serious competition in the AFC East and 2021-22 should be the year for that.
4.) Los Angeles Chargers (7-9 last season)
Yes, I realize this seems like a bit of a stretch to have the Chargers as a team to step up but hear me out. In 2020, seven out of their nine losses were by one score. Justin Herbert took home the rookie of the year award but the Chargers just could not close out games. In this year’s draft, they picked up one of the best offensive linemen to be drafted since when Zack Martin went to Dallas. Not to mention, the Chargers also picked solid defensive help in Asante Samuel Jr., which will give some stability to the Chargers on both sides of the ball now.
Again, it may seem like a stretch to say the Chargers can step up in 2021, but a team who is on the cusp of winning nearly every game they lost last season has potential. If the offensive line can protect Herbert, allow him to stay accurate, not run for his life, and the defense can get key stops, Kansas City might finally have competition in the AFC West again. That could very well be in the form of the Los Angeles Chargers.
3.) Los Angeles Rams (10-6 last season)
The first two teams on this countdown have good reason to be included but here is the first surprise for you. At 10-6, what could the Rams possibly do better? Well, they did not make it to the Super Bowl or the NFC title game, so why wouldn’t there be room for improvement? The Rams had a tough road schedule last season that included three trips to the east coast in the first five weeks leading to shorter weeks to prepare and some tough losses.
The Rams boast the league’s number one defense and a newly acquired QB in Matthew Stafford bringing a possible new light to an already electric Rams offense. Then, to further their argument as a force, they added a speedster wide receiver in Tutu Atwell via the draft, as well as veteran DeSean Jackson in free agency.
So, what do the Rams need to improve on? It is very simple, win those tough road games that will put the Rams back into Super Bowl contention, and this team will take that step back into an NFC title game, if not further.
2.) Dallas Cowboys (6-10 last season)
The 2020 season was one of the more disappointing seasons for the Cowboys. If you throw out the obvious gut-punch of losing Dak Prescott to his gruesome leg injury, the Cowboys have plenty to improve. The defense was a large issue last season as they had a near-the-bottom of the league defense. They simply allowed too many points hence the reason Dak Prescott was putting up MVP numbers because he had to throw 50 passes to try and get Dallas back in the game.
Then after the injury to Dak, the offensive efficiency took a dip, and star running back Ezekiel Elliot easily had his worst season as a pro. Like I said, plenty to improve on in 2021.
Looking ahead to this season, Dallas added some defensive weapons in stud linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State as well as defensive line and secondary help. While the Cowboys missed out on Patrick Surtain II, they went defensive heavy in the draft and that should be the start to improving in 2021. With Dak Prescott signing his mega-deal, new defensive weapons, and once again an offensive lineup that is one of the best on paper, this Cowboys team should be able to compete with anyone.
1.) Kansas City Chiefs (14-2 last season, AFC Champs, Lost in Super Bowl)
I know, I know… why on earth do I have the Chiefs on this list as teams that need to “step up”? Hear me out and maybe you will see my point.
Most importantly, the Chiefs are easily one of, if not, the best team in the NFL right now. I am not saying the Chiefs are bad in any way, shape, or form. Kansas City has risen to the expectation that they should be playing for a Super Bowl title every year for the next decade while Mahomes is under center.
The only thing preventing that was the holes at the offensive line that was hard to watch during the Super Bowl against Tampa. Mahomes ran for his life against that Tampa defensive front and that was the one glaring thing that needed to be fixed for the Chiefs.
There is a famous saying for Kansas City right now known as “in Veach, we trust'” and let me tell you that it works. Any Kansas City fan could tell you that Brett Veach has revamped this Chiefs team and he once again did the impossible. With the glaring sore spot at O-line, Veach managed to replace the entire starting line with some of the best linemen to play football. Mahomes will now have an eternity to throw the football and will probably go for 50 touchdowns and five thousand yards again.
To conclude, the reason the Chiefs are number one on this list is that any reasonable football fan should see that the Chiefs should be competing in the Super Bowl for the next decade. I am simply stating they should be the number one team to step up because they needed to fix one thing to conquer Brady and the Tampa defense should they meet again, and they did it. Keep Kansas City at the top of the power rankings because it should be almost guaranteed that they will step up and finish what they started last season and be back at the top of the NFL come February.
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Stats from espn.com and nfl.com