In 2019, Washington finished 3-13, occupying the cellar of the NFC East. However, just one season later, they were able to complete the worst-to-first challenge, taking control of the league’s most chaotic division. Every year, eight teams hope to accomplish the same feat. Without further ado, here are my worst to first candidates ranked.
8. New York Jets
I really wanted to be higher on the Jets this season, I really did. Seeing how an awful lot depends on the play of Zach Wilson, though, I am just not sold. I think Wilson could really be a successful NFL QB, but he has not looked great in camp so far.
In fact, he has not even looked good yet. While it is just training camp, and a lot of QBs are just working out the kinks, it is hard to look past the falters. With a roster that is still very much in limbo, it could be a rough ride for the young Jets this season. I do not see them being able to surpass the three playoff-caliber teams above them.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is only higher than the Jets on this list because of the utmost confidence I have that they will be more successful than Houston. Being guaranteed (in my mind) to be in the top three of your division is always a boost. That being said, the odds that the Jaguars leapfrog the Titans or Colts seems like a pipe dream.
While there is plenty to be excited about in Jacksonville, their success and dominance may still be a few seasons out. Hopefully, this season shows that the Jaguars are in good hands with Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence.
6. Detroit Lions
Detroit may be in for a tough year, and I think many Lions fans know that. However, I do think there are some positives that could help them win a few games that they maybe should not in 2021.
Jared Goff is not an awful QB, but taking away all of his weapons will be rough. TJ Hockenson is due for a big year, and the offensive line could boost the running game. If the defense can just piece together a solid game here and there, the Lions could challenge Chicago for that third spot in the North.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati has Joe Burrow’s career riding on the next few seasons, and this one may be a pivotal moment. Coming back from an ACL tear, Burrow will need the team to step up around him. While he certainly has weapons, the offensive line could plague the season again if they fail to improve.
With some moving pieces on the defense, it may come down to the young linebacker corps to provide some stability. While the safety duo of Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell will carry this defense, young guys like Logan Wilson or Joseph Ossai need to step up for Cincy to have a fighting chance in the North.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are not necessarily a better roster than some of the teams below them. In fact, all five of the teams listed thus far are in the bottom seven of my training camp power rankings. However, much like Washington last year, they reside in the league’s most hectic division.
Do I think the Eagles are primed to win the NFC East? No, not yet. However, with Washington’s hopes in the hands of Fitzmagic, the Cowboys sporting the league’s worst defense in 2020, and Danny Dimes still behind center in New York, truly anything could happen.
3. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are an interesting case. While they are 27th in my training camp power rankings, their offense gives them the potential to be so much higher. Unlike most teams that find themselves at the division cellar, the Falcons have an established, veteran QB at the helm.
With Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley, and Mike Davis, the offense could be explosive once again, but that was never their problem. In a division with Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DJ Moore, and Robbie Anderson, the defense HAS to step up. If they fall short again, Atlanta’s chances in the NFC South are slim to none.
2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos have a crazy good defense heading into 2021. Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, and newly drafted Patrick Surtain make up the league’s best secondary. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are certainly still capable of disrupting opposing gameplans.
The current problem in Denver is the one that has plagued them since Peyton Manning hung up his cleats: quarterback. If the Broncos make the wrong decision at QB this year, it could ruin what is potentially the league’s best defense. If they choose right, however, this roster is capable of challenging Kansas City.
1. San Francisco 49ers
The sole worst-to-first candidate to land in the top half of the training camp power rankings, San Fran has legitimate Super Bowl hopes. With a myriad of playmakers on offense, and game changers on defense, they have the right to. If some combination of Jimmy Garopollo and Trey Lance can keep pace with the offense, watch out.
Speaking of Trey Lance, I am starting to think that if he plays early, he could run away with Rookie of the Year. The reports from training camp make him seem like superman. Keep in mind, this is a team that already has five or six bona fide superstars. Whoever is behind center, the 49ers are serious contenders to complete the first-to-worst challenge.