It happens every year in the NFL. A dark horse, sleeper pick, out-of-nowhere team emerges from the bottom ranks of their division to take charge. Coming from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the heap can be due to some free agency acquisitions, a hot new draft pick, getting hot at the right time, or epic failures by the other teams in the division. Which teams have what it takes to go from worst to first?
Only one team truly went from worst to first last season and that was the Washington Redskins. Drafting a player like RGIII might have that effect on a team. Then again, you can always add the epic failures of the other teams in the division to the reasons why the Redskins were able to go from worst to first last year. The Indianapolis Colts didn’t go directly to first place in their division, but rising up from the overall last spot to a Wild Card Playoff berth is worth a mention. Obviously, the Colts drafted well to aid in their reversal of fortune.
Here are the teams who finished at the bottom of their divisions last season:
AFC East: New York Jets and Buffalo Bills (tied 6-10). I’m not going to sugar coat it. It’s not looking good for either team this season. Here’s an indication of how bad things are for these teams even before the regular season kicks off; they both are reportedly bringing in Matt Leinart for workouts to fill their troubled quarterback positions. Yikes.
AFC North: Cleveland Browns (5-11). Right after naming Brandon Weeden as the Browns starting QB for the season they gave their worst offensive performance of the preseason in their third exhibition game against the Colts. You can’t base everything on preseason but the Browns should really consider going .500 this season a success.
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14). The Jaguars offensive progress was slowed during the preseason once starting QB Blaine Gabbert went out with a thumb injury. Realistically, the odds are better that the Jags get relocated to London before the season starts than the team taking the AFC South division crown.
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs (2-14). With new head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs could be competitive in their division. Whether it’s enough to get past the Broncos for the title is another story. Reid is destined to pull a bonehead move with clock management in a pivotal game, so brace yourselves for that, Chiefs fans.
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles (4-12). Brand spanking new NFL head coach Chip Kelly has brought his high tempo offense to the Eagles and Michael Vick is loving it. Naturally, Vick is good for at least 4 missed games due to injury so it really matters how Nick Foles embraces the new offense. The NFC East is the one division in which teams can go from worst to first alternatively each year because it always seems to be a toss-up.
NFC North: Detroit Lions (4-12) The Lions finished 4 and 12 last season with a completely healthy Matt Stafford playing the entire season. Lions fans might want to hope for the demise of the other teams in the NFC North.
NFC South: Tampa Bay Bucs (7-9). Quarterback Josh Freeman at one point looked like he was going to lead the Bucs back into relevancy. That was like a weekend two seasons ago. Freeman looks bad so far this preseason and the NFC South is loaded with better teams pretty much keeping the Bucs at the bottom for now.
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals (5-11). Chances are, if you finished in the last place of your division last season, you’re starting this season with a new coach and/or a new quarterback. The Cardinals are no exception. With Bruce Arians getting his first official head coaching gig and Carson Palmer refusing to join a broadcasting booth the Cardinals look to compete in a division where the NFC Champs are going to be trying to hold off the Seahawks all season long.
It’s tough in the NFL to go from worst to first. Sometimes it really does take a catastrophic injury or epic failure by another team in order to push a middle-of-the-road team to the top spot and usually, it’s just temporary. The team with the best chance out of these to go from worst to first has got to be the Philadelphia Eagles. Depending on Vick’s health, Foles’ abilities to step in, and the entire team buying into Chip Kelly’s philosophies, the Eagles might have a chance to sky rocket to the top of the NFC East this season. Also, RGIII having a tougher time coming back from that knee injury than expected wouldn’t hurt them either.
Topics: Alex Smith, Andy Reid, Arizona Cardinals, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden, Bruce Arians, Chip Kelly, Cleveland Browns, Josh Freeman, Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Leinart, Matthew Stafford, Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, Robert Griffin III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers