During a time of year where most fans are disappointed in their teams and discontented with how this season went, let’s take a look at 5 teams who will deliver much more satisfying seasons to their fans and cities.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
It would take quite a bungling for management to ruin what could be a great season for the Bengals. This turnaround will be spearheaded by future 1st overall pick Joe Burrow. If Burrow can bring the accuracy and fantastic deep ball he displayed in college, he ought to mesh very well with what is an extremely talented group of skill position players in Cincy.
A.J Green has given hints that he will resign with the Bengals (he is a top 5 receiver when healthy), John Ross’ talent as a burner would finally be able to be properly utilized, and other weapons Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert provide more-than-serviceable 3rd and 4th options. In the backfield, Joe Mixon just proved that he could still put up great numbers despite having no offensive line and facing eight man boxes frequently.
The offense with Burrow is stacked. Assuming the Bengals make some free agency acquisitions (they have a ton of cap space) and draft towards improving the offensive line and defense, don’t be surprised if the Bengals are able to go from the worst team in the league to a winning record in just one season.
4. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons had one of the more confusing seasons this year. Coming off of a year where the defense dealt with an insane amount of injuries and they ended with a still respectable 7 wins, many thought that the Falcons were primed for a great year; after all, they just won 7 with a bevy of injuries. Then they somehow only won 7 this year as well.
This was mostly due to an incompetent first half of the season, where they won 1 of their first 8 games. However, the 6-2 end to the season and the fact that much of this extremely talented roster is remaining in place makes it seem as if Atlanta ought to be a Super Bowl contender next season. Look for a tight division race between New Orleans and Atlanta, and expect around 11 wins out of this Falcons team.
3. Cleveland Browns
Like Atlanta, Cleveland had a season where expectations were lofty going in and the play on the field was quite disappointing. Fortunately for Cleveland, much of their problems this year can be traced back to horrendous coaching by Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens was simply not ready to take a head coaching position and it showed nearly every Sunday. While Stefanski wasn’t the best hire available (McDaniels would have been a great fit), he is a massive improvement over Kitchens.
A decent head coach combined with this roster should take the Browns into the postseason with double digit wins. Expect around 11 or 12 wins for Cleveland next season, which, unfortunately for them, might still not be enough to win the division. Regardless, the Browns should be playing January football next season, which would be a massive improvement over the disappointment of this one.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Despite missing the playoffs, there was much rejoicing in Dallas this January, as the definition-of-mediocrity Jason Garrett was finally replaced. Garrett finished 8-8 or 9-7 in 5 of his 9 complete seasons, a feat which is quite difficult to achieve when the team has been oozing in talent for his entire tenure. McCarthy ended his stay with Green Bay on a sour note, but he may be primed for a career revival with the Cowboys.
McCarthy reportedly has been essentially doing nothing but watching film for the entirety of his year off, so don’t be surprised if this roster equipped with a game plan forged from days and days of film studying gets off to a blazing hot start next season. Combined with the weakness of the division, and the Cowboys could easily take as many as 13 wins next year. It’d be surprising if they don’t get at least 11.
1. Detroit Lions
Every single year, the Lions manage to woo some of the NFL analysts over the offseason and subsequently let them down. Next season, however, will be different. If you think way back to the beginning of this season, you may remember that at 2-0-1, the Lions were one of the few undefeated teams after week 3. Then after close losses to both Kansas City and Green Bay, most people believed the Lions were a pretty good team.
This belief was justified by the roster; the offense was loaded at receiver with Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, and Danny Amendola. With the bonus of having TJ Hockenson at tight end, it seemed like Detroit was built to score and score a lot. Defensively, the Lions looked pretty good as well. The defensive line was nasty, led by Trey Flowers and Damon “Snacks” Harrison.
The secondary was not too shabby either, with Darius Slay being one of the most underrated players in the league, and Quandre Diggs being a promising youngster. To say it succinctly, the Lions should have continued to be good this season. Injuries, close losses, and (shocker) the refs had something else to say about that.
The Lions somehow only ended up with 3 wins, making them the biggest under performers this season. It is not that bold to predict that they’ll do much better than 3 wins, but with a healthy Matt Stafford and assuming the football gods finally decide to smile upon Detroit, the Lions could easily win 10 next year.