It’s that boring time of the NFL offseason. The NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals recently concluded, and so all there is to watch is baseball (and the World Cup). But, it’s still fun to speculate how each NFL team will do in 2018 (then be proven completely wrong later). Today, I will go over each team’s floor and ceiling. Think of it as their best case scenario vs. worst case scenario. Anyway, let’s get started.
After another rough playoff elimination last season, maybe the Falcons will follow in the paths of the Astros, Eagles, and Capitals, and finally win that ring. They have all the talent on offense, and Vic Beasley and Deion Jones are dangerous on defense. To me, their absolute best case scenario (ceiling) is 13-3 and that first Super Bowl ring. I can’t imagine them doing better than 13-3 in that division. The floor is when Matt Ryan starts looking like 2015 Matt Ryan, and the offense continues to regress from that incredible 2016 season. Steve Sarkisian gets his walking papers, and the Falcons go 7-9 and miss the playoffs.
The Cardinals just drafted a man who has been considered the most pro-ready QB. Personally, I think he’ll be quite successful in the NFL, but Sam Bradford could possibly hold him off for a while. Because the Cards are in this awkward transitional phase, I can’t see them doing much better than 9-7. And because they’re competing in a division with two teams on the rise (San Fran and L.A.) and one team that’s still pretty good (Seattle), things could get really hairy. I think their floor could be 3-13.
Joe Flacco and his huge contract should be able to hold off Lamar Jackson, at least for one year. Maybe Flacco can return to his vintage form and the Ravens pull off another playoff run. In a division with Cincy and Cleveland, it’s possible for them to do as well as 11-5. This team has a history of giving the Pats trouble in the playoffs, but I just don’t think a Super Bowl run is realistic. And their worst case scenario? Probably 5-11 if injuries happen, Terrell Suggs’ 16th season just ain’t cutting it, and the run game can’t get it together under Alex Collins and Javorious Allen.
So, Buffalo got A.J. McCarron to be that awkward “bridge” QB for Josh Allen (the job might actually go to Nathan Peterman). Well Bills, at least you made the playoffs last year! Even with Shady McCoy still playing great (which may not happen now that he’ll be 30 this season), I don’t see Buffalo doing better than 8-8. Sure, the Jets and Dolphins are also at a crossroads, but New England should probably be marked on the calendar as two Ls. As for their worst case scenario, we’ve certainly seen it get bad with teams in this transitional phase. 2-14 is the floor.
Cam and Carolina got back in the playoffs after a rough 2016 season. As Jon Bois noted in this video, Carolina’s consistency is the absolute craziest in the NFL (just skip to 9:10 if you want proof). Christian McCaffrey should continue to add to this team, and Dontari Poe should help improve the d-line. To me, their best and worst case scenarios are quite like the Falcons. 13-3 if everything goes right, 7-9 if everything goes wrong. Now watch them pull a 2015 Panthers and go 15-1 again, or a 2016 Panthers and go 6-10.
Mitch Trubisky will no longer have to wait behind the human giraffe Mike Glennon, and will get his chance to lead the Bears into playoff contention. In a tough division like the NFC North though, I can’t see them doing better than 10-6. However, that could very well net them a playoff spot in the Wild Card. As for their floor, think Matt Nagy will oversee an improvement from 5-11. The Bears are a high-floor, low ceiling team in my opinion, as their floor should should be 6-10.
When Cincy’s stubborn owner Mike Brown kept Marvin Lewis AGAIN in 2018, I can just imagine Bengals fans having the same mindset as Squidward in this clip. Maybe Dalton and A.J. Green will go back to their vintage years of 2011-15 by going 10-6… and losing in the first round of the playoffs again. To me though, their worst case scenario is that they continue their downward trend and go 4-12. Maybe that will make Mike Brown do something? No, I doubt it.
You know what, I think this team could shock the world and win a game this season. Actually, 10 of them. Considering Tyrod Taylor quarterbacked a team to the playoffs last year, why can’t he do it again? Cleveland has a pretty scary 1-2 combo in Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry, and a defense that actually isn’t that bad. The elephant in the room is Hue Jackson. Maybe if that jump in Lake Erie truly did wash away all the losing, they can go 10-6 and make the playoffs. Or, they could just go 2-14 (they can’t possibly go 0-16 again. Can they?).
Dallas had a disappointing season last year, as they had to deal with injuries and the drama known as the Zeke suspension saga. Jason Witten and Dez Bryant leaving could certainly hurt the offense a bit, but I can still see them improving to 12-4. But no more than that, as they have to deal with Philly and an improved Giants team. Of course, I do see a possibility of them going 6-10. Jason Garrett would probably get fired in that case.
It was a rough first season for head coach Vance Joseph, as the former defensive coordinator had to deal with a QB controversy. John Elway has given him a new QB in Case Keenum, who should definitely hold down the fort for at least this year. Keenum obviously had a great season last year, and he’s still playing on a team with a solid defense (though not as good as Minnesota’s). Considering the AFC West still has some question marks, I can see Denver doing as good as 12-4. However, if the Keenum experiment fails, things could get ugly. Perhaps another 5-11 season is their floor.
Having a top 10 QB like Matt Stafford is usually enough to net this team 6 wins, so I can’t see them doing much worse than 6-10. Unfortunately for the Lions, they play in a division with the Packers, Vikings, and a Bears team that is much improved. Unless Matt Patricia truly does bring that Patriots attitude to the team, I can’t see them doing better than 10-6 and a possible Wild Card berth.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is back, which means the Packers being a playoff team is probably back as well. This is despite him losing one of his favorite targets in Jordy Nelson and the NFC being stacked. After all, they added Jimmy Graham, who will probably emerge as a solid red zone option for Rodgers. The defense added Muhammad Wilkerson and Jaire Alexander, and maybe new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine can turn their defense into a solid unit. If he does, the Packers could do as well as 13-3. If he doesn’t (and some injuries happen), expect an 8-8 year.
It’s all about staying healthy for this bunch. Deshaun Watson was having a great rookie season until his ACL injury. And when J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus went down, so did the Texans. As long as their most important pieces don’t suffer from the injury bug, I can see them doing as good as 12-4. However, if injuries strike yet again, I can see 5-11 being the floor.
Despite a gutty performance from Jacoby Brissett, the Colts had a disastrous 4-12 season last year that saw coach Chuck Pagano get fired. After being royally screwed over by Josh McDaniels, Frank Reich will now try to lead this team to victory. If Andrew Luck returns healthy and the new pieces on the o-line come together, this could be an 11-5, division-winning team. If not, this could be another 4-12 year in Indy.
The Jags surprised the NFL world last year by making it to the AFC Championship Game a year after going 3-13. The bad news for the Jags is that the division has gotten a lot better if everyone stays healthy. The good news for Jacksonville is that they’ve retained the young defensive core that got them a game away from the Super Bowl. The elephant in the room is Blake Bortles, and if he has a poor year, the Jags could do as bad as 6-10. But, if all goes according to plan, I say they can do as well as 13-3 and get the franchise’s first title.
Kansas City Chiefs
A lot of the Chiefs’ season will be determined by their QB play, and no one really knows what we’ll get out of Pat Mahomes. He has a veteran coach in Andy Reid and spent a year learning behind Alex Smith though, so those are some good signs. If Mahomes can make good use out of his weapons on offense and the defense stays solid, a 12-4, division-winning record could happen. If Mahomes is significantly worse from Alex Smith though, things could get as bad as 5-11.
Los Angeles Chargers
The 30,000-seat soccer stadium that the Chargers play in may very well be home to a division champ this year. The Chargers have a trusty vet in Phillip Rivers at QB, and some good weapons for him (though Hunter Henry is out for the year). The defense is where this team is super stacked from top to bottom. It starts up front, where Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram bring the heat. In the secondary, a healthy Jason Verrett, Casey Heyward, and rookie Derwin James should be exciting. I see this team doing as well as 13-3 and seriously contending for a Super Bowl. However, they could disappoint and go 7-9.
Los Angeles Rams
Boy, is this team going all-in this year. Getting Pro Bowl caliber players like Brandin Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib clearly demonstrates this. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley should be with this franchise for a while, but this great core they have will only stay around 1-2 years. If the Rams make the most of it, they’ll go 14-2 and bring a Super Bowl to L.A. If they waste this stacked roster or if injuries happen, this team could do as poorly as 8-8.
This team traded their star RB and star WR, plus they lost arguably their best player on defense in Ndamukong Suh. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played since 2016. Some of their more notable free agent signings include: Brock Osweiler, a 35-year old Frank Gore, and Danny Amendola (they did draft Minkah Fitzpatrick though). In any case, things could get ugly in South Beach, and I think they could do as bad as 2-14. And to me, their ceiling is only 8-8.
After a stellar year from Case Keenum at QB, the Vikes weren’t convinced and nabbed Kirk Cousins in free agency. Will the move pay off? The money is fully guaranteed, and for someone who doesn’t have one playoff win, it’s certainly a risk. If Kirk is solid and the defense stays elite, a 14-2 season with the franchise’s first Super Bowl could be in order. If not, it could be a disappointing 8-8 year.
New England Patriots
Will this be the cliff year for Tom Brady? He’s 41, and he’s lost Dion Lewis, Brandin Cooks, and both of his starting tackles. The defense lost a key piece in Malcolm Butler. But who am I kidding, this is the Patriots we’re talking about! Their best case scenario is 14-2 and a Super Bowl, because Brady and Belichick are still there. However, if the gloom and doom scenario truly does play out, this team could go 8-8, their first non-winning record since 2000. That’s really how good this team has been.
New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton saved his job last year after three consecutive 7-9 seasons from 2014-16. The defense finally stepped up, and Drew Brees had another great year in his late 30s. Brees not only has help from his defense, but his running game has a great one-two punch with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Ingram is suspended the first four games, but I don’t think that will derail the season. As a matter of fact, this team could do as well as 13-3, and win the franchise’s second title. However, they could drop back to 8-8 if things go wrong.
New York Giants
After a disastrous campaign last year that saw their ringmasters at head coach and GM get fired, the Giants have regrouped. They have a smart offensive mind at head coach, and an old school GM now. They landed a generational talent in Saquon Barkley at RB, and some much-needed pieces on the o-line as well. If Eli can still play well at age 37 and the defense can return to its 2016 form, this team could do as well as 12-4. That might be enough to steal a division title from Philly. But, if this team doesn’t look as good on the field as they do on paper, it could be a disappointing 6-10 year.
New York Jets
The Jets took what could be the long-awaited answer to their QB woes in Sam Darnold. We don’t know whether he’ll start Week One yet, but there’s a good shot he gets some playing time this year. Darnold’s weapons on offense are a bit questionable though. The Jets are building something solid with their young defense however, where they added Avery Williamson and Morris Claiborne. Those aren’t the greatest additions, but they’re starter-level players. To me, this Jets team will probably see some bumps in a transitional QB year, and they could do as poorly as 3-13. But, they could do as well as 9-7.
The Raiders were hyped up as contenders in the AFC last year, but they suffered from a very disappointing year. So, they fired their head coach and made what many consider a “splash hire” in Jon Gruden. While it’s been quite a long time since he’s coached, I still believe he can do it. He has a lot of talent to work with on offense, as Derek Carr is a young franchise QB. This team could disappoint and do as poorly as 6-10 again, but I could see them going 12-4 and retaking the AFC West.
Philly broke their long stretch of misery last year, but what does it take to repeat as champs? Well, it looks like Carson Wentz will be back as the starter, but will he be during Week One? In any case, this team retained most of the core that got them to the Super Bowl, and added Michael Bennett on defense. The thing that might hold them back this year is playing in a talented NFC. Their best case scenario is a 14-2 season and another Super Bowl title. However, they could regress back to 8-8 if things go horribly wrong.
The Killer Bs are back after a disappointing playoff exit last season, but can they rebound this year? The Steelers promoted from within for their new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, who should hopefully help this offense stop playing down to their competition. That was a big struggle for Pittsburgh last year. This team still has a great core in tact though, and they could go 14-2 and win the franchise’s 7th title if all goes according to plan. However, they could go 8-8 and possibly lose the division to the Ravens if things go poorly.
San Francisco 49ers
There’s a lot of pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo, who just received a $137.5 million contract after an impressive 5 starts with San Fran. One fact that really shocked me is that the 49ers went from playing one primetime game last year to FIVE this year. That goes to show you how much the NFL values having a franchise QB when it comes to scheduling primetime games. If Kyle Shanahan’s squad can live up to the hype, they could go 12-4 and possibly steal the division from the stacked Rams. However, if they can’t live up to the hype, they could disappoint and possibly stay a 6-10 season.
With the Rams and 49ers as improved teams, and the Cards getting a potential franchise QB, Seattle might be taking a backseat. They lost a lot of key pieces this offseason, like Jimmy Graham, Richard Sherman, and Michael Bennett. It wasn’t anywhere near San Francisco’s 2015 offseason level of bad, but it was pretty bad. They drafted Rashad Penny in the first round, which is definitely a questionable move. Russell Wilson should carry this team to at least a 6-10 record. But, I can’t see them doing better than 10-6 in this tough NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa was a trendy pick to win the division last year, but they suffered a very disappointing, 5-11 year. The Bucs made some big additions on the d-line this offseason, trading for JPP, signing Vinny Curry, and drafting Vita Vea. Paired with Gerald McCoy and Noah Spence, it looks like a stacked unit on paper. The big thing is Jameis Winston getting it together with Dirk Koetter. It didn’t work last year, but it probably has to in 2018 for Koetter to keep his job. I can see the Bucs improving to 11-5 this year if it all goes right, but they could do as poorly as 5-11 again.
The Titans made their way back to postseason football last year after posting another 9-7 season. With the signings of Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler, perhaps they have what it takes to make more noise in the AFC. In a stacked division though, there’s a lot of pressure for Marcus Mariota and first-year head coach Mike Vrabel. If they respond to it well, I can see Tennessee going 12-4 and possibly getting the franchise’s first Super Bowl. If they don’t, I can see them having a disappointing 7-9 year.
The Skins ditched Kirk Cousins for Alex Smith, and it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I think it’s a typical Dan Snyder move and it’s not going to lead to a lot of success for Washington. The Skins added Paul Richardson in free agency and got Da’Ron Payne and Sheldon Richardson in the draft. Ultimately, I can’t see this team doing much better than 11-5. I could see them doing as poorly as 6-10, but no worse than that given that Alex Smith is a pretty steady QB.