I am going to break all 32 teams in the NFL into categories based on how I believe they will do this year. Things break down somewhat evenly. I have about a third of the teams as legitimate contenders, about a third at the bottom, and about a third in between. I will begin with the teams I view as bottom feeders. These are teams I would be surprised to end up with winning records. I think their ceiling is around 7-9, and a top five Draft pick is quite possible. You will notice in the course of these posts, I believe things are much more difficult to determine in the NFC than in the AFC.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order, not ranked.
GGN member Nikolai C called me a "con artist" last year for saying the Bills would contend for a top five Draft pick and said they were definitely not the third worst team in the NFL on Opening Day. The Bills went on to earn the third pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Oops.
Things do not look a ton better for the Bills this season. They have a legit stud on the defensive line in Kyle Williams, and the addition of Marcell Dareus to partner with him up front should help what was a brutal run defense some. They did lose Paul Posluszny and Donte Whiter on the defensive side of the ball, though. Not to make either player more than they are, but the Bills were in no position to lose anybody with talent.
The offensive line is still a work in progress. I am also not sure where the pass rush is going to come from off the edge. Shawne Merriman has not been productive since George W. Bush was President. Chris Kelsay did not look suited to stand up at linebacker last year.
Chan Gailey got more out of Ryan Fitzpatrick than could reasonably be expected. He is starting to develop a deserved reputation as a really good guy with quarterbacks. He could have done that as offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, though. I am still not sure why the Bills think he is capable of running the whole show when his track record in Dallas and Georgia Tech indicate otherwise.
More after the jump.
I am selling big on a quarterback asked to transition from a single wing type offense to a pro system in an abbreviated training camp. Even if Cam Newton does eventually develop into a player, I cannot imagine it will be this season.
Asking a rookie quarterback to come from a quirky spread based system to play right away in a pro offense is difficult. That is what the Bengals are asking from Andy Dalton.
I like Colt McCoy. I like Peyton Hillis. I like their offensive line. I think they lack the big play receivers to make the offense dynamic, and I do not know where they are going to generate pressure on their defensive line.
If I had to choose a team I thought was going to be picking first in the 2012 Draft, I would probably go with Denver. I am selling big time on their offense without Josh McDaniels. The guy was brutal in many areas, but he can run an extremely productive offense. Without him, I think Kyle Orton will look more like the journeyman he played like in Chicago. I am also not buying the narrative that Brandon Lloyd just figured out how to be a franchise receiver after seven years of mediocrity. I expect him to take a major step back.
Defensively I am still trying to figure out why you go to a 4-3 when your two best pass rushers are Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller (who you took second overall no less). These are undersized athletic guys at their best using their burst off the edge standing up rather than lining up close to tackles and having to beat blocks. I know John Fox is a 4-3 guy. Guess what. So was Mike Tomlin when the Steelers hired him, but Tomlin saw his team was built to run a 3-4 so he stuck with it.
Going with the perennially mediocre David Garrard at quarterback is not a recipe for success. Neither is the potential for a raw rookie to take his place. Neither is the lack of quality receivers. Neither is a questionable pass rush aside from Aaron Kampman, who is coming off a second straight major injury. Neither is the lack of quality in their secondary. Neither is a shaky coach who is reportedly on the hot seat.
The Titans are not in the NFC West so I do not believe Matt Hasselbeck, who is in decline, is capable of carrying the team to the division title. They will miss Jason Babin on the defensive line as well as defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who might have been the best in the business at his job getting his guys prepared with his thorough scouting reports. I also get the feeling the Titans hired Mike Munchank as head coach because he was the cheap option, not because he was the right guy. You never heard a word about him as head coach material before they hired him.
Tom Cable had the Raiders headed in the right direction and playing respectable football for the first time since they lost to the Bucs in the Super Bowl. Naturally, Al Davis got rid of him. The Raiders are going to have a tough time because they lost their best player on offense, Zach Miller, and their best player on defense, Nnamdi Asomugha. The loss of Asomugha hurts in particular. The ability to eliminate half the field transforms a defense. They will be a different team on that side of the ball (and don't tell me Stanford Routt is going to be the same quality of player).
One thing I never understood was why people assumed the Redskins would become smarter with player acquisitions when Mike Shanahan took over. Washington had a series of bad Draft picks and bust free agent signings. The thing is Shanahan did as well. That was why Denver fired him.
I could see the Washington offense being better than expected. I think Mike Shanahan is overrated, but he knows how to get a lot out of mediocre quarterbacks. He got some pretty good seasons out of the likes of Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, and Jay Cutler.
Despite some big free agent acquistions, I still see the defense as a major problem. The defense had a long, long way to go. The additions of Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen will make it better up front, but I do not view either as a top tier talent. O.J. Atogwe feels like a typical Washington overspending on a big name signing. DeAngelo Hall will have a huge target on his back. He is no longer overrated because pretty much everybody sees he is a big play guy who gets frequently burned. I think they are the worst team in the NFC East without question.