Team by team previews? Nope. Fantasy predictions? Sorry. Super Bowl predictions? Not that either.
I’m going to talk about unimportant stuff instead.
For 10 consecutive years, at least one team in the NFL has won their division after coming in last place the year before. Since I’m creative I’ve dubbed it the Worst-to-First Streak. I’m also too lazy to research if it already has a name. Worst-to-First, that’s what we’re calling it.
Here’s the list of teams that have done it over the past decade:
|Year they won division||Came in last the year before with a record of…||Won their division with a record of….|
|2003 Carolina Panthers||7-9||11-5|
|2003 Kansas City Chiefs||7-9||11-5|
|2004 Atlanta Falcons||5-11||11-5|
|2004 San Diego||4-12||12-4|
|2005 Chicago Bears||5-11||11-5|
|2005 New York Giants||6-10||11-5|
|2005 Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-11||11-5|
|2006 Baltimore Ravens||6-10||13-3|
|2006 New Orleans Saints||3-13||10-6|
|2006 Philadelphia Eagles||6-10||10-6|
|2007 Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4-12||9-7|
|2008 Miami Dolphins||1-15||11-5|
|2009 New Orleans Saints||8-8||13-3|
|2010 Kansas City Chiefs||4-12||10-6|
|2011 Denver Broncos||4-12||10-6|
|2011 Houston Texans||6-10||10-6|
|2012 Washington Redskins||5-11||10-6|
Who is going to keep that streak going this year?
The candidates are Philly, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Arizona in the NFC and Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City in the AFC.
Before we waste any time thinking about it let’s just rule out Arizona. Two reasons; 1) they share a division with possibly the two best teams in the league in San Francisco and Seattle and 2) Carson Palmer is not going to turn a team around. He’s one of those guys who had one good season and has built a career around it. Give up Teams-that-keep-signing-him! It’s never going to be 2005 again. And while we’re at it, let’s rule out Jacksonville too. I’m sorry but Blaine Gabbert is not going to outduel Andrew Luck let alone overcome the Texans who have this division on lockdown barring another miraculous jump from the Colts.
So that leaves six teams to legitimately consider.
It will be harder to overcome a “deep” division than a “top-heavy” division.
That’s why I don’t think Cleveland or the Lions will do it. Cleveland would have to pass the defending champion Ravens, the always-stout Steelers, and the up-and-coming Bengals. All while having 42-year old second year player Brandon Weeden. Unlikely. Although Cleveland does look a liiiiitle like Minnesota from last year if Trent Richardson can explode as an elite back. Even though I think Minnesota will regress and miss the playoffs, Detroit won’t do it either because Green Bay is dominant and Chicago is too well-balanced especially on defense. It has nothing to do with the fact that the Lions beat themselves too often, can’t close games defensively, and have severe discipline issues. None of those factored in.
I’m also going to lump the Bucs in with this group too. The Falcons have made the playoffs three straight years and only got better this offseason (Julio Jones has another year under his belt, and they added RB Steven Jackson and DE Osi Umenyiora) and I think the Saints are going to make a big comeback this year. Last year left a bad taste in Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s collective mouth and I think they are going to come out really strong this year. Also, their defense can’t be that bad again, can it?
That leaves Philly, Kansas City and Buffalo.
Two of those teams have something in common that makes them great dark horses to win their division. Kansas City and Buffalo both play in completely terrible division that are dominated by ONE great team who is led by ONE great player. Imagine if Tom Brady went down with an injury, is it believable that Buffalo could beat out the Jets (abso-frickin-lutely that team is ridiculously terrible and Rex Ryan is a joke at this point), the Dolphins and a Brady-less Patriots. Without Brady the Pats offense would probably just down it three times and punt it Waterboy-style. So is it crazy to think the Bills could beat out Miami? Not at all. In fact it’s probably a coin flip who’s better.
The Chiefs, who are a lot of people’s sleeper team this year with Alex Smith at the helm, basically only have Denver to get past. But Denver is so good there’s no chance they can beat them….unless Peyton Manning gets hurt. In which case, that team might take a step or two or 200 back and fall into irrelevancy. The Chiefs would most likely beat out the other two teams—Chargers and Raiders—handedly. The Raiders are arguing over whether Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor should start at quarterback so, yeah, I’m going to let you make that decision and the Chargers have lost Tomlinson, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates’ talent since they last made the playoffs in 2009 and have replaced them with exactly nobody. That leaves the Chiefs to reap the benefits.
Finally, there’s Philadelphia with Chip Kelly’s crazy paced offense. Can it work in the pros? I don’t know. But if I was trying I would want a mobile quarterback (check), a fast and shifty runningback (check), and a couple of fast wide outs (double check if Maclin could have stayed healthy). Also, the NFC East is very winnable with no clear cut winner. If Vick can stay healthy for once in his career (unlikely) the Eagles may have a real chance of sneaking in and stealing the division.
Regardless I’m going to say the Chiefs have the best chance of extending the Worst to First streak. Let’s say they go 5-3 at home (not unrealistic considering Pittsburgh and Miami both went 5-3 at home last year and missed the playoffs) it’s not crazy to think they could win 5 road games too and finish 10-6. Their road schedule, in order, is Jacksonville, Philly, Tennessee, Buffalo, Denver, Washington, Oakland, and San Diego. That’s about as easy as they come. Any team could steal a division if they took advantage of that road schedule.
If I was a gambling man….
Some pretty good looking props out there.
Detroit Lions under 8 wins (-105)
This team has some great players but it has some GLARING HOLES that are much more impressive. Their offensive line has no continuity from year to year, they have ZERO discipline, their secondary has been unable to stay healthy for years now, etc. Plus their schedule is pretty brutal.
Houston Texans over 10.5 wins (+120)
They have games against the Titans (2), Jacksonville (2), San Diego, Oakland, Arizona, and St. Louis. That’s eight wins if they take care of business. Add two more against Indy and that’s possibly 10 right there.
New York Giants over 9 wins (+120)
This is the exact time the Giants always strike, when you least expect it. That division could end up being a stomping ground if RGIII, Vick, and/or Romo get hurt. And it’s happened before.
New York Jets under 6.5 wins (-200)
I know those aren’t good odds but that’s almost guaranteed money. Is there anyway Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez leads that team to 7 wins? This team is staring down the barrel of a four win season. Goodbye Good riddance Rex Ryan.
But hey, I’m the same guy who undyingly loves the Lions, so what do I know about football?
 Brandon Weeden is young and appears very average (at best) just like Ponder. Richardson could be their Peterson-like workhorse and their defense is pretty solid. Just too many teams to overcome though, even Minnesota had to get a wildcard spot.
 That sounds gross
 With 24/7 sports coverage is there such thing as a sleeper anymore?
 Could you imagine trying this with the Jets’ offense? Could you imagine trying anything with the Jets’ offense? Could you imagine being a Jets fan?