At this point of the NFL off-season, rosters are relatively set. Veterans and late-round rookies will be cut from teams as the season draws near, but the bulk of the units are here to stay. So looking at the rosters, divisions, and strength of schedules, let’s predict the ten worst teams in the NFL by season end.
New York Jets
The Jets have been a mess since the 2015 Ryan Fitzpatrick year. Adam Gase, who replaced Todd Bowles, wound up a disaster, and former number three overall pick Sam Darnold was never put in a position to succeed. After the 2020 NFL season, the Jets made a lot of off-season moves. They fired Gase, traded Darnold to Carolina, drafted Zach Wilson second overall, and hired Robert Saleh to be their new head coach. On top of that, they made some splashes in free agency on their offense and defense.
There’s no doubt the Jets are a better team now than last season or even the year before. But then again, that’s not saying too much. Headed into the 2021 NFL season, the Jets tied for the 19th graded schedule. It’s not the Steeler’s schedule, but their division is one of the toughest in football, and they have rookies at both each coach and quarterback. Knowing this, combined with their roster, which was ranked 30th by Pro Football Focus, the Jets will be one of the ten worst teams this season.
Like the Jets, the Lions are heading into the season with rookie head coach Dan Campbell. Campbell’s made a name for himself this off-season with multiple eyebrow-raising quotes and comments. Some people, like myself, think this hire will soon blow up in the Lion’s face, but for the time being, there’s optimism in Detroit. On top of the new hires, the Lions traded franchise quarterback Matt Stafford for Jared Goff. And after passing on drafting a quarterback for rookie tackle Penei Sewell, it appears Goff is there to stay.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Lions head into the season with a top ten offensive line but the 31st overall roster. So Jared Goff will have protection but won’t necessarily have the weapons to throw to. It’s sure to be a rough year for the Dan Campbell Lions as they tied for the sixth graded schedule.
The Bengals won only four games in 2020, but they competed hard every week. It’s fair to question if head coach Zac Taylor is the right man for the job, but the team hasn’t quit on him. Joe Burrow comes back after his season-ending injury and has a potential three-headed monster at receiver.
As the season draws nearer, the Bengals face three huge problems. Their division is one of the toughest in football, and while they made up some ground on the Steelers, the Browns and Ravens got better. Secondly, the Bengals offensive line was graded 25th by Pro Football Focus, which doesn’t bode well for Joe Burrow. Not to mention their overall roster was graded 24th. Last but not least, their schedule’s tied for sixth with the Lions.
I expect the Bengals to play hard, but they’ll most likely draft in the top ten once again.
The Eagles were a disaster in 2020, and I expect them to be more of the same in 2021. Like Dan Campbell, new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni’s press conferences have raised more eyebrows than answered questions. Reports are already out that Eagles players are ‘questioning’ Sirianni as the head coach. I predict that, like the Lions, the Eagles will soon regret their hire of Nick Sirianni. With that being said, the Eagle’s success will be heavily dependant on Jalen Hurts’ progression.
Per Pro Football Focus, the Eagles are heading into the season with the 13th graded offensive line and the 29th overall roster. Hurts will have protection, but he must improve as a passer, and the surrounding pieces must step up. Defensively they have a great best pass rush, but their secondary leaves a lot to be desired. All in all, the Eagles have a lot of questions without a ton of answers.
Fortunately for Sirianni, the Eagles were blessed with the league’s easiest schedule. But unfortunately, they don’t have the roster or coaching staff to take advantage of it. A Deshaun Watson trade could change their fortunes though…
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders had one of the more perplexing off-seasons among the 32 teams. They gutted their offensive line, and their free agency was rather quiet. The additions of Yannick Ngakoue and Casey Hayward could work out nicely, but they won’t change the Raiders season. Unless new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley somehow fixes the defense, they’ll once again finish near the bottom.
In the last two seasons, the Raiders finished 7-9 and 8-8. Their offense was potent enough to carry their subpar defense, but it may not be able to do so this season. The Raiders face the eighth-ranked schedule, with the 26th ranked roster and offensive line. In a division with the Broncos, Chargers, and Chiefs, the Raiders could be looking at fourth place by the season’s end.
Duval county is buzzing with excitement as the Jaguars look to turn a new leaf. After signing Urban Meyer and drafting Trevor Lawrence number one overall, the future looks bright for the first time since 2017. Unfortunately for Jags fans, this season will be a year of struggle.
Not only is Urban Meyer a rookie head coach, but he’s also never coached in the NFL, period. On top of helping Trevor Lawrence develop, he himself must learn the NFL game. Facing the 18th ranked schedule, the Jaguars, on paper, have a path that’s friendlier than not. But even so, Urban Meyer, Trevor Lawrence, and their 28th ranked roster are bound to make plenty of mistakes. The future looks bright, but not even Tim Tebow can save them from drafting in the top ten.
Staying in the AFC South, the Houston Texans are undoubtedly the worst roster in the NFL. If Deshaun Watson plays for them, they might be able to luck into a win. But given Watson’s legal issues and his request for a trade, I don’t see it happening. The Houston Texans are my pick not only to draft first overall but to finish the season 0-17.
Atlanta has never quite recovered from their Super Bowl 50 blunder. They’ve gone to the playoffs just once since 2016 and have finished the last three seasons below .500. This off-season, they traded Julio Jones, hired former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to be their head coach, and drafted Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick to be their new difference-maker on offense. The offense may still be dynamic enough to score points, but the Falcons defense and offensive line remain a problem.
The Falcons head into the season with the third-easiest schedule. Drew Brees did retire, but their division still got better. At best, the Falcons and their 25th ranked roster (per PFF) will finish third in their division.
Staying in the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers are another team I see struggling this season. The NFL cut the Panthers some slack by giving them a soft 26th ranked schedule, but I don’t see them finishing better than third in their division. Their roster is graded 27th, and their offensive line was ranked 30th by Pro Football Focus. They have a three-headed monster on offense with Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Christian McCaffery, but their offensive line must improve.
The X-factor on this team is obviously Sam Darnold. The former number two overall pick’s had a rough start to his NFL career. After three horrid years with the Jets, they traded him to Carolina, where he hopes to flip his career trajectory. If second-year head coach Matt Rhule plays his cards right with Darnold, the Panthers may have their franchise quarterback. But not even Sam Darnold at his best can save their defense from being torched all season.
The Cowboy’s schedule is listed just one slot above the Eagles. So they also, on paper, have an easier path this season. Unfortunately for the boys, they have a few factors working against them. Their defense was historically horrible for the better part of last season, Mike McCarthy seemed to validate Green Bay’s decision to fire him, Dak Prescott is coming back from a gruesome season-ending injury, and on top of it all, Hard Knocks.
Assuming the Cowboy’s offense can pick up where it left off as one of the league’s best, their defense has to improve drastically. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has some pieces to work with, but I don’t see them improving enough to drastically change their fortunes. I don’t see the Cowboys finishing better than the Giants or Washinton.