Eight NFL Teams With A Chance To Do Something Improbable Have History On Their Side

The NFL loves parity because it makes everyone feel like they can be relevant.

To the cynics who argue everyone doesn’t really have a chance to be relevant, the NFL points to its history, which shows at least one team has risen from last place in its division to a division crown in 17 of the last 19 seasons. This dates back to 2003.

It’s an impressive worst-to-first climb that, for example, the Cincinnati Bengals accomplished last year.

The Bengals actually went from last in their division in 2020 to the Super Bowl last year.

In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles went from last in the NFC East to Super Bowl champions. The Saints did the same thing in 2009, winning it all after finishing last in the NFC South the season before.

Those are impressive feats that resonate in NFL locker rooms, believe it or not. I’ve heard countless players talk about “Why not us?” after their coaches point out that finishing last in the division the year before presents a grand opportunity.

This year eight teams have the chance to continue the NFL string of losers becoming champions in the span of one season.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets warms up during the preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Jets defeated the Eagles 24-21. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Eight Teams With Chances For An Improbable 2022 Climb Follow:

New York Jets: Coach Robert Saleh is confident his team has a roster lined with future stars. The issue is merely waiting for them to play like stars — consistently. “It’s going to be fun, I know in this building, to see it all happen,” he said this week. “But at the same time, you never know until you know, but I know we’ve got them.” That’s likely true and some of those may show up to heights the Jets can escape the AFC East cellar. But they’re not winning the division this season.

Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson good, Ravens good. Simple as that, right? Well, the coaching staff needs to figure out Baltimore’s division opponents because they were 1-5 against the Steelers, Browns and Bengals last year. Having said that, this team looks to be in the best shape of this group to go from worst to first.

Jacksonville Jaguars: They hired the most accomplished head coach available in Doug Pederson but even he admitted to OutKick the team was still “healing” from last year’s (Urban Meyer) experience. But it is notable, Pederson did raise the Eagles from worst to first in 2017 and the Jaguars that year also turned the trick, improving from 3-13 to 10-6. So maybe if … Fine, probably not.

DENVER, COLORADO – AUGUST 27: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos runs onto the field before a preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field at Mile High on August 27, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

More Teams Capable Of The Improbable

Denver Broncos: The coach has changed. The quarterback has changed. The culture is changing. And the Broncos think all of those are upgrades, particularly the trade to get Russell Wilson. The problem is other things in the AFC West have also been upgraded and those are the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. Also, Patrick Mahomes still plays in the division and at 27-years-old next week, he’s close to hitting his prime.

New York Giants: Look, the Giants have cornerback issues. They’re still managing salary cap issues. The offensive line is young and no one can guarantee running back Saquon Barkley will remain healthy. If (big if) this team can resolve all of those, then winning the NFC East is merely a matter of finding a consistently good quarterback — which Daniel Jones has not been.

Detroit Lions: Coach Dan Campbell isn’t accepting that it will take time to turn around a franchise that has won 11 games total the past three seasons and is in a division with a Green Bay team that won 13 games last year. Fans aren’t buying it either because the season-opener is a sellout and the club is offering standing room tickets for a non-Thanksgiving Day game for the first time since 2017. Having said that, the Lions have the third-most productive QB in their division and that makes winning the division unlikely.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – AUGUST 26: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Carolina Panthers looks over the Buffalo Bills defense during the first quarter of a preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Don’t Forget About These Two NFC Teams

Carolina Panthers: “This year I expect to win,” coach Matt Rhule announced early in training camp. That’s good because the Panthers finished last season with seven consecutive losses and that string, felt throughout the offseason, ultimately cost Sam Darnold his starting quarterback job. If the Panthers can get the best out of a motivated Baker Mayfield they have a chance to win, perhaps even make the playoffs. But nobody expects them to be better than both the Buccaneers and Saints.

Seattle Seahawks: If the Ravens seem the best candidates to climb from worst to first, the Seahawks are the worst. They actually downgraded at quarterback this offseason, sending Wilson to Denver and getting not a ton in the exchange. It’s a rebuilding year in Seattle. If this team wants to reach a pinnacle, let them climb the Space Needle because they’re not getting to the top of the NFC West.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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