NFL Predictions: Best-Case Scenarios for all 32 Teams
Success means different things for different teams in the NFL. What would be spectacular to the point of being miraculous this year for the Browns would be so bad that it would cause the Patriots to consider folding. As we head into the new season, here is a look at the best-case scenario for each of the 32 teams in the league. It should go without saying that the fans of some teams will be happier with these than other.
The season would be a total success if...
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Arizona: They just have to make the playoffs. It wasn't long ago that this team was one of the true elites in the league, but they have just seemed to tread water the last couple of years, and as they get older they aren't getting better at a rapid rate.
Atlanta: They don't decide to end this season one half before their final game ends this year. They have a massive mental hurdle to overcome after that Super Bowl debacle, and they have to do it with their offensive coordinator gone and a much inferior replacement in Steve Sarkisian. I'm pessimistic.
Baltimore: They'll succeed if they aren't terrible. Joe Flacco's back is a real concern, and this feels like a season that could really fall apart. Finishing at .500 would be like winning a Super Bowl for this squad.
Buffalo: They succeed if they win four games. Seriously. They have made serious miscalculations at quarterback and have concentrated on dismantling the team instead of getting more competitive. Ugly.
Carolina: If they look more like 2015 than 2016. That's no certainty with Cam Newton's health and with the changes to their offense that the effective usage of Christian McCaffrey will require.
Chicago: If they can find someone else to blame for their struggles now that Jay Cutler is gone. The team has some decent pieces - I like Mitch Trubisky - but they are a long way from being good, and there will be rough times.
Cincinnati: Success means that Marvin Lewis is fired and they get to move on. That means, by definition, that the team will never succeed, because Lewis has clearly shown by now that he is completely immune to being fired no matter what he does.
Cleveland: Success will be starting less than three different quarterbacks this year. It's more likely, of course, that they will have started three by the end of September.
Dallas: They'll succeed if Dak Prescott is no worse than he was last year. When a guy comes from nowhere to shine like Prescott did, they can just as easily regress badly as step forward. Without his star running back to start the year, and with less momentum entering the year than last year, he's in a tough spot.
Denver: If they find a quarterback to step up and seize the job out of the gate. I don't really care who it is, though Paxton Lynch has more upside. They just need to move past any QB uncertainty once and for all.
Detroit: If Matt Stafford earns his massive new contract. Stafford has been making real progress, and I have no problem with his contract, but if he plays like the highest-paid player in the league this could be a playoff team.
Green Bay: If Aaron Rodgers has an MVP-caliber season. They could very easily be the second best team in the NFL. That seems like a wide-open position in the league this year, and Rodgers can lead them there.
Houston: If J.J. Watt plays as well as he has fundraised since Hurricane Harvey. This team seems finally to be on track at QB, and they have plenty of talent on defense, but Watt is the fuel that drives this engine.
Indianapolis: If Andrew Luck plays any games. If he does, and he plays like he is capable of, then maybe this team won't be just awful. If he is out or hurting, though, then this could be a really, really bad, year - like so-bad-two-wins-would-be-a-miracle.
Jacksonville: If they get a clue and bring Colin Kaepernick in to play QB. I'm not talking about this from a political angle - though I have strong opinions there. It's clear, though, that Kaepernick is so much better than the one-two punch that the Jaguars are going with that it's laughable.
Kansas City: If Alex Smith keeps his starting job all year. If he stays at the helm then that means that the team is winning and remaining competitive. If they mess with the QB situation it will hurt them in the short term, and they know it.
Los Angeles Chargers: If anyone shows up to their games. This is a pretty talented team, and the window to compete is right now before Philip Rivers gets too old to be competitive. It's going to be a very odd transitional season in Carson, though, and that is the kind of distraction that could derail a team that needs to give all it has if it hopes to be a playoff squad.
Los Angeles Rams: If Jared Goff looks like a first round pick. At this point my standard isn't even a first overall pick - not yet, anyway. They just need him to look good enough that we can imagine him looking like a legit starting QB one day without chemical aids to shift our perceptions.
Miami: If Jay Cutler plays like 2015 Jay Cutler. Cutler wasn't as bad as people would have you believe in Chicago, and he has a chance to be at least competent - and perhaps better - in Miami. It's no lock, though - and that's what makes this team tough to judge.
Minnesota: If they can get strong play at QB. It's been a rocky road at what was supposed to be a position of strength. It's not entirely clear what they are going to do at the position, or what the future holds for Teddy Bridgewater, but they need to find an answer that works or they will be in trouble.
New England: Let's be honest - it's already a success. They play in the AFC East, so they clinched this year's division title in about 2007.
New Orleans: If Adrian Peterson has anything left. It will be very odd seeing him in a jersey that isn't purple. If he chose New Orleans because they open against Minnesota then it's a problem. If he still has some goals to accomplish, though, then he and Drew Brees could be a dynamic duo.
New York Giants: They only succeed if they win their division. There is really no other option for this squad at this point. I'm not saying that it is certain to happen, but they don't have a good excuse for it not to happen.
New York Jets: If they win two games it will not only be a success but a miracle. This team is just plain awful, and their QB decisions have been so horribly bad that they deserve everything that happens to them.
Oakland: If David Carr stays healthy and earns his money. He needs to not only be the best player on his team but one of the best in the league at his position. That alone won't guarantee that this team goes deep, but it would be a start.
Philadelphia: If Carson Wentz makes strides forward. I liked a lot of what happened with him last year, but he did look a bit too much like a rookie at times. Now he needs to look like a guy who is seeing the game a little slower and playing a little better.
Pittsburgh: It's already a success. The AFC North isn't as bad as the AFC East, but it's pretty close. Pittsburgh will win the division unless they shoot themselves in the foot. Heck, even if they did they could beat at least two of the teams in the division hopping around on one foot.
San Francisco: They still have the same coach by the start of the playoffs (not that they will be playing in the playoffs, of course). They have made a good hire after two bad decisions in a row. Stability is what they need more than anything.
Seattle: If they finally have 'it' again. Since blowing it in the Super Bowl they have had talent and opportunity, but they have lacked the swagger that allows them to go from pretty good to truly elite. They need to believe they are invincible before others can believe it.
Tampa Bay: Success means winning the division. And they are more than capable of doing that. Excellent QB poised for a true breakout year. Good talent on both sides of the ball. Solid coaching. The time is now.
Tennessee: Literally read every word I just wrote about Tampa Bay and apply it here. It's almost as if they are the same team or at least in the same point in their development.
Washington: If they can get their heads out of the dark place it is stuck and finally realize that their long-term QB already plays for them, and that they will lose him if they don't quit being so stupid.
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