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Monday open thread: Which teams could go worst-to-first?

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Can a basement-dwelling team rise to the top of their division in 2020?

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Sometimes, all it takes is a few moves to change the fortunes of an entire team.

A worst-to-first has not happened since the 2017 season, when the Philadelphia Eagles (7-9 in 2016, last in the NFC East) won the division and, in turn, the Super Bowl. Going from worst to first in the NFL is difficult task, but the 2020 season could have a few teams turn it around.

The Miami Dolphins have a prime opportunity to lead the AFC East in 2020, and that is for two reasons: an arrival and a departure. Tua Tagovailoa joins the rebuilding Miami Dolphins, and there is a lot of optimism surrounding a roster loaded with young talent. Perhaps the brightest part of this upcoming season is that Tom Brady is no longer with the New England Patriots. The Hall of Fame quarterback sailed south to Tampa Bay this offseason, and it leaves a void atop the division. The Buffalo Bills are the likeliest candidate, but Miami is competitive too.

The Arizona Cardinals only managed a 5-10-1 record, but their first season with Kyler Murray was largely successful. The young quarterback provided a lot of offense with him arms and legs, but 2020 will feature an even better supporting cast. The Cardinals acquired Kenyan Drake, a cast-off from Miami, and he had a resurgence. David Johnson was shipped off in the offseason, but coupled with Chase Edmonds, their backfield is talented. Johnson, meanwhile, was traded to bolster the Cardinals offense. The return? Just some guy named DeAndre Hopkins.

The Detroit Lions are an interesting tale for 2020. While the team’s roster is still lacking on paper, they benefit from a division with a lot of uncertainty. The Packers led the division in 2019, but were on the winning side of many close contests. Additionally, their draft seems more orientated towards the future than the present. The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, are still struggling to find their quarterback, and the debate of Mitchell Trubisky versus Nick Foles will rage all offseason—and perhaps into the regular season too. The Minnesota Vikings are perhaps the most well-rounded team, but they lost a lot of starters on defense. With a bit of luck, the Lions could be in line for the division.

The Jacksonville Jaguars could be one of the worst teams in the league, but much like the Lions, they benefit from a weaker division. The Colts, Texans, and Titans are all on similar levels heading into the 2020 season, a level that is slightly above mediocre. The Texans were the top team in the division with just 10 wins, and they ‘lost’ their best weapon in DeAndre Hopkins. The Titans had a wild ride with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry exploding on the stat sheets, but the question remains if they can hit those highs again. The Colts acquired Philip Rivers to improve their quarterbacking, but he looked finished in 2019.

The remaining teams are unlikely to win their divisions, barring some significant injuries or outstanding play. The Bengals have their quarterback of the future in Joe Burrow, but they have a depleted roster overall in a difficult division. The Chargers are entering an era without Rivers, and while Justin Herbert has potential, usurping the Chiefs atop the division seems unlikely. The Panthers switched from Cam Newton to Teddy Bridgewater, but much like the Bengals, they have an extremely difficult division led by the Saints. Christian McCaffrey was one of the best players in the league, but he can’t carry the team alone. Washington played in arguably the worst division in 2019, but while the Eagles and Cowboys have improved, Washington is still lacking a roster capable of competing.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Which teams could go worst-to-first in their division?

My answer: I think the Miami Dolphins have the best chance of winning their division, and I think they will do it. The team was gutted over the course of the 2019 season, easily the worst looking roster in the league, and still put up five wins. I am not a believer in the Buffalo Bills either, since Josh Allen remains an unproven commodity prone to cold streaks. Despite the acquisition of Stefon Diggs, they are a poor passing team in a passing-driven league.

I believe the Cardinals are a better team than many expect, and could compete for the division title, but they are in an extremely difficult division featuring the 13-3 49ers and 11-5 Seahawks, plus a formerly top Rams team at 9-7. A record above .500 is possible for Arizona, but winning the division might be too big of a step to expect from them.

Your turn.

Poll

Which team is most likely to go worst-to-first?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Dolphins
    (83 votes)
  • 0%
    Bengals
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaguars
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Chargers
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    Washington
    (7 votes)
  • 68%
    Lions
    (403 votes)
  • 1%
    Panthers
    (9 votes)
  • 11%
    Cardinals
    (65 votes)
587 votes total Vote Now