Hope springs eternal in the NFL offseason. Every team has a clean slate and fan bases hold out hope that their team makes a major trade or signing to boost their chance at making the playoffs. The problem is very few teams have legitimate chances of winning the Super Bowl each season, regardless of what executives and coaches trick their fans into believing. Sure, a weaker team can get hot for a few weeks, but, by the end of the season, talent rises to the top. That's why Tom Brady has five Super Bowl rings and why the Cleveland Browns can be put on this list every season.
Many teams that made this list have improved in the offseason and we can't know the impact high-profile rookies might have, but generally you can cherry pick half of the league each season when determining who will be on the outside looking in come next February. Can one of these teams make a major move at the draft to significantly improve their chances? Sure, but most of the teams listed have major holes to fill in more than one position and don't have the resources to improve as such. If you're a fan of any of the teams listed you'll defiantly disagree (unless it's the Browns), but that's fine, because, like coaches and players, the offseason is the one time of year you're allowed to be optimistic.
15 Miami Dolphins
We have to preface this by stating no team in the AFC East not named the New England Patriots has a chance to win the Super Bowl in 2017. This shouldn't be a shock. The Patriots are the NFL's super villains, except they win and they've only gotten better in the offseason. That said, the Dolphins might have the best chance at competing with them in the division next season, but there's absolutely no chance they come close to competing for the Super Bowl.
Last season, the Dolphins finished four games back of the Patriots and the Patriots were without Tom Brady for a few games. The math simply doesn't add up and, while the Pats have improved significantly, the Dolphins have done little other than re-signing core players and acquiring defensive end William Hayes. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, is a classic good-but-not great QB incapable of leading his team to a championship.
14 Atlanta Falcons
We promise this isn't trolling. Let's begin with the fact that few predicted the Atlanta Falcons would have the successful regular season they had a year ago, let alone win the NFC. Add in the fact that other teams have been busy improving through free agency while the Falcons have kept relatively quiet thus far and you've got a recipe for regression. The offense should be fine, but the team was middle of the pack in sacks and interceptions last season and so far there isn't any signs for increased optimism.
And then there's that game they played at the end of last season. You know the one. They were up 28-3 over the New England Patriots and had to simply burn clock to become Super Bowl LI champions. They didn't. And they lost. It was embarrassing. It should be a motivating factor, but more than likely, it'll be a mental distraction all season.
13 Houston Texans
As of the writing of this piece, Tony Romo hasn't landed in Houston, but even if he does, he's not leading the team to a Super Bowl. The Texans have been drastically mismanaged over the past few seasons, which is disappointing, because the team has dominant players on both defense and offense in J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins. Last season, the atrocity that was Brock Osweiler made Hopkins a non-threat and, while whoever assumes the Texans' starting QB role will vault Hopkins' productivity, it simply won't be enough to make the team a championship contender.
The Texans won a miserable AFC South division last year with a surprising winning record of 9-7, but did so with a net score of minus-49 and a road record of 2-6. They were aided by a 5-1 division record, which they have zero chance of replicating this season.
12 Cincinnati Bengals
Having all-world receiver A.J. Green on your roster should put you in Super Bowl contention every season, but the Cincinnati Bengals have a propensity for finding ways to lose, despite being favorites. It doesn't help that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens seem to be competitive every season.
Thus far, the Bengals have signed offensive lineman Andre Smith, who should help with the development of their stable of young linemen, but as it stands, the problem isn't so much the pass protection as it is the man making the passes. Andy Dalton is in the mold of Ryan Tannehill, as a good-but-not-great quarterback who seems to crumble under pressure. The veteran of six NFL seasons has gotten better at limiting interceptions in recent years, but he had a career-low 18 touchdown passes in 2016.
11 Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings were poised to compete for a Super Bowl last season and were the media darlings heading into the preseason. And then sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a horrific injury that kept him out of the entire 2016 campaign and is expected to keep him out of 2017 as well. The Vikings put their faith in Sam Bradford, which was a risky move, but one that you could justify given the team's lofty expectations and the limited window to win a championship. The Vikings started well, but faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs.
Do they have a chance to improve upon last season's 8-8 record? Definitely. But it's highly unlikely we'll see them represent the NFC as long as Bradford is the team's quarterback. They added former Raiders running back Latavius Murray, who should help the team's anemic ground game, though he just underwent ankle surgery. He's expected to be ready for the season, but the Vikings are fragile enough that an injury or two could derail their season once again.
10 Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins offseason has been a mess. For a team that has perhaps exceeded expectations in the past two seasons, it has to be disheartening to see management not build upon a promising core on the offensive side of the ball. Instead, they placed their franchise tag on Kirk Cousins once again, which didn't do much to keep the quarterback happy. But what's likely upsetting him more is what the team has done with its receiving corps.
They've added Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick, but have lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, who Cousins had great chemistry with. Pryor could be a solid addition, but Quick is no more than a big body with terrible hands. And while they've shored up their defensive line and linebacker depth, it's hard to see their offense being strong enough to keep them in contention in the tough NFC East.
9 Detroit Lions
Raise your hand if you called the Detroit Lions making the playoffs last season. Anyone? Bueller? Surprisingly, the Lions finished at 9-7, despite losing their final three games of the season en route to a Wildcard Weekend playoff exit. Their entire season was a mirage, however, as this team has far too many holes. Along with the Texans and Dolphins, they were the only playoff team to finish with a minus net score and gave up the second most points among all playoff teams.
They've attempted to address defensive concerns with the signings of Paul Worrilow, who fell out of favor in Atlanta, Akeem Spence, Cornelius Washington, and DJ Hayden, but their offensive leaves a lot to be desired. Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and Golden Tate are solid, but they're not a championship-caliber core. The Lions will have a hell of a time even making the playoffs.
8 San Francisco 49ers
We'll give the San Francisco 49ers credit for actively seeking to improve in the offseason rather than waiting for draft picks to develop, but there's still so much work to be done. We're probably not surprising anybody by stating a team that won just two games last season doesn't have a shot at winning next year's Super Bowl.
The additions of Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin gives the team two dangerous receivers who can stretch the field, but it won't matter much if they're trying to catch passes from either Blaine Gabbert, Matt Barkley, or Brian Hoyer. While the 49ers are expected to add a quarterback in the draft, don't count on a first-year QB leading such a drastic turnaround. Chin up 49er fans, they'll be better, but there's still a long way to go.
7 Buffalo Bills
Without Rex Ryan, there's absolutely no way the Buffalo Bills have any chance of contending for a Super Bowl. Sorry, we'll rephrase that: without Rex Ryan, there's no chance the Bills players are going to be fooled into thinking they have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl.
For the most part, the Bills have stuck to making minor moves early in free agency, while bringing back Tyrod Taylor as the man to lead the offense as quarterback. Taylor isn't the worse quarterback in the league, but he's not someone who is going to lead the team to the promised land, especially in a division ruled by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. First-year head coach Sean McDermott could give the team a boost, but the Bills simply don't have the depth on both sides of the ball to contend. Plus, it'll be hard to expect LeSean McCoy to replicate the season he had last year.
6 Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have reason for optimism at the running back position, given Jordan Howard's first-year dominance last season, but they have question marks elsewhere on offense following a 3-13 season. The team's biggest receiving threat, Alshon Jeffery, left for greener pastures in Philadelphia, where he'll be paired with promising quarterback Carson Wentz rather than whoever it is the Bears decide to start come September.
Chicago did the right thing in moving on from Jay Cutler, but, unfortunately, what are the odds that Mike Glennon is much better, especially with less options at the WR position than Cutler had. Unless tanking is the goal, we find it hard to see the Bears reaching any kind of goals this year.
5 Los Angeles Chargers
Poor Philip Rivers. He's been a fantasy football machine for a decade, but he just can't put his team over the top. Part of that is because of the Chargers inability to play defense. They finished middle of the pack in terms of yards and touchdowns allowed last season and their offense simply wasn't good enough to make up for the difference. They scored 410 points, which was the most among all last place teams in the eight divisions, but surrendered a whopping 423 points. Part of that can probably be attributed to Rivers' league-leading 21 interceptions.
The 35-year-old had 33 touchdowns, which was the most he recorded since 34 in 2008, but his propensity to try for big plays hurt him more than once. The signing of tackle Russell Okung will help shore the team's offensive line, but the loss of Danny Woodhead will have a significant impact on Rivers' options in the pocket.
4 Los Angeles Rams
Two years ago, Los Angeles had no NFL team and now they have two bad NFL teams. And as bad as the Chargers are, the Rams have a long way to go before competing in the NFC West. The team did themselves a huge favor by finally firing Jeff Fisher, ending the greatest mystery in the league as to why he continued to have a job despite coaching awful teams. That said, Jared Goff doesn't appear near ready to take the next step in his career and the Rams have failed to hit on offensive players in the draft.
They've drafted top-flight defensive players such as Aaron Donald and Alec Ogletree, but high picks like Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley have been inconsistent at best. The Rams signed receiver Robert Woods, which should add to their depth, but he's not someone that's going to put a team over the top, especially one that's so close to the bottom.
3 Jacksonville Jaguars
Is Blake Bortles a good quarterback? My fantasy football record last season seems to suggest he is, but given his record in the past few seasons, especially with offensive weapons like Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, he might be in the Ryan Tannehill and Andy Dalton category of quarterbacks. Jacksonville found ways to lose last season, despite being in a lot of games. Their poor record was a little deceiving given Bortles' individual statistics and a defense that allowed just 3,444 yards, which was the fifth best in the entire league.
New head coach Doug Marrone can't be any worse than Gus Bradley, but there's something about the Jaguars that just screams 'awful'. Many anticipated a breakout season from them last year, but that didn't come to fruition. Because of that, we're hesitant about believing in them this year as they're entering Cleveland Browns territory.
2 Cleveland Browns
The only surprise here is that we didn't put the Browns at number one. That's partly because we feel bad for Browns fans and, well, there's another team who should be even worse next season. The Browns have yet to make any meaningful roster additions through free agency, but they've got a ton of options and cap space. They stockpiled picks by taking on the contract of Brock Osweiler from the Houston Texans, and should improve somewhat through the draft. They've also signed Kenny Britt as a replacement for Terrelle Pryor.
It's essentially a clean slate in Cleveland, which is actually a good thing, but nobody is counting on the team contending, let alone even making the playoffs. They'll likely start with baby steps and hope for a couple of wins next season.
1 New York Jets
Again, as long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are running the show in New England, no AFC East team has a shot at contending. That's especially true for the New York Jets, who finished 5-11 last season and scored only 11 points more than the Cleveland Browns. As it stands right now, the Jets quarterback situation is less clear than what's going on in the White House, as Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg, and veteran Josh McCown seem to be in contention to battle it out during preseason.
As far as improvements through free agency go, they'll be without center Nick Mangold and cornerback Darrelle Revis next season, as well as veteran receiver Brandon Marshall. Sure, it wouldn't have made much sense for the rebuilding team to keep Marshall, but replacing him with Quinton Patton, who couldn't earn his keep with the San Francisco 49ers, doesn't improve the team. It's going to be a long year for Jets fans.