Each and every year the NFL is filled with changes. These changes occur through teams drafting new players into the league, and also through free agency and trades during the offseason. The amount of player movement and new coaches and coaching staffs being put in place contribute to where a team is expected to finish once the season has ended. A lot of these changes play a part in where these teams finish in the standings, and the league is constantly seeing new teams make the playoffs every year.
NFL teams as a result of changes made in the offseason and their overall play throughout the course of the season are either going to impress while on the field or they are going to struggle. The teams that consistently make the playoffs every year are almost always impressive from a football fans perspective. Some of the teams that struggle throughout the course of a season have been struggling because of poor decisions made by the front office, but other struggling teams are a surprise. These surprises are teams that have been good as early as last season but just do not have a good year for reasons specific to how their team is aligned.
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15 Impress: New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are bound to have an impressive season, and that is because it seems like they always do. Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of the season and Jimmy Garoppolo will get a chance to prove he is worthy of someday being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Due to an easy schedule Garoppolo might play very good and lead the Patriots to two or three wins in Tom Brady’s absence. The Patriots still have great receivers in Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and they have arguably the best tight end in the NFL in Rob Gronkowski.
The defense has a good front seven and if Malcolm Butler continues to improve the secondary should be serviceable. The Patriots will win the AFC East once again and most likely they will end up advancing to the AFC championship game because they seem to be playing to advance to the Super Bowl every year.
14 Struggle: Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl last season, but have the look of a team that could be offensively challenged next season. The Broncos thought they would have Brock Osweiler under center for them in 2016. When he spurned the Broncos for the Texans, the defending Super Bowl champs were left with Mark Sanchez as their best option at quarterback with rookie Paxton Lynch as a backup. Sanchez has been a backup the past few seasons. Throughout his career he has been known to make costly turnovers, and these mistakes often play a part in how his team fairs. The Broncos have also lost a couple of great players on defense including Malik Jackson.
The Broncos will not have it easy this upcoming season due to the AFC West being one of the best divisions in football, and it would not be a surprise if they even missed out on the playoffs all together.
13 Impress: Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers may have lost Super Bowl 50 last year to the Denver Broncos, but they still have the looks of a team that could be good for many years. The Panthers did suffer a blow when they could not afford to keep Josh Norman on the team. Norman was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL last year, but the Panthers still have tons of great players on defense including Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly. Cam Newton was able to win the Most Valuable Player award despite not having a great receiving core to rely on. The best wide receiver on the team on paper coming into 2015 was Kelvin Benjamin, and he suffered a season ending injury before the season even began. He is now healthy and Cam Newton now has another target that can go deep and catch balls across the middle. The offense could potentially be better in 2016 and that is a scary thought for the rest of the NFL.
12 Struggle: Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts had an underwhelming year last year, and that was due to the ineffectiveness of Andrew Luck to stay on the field. The team as a whole has a lot of glaring holes. Luck was injured due to the horrendous offensive line blocking for him, and Frank Gore is an aging running back whose best years are behind him. Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton are above average receivers who need Andrew Luck to stay on the field. The Colts defense is a glaring weakness, and it will be hard to win many games if they are giving up so many points to opposing teams.
The AFC South is up for grabs and the Colts will more than likely have the best odds to win the division. Andrew Luck is going to need some help, and if his team plays anywhere near the level it played at last year they will fail to make the playoffs for a second straight season.
11 Impress: Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals were one of the most impressive teams in the NFL last season advancing all the way to the NFC championship game, but upon arrival in the championship game they were throttled by the Carolina Panthers 49-15. Tyrann Mathieu did not play in that game, and the team is hopeful he can stay healthy the entire season. The defense is great from the front seven to the secondary. Carson Palmer, the team’s starting quarterback is beginning to get up there in age, but he seems to be getting better every year. The receivers on this team give the passing game variety. The team may just need to pick up a couple yards for a first down, and Larry Fitzgerald provides Palmer with a great option to keep the chains moving. Every team loves a speedy deep threat like John Brown who can stretch the field. Chris and David Johnson make the Cardinals tough to stop on the ground, and this team has all the makings of a team that can go deep into the postseason.
10 Struggle: New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints have one of the best quarterbacks of the last decade on their team in Drew Brees, but this team does not have many other positive besides the play of Brees. Mark Ingram is a middle of the pack running back that can run and catch the ball effectively for this team. The receiving core is not very good outside of Brandin Cooks. The worst aspect of the Saints is their dreadful defense, which was single handedly responsible for most of the team's losses last year. Outside of adding Roman Harper to the secondary the Saints have not done much in the offseason to improve their lousy defense.
The departure of Rob Ryan can only make this defense better, as they were historically bad with him at times last season. It is hard to see the Saints winning their division or sneaking into the playoffs this year even if they have a top 10 NFL quarterback in Drew Brees.
9 Impress: Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals were having an outstanding 2015 campaign, but then their starting quarterback Andy Dalton went down with an injury. This injury caused Dalton to miss the playoffs. Backup quarterback AJ McCarron could not do enough to lead the Bengals to a victory in the playoffs. The Bengals are now primed to make a deep run into the playoffs, and if Andy Dalton can continue to play at the MVP level he was playing at last year before he got hurt the Bengals are more than capable of being a contender to win the AFC. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are different types of running backs but they can both be effective when used properly. Tyler Eifert and AJ Green are one of the best receiver/tight end duos in football, and will make the Bengals tough to stop through the air. The defense is very underrated and has big names such as Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict, and Ray Maluga causing mayhem up front.
8 Struggle: Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys seemed to be headed in the right direction after a successful 2014 campaign, but 2015 was a mere disappointment for America’s team. The team is looking to bounce back in 2016, and quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant are looking to get through the season with little to no health problems. Tony Romo in particular has not been very durable throughout the last couple of years. The Cowboys bolstered the running game by adding Alfred Morris and drafting Ezekiel Elliott, but the one weakness this team has is huge. The defense is not good at all.
The pass rush cannot be effective because of the suspensions handed down to the team’s best pass rushers, and they did not do much of anything in the offseason to improve the defense collectively. The front office is putting a lot of the team’s success in the hands of the offense whose quarterback is coming back from injury.
7 Impress: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers had a bit of a down year last season, but they still managed to make it to the divisional round of the playoffs before losing to the Arizona Cardinals. The Packer defense is not great but it is not all that bad either. Clay Matthews anchors this defense, and is extremely versatile in that he can play the outside or the inside linebacker position. The Packers are best known for their prestigious offense. Aaron Rodgers is the face of this franchise, and he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today. Rogers was hindered when Jordy Nelson was out for the year last season. Now that Nelson is fully healthy, Rodgers has got his favorite receiver back in the fold, and the Packers passing game should be even better in 2016. Eddie Lacey has slimmed down, and is ready to carry the load for the Packers running game.
6 Struggle: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears had a very average 2015 season, and this offseason has proven to be an offseason defined by loss. The offense in particular lost a couple of key pieces and even a coach. The offense had greatly improved under first year Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but Gase became a hot coaching candidate and landed the head coaching job for the Miami Dolphins. Jay Cutler now has to learn his third new offense in the last three years. The Bears also lost the most productive players of their offense in running back Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler’s security blanket in Martellus Bennett. The Bears defense also has not added any notable players to help them greatly improve. Rebuilding seems to be the direction that this team is likely going in, and the Bears playing in a division with two great teams in the Packers and Vikings make it near impossible for them to make a run at the playoffs.
5 Impress: Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings shocked the football world last season by winning the NFC North, a division that has been ruled by the Packers in the past couple years. The Vikings are not a secret anymore because teams now know just how good this team can be. The defense is this team’s strength, and players like Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph are constantly disrupting the running back and quarterback. The team also has a great line backing core led by youngsters Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr.
Teddy Bridgewater will need to step his game up if the Vikings have any plans of being a contender, and the Vikings have gotten him some help in the offseason. The Vikings selected Laquon Treadwell in the first round of the draft. Treadwell may instantly be the best wide receiver on this team once the team hits the field, and the Vikings do still have one of the best running backs in the NFL in Adrian Peterson in their backfield.
4 Struggle: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns have been the laughing stock franchise of the NFL during the 21st century, and it is hard to see the Browns making any kind of positive noise going into this season. Their starting quarterback was thought to be one of the rising stars in the league during his rookie season. Robert Griffin III has been injury prone since his rookie year, and has also not played at a high level while quarterbacking for the Washington Redskins. The running game in Cleveland is also not very strong. Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell would make good backups, but neither are reliable 20 plus carry a game type of backs. The Browns defense has a couple of above average players such as Joe Haden, but a lot of the players on defense are really young or really old. The defense also has to deal with the three dynamic offenses that are present in their own division. If RG3 cannot revive his career the Browns are in store for another losing season.
3 Impress: Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have been a team that has been on the upswing the past few seasons, and they finally have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this year. Derek Carr has been a phenomenal quarterback since he entered the NFL, and has shed off the speculation that he would endure a career similar to his brother David Carr. The Raiders passing attack should be deadly with stud wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on each side of the field. Latavius Murray is going to have to prove he can make the Raider rushing attack formidable, but if he has a bounce back year the Raider offense as a whole will be hard to stop. The defense has also gotten much better led by young linebacker Khalil Mack. The departure of Charles Woodson will be tough to overcome, but the Raiders are hopeful rookie safety Karl Joseph can fill the void for Woodson and learn quickly while on the job.
2 Struggle: San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers had a dismal season in 2015, which led to a 5-11 record and the firing of first year head coach Jim Tomsula. Chip Kelly was named the new head coach after he was fired from the Philadelphia Eagles for his terrible player personnel moves and losing the team in the locker room. Many teams rely heavily on their quarterback to lead them to victory, and Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are two terrible options to have vying for the starting job. It also does not help that they lost their best wide receiver in the offseason in Anquan Boldin. Carlos Hyde did not produce much as the starting half back last year, and is hopeful that this new offense can help him jump start his career.
The defense is a shell of the old 49ers teams that went to three straight NFC championship games under Jim Harbaugh. It seems like the 49ers will be in contention for the first overall pick, meaning they'll be in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes.
1 Impress: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars were actually in the hunt for the AFC South division crown for some time last year before finishing the season with a below .500 record. The Jaguar offense is no joke with quarterback Blake Bortles becoming very comfortable in the NFL, and a formidable two headed rushing attack. Bortles has two dynamic receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns who are very reliable to make plays on the field. In the backfield newly acquired running back Chris Ivory will compliment T.J. Yeldon, in what should be a dependable running back tandem. The defense was the biggest hole for the Jaguars last year, but they have added Super Bowl winners Prince Amukamara and Malik Jackson to bring some experience to this defense. The Jaguars were also able to draft Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack in the 2016 NFL draft.
These two were some of the best defensive players in the 2016 draft, and with Dante Fowler finally set to start his NFL career the Jags defense could be very good for years to come.
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