In a league that is subject to as much turnover in quality teams from year-to-year as the NFL, predicting the trajectory of any team can be a risky prospect. You may think you have one figured out, and they make a blockbuster deal, or have a stellar draft capable of turning their fortunes around for the better (or vice versa). Still, some NFL rosters make predicting their future an easier task than others. If you take the front office plan, performance in recent seasons, and quality of their roster, you’ll be able to make a halfway decent estimation on how they’ll do in the future.
The landscape of the NFL right now is pretty interesting, as we’re witnessing the downturn of many of the league’s best quarterbacks, and some new stars rising at that position as well. Add on to that some questionable head coaches, explosive skill players, and some shutdown defenses, and the league looks pretty exciting as a whole. Let’s take a look at which teams (might) be destined to dominate for the foreseeable future, and which ones will crash and burn.
Ranked below are eight teams that could win the Super Bowl in the next five years, and seven that have no chance.
15. Tennessee Titans (Could)
The Titans have quietly been building a well-coordinated roster over the last few years, which started with the selection of Marcus Mariota in 2015, to be the franchise quarterback of the future. Though the hire of head coach Mike Mularkey in 2016 was considered to be a poor choice, the Titans surprised everyone when they went on to win nine games lasts season, just barely missing out on the playoffs. They should be a playoff team for the near future however, with a stout running game to their credit, and some key defensive pieces in place, led by Jurrell Casey. If Tennessee can put together a good draft this year, all of a sudden they figure to be contenders, especially in the questionable AFC South. They’re a dark horse candidate for a deep playoff run in the upcoming season.
14. Washington Redskins (Won’t)
Surprisingly, the Redskins looked to be on the rise for the past few years, notching a playoff appearance in 2015, and just missing the postseason this past season. But recent mismanagement by owner Dan Snyder is going to see them crash hard for the next few years. Where to begin? They fired general manager Scott McCloughan in the offseason, using excessive drinking as an excuse for his sacking, when in reality the backstage interpersonal relationship was more complicated. They lost their two best wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, on top of numerous key defensive players. Finally, they can’t seem to reach any kind of agreement with supposed franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins, franchise tagging him for the second season in a row, something that’s never been done with a quarterback. In short, Washington is a mess right now, and their deficiencies should be on display for the next few years.
13. Miami Dolphins (Could)
Another case of a team who quietly has built a pretty good roster for themselves. Miami hired head coach Adam Gase last offseason, and he’s shown he can run the offense sufficiently, with the Dolphins notching a playoff appearance in 2016. Combine that with an overachieving defense that played better than anybody expected, and they’re looking at another Wild Card appearance in the playoffs for the upcoming season. The Dolphins aren’t quite ready to dethrone the Patriots in the AFC East, but their offensive is young and talented enough to keep up this pace for the future. If they can maximize their efforts into the best possible scenario, Miami could be getting a shot at the Lombardi Trophy in three or four years. Right now they’re “good”, not “great”, but they could be taking the next step in the near future.
12. New Orleans Saints (Won’t)
Even though they still have one of the era’s best quarterbacks in Drew Brees, which in theory should always give them a chance, the Saints’ defense is so woefully bad that they aren’t going to be seriously competitive for a long time. Add the fact that Brees probably only has a couple years of decent production left in him, and that the running game has been questionable at times. Head coach Sean Payton seems to be in town for the long haul, but again, there are too many questions surrounding this team and their defense for them to be taken seriously. They are simply terrible on the defensive side of the ball, and will continue to be after likely spending nearly every draft pick they have on that unit. The best option for New Orleans is to attempt to figure out a way to streamline the rebuilding process, which they are in the midst of currently, whether they realize it or not.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Could)
The Bucs just barely missed out on the playoffs last season, and they’re rapidly improving as Jameis Winston begins to take command of this offense, and establish himself as the the true franchise quarterback of the future. The defense has its share of playmakers on it, with the likes of Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Vernon Hargreaves in its ranks. Add on to that the acquisition of receiver DeSean Jackson in the offseason, and pairing him with Mike Evans on the receiving corps, and Tampa Bay looks like a team that’s going to be seriously competitive for at least the next five years. They have most of the necessary pieces in place to seriously start making a push. They’ll at least earn a playoff appearance next season, and could even usurp the Falcons to win the NFC South if everything goes well enough.
10. Arizona Cardinals (Won’t)
After making an NFC Championship appearance in 2015, everybody expected the Cardinals to be a Super Bowl contender heading into 2016. That never came to fruition, and they were one of the league’s biggest disappointments last season. Unfortunately, with quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald now aging, it doesn’t look like they’ll be making a return to form anytime soon. Younger players like Tyrann Mathieu and David Johnson have proven themselves to be among the best in the league, but the team as a whole has lost, and will continue to lose, key players that made them a threat in the past. Bruce Arians has had some great success in his time as Arizona’s head coach, but it seems that he may be running out of assets, and be on the move to another team sooner rather than later.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (Could)
After years of searching, the Eagles seem to finally have found their franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, who only figures to improve off of his rookie season. In free agency, Philly was adamant about finding Wentz a receiving corps, landing Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery to team-friendly deals. If that can spark an improvement on the offensive side of the ball, the defense has already proven their ability at times during last season. Players like Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins, Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks are the anchors to a very solid unit overall, and most of them are under long-term contracts right now. With Wentz’s expected improvement, and his cohesion with second-year head coach Doug Pederson, Philly could find themselves being seriously playoff contenders in a season or two.
8. New York Jets (Won’t)
After a 2015 campaign that saw them win 10 games, most thought that the Jets would be a contender last year. Instead, they crashed and burned early, and the contract they inexplicably gave to Ryan Fitzpatrick never turned out for the better. Their disappointing record last year gave way to a fire sale this offseason, with players like Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis and Fitzpatrick off the roster for this year. This is a team that is about to undergo a complete rebuild. Though they have a stout defensive line, and a decent skill player here and there, it’s safe to say that the Jets won’t be looking like a true threat for at least the next few years. There’s a lot of work to be done before that can happen, starting with the acquisition of a true franchise quarterback, which hasn’t yet been accomplished.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (Could)
While the philosophy of going all-in during free agency to build the best possible team is a strategy that many consider risky, the Jags have shown that they are committed to that line of thinking. The past two offseason periods, it seemed as though they signed roughly half of the big names on the entire market. They’ve made some nice moves in the draft as well, but their heavy hitters at the moment are coming as the result of free agency. This is a double-edged sword, and it remains to be seen how new head coach Doug Marrone is going to utilize this personnel, combined with the younger draft picks. There’s a window for success here, but the Jags simply cannot suffer another disappointing season. If they can make a Wild Card appearance this season, then their fortunes may be looking up for the long-term. If not, they’re a crapshoot for the foreseeable future.
6. San Francisco 49ers (Won’t)
It’s been a tumultuous few years for the Niners, who are coming off the firing of Chip Kelly after a terrible regular season in 2016. This roster needs a complete rebuild, and new general manager John Lynch got off to a very questionable start with that, giving premium money to the likes of Pierre Garcon and (fullback) Kyle Juszczyk. Good players no doubt, but not worth the contracts they received. Brian Hoyer was signed to ostensibly be the team’s stopgap quarterback until they can find a franchise player. It all just seems to be the result of a haphazard thought process that doesn’t seem to be going in any certified direction. We’ll have to see what else they have in mind, but it’s safe to say that San Francisco isn’t going to be competitive for quite some time if these are the type of moves they are making.
5. Atlanta Falcons (Could)
Atlanta came oh-so-close to being Super Bowl champions in February, but a terrible second half gameplan saw them squander a massive lead in unprecedented fashion. That doesn’t mean that they’re shot in the foot for this year, and in fact they’re set up quite well for the next five or six seasons. Matt Ryan has plenty left in the tank as the franchise quarterback, they have a bevy of offensive skill players, and their young defensive unit is improving at a rapid rate. There’s no reason to expect that they aren’t at least contenders for a deep playoff run. While they may not get back to the Super Bowl in 2017, they are at least a viable threat, and should be back sometime over the course of five years.
4. Chicago Bears (Won’t)
Jon Fox is running out of time to make his mark on Chicago, which would be his third reclamation project as a head coach if he can pull it off. Unfortunately, it seems the circumstances are working against him. The team moved on from longtime quarterback Jay Cutler this offseason, and now have Mike Glennon, signed from the Bucs where he served as Jameis Winston’s backup, taking his place. They also lost their best receiver in Alshon Jeffery to the Eagles. There’s little certainty on the entire roster right now, other than a halfway decent front seven on the defensive side of the ball. That’s not enough to form a confident roster however, and the Bears look to be basement dwellers in the NFC North for the next few seasons at least.
3. Houston Texans (Could)
The Texans are a team that’s been on the cusp for a few years now, and if they can take the next step this season, they could find themselves as Super Bowl contenders in the near future. They need to find some stability at quarterback, but the rest of their roster is pretty solidified, including a great defense. At the moment, it remains to be seen if they’ll sign Tony Romo for one or two seasons, but if they can get healthy, quality quarterback play from anyone, they’re going to be right there in the AFC. It’s not a foregone conclusion because they do need that stability at quarterback, but otherwise, the Texans have one of the best rosters in their conference.
2. Cleveland Browns (Won’t)
This seems to be the case every season, but the Browns truly are the dumpster fire of the league. Head coach Hue Jackson is probably the most competent coach they’ve had in a long time, but their newly-implemented strategy of stockpiling draft picks, and making obtuse trades for players they’ll never use, is really going to hinder them going forward. They’re taking an “NBA approach” to the NFL, which isn’t the way to go about rebuilding a roster. It works in basketball, because the entire game is different, and there are only five players on the court at a time. In the NFL, it’s generally best to not overspend, in combination with a sound front office that can scout good players in the draft. The Browns have yet to show those qualities, which is why they’ll be in the cellar for the foreseeable future.
1. New England Patriots (Could)
Yes, unfortunately the Patriots have yet to show any signs of slowing down, and they’re arguably in a better situation than they’ve seen over the past decade. They just acquired some of the best players on the market for this offseason, and the Tom Brady & Bill Belichick train seems to have no end destination in sight. As long as that nucleus is firing on all cylinders, it’s difficult to say that the Pats aren’t the favorites in the AFC every single season. As much it will pain everyone to say, they’re a dynasty that is unprecedented in the world of professional sports. Every time they’re considered to be finished, they simply rise back into contention again. While the long-anticipated drop-off may be coming in the next five seasons, there also remains the distinct possibility that they’ll remain the same elite team they’ve been for the last 15 years. Only time will tell, but everyone should know by now not to bet against them.
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