Imagine going through the grueling process that is training camp, trying to win a spot and hopefully compete for a Super Bowl title. Now, imagine going through all of that and realizing your team is near the bottom of the league or a middle of the pack team that might be fortunate just to make the playoffs. The of course, there are the teams that seem to make the playoffs fairly easily, but still cannot make any sort of postseason run. The 2018-2019 NFL season is still a few weeks away. But, that doesn't mean that analysts and fans cannot make predictions for who is in a prime position to make it to the big game in February and who will be watching from home when their season ends in December.
There are some teams that will be fun to watch this season as a whole. Look at a team like the Cleveland Browns who were already on "Hard Knocks" making big headline news from Jarvis Landry yelling at his fellow receivers to a fight ensuing on the practice field. There are other teams who are on the come up and are just a few years away from being NFL Super Bowl contenders. But which teams can realistically reach the big game within the next three years, which ones will come maybe close but not come through when it matters most, and which ones still are really far away? Well, let's do some analyzing with this. Let's look at 10 NFL teams who can reach the Super Bowl within the next three years, 10 that won't, and 5 who are still bottom feeders of the league.
25 Can Reach: New Orleans Saints
The Saints were one play away from the NFC championship last season and look to bounce back this season. Many felt Drew Brees's playoff experience would've been a much tougher matchup for Philly in the NFC Championship game as opposed to Case Keenum.
The Saints obviously welcome back future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. Once Mark Ingram is off suspension, him and Alvin Kamara will be a running duo that will be tough to stop. Their defensive secondary is young and improved a ton throughout the course of last season. Watch out for the Saints in the future!
24 Won't Reach: Atlanta Falcons
Sticking with the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons are one team that will be in tough to get back to the Super Bowl. It is not the Falcons fault as they have the talent in place with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones leading the way on offense.
The problem is that they are dealing with too many strong teams in the NFC.
The Eagles are still coming off their Super Bowl with teams like the Minnesota Vikings and the Saints breathing right down their necks. Teams like the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are on the up and up. Plus, the 2016 Super Bowl collapse is still a factor, whether fans want to believe it or not.
23 Can Reach: Minnesota Vikings
One team showed up in the NFC championship. Unfortunately, it wasn't the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings certainly were a surprise out of the NFC last season as they have a tough defense and good offense to be well-balanced and get to the NFC championship. They also acquired quarterback Kirk Cousins which is sure to be a huge upgrade. They have a good pair of wide receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen that can help push the ball downfield for big plays. They also can rely on a guy like Sheldon Richardson to help make the defense even better than they were a year ago.
22 Won't Reach: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals did upgrade at quarterback by signing Sam Bradford and drafting Josh Rosen. But other than them and maybe Larry Fitzgerald, there is not a lot to look at and be impressed. They do have Chandler Jones at defensive end that is a fun player to watch week after week. But, the Cardinals do not have the fire power to compete with these top end teams in the NFC. The Cardinals may need a while to build around Josh Rosen and be a dominant force once again in the competitive NFC conference.
21 Bottom Feeders: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are in the toughest division in the NFL, and they seemed to be the only ones in the NFC South that didn't improve over the offseason.
The Buccaneers are beginning to have doubts as to whether Jameis Winston really is the guy to lead them to the promised land.
Dirk Koetter is on the hot seat this year and the Bucs don't appear to be much closer to a Super Bowl from when they took Winston first overall back in 2015. Tampa will likely have to make a very big decision this offseason as to whether their future lies with Winston.
20 Can Reach: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars took a huge step forward last season and finally put it all together: offense, defense, and special teams. Everything worked which led to an appearance in the AFC championship game. The Jags are in a prime position to contend for Super Bowls within the next few years. The Patriots' run looks to be just about ending. Blake Bortles took a huge step forward last season. Leonard Fournette gave the Jaguars a running back that can be both speedy and powerful all in one.
Also, do not forget about that Jacksonville defense that was seemingly forcing a turnover almost every game last season. If they improve every year, the sky is the limit for this young Jaguars team.
19 Won't Reach: Kansas City Chiefs
One team that will not be in the thick of things in the AFC playoffs is the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City will be without long time quarterback Alex Smith as he is now with the Washington Redskins and they will have to rely on Patrick Mahones to lead the way.
People do not know if a guy like Kareem Hunt will be a one year wonder or if he is for real like his rookie season indicated. They also have a coach in Andy Reid that is known to crumble under pressure with time management late in the fourth quarter in critical games. Don't expect the Chiefs to get over the hump in the AFC.
18 Can Reach: Houston Texans
The Houston Texans were a team last season who were rolling until quarterback DeShaun Watson went down for the season.
Watson seems to have fully recovered and now is ready to show the rest of the NFL he can be healthy for a full season.
The Texans also have DeAndre Hopkins along with Lamar Miller to help balance out the offense. Of course, they have a two headed monster with J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney when they are both fully healthy. The Texans could make some serious noise with all of the talent around them. The big question though: can they all stay fully healthy?
17 Won't Reach: Oakland Raiders
Any chance the Raiders had of being a contender in the near future went out the window with the Khalil Mack trade.
They made a big splash hire in Jon Gruden, but that will not be enough to get through the AFC and to the Super Bowl.
They made a nice mini addition with Jordy Nelson to help Amari Cooper. However, their defense needs a lot of work and they'll need those two first rounders they got from the Bears to become key contributors. That's just too many obstacles for the Raiders to overcome within three years.
16 Bottom Feeders: Washington Redskins
This isn't so much that Washington is a bad team. Yes, the Redskins gained Alex Smith this offseason, but they also lost Kirk Cousins which would be a downgrade in a lot of people's minds. Other than Smith, there is not a lot to work with. The Redskins also have the misfortune of playing in arguably the most competitive division in the NFC East. Having to play teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants twice per season definitely doesn't make things any easier. The Redskins may be the best of the 'bottom feeders' on this list, but due to their surroundings, they're doomed for the time being.
15 Can Reach: Philadelphia Eagles
Fly Eagles fly! That was the common expression that was said by millions of fans as they were able to bring home their first Super Bowl championship in team history. The best part is that the Eagles could go back to the big game and win it a second time. Carson Wentz is expected to be ready fairly soon.
Even if Wentz isn't completely himself this season, Philly's defense proved they could win some games on the backs of their defense.
Don't forget, Nick Foles's best games were the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl last year. The defense did their part in getting the team to the big game as well. Philadelphia can be a team that can start another dynasty if they keep their core guys in place.
14 Won't Reach: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have the most talented quarterback in the game in Aaron Rodgers. He's the only reason they're a perennial playoff team and the only reason the Packers even have a shot at contending. They upgraded at tight end by signing Jimmy Graham, but also lost wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the process. Plus, the Packers defense has been one of the worst defenses in the NFL over the past few seasons. Aaron might literally have to do it all himself if he wants the Packers to have a shot at another ring.
13 Can Reach: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have made things clear; they're done with 'rebuilding' their roster and they have made the move to contend for the next few years. This Bears team has quietly gotten a lot better over the last couple of years. They have arguably the best linebacking corps in the NFL with the addition of Khalil Mack. They have two talented running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and they upgraded their WR corps by adding Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. The Bears reaching the next level all depends on Trubisky's development, but the way the Bears are building their roster, they're well on the right path.
12 Won't Reach: New York Giants
One New York team that won't be seeing the Super Bowl in the next few years is the New York Giants.
The Giants made some big upgrades after going 3-13 last season.
They drafted running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn. State with the second overall pick. They also signed Nate Soldier as he was the biggest free agent prize for offensive linemen.
They have Odell Beckham Jr. who is one of the top wide receivers in the game right now. The New York Giants will certainly be better than last season, but not enough to be considered serious Super Bowl contenders.
11 Bottom Feeders: Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks were once one of the more dominant teams in the NFC. This resulted in a Super Bowl win and almost two had it not been for Malcolm Butler.
The Seahawks are past their days of domination and are now trending downward. They're still a decent team and not quite bottom feeders yet, but they're trending in that direction for the next few years. They released Richard Sherman, had Kam Chancellor retire, and have had players like Marshawn Lynch come and go. The Seahawks are clearly going in a new direction for the future. But right now, they will be on the bottom and not contenders.
10 Can Reach: San Francisco 49ers
One team that certainly played the best second half of football last season was the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were perfect in games led by Jimmy Garoppolo last season. He has a new contract and the San Francisco fan base has a new season to be excited about. The 49ers upgraded their secondary by adding in Richard Sherman after the Seahawks released him. If Jimmy G keeps getting better, the 49ers could very well surprise many people for the next few seasons.
9 Won't Reach: Cleveland Browns
The city of Cleveland has had a lot to go through between the Browns being win-less and LeBron James leaving in the basketball world.
Unfortunately, the Browns will not be competing for Super Bowls to make up for the loss of an iconic figure in LeBron.
The Browns made several big moves this off-season by trading for Tyrod Taylor, signing Jarvis Landry, and drafting quarterback Baker Mayfield number one overall. The Browns will win a fair share of games this season and not go through the agony of a winless year. As far as Super Bowls goes, the Brown still have a long way to go.
8 Can Reach: Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams could be one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2018 with all of the moves they made which can help them compete for the next few years. They have Jared Goff and Todd Gurley as returners that will be relied upon to carry the load. They acquired Brandin Cooks from New England as a deep ball wide receiver. They also upgraded on defense by adding guys like Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh. When these guys start to click at some point early on in the season, it will mean trouble for other teams. With the talent they have on their team, it's Super Bowl or bust for the Rams in the next few years.
7 Won't Reach: New York Jets
One team in the AFC East that will continue to struggle and not reach the Super Bowl within the next few years is the New York Jets. The Jets are just one of three unfortunate teams that have to go through the superior team that is the Patriots just to make the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. They seemed to have found their quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold. They brought over Isaiah Crowell from Cleveland to bolster their running game after Matt Forte retired. Other than that, there isn't much there to consider them a legit contender.
6 Bottom Feeders: Detroit Lions
Some team in the NFC North is going to be left in the dust and unfortunately, it looks like Detroit. The Lions have one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league in Matthew Stafford. Besides Stafford, there is not much to get excited about besides maybe a running back like LeGarrette Blount.
The Lions' only hope is that new head coach Matt Patricia can take his winning ways from New England learning under Bill Belichick and apply it to the Lions organization.
The Lions will have to scratch and claw their way to the top of their own division to get out of the bottom feeder category.
5 Can Reach: Pittsburgh Steelers
Another team in the AFC that can certainly find themselves playing for a Super Bowl very soon is the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, this team is in for a very good season. They have Le'Veon Bell who is one of the best running backs in the NFL, even though he'll likely leave Pittsburgh very soon. They also have wide receiver Antonio Brown who is arguably the best wide receiver in the game. They have the pieces in place on both offense and defense. If Mike Tomlin can make good decisions in playoff games, the Steelers will be right in there.
4 Won't Reach: Buffalo Bills
Another AFC East team that finds themselves not going to compete for Super Bowl any time soon is the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are a team that made the playoffs last year, but were just happy to get there for the first time in a very long time. The Bills drafted Josh Allen who looks to be a potential starter, once he can beat out Nathan Peterman for the starting job. The Bills also have LeSean McCoy back in the backfield, but he's about to hit the downslope of his career. The Bills will have to keep making adjustments to come anywhere close to contending.
3 Can Reach: New England Patriots
The Patriots have the greatest quarterback and one of the greatest head coaches of all time on their side.
As long as New England has Brady and Belichick, they have a shot.
Yes, their offseason consisted of losing a lot like Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, and Nate Soldier, but, the Patriots have proven time and time again that they can play with free agents and put themselves in a position to be in the Super Bowl, year after year. As long as Brady and Belichick are still in the fold, the Patriots will be back very soon.
2 Won't Reach: Denver Broncos
The Broncos are a team that needed a quarterback desperately and they found their answer in Case Keenum. Yes, Keenum led the Vikings to an improbable appearance in the NFC championship last year, but keep in mind, Keenum was a backup basically everywhere else he played in before he was the starter in Minnesota.
The Broncos are expecting a lot from Keenum and the defense with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb now in the mix. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions in Denver.
1 Bottom Feeders: Indianapolis Colts
A lot of drama happened this offseason with the Colts coming from when Josh McDaniels accepted their head coaching position and then later declined to stay with the Patriots. There was also the question of whether or not Andrew Luck was back and ready to go this season. He played in the preseason, but we've yet to see Luck truly show he's really back to himself. The Colts have a lot of holes to fill if they do not want to be a bottom feeder team any longer.