Stop me if this sounds familiar (as in, stop reading if it hurts too much).
The NFL season lasts approximately six months of the calendar year - from the first regular season game to the final whistle of the Super Bowl. That means, for the other six months of the year, the entire football world sits on edge, anxiously waiting for the start of the next season - a season that represents promise, hope and the potential that this could be "the year."
Mini-camps finally roll around, and organized team activities, training camps and the preseason seemingly take forever to complete. You keep a keen eye on the building of your roster (especially that high first-rounder your team took in the Draft), but in reality all you have your eye on is Week 1.
For the most part, every football fan will go through this process. It's when the season starts that things start to differentiate for some of us.
Week 1 begins in earnest; finally, the long, arduous wait is over. You've been preparing for this particular Sunday for weeks. All the snacks are laid out. The beer fridge is stocked, and the refreshments are ice cold. The whole gang is over, the brand new 60-inch high-definition TV sits gloriously on the wall at the optimal viewing level. The butterflies in your stomach are uncontrollable - you were less wound-up when you proposed to your significant other all those years ago.
The war paint has set, your lucky hat is planted firmly on your team-color dyed hair. Kickoff is mere minutes away. You're high fiving your buddies and chest-bumping anything in sight (including one of the small children in attendance).
Then, sweet music - whatever network you happen to watching hits play on their own version of the NFL Sunday theme music, and you let out a roar that startles the elderly neighbors four houses down the road.
It's finally here. It's game time.
The ball is kicked off, and the season has begun.
About three and a half hours later, you are either cursing, sobbing, or eerily silent. Your beloved team has been blown out. The 3-1 preseason record meant nothing, after all. 0-1.
You get back on the horse, but you've come to the realisation that it's going to be the same (expletive) as always. The weeks pass by and the losses keep piling up. Regret, sorrow and maybe even a tinge of depression start to creep in. You begin to dread Sunday and even think about skipping a game or two to take the family on a picnic in the park - the horror.
Well, brave armchair warrior...the 2014 season is over. Your team has been out of the playoff race for the past month and a half, and you've done enough scouting on Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston to be able to sit in an NFL war room and hold your own in a discussion with your team's general manager (if he hasn't been fired by this point).
It's hard to fathom it, I know - the wounds are still fresh - but there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon if you're a fan of one of these teams. The cycle begins anew, fellow sufferer - hopefully, this time is the last sad ending for a long while.
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10 Tennessee Titans
It's hard the fathom the Tennessee Titans being able to fix their trainwreck of a roster over the offseason, but history has shown over the past several seasons that having one of the top picks in the NFL Draft can gloss over a lot of issues and make a huge difference, assuming that team goes ahead and picks a difference maker with that pick.
The Titans are primed to get their hands on either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston, and while they need a lot of work around whoever their next quarterback ends up being, having a competent QB makes up for a lot of the issues that plagues this team.
9 Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been the doormat of the National Football League for the past several years, and while on the surface it doesn't seem like there's much to suggest that this will change over the offseason, Jags fans have at least a bit of reason for optimism.
Blake Bortles will be entering his second full season and should show signs of improvement. That's already a big boost for Gus Bradley's squad. Bradley is slowly but surely implementing the pieces of defense to build something similar to what he had in Seattle - it's not anywhere close yet, but with some more talent the Jags could continue to take steps forward.
8 Buffalo Bills
Unlike the Jaguars, the Buffalo Bills have no problems on defense. The finished fourth in total defense and were one of the few teams able to slow down the potent offenses of the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers, among others. The Bills problems lie on the other side of the ball (as usual), specifically at the quarterback position (as usual). The Bills finally gave up on bust E.J. Manuel, and if they are smart, they won't be going forward with Kyle Orton either. Expect the Bills to either make a play for a Jay Cutler or Robert Griffin III, or perhaps take a QB like UCLA's Brett Hundley, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott or Baylor's Bryce Petty.
7 Oakland Raiders
Many will say that you'd have to be delusional to think the Oakland Raiders have a shot at the playoffs next season. That's what I told proud Raider fan and our site's editor, but he wasn't having any of it. He makes his strong/lengthy case for the Raiders:
"They had the best draft in the league according to every major publication. Khalil Mack is the 2nd highest ranked linebacker in the league this year, Derek Carr is far and away this year's best rookie QB , so he can only get better. All the veteran contracts that people are laughing about are low-risk non-guaranteed contracts and could be thrown away easily. With another solid draft, a solid FA period and the hiring of a winning coach (ideally, Jim Harbaugh), they could find their way into the playoff race (especially if Manning were to retire if the Broncos win an SB). Not to mention a full year of Latavius Murray at RB, who looks like a stud."
Some valid points. Will they materialize? We'll have to wait and see.
6 St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams are one of the teams whose fans literally went through the scenario described in the intro. The defense was lauded, and the offense was finally set to go off with Sam Bradford back and healthy. Of course, we know what happened with Bradford and his knee, and from there it was mostly downhill for the Rams. They found ways to beat Seattle and Denver, but the patchwork offense was unable to get them through most games. They'll most likely have a new QB under center next season, so Rams fans are hoping that all the pieces will finally come together.
5 San Francisco 49ers
To say the 49ers season has been a disaster would be putting it lightly. Instead of gearing up for another playoff run, Niner fans have been relegated to Bears-fan status: wondering about their coach and their quarterback. Colin Kaepernick did not look like himself for most of the year, and the Jim Harbaugh fiasco was a major distraction in itself whether the team will admit it or not. A fresh face leading the team should help an otherwise solid roster get back on track next season - not to mention the full-time return of NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis to the defense, which will elevate that unit to an ever greater level.
4 New York Giants
The New York Giants were a confusing bunch this year. It looked at times like Eli Manning had lost his touch, but he ended the season with 30 TDs (with only 14 interceptions) and nearly 4,500 passing yards. The arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. sparked an otherwise anemic offense. If the Giants can shore up their defense and get added value from their backfield (a healthy Rashad Jennings and improved Andre Williams), the Giants could be right back in the mix in an always changing NFC East.
3 Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins found a way yet again this season to blow their early season success and wiggle themselves out of playoff contention. Miami should have won their games against the Packers and Lions, which would have them sitting at 10-5 going into Week 17 and with more incentive to beat a depleted Jets team. Instead, the defense caved on game ending drives in both those games, and the Fins finished the season 8-8 (the same record they finished with last season). The emergence of Ryan Tannehill means the Dolphins can continue to build around their quarterback and should compete in the AFC again next season, if they can fix their issues at linebacker and in the secondary.
2 New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints might have been the most surprising "letdown" team of the year. Some had extremely high hopes for Sean Payton's team - Super Bowl high. Alas, even a brutal NFC South was not enough for the Saints to squeak into the postseason. For all the talk of Drew Brees regressing, he still tied for the league-lead in passing yards. The Saints issues rest on the defensive side of the ball. Rob Ryan will have some work to do this offseason to fix his leaky defense. If the NFC South remains this mediocre next season, the Saints will climb their way back to the top of their division's mountain.
1 Philadelphia Eagles
It's not a good time to be an Eagles fan these days. After such a promising start to the season, everything slowly began to fall apart. Anyone who expected this team to simply truck right ahead with Mark Sanchez at the helm clearly hasn't watched much football over the past few seasons.
Chip Kelly has proven to be a fantastic professional football coach over his first few seasons - with some tweaking (and perhaps a change at quarterback), the Eagles will be flying high again in 2015.
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