29. Buffalo Bills
The Bills were savvy over the offseason and brought in a lot of impact veterans while getting a high-end talent in Ed Oliver during the draft. Unfortunately, NFL teams ride and die with their quarterback, and Josh Allen has too far to go for the Bills to be competitive this year. Allen has a cannon and is more talented than most QBs running the ball, but his accuracy was so bad last year that it would take an astounding improvement for the Bills to be a threat to anyone.
28. Washington Redskins
Whether they stick with journeyman Case Keenum in a transition year or go to first-round pick Dwayne Haskins in Week 1, Washington won’t be particularly good. They just don’t have any talent at receiver, and relying on 34-year-old Adrian Peterson to generate offense seems unwise. They could scrape out a few tough wins off their defensive prowess to get to the middle of the pack, but unless Keenum or Haskins makes an unforeseen leap, they’ll be in the cellar by the end of the year.
27. New York Jets
Similar to the Bills, the Jets need to see some substantial improvement from their sophomore QB to become even a middle-of-the-pack team. Unlike the Bills, the Jets brought in high-profile teammates to help Sam Darnold; Le'Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley will lead their squads on both sides of the ball. The Jets still don’t have decent options for Darnold to throw to, and new head coach Adam Gase doesn’t have a stellar track record. They seem at least a year away from moving up the ranks.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
On paper, the Bengals should be at least a .500 team; A.J. Green and Geno Atkins remain two of the best at their position, and Joe Mixon was a top-five running back last season. But they’ve never been fortunate in the injury department, Andy Dalton is average on a good day and terrible on a bad one, and Zac Taylor is a complete question mark. With perhaps the most variation of any team in the league, we lean towards another lost year in Cincy as Taylor gets the hang of being a head coach and their key guys aren’t enough to elevate them higher.
25. Oakland Raiders
After adding Antonio Brown, the Raiders’ offense should be better, but their defense is still porous. Clelin Ferrell will be a good selection, but he’s not an instant-impact starter, and their secondary is all potential and no production at this point. Jon Gruden is in it for the long run, and the team might ship off Derek Carr before the year is out. It’s hard to see them making a big jump from last year, but AB’s presence means they’ll have a chance to win a few more times than 2018.
24. Tennessee Titans
This is a huge year for Marcus Mariota. If healthy, he’s a decent-to-good QB who can make the throws necessary while stretching teams horizontally on the ground by himself. But he’s never played a full season in the NFL and injuries have hindered more than half his starts in his career. The Titans are merely average in all other aspects of the game, and it won’t be enough to make up for Mariota’s glass bones.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars hope Nick Foleswill take them to the promised land of steady QB play. He’s better than Blake Bortles, but the team needs him to sling the ball if they’re going to stay in games offensively, and he’s not good enough to do that (Super Bowl run aside). Their defense will steady out after a bit of a down year last season, but they need to return to historically dominant levels to get back to the playoffs. It’s hard to see that happening.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston is on his last straw as Bucs QB, and they brought in the perfect coach to try and help him reach his potential. Bruce Arians’ air-it-out style, coupled with a harsh disciplinary attitude, should allow Winston to flourish with Mike Evans and O.J. Howard on offense. There are still a lot of questions yet to be answered on the defensive side of things, though. There are too many unknowns in Tampa to consider them much better than last season.
21. Denver Broncos
The Broncos brought in Joe Flacco to keep their offense steady and let Philip Lindsay and their defense win games. But Flacco was bad last year! He completed 61 percent of his passes and threw six picks in nine games. The mountain air isn’t going to help him that much.Along with the Broncos’ average offensive line and lack of receiving options, there’s too much to worry about here. Von Miller is still a stud and Bradley Chubb is on his way up, but its no guarantee Flacco will make them better than they were last year with Keenum.
20. Detroit Lions
The Lions are relying on continuity to improve their team. Another year in Matt Patricia’s defense would help that unit theoretically make the leap, while Darrell Bevell’s run-first offense should help Matthew Stafford. But it’s all in practice for now. One season isn’t enough to determine Patricia’s quality as a head coach, and Bevell’s career as playcaller in Seattle didn’t come to end gracefully. The Lions could mesh into a cohesive unit with good balance on both sides of the ball, but it seems like a longshot at this point.