Dec 29, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) calls a play at the line during the first quarter of a game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Which NFL Team Can Go Worst-To-First In 2014?

Every years in the NFL a few teams overcome bad seasons to reach the playoffs.  Which franchises might do that in 2014?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A frenzied free agency period drastically re-shaped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster from top to bottom.  The question is did they get better.  Yes, and not just with players.  Michael Johnson and Alterraun Verner arrived to help a defense already featuring Greg McCoy and Lavonte David.  Josh McCown brings veteran quarterback experience and knowledge from his successful stint in Chicago and should have a good offensive line in front of him.  Lovie Smith is a proven head coach who gets the most out of his players, granted it’s usually defensively more than offensively.  Still, if the Bucs can make some additions to their receiving corps they look really good on paper.

Playoff Odds:  8-to-1

New York Giants

Free agency was also very kind to the New York Giants.  Seemingly every area that was a weakness for them in 2013 has been shored up from the offensive line to linebacker and secondary.  Rashad Jennings was an underrated find at running back while Mario Manningham returns to help alleviate the loss of Hakeem Nicks.  Eli Manning’s health is a valid question but their biggest objectives are to find help up front on defense and find a realistic tight end for Manning to throw to, preferably in the draft.

Playoff Odds:  3-to-1

Cleveland Browns

Constant turnover in the front office and coaching staff has held the Cleveland Browns back…well forever it seems like.  Last year it looked like the team had something going and then injuries to the quarterback position toppled the house of cards.  There is still a strong core of talent on the roster along with some added winning experience courtesy of Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner.  The team has a host of draft picks to continue laying on the depth but what they really need to hit on is a quarterback.  Until they finally get somebody who can play the position well and stay healthy, the rest will be meaningless.  If they succeed, the power of their roster might finally start to gel.

Playoff Odds:  15-to-1

Atlanta Falcons

Going from 13-3 to 4-12 was one of the biggest shockers of the 2013 NFL season.  Like with most cases injuries and age in some bad spots had a lot to do with.  The Atlanta Falcons believe it was more a blip on the radar than anything and they have a valid case.  The offense still has a strong cast in place that got some help on the offensive line while their notoriously bad defense got bigger up front.  Some pieces are still missing at tight end and pass rusher but if they can hit these early in the draft the team is good enough to make a turnaround happen in that whacky NFC South division.

Playoff Odds:  5-to-1

Houston Texans

Like Cleveland, problems at the quarterback position doomed the Houston Texans last year, landing them the first overall pick in the NFL draft.  It really was a surprise because the team had one of the best defenses in the league and an offense rich with talent.  Unfortunately the decline of Matt Schaub and injuries at running back began to falter the machine and the schedule turned against them.  With a new coaching staff in town, they have a chance to rebound quickly.  The AFC South is one of the weaker divisions in the league and is prime for the picking if the Texans draft properly.  Quarterback of course leads that list.

Playoff Odds:  6-to-1

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Cleveland Browns Houston Texans New York Giants NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • 65yt

    TB should improve in defense in 2014, if they can beat NO twice in the season i dont think there will be a problem making post season. This 2014 roster reminds me of the Superbowl winners. Veteran QB and all.

    • Erik Lambert

      I won’t put that defense on the same level as that 2002 group just yet. They need to bolster that receiving corps before I’m ready to call them contenders as well.

      • 65yt

        Receiving corp? 2002 had Keyshawn today they have Jackson, other then that who was the super WR during that time? Karl Williams? Joe jurevicous? MacCardell? Non of those receivers were big name receivers of the time either.
        But the Defense had Sapp (McCoy), Rice (Johnson), Lynch(Goldston), Barber(Verner). Other than no Sir Mike Alstott(should have been knighted) there really isn’t much more talent that I see. But like you said, you can’t say they are good to go just yet. Pre season should be fun.

        • Erik Lambert

          People always overlook how good McCardell and Jurevicius were for that team. McCoy has yet to top double digit sacks, something Sapp did four times. Johnson had topped double digits just once in five seasons. Simeon did it eight out of twelve seasons. The comparisons are a stretch at this point. I need to see how Smith impacts them before I concede anything.

  • Jarod Cook

    I like how you give the Browns a chance to make the playoffs. And as you point out after years of instability things were looking up , till the injury bug derailed the season last year. The AFC North is up for grabs IMO. Pittsburgh is old and trying to rebuild, but is restricted by the salary cap. Baltimore is going to be in anther year of rebuild mode after the aftermath if winning the super bowl 2 years ago. And Cincinnati, well they’re Cincy so you never know how things are going to go with them, plus they lost a couple of key players in FA so that should hurt them.
    As for the Browns losing their coordinates in the off season will hurt them IMO. But with Pettine running the defense and Shanahan running the offense I think they got a shot. The problem is how much of the system will they have in place when the season starts? With the new CBA rules limiting player contact, and new systems being put in place by new coaching staffs. I believe they’ll get off to a slow start, and end up just on the outside looking in.

    • Erik Lambert

      The key is whether they can survive the early part of the schedule. If they stick around .500 or have a winning record, the system should start to take over provided they’re healthy and have good enough quarterback play. At that point everything falls on Pettine.