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
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
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
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