It’s always fun predicting the NFL teams that go worst-to-first. So which teams might take the opposite trip in a nosedive towards the #1 pick in 2015?
Going 10-6 in 2013 validated what Bruce Arians was trying to do for the Arizona Cardinals last season and expectations are even higher for 2014. Unfortunately that was before their defense, which pretty much carried the load for them most of last season, absorbed two crippling losses. Both their top inside linebackers, Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington will not play for the team this season. Dansby left in free agency for Cleveland and Washington is suspended for the year for league violations. Replacing their productivity will be next to impossible, even with some intriguing additions to the secondary. Carson Palmer is only getting older at quarterback too.
Kansas City Chiefs
Not only did the team suffer some tough losses in free agency, but now the Kansas City Chiefs are embroiled in a distracting contract dispute with quarterback Alex Smith. Free agency and the draft came and went and it’s very hard to see how much the Chiefs improved, if at all from where they were last season. They made a few nice picks in the draft but nothing that has that home run feel to it, something that can vault them over Denver as favorites in AFC West. Andy Reid did a great job last season for them, but he might not be able to duplicate that magic again in such a tough division.
It was basically the defense and Cam Newton all the way during the 2013 NFL season for the Carolina Panthers. His individual brilliance and the suffocating front seven led by Luke Kuechly caught a lot of the league by surprise. While not much difference is expected on the D, head coach Ron Rivera has a problem brewing on offense. By the look of things Newton still doesn’t have a difference-making group of receivers and his running game is aging and piling up injuries fast. To top it off Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross retired. With the NFC South improving by the day, it’s hard to see Carolina staying on top.
A productive free agency period and decent draft seemed to keep the Indianapolis Colts aimed in the right direction. After all they still have Andrew Luck and his weaponry has improved somewhat with the addition of Hakeem Nicks and a healthy Reggie Wayne. However, problems still linger on defense. Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea is gone. The cornerback spot was not upgraded and worst of all their best pass rusher Robert Mathis is suspended for the first four games of the year. A slow start could threaten to unravel a year of high hopes for the Colts, especially given how much Jacksonville and Houston improved.