17 – Seahawks
It’s difficult to imagine a team with so many massive needs and having lost a great deal of talent not losing a step. They are fortunate to have one of the only QBs in the league who is capable of dealing with such massive shortcomings, but I doubt even Aaron Rodgers could take this team to a playoff berth. There are a handful of good players on each side of the ball, but they are in a position where good teams will be able to simplify their game plans to exploit the weaknesses.
18 – Cowboys
The opinion on Scott Linehan among Lions fans has shifted significantly since he was ousted along with Jim Schwartz after the 2013 season. If you time traveled back to that time you’d remember that one of the major complaints about him was that he always struggled to make adjustments, both between and during games. He was very good at utilizing the talent when he had a loaded roster, but never great at covering up weaknesses. The departures of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, as well as potential legal issues for Terrence Williams, leaves him with a less than ideal roster. Of course, if Zeke Elliot plays 16 games, it could make up for a lot of the losses.
19 – Buccaneers
Jameis Winston is an enigma. He’s improved statistically in each of his three seasons(at least in terms of efficiency). And yet… there’s still this feeling that if he can’t find a way to improve his accuracy and decision making when the game is on the line, he may not have a future as a starter in the NFL. It probably hasn’t helped that he plays six games a year against the other NFCS QBs, and as a result, perhaps the Bucs as a whole are underrated. They had a decent offseason, signing impact players for both sides of the ball, and it won’t be a surprise to see them improve in a noticeable way.
20 – Giants
Last offseason I predicted the Giants would win the NFCE and be a top three team in the NFC. Oops. It was very clear early on in 2017 why I was so wrong. The injuries they sustained in their receiving corps certainly didn’t help them, but I massively underestimated just how bad their offensive line would be (oh and that Ben McAdoo was one of the worst coaches in the league). The number one issue on that terrible OL, even with injuries to a couple starters, was at left tackle, where Erick Flowers was a disgrace to the game of football. Well, the Giants still have a long way to go in terms of building a good offensive line, but the signing of Nate Solder from the Patriots will cover a lot of ground towards bringing the OL up from the bottom of the league.
21 – Raiders
There isn’t much to love about the Raiders right now. I’ll try to reserve judgment on Jon Gruden until we see if he still has it (even if I think he was overrated to begin with(I’m doing a great job so far reserving judgment)). He has his work cut out for him though, as, despite some decent offseason acquisitions, the defensive talent is highly questionable. I think Derek Carr will probably bounce back a bit, it’s just a question of how much.
22 – 49ers
Do I need to quote myself about unproven QBs? There is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy Garoppolo has a chance to be an excellent player. But… I’m going to need to see a little more to convince me. Meanwhile, I have to question the logic of replacing Carlos Hyde with Jerrick McKinnon in the backfield. McKinnon has never been more than below average as a lead back, and the Vikings were an excellent team at running the ball. Time will tell, as it always does, if their draft pans out, but it is far from inspiring.
23 – Texans
Everyone is seemingly riding high on the Texans right now, but I’m here to be a stick in the mud. If I had a guarantee that JJ Watt would return both as an elite player and could stay healthy? They’d be a few spots higher. If DeShaun Watson had a sample size of more than six starts and hadn’t already appeared to be the luckiest man alive through that time? I’d definitely have them higher. I’m far from ready to make those assumptions. Outside of the enigmatic Tyrann Mathieu, they weren’t able to add much, on paper anyway, that suggests a major improvement, so there’s a whole lot of wait and see happening here.
24 – Bears
The Bears did exactly what a team in their position needs to do during the offseason; not screw it up. They used their picks to get high-value players, a few of whom will contribute right away. They may have overpaid a little in free agency, but every team in their position has to. They can afford it anyway, and they significantly improved their offensive arsenal in the process. Although they will still undoubtedly rely heavily on the run game behind Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the real test of whether Mitch Trubisky can evolve into a franchise QB starts now.