With several teams essentially eliminated from the NFL playoff race already, they are about to fade into irrelevance until the draft. As we enter the midpoint of the season, let’s examine which is the worst of the worst. Out of all bottom-placed teams in the divisions, which is in the best situation moving forward.
8. Washington Redskins
Possibly the worst positioned team in the NFL, Washington are their own worst enemy. Their ownership interferes in the running of the organisation, and the General Manager isn’t able to build the team properly. Now, without a long-term coach at the helm, it’s hard to see how the franchise can make progress.
Compounding the problem is the lack of a clear direction at Quarterback. Mired in a battle between Colt McCoy, Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins, Washington are devoid of an identity on either side of the ball. There is every chance Washington start the 2020 season with a new Head Coach as well as a rookie QB. Yet they may not figure that out and could roll with Haskins. With that situation, it’s hard to see the team getting any closer to the playoffs any time soon.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
One step ahead of Washington is Cincinnati. They’ve found their new Head Coach, but are due for an upgrade at QB. With a strong 2020 QB class, it would be a surprise to see them not draft one. If HC Zac Taylor works out, this team will take a year or two to establish its offensive system.
Holding back the team from truly building itself up though, is their lack of talent on the roster. There are a few pieces in place, but little that will be able to help build wins over the coming years. The team has refused to trade Wide Receiver AJ Green, who could yield a first rounder. With extra draft capital, the Bengals could go a long way towards assembling a competitive team for 2020. Without it, they’re at least another year away.
6. Denver Broncos
If not for their unclear situation at QB, the Broncos would perhaps be higher up the list. Although they have a tough division dominated by the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Chargers seem to be on the way down. With the Oakland Raiders about to embark on a transition to a new city and possibly a new QB, the Broncos have a chance to be the second-best team in the division at a minimum.
Paired with a strong Defence, and with young playmakers on Offense, Denver is perhaps a good draft class away from being in the postseason fray. Where there a lot of questions though, is what they are going to do at QB. Without a chance to evaluate rookie Drew Lock, do they move on from him if they can land one of the top options in the 2020 draft? And how long can they let Joe Flacco hold the fort before they are ready to hand over the reins to their QB of the future?
5. Miami Dolphins
With perhaps the worst roster in the league, Miami are a few years away from being in the mix. However, they have a clear vision in mind: acquire the first overall draft pick and get the QB they want. On top of that, add whatever draft capital they can and use it.
The other problem for Miami is their division. With the New England Patriots dominating for the better part of two decades, Miami have a lot of catching up to do. And with the other teams in the division, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, also on the upswing, the Dolphins are a few steps behind.
4. Tennessee Titans
The Titans seem to be lost in 2019, but should have hope for 2020. They are slowly amassing a dominant Defence, especially along the Defensive Line. With a few extra pieces coming from the draft and potentially free agency, they can take another step forward.
The Quarterback situation is the most concerning part of it all. Marcus Mariota has been benched for Ryan Tannehill, but neither is the long-term answer. Tennessee are also likely to be just outside the place to draft one of the better QBs. If a team like Washington or Cincinnati move on from Haskins or Dalton, the Titans could use them as a stopgap for a year or two and target a different QB in 2021. Yet what the Titans have to do is avoid wasting the opportunity that they have now.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Although they have only won a single game in 2019, the Falcons aren’t too far away from winning a few more. With Head Coach Dan Quinn appearing to be a sitting duck, the right hires could return this team to its winning ways. And to make their situation even nicer, none of their divisional rivals appear to have a long-term answer at QB.
There is a lot to like about the Falcons’ roster too. QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman have been a formidable force in years gone by. Rebuilding the Offensive Line and bringing in a few playmakers on Defence are all that’s needed. With a strong draft in 2020, Atlanta have a good chance to be in the postseason conversation next year.
2. Detroit Lions
Despite being competitive in most games this season, the Lions are still completing their rebuild. If things had broken differently for them they could be still in the playoff race. But with several players, especially their secondary, Linebacker group, and OL, Detroit are poised to win more games.
However, their Super Bowl window with QB Matthew Stafford is rapidly closing. Detroit need to finish putting the pieces in place and start winning games, otherwise the franchise’s best QB in decades will have gone to waste. They have a few years to get there, but cannot afford to miss in the 2020 Draft.
1. Arizona Cardinals
After putting together three consecutive wins, the Cardinals are figuring out who they are. With another year or two, building up both sides of the ball, Arizona believes they have their long-term QB in place. Yet if Kyler Murray regresses, or doesn’t continue to make progress, it’s all for naught.
Although the rest of their division are locked in a tight playoff race, Arizona are in the process of reloading. They don’t need to win divisional games this year. But they will next year, and with a lot of positive signs, the Cardinals could see 10-15 years of success if they continue to move in their current direction.