Every NFL season, a team or two rises up from the basement and takes a step forward. This season, expect a few teams that have played poorly in recent years to make a leap in the standings.
5 NFL teams that will take a step forward this season
Last season: 1-15
Did someone say Super Bowl? No, but the Browns’ rebuild is looking pretty good so far. They’ve accumulated an abundance of high draft picks which is the correct way to rebuild a team. Now they have a very young and talented defense highlighted by Myles Garrett, one of the top defensive end prospects of the past decade.
Offensively, they’re still looking for their franchise quarterback, but might have something in rookie DeShone Kizer. With a rebuilt offensive line, Kizer will have some weapons to throw. These include rookie tight end David Njoku, who’s an athletic freak, and second-year receiver Corey Coleman, who can take the top off of defenses.
Last season, they were the laughing stock of the NFL, barely squeaking out one win. This season, they will still be far from a playoff team but will be much more competitive in every game.
Los Angeles Rams
Last Season: 4-12
Last year, the Rams got very little production out of their quarterback position. Top draft pick Jared Goff was very inefficient in getting the ball down the field which led many fans to prematurely label him as a bust.
This year Goff will have a reliable target in newly drafted Cooper Kupp. Kupp won’t wow anyone with his measurables, but he’s got vacuum hands and grit. It was clear in preseason that the “Goff to Kupp” connection is a tandem to watch.
Perhaps the biggest acquisition the Rams made this offseason was the signing of head coach Sean McVay, who was the quarterbacks coach for the Washington Redskins. Having an offensive-minded head coach will be good for Goff. McVay already has a good track record of developing young quarterbacks.
Similar to the Browns, they probably won’t see a huge bump in win totals this season. But they’ll be much more competitive in each game.
Last season: 6-10
Last year’s Panthers were way too talented to go 6-10. Coming off a Super Bowl run in 2015, they had high expectations for the 2016 season which went downhill fast.
This year, they will be displaying one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Here’s a list of their weapons on offense:
Quarterback Cam Newton
Running back/wide receiver Christian McCaffrey
Running back/wide receiver Curtis Samuel
Tight end Greg Olson
Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin
Wide receiver Devin Funchess
Without a doubt, this team will be a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators. The division they play in will limit their win total, but they should be able to get back over the .500 mark this season and for the years that follow.
Last season: 9-7
The Titans shouldn’t have any problem handling the AFC South this season. Marcus Mariota looked like a franchise QB last season and he now has a legit number one receiver in Corey Davis to go along with the two headed monster of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry at running back.
Defensively, they won’t wow you but should be able to hold their own. The addition of Adoree Jackson should also give them a dynamic playmaker as a kick and punt returner.
This is a team that finished dead last just two seasons ago. Saying they’re trending upward is an understatement.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Year: 9-7
The Buccaneers are competing with the Titans for the most impressive rebuild. Three years ago, they were at rock bottom and now they have the potential to compete with anyone.
Most importantly, they have a franchise quarterback and team leader in Jameis Winston. He also has weapons galore surrounding him. On the outside he has a top five receiver in Mike Evans and one of the scariest deep threats in the league in DeSean Jackson. Newly drafted tight end O.J. Howard is a mismatch against any defender and will be at least a serviceable blocker as well.
Their defense isn’t as pretty as their offense, but they should be above average. The d-line wreaked havoc at times last season and their secondary has gotten better and younger over the past couple years.
As of right now, this is a playoff team. Further down the line, they could see a parade or two.