There are a few things fans can count when it comes to the NFL. They can count on the New England Patriots winning games. Fans can count on supporters of the Buffalo Bills to post crazy videos online. They can also rely on people getting mad at the refs, and everyone complaining about how their team got cheated by instant replay.
Oh—and they can count on at least one team going from worst to first inside their division.
It happens just about every year. In fact, of the last 16 seasons, it has happened in15 of them (and 46 times throughout NFL history). There is always someone who takes advantage of their last place schedule to go from being their division doormat to division champion.
Last season it was the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears. The season before (2017), it was the Philadelphia Eagles getting it done in style with taking the NFC East crown and winning the Super Bowl. Prior to the Eagles turn, it was the Jacksonville Jaguars (in 2016) winning the AFC South and nearly making it the Super Bowl.
It is the kind of accomplishment that turns well-paid head coach into very well-paid head coaches and hot shot coordinators into future head coaches. Chances are this coming season will be no different. For those who are interested, Bovada.lv has odds on every division’s last-place team from 2018:
- AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars +375
- AFC East: New York Jets +650
- AFC West: Oakland Raiders +1100
- AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals +1800
- NFC North: Detroit Lions +1000
- NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers +375
- NFC East: New York Giants +1200
- NFC West: Arizona Cardinals +2500
So— who is going to make it happen?
The easiest one to eliminate is the Jets in the AFC East. Unless Tom Brady suddenly retires or gets hurt forcing the team to go with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, the Patriots will win the AFC East again. It would be hard to see the Giants doing it in the NFC East, either, whether it is Eli Manning at quarterback or Daniel Jones.
With the emergence of Lamar Jackson in Baltimore and Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, the AFC North is going to be the toughest division to win, but it will not be won by the Bengals and their rookie head coach. For the Raiders to do it in the AFC West, two 12-4 teams (the Chiefs and Chargers) are going to need to struggle—and that isn’t going to happen.
That leaves the Jaguars (AFC South), Lions (NFC North), Buccaneers (NFC South), and Cardinals (NFC West).
The longest odds are on the Cardinals for a reason. They have three teams in their division that some would argue are Super Bowl contenders not to mention they have a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach that was fired from his last job in the college ranks. So, yeah—kind of hard to see them do it.
Tampa Bay would require a Herculean effort by new head coach Bruce Arians to make it happen. He is good—but in that division, it would be too tall an order.
Detroit would be a longshot, but it would require a lot of things to go their way and an MVP-type year by Matthew Stafford.
Jacksonville would be a good bet to get it done. They were almost a Super Bowl team two years ago and could have been one last year with a better quarterback. If Nick Foles can live up to the hype, they could win the AFC South this season.
Indianapolis and Houston will make it tough, but they could do it.