PFR Polls

Poll: Who Is Pats’ Top 2019 AFC Challenger?

Another summer featuring the Patriots preparing a title defense will bring PFR’s third version of this poll. The Patriots are only the third team to book Super Bowl berths in three straight years, joining the Dolphins from 1971-73 and Bills from 1990-93, and again Las Vegas tabs Bill Belichick‘s team as the favorite to win a championship.

In the past two AFC title games, the Pats skated to Super Bowls by razor-thin margins. Their 2019 passing attack features more questions than it has in maybe 13 years, dating back to the days before the arrivals of Randy Moss and later Rob Gronkowski. But until they are defeated, this century’s premier team will be the favorite to represent the AFC in Super Bowls.

The top candidate to dethrone them last year may again fill that role, but the Chiefs have gone through a rather complex offseason. After another dismal defensive season, the Chiefs overhauled their pass rush. They ditched anchors Justin Houston and Dee Ford, along with DC Bob Sutton, in moving to Steve Spagnuolo‘s 4-3 defense. But Frank Clark (35 sacks in four seasons), on a $20.8MM-per-year contract in a deal that cost the Chiefs their first-round pick, is Kansas City’s new edge bastion. It is not certain who will fill the role of K.C.’s No. 2 edge rusher, and high-end interior presence Chris Jones skipped minicamp.

This figures to be Patrick Mahomesfinal season on his rookie contract, amplifying the importance of 2019 for the Chiefs. A major AFC variable: the status of the reigning MVP’s top receiver. Tyreek Hill is facing a near-certain suspension, or possibly a Chiefs departure, depending on where the NFL’s investigation goes. So the three-time defending AFC West champions’ status is a bit murky at the moment.

Despite the 2018 Chargers winding up on the wrong end of a divisional-round rout in New England, they still possess one of the NFL’s best rosters. As such, the Bolts were relatively quiet in free agency — beyond their Thomas Davis signing. The Chargers still employ the key players responsible for 2018 top-10 rankings on offense and defense and are in line to have Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry healthy in Week 1. The Bolts still lack a comparable home-field advantage compared to their contender peers but compensated last year by going 8-0 outside of Los Angeles.

In returning nearly every starter from last season, the Colts (who have the fourth-best AFC title odds) carry a similar profile to the Bolts. Chris Ballard again resisted major free agency spending, despite his team holding more than $100MM in cap space entering March. Indianapolis did re-sign multiple starters and have a new T.Y. Hilton supporting cast in Devin Funchess, third-rounder Parris Campbell and 2018 draftee Deon Cain, who missed his rookie season. The Colts were No. 2 in weighted DVOA entering their second-round loss last season.

They of one winning season in the past 16, the Browns loaded up this year and hold Bovada’s third-best odds to win the AFC. Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson and Kareem Hunt stand to play pivotal roles in Cleveland’s pursuit of its first playoff berth since 2002, and John Dorsey‘s two-offseason overhaul has this roster in much better shape. The Browns do have some questions on their offensive line, and new HC Freddie Kitchens brings only a half-season’s worth of coordinator experience. But this certainly profiles as one of the most fascinating contenders in years.

Vegas predicts the Texans and Ravens will take steps back, after each underwent sweeping 2019 changes. And for the first time in several years, the Steelers (sixth-best odds in the AFC) hover off the top tier. Are oddsmakers sleeping on the perennial contenders? The Steelers made multiple moves (in adding Devin Bush, Steven Nelson and Mark Barron) to patch up their defense but lost arguably this era’s top receiver, whose $21.12MM dead-money number limited them this offseason.

Lastly, what surprise team will emerge? Will the Raiders’ spending spree translate to 2019 success? Will Nick Foles stabilize the Jaguars’ offense enough? Will the collectively rebuilding AFC East prevent another five- or six-win Patriots divisional stroll (and the likelihood of the Pats earning a bye in every season this decade)?

Click below to vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your AFC thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which New Head Coach Will Experience Least 2019 Success?

This year, eight NFL teams decided to make a head coaching change. The teams that hire a new head coach are rarely in a position to win – these are not gorgeous new condos, these are fixer-uppers with creaky floorboards and cobweb-filled basements. 

As a quick reminder, these are the NFL’s new head coaches for the 2019 season:

Recently, we asked PFR readers to choose which coach would have the most success in 2019, and Kitchens got the vote of confidence with LaFleur as the runner-up. Now, we want to know which coach you believe will have the least success in 2019.

Kingsbury finished at the bottom of the aforementioned poll, which is understandable given the Cardinals’ last-place finish in 2018 and Kingsbury’s lack of NFL experience. However, one has to think that Flores has his work cut out for him in Miami as well – the Dolphins are clearly rebuilding and are not in a position to win in 2019.

Which of these eight coaches do you think will have the toughest 2019? Click below to cast your vote (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Who Will Texans Hire As Their Next GM?

The NFL news cycle over the past few weeks has been largely dominated by surprise GM vacancies, and while the Jets filled their opening with Joe Douglas, who has quickly generated a great deal of excitement in New York, the Texans are still looking for their next GM.

Of course, the club had zeroed in on Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, but Houston abandoned its pursuit shortly after New England filed tampering charges against the Texans. Houston may have been successful if it had elected to fight those charges and the provisions in Caserio’s contract with the Patriots that may prohibit him from interviewing with other clubs, but it chose to take the path of least resistance.

So where do the Texans go from here? Aside from Caserio, the only other candidates that Houston has definitely expressed interest in are former Browns GM Ray Farmer and former Lions GM Martin Mayhew, both of whom have already interviewed with the club. However, neither one seems like a home run hire.

Farmer’s two years as Cleveland’s top exec (2014-15) did not do much to inspire confidence, as he generally failed in both free agency and the draft. Some of his draft picks (Joel Bitonio) and free agent signings (Andrew HawkinsJosh McCown) did work out. But he also handed $9MM in guaranteed money to receiver Dwayne Bowe — who had five catches in his first and only year with Cleveland — and used first-round picks on Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert.

Mayhew, currently the 49ers’ vice president of player personnel, had his ups and downs in Detroit, but he did construct several playoff rosters — not an easy thing to do for Lions’ GMs — and he remains well-respected in front office circles. If the Texans’ choice ultimately comes down to Farmer and Mayhew, Mayhew would appear to be the superior candidate.

Other names that have been floated as potential targets include Reggie McKenzie and Scott Pioli. McKenzie enjoyed some success as the Raiders’ GM for seven years — including an executive of the year award in 2016 — and he currently serves as a senior personnel executive with the Dolphins. His ouster from Oakland had more to do with the club forcing him to cede most of his authority to head coach Jon Gruden than anything else, and there has been plenty of speculation that he could return to the GM ranks at some point.

Pioli, meanwhile, recently stepped down from his post as Falcons assistant GM, and he said he did so simply to “pursue other opportunities.” At the time, the Jets’ GM job had just come open, though Pioli was never named as a candidate for that position. He served as the Chiefs’ general manager from 2009-12, which was a mostly forgettable stretch of time in Kansas City franchise history, but he does have over 20 years of front office experience.

Although the Texans were interested in Patriots director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort when they were looking for a GM in 2018, New England denied the club’s interview request at that time. Houston did not request an interview with Ossenfort in 2019, and given the Caserio debacle, it would be quite surprising if they reversed course. In fact, the Texans may not hire a GM at all this year.

So how do you think this situation will be resolved? Let us know whom you think the Texans will name as their GM in 2019 (if anyone), and feel free to explain your thoughts in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which New Head Coach Will Experience Most 2019 Success?

Coaching staff turnover was abundant this offseason, but most of that change occurred at the assistant level: while there were 28 instances of alteration among offensive and defensive coordinators, only eight new head coaches will be leading teams in 2019, a number that fits in nicely with yearly averages. Naturally, most of these eight new HCs are taking over clubs that are in something of a rebuilding phase, as no club that made the postseason in 2018 decided to make a change at the top.

With that in mind, we’d like to ask PFR readers which new head coach will experience the most success during the upcoming campaign? While we aren’t solely asking about record (the Dolphins could win five games and consider that a success, for example), we’re looking mostly at wins and losses.

Here’s a refresher on the NFL’s new head coaches:

In the AFC, Taylor will not only lead an extremely young coaching staff in Cincinnati, but hope bringing the Rams’ offense to the Queen City leads to positive results. Kitchens and the Browns will enter the 2019 season with extremely high expectations, and he has the benefit of experienced coordinators — Todd Monken and Steve Wilks — on each side of the ball. In South Beach, Flores will attempt to change the Dolphins’ culture as the club embarks on a potentially multi-season rebuild. Miami’s prior coach, Gase, is now in New York where he’ll be tasked with developing second-year quarterback Sam Darnold.

Moving to the NFC, Kingsbury is probably the most intriguing NFL head coaching hire in several years, and all eyes will be on the desert as he meshes his Air Raid offense with No. 1 overall selection Kyler Murray. LaFleur comes to Green Bay with only one season of play-calling experience under his belt, but Packers fans won’t be happy with a step back while Aaron Rodgers is still under center. And in Tampa Bay, Arians will add his “no risk it, no biscuit” mantra to an offense that already loved to throw deep in 2018.

So, who do you like? Which of these coaches will post the most successful season in 2018? (Link for app users).

Poll: Which Top 10 Pick Has The Highest Bust Potential?

The NFL Draft is just barely in the rear view mirror, which means that teams are full of hope for their young rookies. But, of course, the NFL Draft is largely a crapshoot, and not every player will realize their full potential. 

This year’s draft had talent, but lacked a true consensus on the top player. Many evaluators pegged defensive end Nick Bosa as the player with the highest ceiling in the 2019 class, but other saw Alabama’s Quinnen Williams as the “safest bet.” The 49ers pounced on Bosa with the No. 2 pick while the Jets (and former GM Mike Maccagnan) were delighted to land Williams at No. 3 overall.

Leading up to the draft, much of the attention was on Oklahoma quarterback (and one-time MLB hopeful) Kyler Murray. When Murray announced that he would ditch the Oakland A’s, his stock exploded – Murray was considered a borderline first-round prospect in the winter, but wound up as the Cardinals’ choice at No. 1 overall. Murray has the speed that teams crave at the QB position, but questions persist about his size and overall lack of experience as a full-time starter.

The Cardinals’ long flirtation with Murray brought us the expected result, but the Raiders gave us the real first shock of the draft when they tapped Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall. Not to be outdone, the Giants snagged Duke’s Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall. Heading into the draft, neither player was thought to be anywhere near Top 10 consideration, but Mike Mayock and Dave Gettleman were unwilling to trade down and risk losing out on their guys.

The domino effect created by those picks allowed the Bucs to grab inside linebacker Devin White (No. 5 overall), the Jaguars to land outside linebacker Josh Allen (No. 6), the Lions to snag top tight end T.J. Hockenson, the Bills to draft defensive tackle Ed Oliver (No. 9 overall), and the Steelers to finish out the Top 10 with linebacker Devin Bush. Most of those picks were warmly received, but nothing is certain in the draft.

Which Top 10 pick do you think has the highest bust potential? Click below to cast your vote (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Will Eagles Regret Carson Wentz Deal?

On Thursday night, the Eagles and Carson Wentz reached agreement on a massive new contract. The four-year add-on is worth $128MM in total with upwards of $107MM in overall guarantees. Meanwhile, Wentz reportedly gets $66MM guaranteed at signing, a huge haul for a player who has finished the last two seasons on IR.

Wentz nearly captured the league’s MVP trophy in 2017 before a season-ending ACL tear sidelined him and cleared the way for Nick Foles‘ legendary run to the Super Bowl. It was a similar story (albeit with a different ending) in 2018 – Wentz managed to throw for 21 touchdowns against seven interceptions in eleven games last year, but a back injury forced him to cede the starting role to Foles once again.

Wentz’ injury history is cause for concern, but the Eagles have doubled down with this colossal new deal. The club no longer has Foles as a safety net and Wentz, the former No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, is now the first QB in the NFL signed through the 2024 season.

Of course, the market for top-end quarterbacks advances rapidly, so Wentz’s $32MM average annual value might not seem like a big deal by the time he enters Year Two of the extension. And, if Wentz returns to MVP-level form, it will prove to be a rather reasonable contract for the Eagles.

Ultimately, do you see this deal backfiring for Howie Roseman & Co.? Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which 2018 First Place Team Is Likeliest To Miss Playoffs In 2019?

In 2018, three first-place teams from the previous season did not earn postseason berths. Those clubs — the Steelers, Jaguars, and Vikings — each missed the playoffs for different reasons. Injuries, poor luck, off-field issues, and plain old regression to the mean all contributed in certain instances, and 2019 doesn’t figure to be any different for the 2018 first-place teams.

We’ve already asked PFR readers which 2018 last place team is likeliest to make the postseason in 2019 (the Jaguars were the top choice). Today, we’ll flip that question: which 2018 first place club is going to miss the playoffs during the upcoming campaign?

Let’s take an overview of the teams:

New England Patriots

You don’t need me to tell you the Patriots have dominated the AFC East for the better part of two decades. They’ve won 10 consecutive division titles, and have finished first in 16 of the last 18 campaigns. New England is still considered the favorites to win the 2020 Super Bowl, despite losing players like Rob Gronkowski, Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and Malcom Brown during the offseason. While the Jets and Bills have each improved and built around young quarterbacks, the AFC East is still unquestionably the Patriots’ to lose.

Baltimore Ravens

After turning over their offense to rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson against the Bengals in Week 11, the Ravens managed to rebound from a 4-5 start to win six of their final seven games, edging out the Steelers for the AFC North crown in the process. Pittsburgh should still contend in 2019 despite trading Antonio Brown and allowing Le’Veon Bell to walk in free agency, but Baltimore’s real competition is the Browns, who are now favored to win the division after adding Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, and others over the past several months.

Houston Texans

The Texans have quietly won the AFC South in three of the past four seasons under head coach Bill O’Brien, but their path will be extremely difficult next season. The Colts are building for long-term success and are the division favorites in 2019, while the Jaguars and Titans could also be in the running. Wide receiver Will Fuller‘s return from a torn ACL should help quarterback Deshaun Watson, but if the third-year signal-caller can’t stay upright behind what is still a sub-par offensive line, Houston may not have a chance.

Kansas City Chiefs

After nearly advancing to the Super Bowl a season ago, the Chiefs enter the 2019 season with change in the air. Not only did Kansas City make two separate franchise edge defender trades (shipping Dee Ford to the 49ers while acquiring Frank Clark from the Seahawks), it also added key defensive players like Tyrann Mathieu, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Alex Okafor. The Chiefs’ biggest outstanding question, of course, revolves around wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who is still being investigated after being accused of child abuse. At present, it’s unclear if Hill will be suspended or even be on Kansas City’s roster once the regular gets underway.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas won seven of its final eight games down the stretch after acquiring wideout Amari Cooper from the Raiders, taking the division from the Eagles in the process. As has become the norm, the Cowboys didn’t do much during the offseason. Jerry Jones & Co. re-signed defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, brought tight end Jason Witten out of retirement, and added slot receiver Randall Cobb, but otherwise kept his club intact. Given that the Giants and Redskins don’t look like serious contenders, Dallas will likely battle Philadelphia for the NFC East crown again.

Chicago Bears

The Bears seem to be the current pick for regression in 2019, and it’s not difficult to see why. Chicago was buoyed by its league-best defense last season, and defensive success is historically less stable and less predictive than production on offense. Not only did the Bears lose key defenders like Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan, but star defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is also gone. Chicago will likely need to rely on improvement from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky if it wants to hold off the Packers and Vikings next year.

New Orleans Saints

After posting three consecutive 7-9 seasons from 2014-16, the Saints have manged 24 regular season victories and two NFC South titles over the last two years. New Orleans added two new weapons — tight end Jared Cook and running back Latavius Murray — for Drew Brees, and found both a short-term (Nick Easton) and long-term (Erik McCoy) replacement for recently-retired center Max Unger. On paper, the Saints still look like an incredibly strong team, but their division is one of the toughest in the NFL.

Los Angeles Rams

Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, the Rams added two free agent defenders in edge rusher Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle, but also lost key contributors like Ndamukong Suh, Rodger Saffold, and Lamarcus Joyner. Additionally, Todd Gurley‘s knee condition isn’t likely to allow him to be a bell-cow in 2019, meaning more responsibility will be placed on Jared Goff. Luckily for Los Angeles, none of the other clubs in the NFC West appear ready to dethrone the Rams just yet.

So, what do you think? Which 2018 first place team is likeliest to miss the playoffs in 2019? Vote below! (Link for app users).

Poll: Which Team’s New QB Will Have Best Season?

While this offseason did not bring quite the same level of quarterback movement 2018’s did, a handful of teams will deploy new starters. Draft choices, trade acquisitions and free agent signings will be given the keys to offenses that struggled last season.

The Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Redskins made moves to fortify their quarterback jobs. Which team’s investment will work out best?

Denver will use a different starting quarterback for the third straight year. Joe Flacco is set to be the Broncos’ fourth starter since Peyton Manning‘s retirement. While his QBR figure (58.7) was better than any the former Ravens starter had posted since a quality 2014 season, Flacco still ranked 20th in that metric last season. Having never made a Pro Bowl and fresh off back-to-back years featuring injury trouble, with a back problem limiting him during the 2017 offseason and a hip injury beginning the Lamar Jackson era, the 34-year-old starter will try to revive his career in Denver. Flacco, though, is the most accomplished quarterback the Broncos have employed since Manning.

The other surefire veteran starter acquired this year, Foles will have his first chance to be a team’s unquestioned first-stringer since 2015. The 30-year-old flourished in his second Philadelphia stint, submitting an all-time postseason run in 2017 and helping the Eagles back to the playoffs last season. A 2013 Pro Bowler, Foles will take over a Jaguars team that does not possess the kind of aerial weaponry recent Eagles rosters did. Jacksonville is in line to have Marqise Lee back from a torn ACL, but the team’s wideouts and tight ends will place additional emphasis on Foles living up to his contract. With the Rams in 2015, Foles threw seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions before being benched.

Kyler Murray represents the other locked-in starter added this offseason. The electric one-year Oklahoma starter accomplished about as much as a college passer can in a single season, turning in Division I-FBS’ second-ever 4,000-1,000 season en route to Heisman Trophy honors. Working with Kliff Kingsbury, Larry Fitzgerald and a host of young wide receivers, Murray is the centerpiece of one of the most daring experiments an NFL team has attempted.

The Cardinals turned the keys over to a sub-.500 college coach and a 5-foot-10 signal-caller — the first sub-6-foot passer to be chosen in Round 1. Arizona trotted out the league’s worst scoring and total offense last season, however, and sported a skeleton-crew offensive line by year’s end. The Cards added new starters Marcus Gilbert and J.R. Sweezy up front. Due to the lack of precedent behind this move, it is hard to tell how Murray will fare. But the unique talent has opened as Las Vegas’ offensive rookie of the year favorite.

Washington and Miami have not committed to a starting quarterback yet, but it is fairly safe to project Dwayne Haskins and Josh Rosen will see extensive time. While Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick could log starts, with the latter possibly even on track to do so, the Redskins have liked what their first-round pick has done so far and the Dolphins will need to see Rosen in games to help determine if they will consider a first-round QB in 2020. On the heels of a 50-touchdown pass season, the Ohio State product sits second in offensive rookie of the year odds. Although only eight passers have won this award since 1957, seven such instances have occurred since 2004.

Both Daniel Jones and Drew Lock could factor into their respective teams’ mixes later in the season. Of the 13 first-round QBs taken over the past four years, only Patrick Mahomes and Paxton Lynch were not promoted to the starting role as rookies. (Though, Eli Manning is not your typical stopgap.) Lock was projected by most as a first-rounder, and Flacco ceded his role to the No. 32 overall pick last year. So the 12th-year veteran’s grip on Denver’s job should be considered tenuous.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which 2018 Last Place Team Is Likeliest To Make Playoffs In 2019?

Turnarounds in the NFL often don’t take long. Unlike Major League Baseball, where prospects usually face a minimum promotion time of two years, new NFL players can make an impact during their respective rookie seasons. With more teams embracing the use of free agency and trades as avenues of player acquisition, it’s possible to improve a club year-over-year.

Worst-to-playoffs revamps happen nearly every season, and 2018 was no exception. A year after finishing last in the NFC North, the Bears and new head coach Matt Nagy rebounded to take the division crown. Meanwhile, the Texans and Colts both posted 4-12 records in 2017 before earning a postseason appearance this past season.

So, which last place team from 2018 will make a leap into the playoffs during the upcoming season? Let’s take a look at the candidates:

New York Jets

The Jets are searching for a new general manager after firing Mike Maccagnan, but they should be poised for an improvement on the field as 2018 third overall pick Sam Darnold heads into his sophomore campaign. Gang Green gave Darnold a few more weapons by signing running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Jamison Crowder, but failed to augment an offensive line that ranked dead last in run-blocking and 18th in pass-blocking, per Football Outsiders. While New York could see a jump in their win total, will it be enough to overtake the Patriots?

Cincinnati Bengals

Although the Bengals didn’t make any splash additions during the offseason, they did attempt to address their porous offensive line by drafting Alabama tackle Jonah Williams (which will push incumbent blindside protector Cordy Glenn to guard), and signing ex-Bills guard John Miller. Improving their front five from “horrible” to simply “average” would be a win for the Bengals, especially as quarterback Andy Dalton enters a make-or-break year under new head coach Zac Taylor.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Among the clubs that finished in last place in 2018, the Jaguars have experienced the most recent success: as recently as 2017, Jacksonville finished 10-6 and was a few plays away from making a Super Bowl appearance. The Jaguars retained head coach Doug Marrone after last year’s 5-11 record, but quarterback Blake Bortles was cut, clearing the way for free agent signee Nick Foles. Rookie first-round edge rusher Josh Allen will join a defense that’s bringing back most of its key parts aside from linebacker Telvin Smith, who won’t play in 2019.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders raised eyebrows by adding controversial locker room presences such as Vontaze Burfict and Richie Incognito this offseason, but they’ve also brought in talent at positions of import, such as wideouts Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, offensive tackle Trent Brown, and edge rusher Clelin Ferrell. The wisdom of drafting a running back (Josh Jacobs) and box safety (Johnathan Abram) in the first round notwithstanding, Oakland has undoubtedly augmented its roster. Whether the Raiders’ moves will be enough to overtake two of the AFC’s best teams in the Chiefs and Chargers is another question.

New York Giants

The Giants’ offseason has been…interesting. After trading away star pass-catcher Odell Beckham Jr. for pennies on the dollar, general manager Dave Gettleman made a number of questionable decisions in free agency and the draft. Big Blue handed Golden Tate a four-yar $37.5MM deal to replace OBJ, but Tate is best in the slot, a position already spoken for by Sterling Shepard. Gettleman then used the sixth overall selection on quarterback Daniel Jones, a prospect most analysts had pegged as a Day 2 selection, and the No. 17 pick on Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, a run-stuffing defensive tackle who likely won’t be a full-time player.

Detroit Lions

One of only three last place teams to keep their head coach in place, the Lions actually finished with the highest Pythagorean win total (the number of games a club should win based solely on points scored/allowed) of any team on this list, per FO. Detroit went on a minor spending spree over the past few months, adding three former ex-Patriots: defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman, and wide receiver Danny Amendola. Even with regression expected for the Bears, it’s difficult to see the Lions overtaking Chicago, Green Bay, and Minnesota for the division crown.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers ranked as a top-12 offensive team in both expected points and DVOA despite trailing off at the end of season, and now they’re turning over their loaded passing unit to Bruce Arians. Scoring points shouldn’t a problem, so the onus will be on new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to improve a unit that fell apart in 2018. New additions like Devin White, Shaquil Barrett, and Deone Bucannon will buttress a defensive backfield largely populated by first- and second-year players.

Arizona Cardinals

While they’re not necessarily expected to compete for the postseason in 2019, the Cardinals will certainly be a fascinating club to watch during the upcoming year. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will bring some version of his Air Raid offense to the NFL, and Heisman winner/No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray will be under leading the attack. Arizona’s draft garnered a wealth of “A” grades across the industry, so the future could be bright for the Cardinals, but they probably don’t have the talent to compete with the rest of the NFC West just yet.

So what do you think? Which of these last place teams is likeliest to earn a postseason berth — either as a division winner or a wild card club — in 2019? Link for app users.

Poll: Which Rookie RB Will Rush For Most Yards In 2019?

Last year, the Giants pounced on the opportunity to take Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall. The decision to use a high draft pick on a running back was panned by some, but, so far, things have panned out just fine. The Penn State product rushed for 1,307 yards, led the NFL with 2,028 total scrimmage yards, and averaged 5.0 yards per carry, despite the Giants’ overall offensive struggles. 

Barkley wasn’t the only gem in last year’s class – Sony Michel (Patriots, No. 31 overall), Nick Chubb (Browns, No. 35 overall), and Kerryon Johnson (Lions, No. 43 overall) all showed serious promise for the future.

This year’s crop of running backs is not believed to be on the same level, nor was there a consensus top RB like Barkley, which complicates projections for rookie production. A look at some of this year’s strongest contenders to lead the pack in rushing yards:

  • Joshua Jacobs, Raiders: At No. 24 overall, Jacobs was the first running back taken in the 2019 draft. Even then, many in the football world felt that Mike Mayock & Co. reached for the Alabama product. Of course, after taking Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell No. 4 overall, the Raiders showed that they aren’t afraid of bucking convention. Jacobs rushed for just 640 yards in his final year on campus, which doesn’t necessarily point to major production as an NFL rookie. But, with Marshawn Lynch no longer in the fold, there’s a clear opportunity for Jacobs to shine, provided that he can get a larger share of work than Doug Martin.
  • Miles Sanders, Eagles: Another running back was not selected until 29 picks later when the Eagles took Sanders towards the back end of the second round. Lauded for his size and power, Sanders has the potential to break tackles early and gut out the tough yards. On the other hand, he’ll have to push past newcomer Jordan Howard and last year’s leading rusher Josh Adams in order to carve out opportunities.
  • Darrell Henderson, Rams: Could Todd Gurley‘s backup lead rookie RBs in rushing? Well, that depends on Gurley’s health, and there are plenty of question marks in that regard after the star’s disappointing finish to the 2018 season. Henderson had more touchdowns (22), yards (1,909), and yards per carry (8.9) than anyone else in this year’s draft class, so he could be one snap away from a monster freshman year.
  • David Montgomery, Bears: With Tarik Cohen slotted for serious work in the passing game, the stage could be set for Montgomery to serve as the Bears’ top rusher. Montgomery topped 250 rushing attempts in each of his final seasons at Iowa State and averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his final collegiate campaign.
  • Devin Singletary, Bills: LeSean McCoy is the man in Buffalo – for now. The Bills say they’re moving forward with McCoy, but if he’s released or traded, Singletary could easily edge Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon for the starting gig. Singletary bombed at the combine, but his track record for powering into the end zone should make him a favorite of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll early on.

Will one of those five RBs take the crown, or will it be another rookie rusher? Vote in the poll below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.