If there is one thing that is pretty much guaranteed to happen in the upcoming NFL season it’s that there will be at least one team making the jump from worst to first. It’s happened nine straight years. This is likely to be 10.
Last year it was the Broncos and Texans that made the leap from last place in their respective divisions to first place. The year before that the Chiefs did it. The year before that the Saints and Bengals. And so on.
This is today’s volatile NFL. Not only does one team make the worst-to-first ascension, but most of the time it’s more. Six of the last nine years there has been more than one team climb out of the cellar and into the divisional throne.
So common sense says it’s likely to happen again this season. Either the Bills, Dolphins, Browns, Colts, Chiefs, Redskins, Vikings, Bucs or Rams will win their respective divisions. So who has the best chance?
The most likely team to pull the switch this season is the Chiefs. Kansas City was decimated by injuries last season (Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Matt Cassel, Tony Moeaki). They still finished 7-9, one game behind the rest of the AFC West.
Denver appears improved substituting Peyton Manning for Tim Tebow. But the Broncos’ hopes for the 2012 season hinge on an awfully thin piece of linguini holding Manning together. San Diego and Oakland, meanwhile, seem to have taken steps backwards, opening the door for the Chiefs to make the significant leap.
Buffalo also may have an outside chance of going worst to first. The Bills defense improved greatly this offseason with the additions of defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Ryan Fitzpatrick is finally settled as an NFL starter and Buffalo has a solid stable of running backs.
Of course, the Bills are still probably a Tom Brady injury away from being serious contenders for the AFC East. New England went 13-3 in 2011, including 5-1 against its AFC East rivals.
Tampa Bay is another greatly improved last-place team. The problem is that the Bucs play in probably the most competitive division in the NFL this season. New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina all appear to be at least above-average NFL teams. If everything falls right though, it’s not impossible to see the Bucs stealing a division crown.
The Dolphins, Browns, Colts, Redskins, Vikings and Rams appear in need of miracles. Their rosters lack the overall talent and the proven quarterback that usually wins division titles. But, hey, this is the NFL. Anything can happen on Sundays.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.