Ranking NFL’s worst-to-first candidates entering 2021 season: Can 49ers rise in NFC West?

If there’s one factor that makes the NFL thrilling yearly, it is the truth that it is arguably probably the most unpredictable sports activities league on the planet. 

Even a group that completed the prior season in final place can have excessive hopes for the next season and that is as a result of one of many craziest issues concerning the NFL is its means to provide a minimum of one group each season that goes from worst to first. Principally, due to parity, practically each NFL fan can go right into a season feeling like their favourite group has a official probability to make the playoffs. 

In 13 of the previous 15 years, there was a minimum of one group that has gone from final place in a single season to first place the next season. Since 2006, we have seen a worst-to-first state of affairs occur a complete of 18 instances with Washington being the newest group to tug it off (The Soccer Workforce received the NFC East in 2020 after ending in final in 2019). Should you’re scoring at house, meaning there’s been a mean of 1.20 groups per season to go from worst to first over the previous 15 years. 

That common has truly held fairly agency through the years: For the reason that NFL realigned its divisions in 2002, there have been 26 teams that have gone from worst to first, which is a mean of 1.34 groups per 12 months over that 19-season span. 

Principally, NFL historical past says that a minimum of one group goes to go from final place in 2020 to first place in 2021, and since we love rating issues right here, we’ll rank the eight last-place finishers from final 12 months to find out which group has the perfect probability of strolling away with a division title in 2021. 

Rating groups most certainly to go from worst to first 

(All division odds through Caesars Sportsbook)

2020 file: 5-11
Odds to win NFC North: +2500

The Lions have a brand new coach, a brand new quarterback and a brand new angle that features biting off knee caps, however that is in all probability not going to be sufficient to propel them to an NFC North title. The Lions obtained outscored by 142 factors final 12 months, which was probably the most within the NFC and the third-worst within the NFL. The Lions had been unhealthy final season they usually have not made too many strikes this 12 months that may counsel they will be significantly better. This group has completed in final place for 3 straight seasons and it will likely be mildly surprising in the event that they’re capable of transfer as much as simply third place in 2021, not to mention first place.  

Jared Goff may be the one individual on the planet who thinks the Lions can win the NFC North this 12 months. 

Enjoyable truth: The Lions have pulled off a worst-to-first turnaround only one time in franchise historical past. That lone occasion got here in 1993 once they received the NFC Central.

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2020 file: 2-14
Odds to win AFC East: +2200

Should you’re on the lookout for a dark-horse last-place group to make a division profitable wager on this 12 months, here is some recommendation: Do not choose the Jets. Zach Wilson might finally flip right into a franchise quarterback, however it’s unlikely we’ll see that occur in his first 12 months on the job. Additionally, the mix of a rookie quarterback and a first-year head coach is not precisely a profitable system for attending to the playoffs. No group on this listing completed farther out of of final place in 2020 than the Jets — who completed 11 video games out — and it is laborious to see them making up that hole in only one season (The Jaguars had a worse file final season, however they “solely” completed 10 video games out of first place). 

Enjoyable truth: The Jets are the one last-place group from 2020 that has by no means gone worst to first at any level in franchise historical past. 

2020 file: 4-11-1
Odds to win AFC North: +2500

On one hand, the Bengals seem to be a group which may have an opportunity to go from worst to first in 2021. Not solely have they made some main upgrades to their defensive and offensive traces — two huge bother spots final 12 months — however in addition they have numerous offensive firepower that ought to be capable of maintain them in most video games. Alternatively, the rationale the Bengals aren’t ranked greater is as a result of they play in a division of loss of life. Of all of the last-place groups from 2020, the Bengals are the one ones that performed in a division the place the opposite three groups went to the playoffs. The Bengals may shock some folks and transfer up one or two spots within the AFC North this 12 months, however it’s laborious to see them overtaking the Steelers, Ravens and Browns.  

Enjoyable truth: The thought of betting on the Bengals to get to the Super Bowl might sound loopy, however they’ve executed it earlier than following a last-place season. Really, they’ve executed it twice: Each Tremendous Bowl appearances in franchise historical past (1981, 1988) got here after a season the place the Bengals completed in final place (1980, 1987).

2020 file: 4-12
Odds to win NFC South: +900

For the previous three years, the Falcons have been a group that all the time looks like a darkish horse for a attainable playoff berth, however then they find yourself falling off their horse earlier than they even get to midseason. In 2018, they began 1-4 on their method to 7-9. In 2019, they opened up 1-7 earlier than as soon as once more going 7-9. Final season, they fell flat on their face popping out of the gate, beginning 0-5. If new coach Arthur Smith desires to get this group again within the playoffs for the primary time since 2017, he’ll have to determine find out how to keep away from a sluggish begin, which needs to be attainable since they open the season with 4 of their first 5 video games towards groups that completed under .500 final 12 months. That being mentioned, even with a quick begin, the Falcons protection nonetheless has a number of too many holes, which goes to make it troublesome to compete for a division title towards groups just like the Buccaneers and Saints

Enjoyable truth: The final time the Falcons went worst to first, they ended up making a run all the way in which to the NFC title sport earlier than dropping to the Eagles. That 2004 NFC Championship Recreation look got here one 12 months after their last-place end in 2003. 

2020 file: 5-11
Odds to win AFC West: +600

If the Broncos had one huge downside final 12 months, it was their offense, which struggled, and that is largely as a result of their quarterback struggled. The Broncos solely averaged 20.2 factors per sport in 2020, which was the fifth-lowest complete within the league. With Teddy Bridgewater taking on the beginning job, the Broncos offense needs to be higher. Their protection is an effective sufficient to win a division title, however the huge query is whether or not or not Bridgewater and the offense can sustain with groups just like the Chiefs and Chargers. They could not try this final 12 months, which is a giant motive why they went 1-5 within the division. The Broncos virtually definitely will enhance upon that division file, however the motive they don’t seem to be greater on this listing is as a result of they’re caught in a division with the perfect group within the AFC. 

Enjoyable truth: Going from worst to first is not a international idea to Broncos followers and that is as a result of they’ve already seen their group do it considerably not too long ago. After ending in final place in 2010, the Broncos rebounded with a first-place end in 2011 that was led by none apart from Tim Tebow

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

2020 file: 1-15
Odds to win AFC South: +800

The rationale the Jaguars are ranked so excessive right here has extra to do with the AFC South than the Jaguars. Certain, it sort of looks as if City Meyer is making issues up as he goes alongside and sure, they’ve a rookie quarterback, however the good news for the Jags is that each different group within the AFC South can be coping with some drama. 

The Texans may be the worst group within the NFL and the Colts cannot get out of their very own method. Should you’ve been listening to that group over the previous few weeks, it looks as if somebody both will get injured or positioned on the COVID listing each single day. As for the Titans, they’re positively the favourite within the division, however in addition they had 9 gamers on the COVID listing as not too long ago as final weekend and in the event that they get hit with an outbreak like that through the season, it might result in a forfeit this 12 months, which might depart the Jaguars because the final group standing. 

Additionally, let’s not rule out that risk of Trevor Lawrence having a surprisingly good season, which might propel Jacksonville to a division title. Though rookie quarterbacks are likely to battle throughout their first 12 months on the job, there have been a number of instances the place the QB is available in and completely revitalizes the franchise. For example, after the Colts went 2-14 in 2011, Andrew Luck got here in as a rookie and led them to an 11-5 file in 2012.

Enjoyable truth: Of all of the groups on this listing, the Jaguars are those which have most not too long ago gone worst to first. The Jags received the AFC South in 2017, only one 12 months after ending in final place with a 3-13 file. 

2. Philadelphia Eagles

2020 file: 4-11-1
Odds to win NFC East: +500

If these rankings had been primarily based on how gifted your roster is, the Eagles positively would not be within the second spot right here, however these rankings aren’t primarily based on that in any respect, they’re primarily based on whether or not or not a group has any probability of profitable its division in 2021 and the great news for the Eagles is that they play within the worst division in soccer. As unhealthy because the Eagles had been final 12 months, they had been solely a HALF sport out of first place by 12 weeks. Principally, even when the Eagles battle in 2021, they may nonetheless discover themselves in competition for a division title identical to they did final season. 

Enjoyable truth: The final 4 instances the Eagles have completed in final place (2005, 2007, 2012, 2016), they’ve adopted it up with a playoff berth the next season. This consists of 2017 once they not solely went from worst to first, however in addition they ended up profitable the Tremendous Bowl. 

2020 file: 6-10
Odds to win NFC West: +200

The 49ers truly completed the 2020 season with the perfect file (6-10) of any last-place group, and though that does not make you a contender, they in all probability really feel fairly good about themselves heading into 2021. The truth that the 49ers had been capable of win even six video games was a minor miracle and that is as a result of it appeared like everybody on the roster obtained injured at one level or one other final season. 

With a wholesome roster, there isn’t any motive the 49ers cannot emulate what they did in 2019 once they received the division on their method to the Tremendous Bowl. Though the NFC West is arguably the hardest division in soccer, which may not find yourself being a giant concern for the 49ers, who’ve gone 8-4 within the division over the previous two years.  

I am not precisely certain what Kyle Shanahan has deliberate on the quarterback place this 12 months — begin Jimmy? begin Trey? Go two-platoon like he did within the preseason? — however no matter it’s, it isn’t simply going to maintain me guessing, it is also going to maintain his opponents guessing, which ought to work out in San Francisco’s favor.  

Enjoyable truth: If the 49ers make a worst-to-first turnaround, it should mark the primary time in 50 years that they have been capable of pull off that feat. After a 4-8-2 last-place end in 1969, the 49ers would find yourself profitable the NFC West in 1970 and advancing all the way in which to the NFC title sport.  

Tremendous Bowl enjoyable truth: Of the 26 groups which have gone worst to first since 2002, solely three have made the Tremendous Bowl and all three of these groups completed a minimum of 7-9 throughout their last-place season. Sadly for the last-place groups on this 12 months’s listing, none of you meet that standards, so though one in all these groups may win their division, you in all probability should not choose them to win the Tremendous Bowl. The one group that got here near ending 7-9 final season was the 49ers, who went 6-10. | Rating NFL’s worst-to-first candidates getting into 2021 season: Can 49ers rise in NFC West?


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