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

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

Even a workforce 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 capability to supply not less than one workforce each season that goes from worst to first. Mainly, because of parity, practically each NFL fan can go right into a season feeling like their favourite workforce has a legit probability to make the playoffs. 

In 13 of the previous 15 years, there was not less than one workforce 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 occasions with Washington being the newest workforce to tug it off (The Soccer Crew gained the NFC East in 2020 after ending in final in 2019). For those who’re scoring at dwelling, 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 really held fairly agency over time: 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 yr over that 19-season span. 

Mainly, NFL historical past says that not less than one workforce goes to go from final place in 2020 to first place in 2021, and since we love rating issues right here, we will rank the eight last-place finishers from final yr to find out which workforce has the perfect probability of strolling away with a division title in 2021. 

Rating groups almost certainly to go from worst to first 

(All division odds by way of 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 perspective 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 bought outscored by 142 factors final yr, which was essentially the most within the NFC and the third-worst within the NFL. The Lions had been unhealthy final season and so they have not made too many strikes this yr that might counsel they will be a lot better. This workforce has completed in final place for 3 straight seasons and it will likely be mildly stunning in the event that they’re in a position to transfer as much as simply third place in 2021, not to mention first place.  

Jared Goff could be the one individual on the planet who thinks the Lions can win the NFC North this yr. 

Enjoyable reality: 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 gained the NFC Central.

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

For those who’re searching for a dark-horse last-place workforce to make a division profitable wager on this yr, this is some recommendation: Do not choose the Jets. Zach Wilson might ultimately flip right into a franchise quarterback, however it’s unlikely we will see that occur in his first yr on the job. Additionally, the mix of a rookie quarterback and a first-year head coach is not precisely a profitable method for attending to the playoffs. No workforce on this record completed farther out of of final place in 2020 than the Jets — who completed 11 video games out — and it is onerous 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 reality: The Jets are the one last-place workforce 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 appear to be a workforce 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 strains — two huge bother spots final yr — however additionally they have quite a lot of offensive firepower that ought to have the ability to maintain them in most video games. Alternatively, the rationale the Bengals aren’t ranked larger is as a result of they play in a division of dying. 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 would possibly shock some individuals and transfer up one or two spots within the AFC North this yr, however it’s onerous to see them overtaking the Steelers, Ravens and Browns.  

Enjoyable reality: The concept of betting on the Bengals to get to the Super Bowl may appear loopy, however they’ve accomplished it earlier than following a last-place season. Really, they’ve accomplished 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 workforce that all the time appears like a darkish horse for a potential 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 option 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 workforce again within the playoffs for the primary time since 2017, he will have to determine easy methods to keep away from a sluggish begin, which must be potential since they open the season with 4 of their first 5 video games in opposition to groups that completed under .500 final yr. That being mentioned, even with a quick begin, the Falcons protection nonetheless has a couple of too many holes, which goes to make it tough to compete for a division title in opposition to groups just like the Buccaneers and Saints

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

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

If the Broncos had one huge drawback final yr, 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 recreation in 2020, which was the fifth-lowest complete within the league. With Teddy Bridgewater taking on the beginning job, the Broncos offense must be higher. Their protection is an efficient 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 yr, which is a giant motive why they went 1-5 within the division. The Broncos virtually actually will enhance upon that division file, however the motive they don’t seem to be larger on this record is as a result of they’re caught in a division with the perfect workforce within the AFC. 

Enjoyable reality: Going from worst to first is not a overseas idea to Broncos followers and that is as a result of they’ve already seen their workforce 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 explanation the Jaguars are ranked so excessive right here has extra to do with the AFC South than the Jaguars. Positive, it form 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 workforce within the AFC South can be coping with some drama. 

The Texans could be the worst workforce within the NFL and the Colts cannot get out of their very own approach. For those who’ve been being attentive to that workforce over the previous few weeks, it looks as if somebody both will get injured or positioned on the COVID record each single day. As for the Titans, they’re positively the favourite within the division, however additionally they had 9 gamers on the COVID record 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 yr, which might depart the Jaguars because the final workforce 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 inclined to wrestle throughout their first yr on the job, there have been a couple 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 reality: Of all of the groups on this record, the Jaguars are those which have most not too long ago gone worst to first. The Jags gained the AFC South in 2017, only one yr 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 proficient 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 workforce 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 yr, they had been solely a HALF recreation out of first place by way of 12 weeks. Mainly, even when the Eagles wrestle in 2021, they might nonetheless discover themselves in competition for a division title similar to they did final season. 

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

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

The 49ers really completed the 2020 season with the perfect file (6-10) of any last-place workforce, 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 in a position to win even six video games was a minor miracle and that is as a result of it appeared like everybody on the roster bought injured at one level or one other final season. 

With a wholesome roster, there is not any motive the 49ers cannot emulate what they did in 2019 once they gained the division on their option to the Tremendous Bowl. Though the NFC West is arguably the hardest division in soccer, which may not find yourself being a giant difficulty 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 yr — begin Jimmy? begin Trey? Go two-platoon like he did within the preseason? — however no matter it’s, it is not 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 reality: If the 49ers make a worst-to-first turnaround, it should mark the primary time in 50 years that they have been in a position to 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 recreation.  

Tremendous Bowl enjoyable reality: 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 not less than 7-9 throughout their last-place season. Sadly for the last-place groups on this yr’s record, none of you meet that standards, so though one in every of these groups would possibly win their division, you in all probability should not choose them to win the Tremendous Bowl. The one workforce that got here near ending 7-9 final season was the 49ers, who went 6-10. 

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/ranking-nfls-worst-to-first-candidates-entering-2021-season-can-the-49ers-rise-in-nfc-west/ | Rating NFL’s worst-to-first candidates getting into 2021 season: Can the 49ers rise in NFC West?


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