NFL Teams That Will Make the Biggest Leap in 2019
The words parity and turnover are commonly used in the NFL, as the league is no stranger to year-to-year sea changes that dramatically shift the teams suddenly in the playoff conversation, as well as those teams suddenly out of the picture.
Just look at last year, when teams like the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears won their divisions, only a season removed from going 4-12 and 5-11, respectively.
With that in mind, who are the teams with the best chance to flip the script for the upcoming NFL season? Here are five that can make the biggest leap in 2019.
5. Arizona Cardinals (2018 record: 3-13)
The Arizona Cardinals were the worst team in football last year, and it netted them the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. They used that pick on Oklahoma QB phenom Kyler Murray, who, while undersized, has the skillset to be elite in the NFL. The Cardinals also drafted a bunch of wide receivers, as they will look to spread the ball around under new coach Kliff Kingsbury, making his NFL debut after spending six years coaching Texas Tech. The Cardinals offense should improve dramatically, but they will also need key defensive contributions to make any noise in what could be a loaded NFC West this season.
4. New York Jets (2018 record: 4-12)
It was another tough season in East Rutherford, as the New York Jets finished 4-12 last year after posting a 5-11 record in 2017. Their poor record led to another top draft pick and they used it to add Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams to what should be a much-improved defense. With key free agency acquisitions like RB Le'Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Jets will look to take a major leap in 2019. If second-year QB Sam Darnold is ready to take a personal leap of his own, a playoff berth could be in the cards for Gang Green.
3. San Francisco 49ers (2018 record: 4-12)
A team expected to make the leap last season, the San Francisco 49ers had to put those plans on hold after losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL in Week 3. Jimmy G is expected to start in Week 1 for a 49ers team with high aspirations yet again. They used the second pick of the 2019 NFL Draft on defensive end Nick Bosa, who should lead a much improved defensive unit that made a number of free agency signings, most notably defensive end Dee Ford. Garoppolo still needs to prove it as a year-long starter, but if his New England performances were any indication, San Francisco could be ready to disrupt the NFC West as soon as this season.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2018 record: 5-11)
It was quite the fall from grace for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018, coming off a 2017 season that included an AFC South title and an AFC Championship appearance. Last year's Jags were more of what we've come to expect in recent years – a 5-11 record and last place in the division. The team finally decided to part ways with QB Blake Bortles, and signed former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to take over. Foles will surely be an improvement, and the team also added to their once dominant defense with draft pick Josh Allen. If Foles can provide even slightly above average QB play, along with the defense returning to 2017 form, a division crown could be there for the taking.
1. Green Bay Packers (2018 record: 6-9-1)
It was a weird year for the Green Bay Packers, as any season that includes a tie normally is in the NFL. After losing a number of games in frustrating fashion, the team finally decided to axe coach Mike McCarthy in early December last year. In the offseason, the Packers hired former Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who many are expecting to open up the offense in ways McCarthy stubbornly refused to do during his reign. Aaron Rodgers managed to play in 16 games last year, despite battling injuries, and posted a 25-2 touchdown-interception ratio, proving he is still arguably the league's best QB. If LaFleur can revitalize this team, one that made some key additions to their struggling secondary, the Packers could once again be a Super Bowl contender.
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