NFL 2019 Preview Part 1: How Can Last Season’s Non-Playoff Teams Make a Jump This Year

Twenty NFL teams missed out on postseason play last year. What can these franchises do to make a run this year? Something? Anything? More importantly, can they simply improve upon 2018 and be better in 2019 — regardless of the playoffs or not. That said, it’s always real easy to sit back and say, “Well if Team X would just fix ‘blank’, they’d be better.” In reality, these teams usually need to remedy more than just one thing. But it’s a fun exercise to think if these non-playoff teams from a year ago could be better in just one area, they’d have a shot to reach their ceiling of wins. In other words for them to reach or exceed expectations in 2019, this one thing absolutely must must happen. And if it doesn’t…..well….

Here’s my thoughts on the NFC teams in Part 1 of a multi-part piece.

Arizona Cardinals

This is simple. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s fast-paced, high-flying offense has no chance of succeeding if that offensive line can’t keep Kyler Murray upright. There is a ton of optimism in the desert that Kyler, DJ, Christian Kirk, and their new skill position rookies could be exciting and fun to watch. But all that will stall out in a major way if that line, which surrendered 52 sacks and 109 hurries in 2018, cannot block.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

San Francisco 49ers

This defensive line looks strong, their QB is back and healthy, they have an All-Pro tight end, and the running back position is deep. What’s left to do? Kyle Shanahan’s offense needs to turn second year wideout Dante Pettis into a star. Pettis has fewer than 30 career catches, but the talent is there and the ceiling is high.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Washington Redskins

The Washington defense is really good. With the firm of Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis up front pressuring the pocket, the Redskins should be a force on that side of the ball. That triple threat led the team to 46 sacks a year ago — 4th in the NFL; and now they’ve added Landon Collins at the backend. The defense is not the question here. This team’s success — and probably Jay Gruden’s future — rests in the hands of the offensive line. How effective that unit is will directly impact whoever is under center and the run game (which has some interesting pieces if healthy).

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 4 wins

New York Giants

I have very little faith in this team this season. The fastest way for this team to be anything close to good is that rookie QB Daniel Jones makes everyone, who scoffed at his selection in the draft, eat crow. And this includes his coaching staff — who need to see that he is a better option than Eli.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

Detroit Lions

I’m having a hard time finding wins for the Lions. At least when the offense was playing uptempo and Matthew Stafford was slinging the rock all over the field, there was hope they’d just outscore opponents. Now, this sluggish offense with Darell Bevell calling plays lacks that fiery punch that we’ve seen with this team. A lot will depend on how well Kenny Golladay plays as the number one WR and how much Kerryon Johnson is trusted by the coaches to carry the load. So I guess it boils down to if Matt Stafford can indeed elevate the play of those around him, this team should better than they were a year ago. (A caveat would be that the coaches put players in positions to be successful — especially on offense.)

Ceiling: 8 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Minnesota Vikings

This team looks very similar to the team that entered 2018 as a Super Bowl contender. The offensive line was a constant thorn for this team a year ago, and by drafting NC State’s Garrett Bradbury in the first round of last Spring’s NFL Draft, the Vikings should be more stable up front. For me, their success hinges upon their quarterback’s ability to beat the good teams. The jokes are out there — Kirk Cousins beats the bad teams, but can’t beat t he good ones. For Minnesota to have a realistic shot at the playoffs (and beyond), Cousins must beat teams above .500. Simple, right? It is.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Green Bay Packers

If you’ve heard me talk on the Sports Talk Center podcast in the past couple months, you know how I feel about the Packers in 2019. New offense? New head coach? Doesn’t matter if this team’s young talent can gel together on both sides of the ball. From WRs Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison to running back Aaron Jones to second year cornerback Jaire Alexander, the talent is everywhere. If it all comes together, this is one dangerous football team that no one will want to play in January.

Ceiling: 13 wins

Floor: 9 wins

Carolina Panthers

Before Cam Newton got hurt and couldn’t throw a football straight, the Panthers were looking like a playoff team in 2018. If he’s healthy, there’s absolutely no reason to think they won’t be in the mix again this season.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Atlanta Falcons

This can’t be any simpler: the defense is good when healthy, the weapons on offense are super productive, and the quarterback is more than capable of being a top 5 QB by season’s end. The only question: can the offensive line do their job? If not, we’ve seen the Falcons go a little sideways. Two first round picks were spent in the last draft to bolster that unit.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Can Bruce Arians be a positive influence on Jameis Winston? Big Ben, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer all benefited under the tutelage of Arians. Can Jameis join that group? For the Bucs to be a good team, he is going to need to because 14 interceptions in 11 games last season isn’t the formula for success in what should be a very tough division.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

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Author: Brian Goodwin

An educator for 15 years. I have a passion for sports and a passion for writing about sports. I'm very excited to run this blog and have conversations with people about relevant topics, mostly pertaining to sports but also in all aspects of life.

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