Monday, February 6, 2017

Which NFL Teams Will "Rise Up" Next Season?

            With the Atlanta Falcons's improbable rise to the near-top of the NFL world, the hope that a mid-level team can rise from the ashes to the Super Bowl has inspired many teams. Which teams could rise to the top?

  1. Carolina Panthers: If the Panthers can figure out their offensive line, Cam Newton should have an easier time rebounding from a terrible 2016 campaign. He'll get more protection, meaning he'll be less prone to making bad throws since he won't be under pressure as much. Being sacked 36 times this year did Cam no favors at the QB position.
  2. Detroit Lions: There's talk about who'll be the next Matt Ryan and a lot of talk has centered around Matt Stafford. With a rating of 93.3, 4,327 passing yards, and 24 touchdowns this year, Stafford looks to be on the cusp of taking that next step. Granted, the Lions will need to find a running game and may need to upgrade their offensive line once more. But the Lions are trending in the right direction.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This team could be a defensive version of the Falcons. The Buccaneers were close to making the playoffs this year, but missed out due to a lackluster start. However, the Bucs brought hope to Central Florida with a five-game winning streak that saw the Bucs hold opponents to 12.8 PPG in that stretch. They'll have plenty of free agents moving around, but the team is trending upward.
  4. Indianapolis Colts: This list is centered mainly around teams who have the QB's ready to take the next step. Andrew Luck is (and should) be one of them. Once deemed the heir to Peyton Manning's place as the franchise QB, Luck hasn't shown a whole lot. 2016 saw Luck put up career highs in completion percentage (63.5%), yards per pass attempt (7.78), and QBR (71.2). While the Colts have other issues to deal with (like the team's health and defense), the Colts need a strong Luck to lead their team to the Super Bowl aspirations that they're expected to achieve. 
  5. Washington Redskins: The 'Skins put together an offensive juggernaut like Atlanta thanks to the rise of Kirk Cousins (4,917 passing yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs). In fact, Washington was third in total offense this season with 6,454 total yards. With weapons like Jordan Reed, the 'Skins's main focus will be on what to do with Kirk Cousins this offseason.
Photo Courtesy of SportsOnEarth

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