4th – AFC South – Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) – The AFC South was the closest division in football last season when you look at the spread between first place and last place with only a four-game separation. The Houston Texans won the division at 10-6 while the last place Jags were 6-10. Like it usually does in the NFL, the team goes how the quarterback goes and the Jaguars at this point are putting their eggs in the Gardner Minshew basket. To be fair, Minshew had a really good rookie season for a quarterback few ever heard of. Minshew went 6-6 in the 12 games he started throwing for 3271 yards with 21 TDs and 6 interceptions. Solid numbers. The question will be can he repeat that performance in year two because their back up is career back-up, Mike Glennon. Some think the Jaguars are in “Lose for Lawrence” mode but I think Jacksonville will have a pretty good defense that will keep them in games this year. In the most recent draft, they added cornerback CJ Henderson from Florida with the ninth overall pick and edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson with the 20th. Then in round three they went back to the defensive line and drafted DaVon Hamilton, a defensive tackle from Ohio State. An improved defense coupled with another good year from Minshew as well as playing in a division with the most parity gives the Jaguars an outside chance at going from worst to first.
3rd – NFC North – Detroit Lions (3-12-1) – The Detroit Lions are an interesting bunch. They had a solid draft most notably adding Jeffrey Okudah, CB from Ohio State as well as D’Andre Swift the Georgia running back. A big reason the Lions were at the bottom of the NFC North was due to the fact that Matthew Stafford missed half the season. In the eight games that Stafford was on the field, the Lions put up a 3-4-1 record, meaning that they were 0-8 in games Stafford missed. Stafford has been a very durable quarterback up until last season, not missing a single game since 2010. So the Lions success this season rests solely on Matthew Stafford’s shoulders. Especially since their back-up situation is not good. The Lions seem to be building with running the ball in mind though. In 2018 the Lions drafted running back Kerryon Johnson in the 2nd round. They also picked up former Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough late in the 2019 season. In the 2019 draft the Lions drafted the aforementioned D’Andre Swift in the second round. This could be a good strategy as they try to protect the 12 year veteran behind center. If the Packers and Vikings stumble and the Lions get a bounce or two could be a prime candidate to go from worst to first.
2nd – NFC West – Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1) – The Arizona Cardinals have a chance to be sneaky good this year. Last year’s number one overall pick Kyler Murray looks to be the real deal at quarterback. Arizona has gone out and gathered some weapons to put around their young signal-caller. GM Steve Keim (no relation that I know of) went out and traded for one of the top receivers in the league in DeAndre Hopkins. Pair him with the craft veteran Larry Fitzgerald and you may have the best hands in the league when it comes to starting receivers. In 2019 Keim also added former Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake who seemed to revitalize his career to the point that it made David Johnson expendable and was thus used in the Hopkins trade. In 8 games with the Cards, Drake rushed for 643 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Cardinals went defense-heavy in the draft using four of the six picks on that side of the ball. In the first round, they drafted my favorite player in the draft this year LB/S from Clemson, Isaiah Simmons. Simmons is a Swiss Army knife has played over 100 snaps at 5 different positions last season for Clemson. He should make an immediate impact. They also added two defensive tackles and an inside linebacker in rounds four and six. Talent-wise, I think the Cardinals have what it takes to make a push for worst to first. They will need some help though, to win a division that includes Seattle, San Francisco, and the Los Angeles Rams in a tough ask.