Inevitably in the NFL, a last place team can make surprising (if not shocking) improvements and lead their division. The NFC South has specialized in this phenomena. Parity may stem from the salary cap, free agency, the inverse order of the NFL Draft, revenue sharing, or playing a last place schedule. Regardless of the reasoning, it is without argument that the NFL has teams that blindside Vegas and perform admirably.
The AFC will be discussed first; the candidates are as follows:
Buffalo Bills: It is Chan Gailey’s second season as head coach; his players should be comfortable with with the offensive system. Unfortunately for Gailey, his best option at quarterback is Tyler Thigpen. The first four draft picks for the bills were on the defensive side of the ball. If the Bills recreate the magic of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense, the biggest obstacle to the Bills winning their division are the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The most optimistic Bills fan can only imagine a 3rd place finish.
Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer out – Andy Dalton in. Chad Ochocinco out – A.J. Green in. Marvin Lewis… still in Cincinnati. Lewis is 60-69 in Cincinnati. Lewis has had success after losing seasons: improving to 8-8 in 2004 after a 2-14 season in 2003; 10-6 2009 after 4-11-1 in 2008. Despite mediocrity during Lewis’s tenure, they are not in the perpetual quagmire Bengal fans are accustomed. Even though the Bengals have a rookie quarterback, it is not prohibitive to the team making a playoff run. Recently Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Ben Roethlisberger and Sam Bradford have had success in their first year with the first four leading their teams to the playoffs. The Bengals may win more than four games… but not many more.
Tennessee Titans: Jeff Fisher in this writer’s opinion is a great coach. Mike Munchak will have large shoes to fill; however Munchak has been with the Titan organization as a player and a coach since 1982. The offensive scheme should not entirely change, so the Titans will not suffer from the lockout as other teams may who have to install a new offensive system. However, Matt Hasselbeck may have a learning curve getting his timing with the Titan receivers. Munchack’s new voice as the head of the organization may be received more effectively by the players. Fisher was with the Titans since 1994 as a head coach; eventually players tire of hearing the same stories, direction, and motivational speeches. Consequently, Fisher may have been tuned out and was not receiving the players full attention. While the Indianapolis Colts are formidable, the Titans are the first and only nominee in the AFC for going from worst to first.
Denver Broncos: Josh McDaniels is not Bill Belicheck. Josh McDaniels is not Mike Shanahan. Josh McDaniels is not in Denver. There will be a great debate whether Tim Tebow can be a competent NFL quarterback. Quarterbacks with non-traditional throwing motions can succeed in the NFL. Short quarterbacks can succeed in the NFL. As for Tebow, he is an incredibly nice guy you want to root for, but Quincy Carter will have had a more successful NFL tenure than Tebow. If Kyle Orton starts for the Broncos on Week 1, they have the potential to compete for the AFC WEST where the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers are formidable. However, if Tebow sputters out of the gate and Denver loses to Cincinnati and Oakland, the Broncos are simply not talented enough to overcome a poor start.
Tags: Aj Green Andy Dalton Baltimore Ravens Ben Roethlisberger Bill Belicheck Buffalo Bills Carson Palmer Chad Ochocinco Chan Gailey Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos Indianapolis Colts Jeff Fisher Joe Flacco Josh Mcdaniels Kansas City Chiefs Kyle Orton Mark Sanchez Marvin Lewis Matt Hasselbeck Matt Ryan Mike Munchak Mike Shanahan New England Patriots New York Jets Quincy Carter Sam Bradford San Diego Chargers Tennessee Titans Tim Tebow Tyler Thigpen