In the NFL, there are some teams who make huge improvements over the course of a season or two. A great example is the San Francisco 49ers. In the 2018-2019 season, they went 4-12. The next season, they would go on to be NFC Champions. In this article, we give three teams who can surprise people with their performance this year.
3 years removed from winning the NFL championship it may come as a surprise that we are listing this team here, but the downfall they had last season gives them a chance on this list. Last year was something that Doug Pederson and the rest of the Eagles will try and forget. Even though they won the division last year, they held an uninspiring 9-7 record and were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs. The Eagles were expected to go much farther with a healthy Carson Wentz, but their team crumbled as injuries plagued this team. This team should be able to bounce back from their previous season, and have made major improvements.
Two of the biggest holes on the Eagles roster coming into the offseason was the cornerback and receiver position. Many people believe that this team filled these needs including me. The Eagles filled the first of their holes by trading for Darius Slay. The Eagles gave up a third and fifth round pick in the 2020 draft for a cornerback that has three Pro Bowls. Slay is a great cover corner that can take the load off of his teammates,and can shut down one side of the field. Slay is an elite corner with great athleticism that will greatly improve the Eagles defense, and by signing him to a three year extension they are locking down an elite corner for the future. The Eagles also addressed their other need, not by trading for a Pro Bowl wide receiver, but by using their draft picks to select a young and sturdy receiver. They were able to snag Jalen Reagor with the 21st pick. Reagor gives the Eagles a speedy option that can spread defenses out. We have seen what a receiver like Reagor can do for this team in the production of Desan Jackson, but with his injury concern it is unexpected that Jackson will play a full season.
The season for the Eagles could be graded as moderate. They have to face some of the strongest teams in the league like the Ravens and 49ers, but also get some easy games against the Redskins and Giants. The Eagles should be worried about the Cowboys, who they will have to face two times. If the Eagles manage to hold up against the Cowboys high powered offense then many people will start considering the Eagles as legit contenders.
Los Angeles Chargers:
After letting go of longtime QB Phillip Rivers, the Chargers are ready to start a new chapter this season. Tyrod Taylor is the expected starter, and is hoping to have a great comeback year proving haters wrong. When you look at the recent history for the L.A. Chargers, you can find that they were in the playoffs just two years ago. They fell in the second round to the Patriots, but still had a decent season. Not many major changes have been made to the roster since then, other than Melvin Gordon leaving along with Phillip Rivers.
The New Starter In Town:
As many people expected, the Chargers will be rolling with veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor during the 2020 campaign. Starting Justin Herbert right out of the gate wouldn’t be right, as we have seen rookies fall deeply when playing the starter role Week 1. Back to Tyrod Taylor. One major difference fans will like between him and Phillip Rivers is the amount of interceptions thrown. The Chargers got tired of seeing Phillip Rivers launch balls in the air straight to the defender, and therefore, moved on. Tyrod Taylor, on the other hand, has shown over his career that he is not only mobile, but can also avoid making brainless mistakes. In his three seasons with Buffalo, Taylor threw 51 touchdowns, and just 16 interceptions. Compare that to Phillip Rivers, he threw 83 touchdowns, but also was responsible for 42 interceptions. We know that Rivers is older, but numbers and play show that it is time he moves on from being a Charger. Taylor didn’t have the best stint with the Browns, but he still has a chance to prove that he is worthy of being a starter in the NFL. Not to mention, Taylor has pretty good talent around him in Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry. If the Bolts can get off to a quick start to the season, and set a quick tone, I think that they could be in contention for a playoff spot.
When you look at the 2020 schedule for the Los Angeles Chargers, there aren’t too many tough opponents stacked up. The Bolts have the 7th easiest schedule in the NFL, with opponents like Jacksonville, Miami, the Jets, and the Panthers. When I look at the losses for the Chargers this year, I automatically see them falling to the Chiefs twice, New Orleans, Atlanta, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and the Raiders once. There you have a record of 9-7. If they get lucky, Los Angeles maybe could sneak into a Wild Card spot with this record.
New York Jets:
When the New York Jets get brought up, many people often think of them as a joke in the NFL. Yes, they have had disappointing seasons for the last decade, but Jets fans don’t need to be keeping their head down for too much longer. After injuries derailed their season, this team should be coming back stronger than ever. The Jets have made huge investments in the draft, and should be seeing a turnaround soon. When you think about it, the Jets had a great draft, giving Sam Darnold what he needs on the offensive side. Not to mention he also has one of the best dual-threat running backs in Le’Veon Bell.
After acquiring Mekhi Bekton and Denzel Mims in the first two rounds of the draft, the Jets made sure to give Sam Darnold a receiving weapon, and more protection. Denzel Mims is a big bodied receiver out of Baylor that can go up for the catch. With his huge catch radius he can haul in catches that may not be on target. In the first round of the draft the Jets were able to snag the most imposing offensive lineman on the board. At 365 pounds and standing 6’7, Mekhi Becton will be a force on the line. Even though he may need to clean up his technique and polish his footwork, Becton can greatly improve this offensive line. Surrounding Darnold with weapons is the key to success because it’ll give Darnold more confidence when throwing the football, as well as more time in the pocket.
Although the Jets have the second hardest schedule in the NFL, there are still a lot of positive things that can come out when analyzing their schedule. The challenges that a young team like the Jets will face, can prepare them for the future when they face harder opponents in the playoffs. Facing opponents like the Seahawks, Chiefs, Bills, and 49ers will be very tough for them, but will give them an idea of what it’s like to face a contender. When I see the schedule for New York, I have them going 7-9. This record won’t get them in the playoffs, but it will be looked at as improvement. I don’t see them pulling any major upsets during the season. Hopefully the 2021 schedule won’t be too harsh on them, but I think they can surprise a few people with their performance this upcoming year.
Top Photo: Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press