Early season predictions on the worst teams in the NFL

For a good portion of the decade, there has been lousy football coming from the same three teams. The Cleveland Browns (0-16) had their last win in the 2016 season with Johnny Manziel as their quarterback. That feels like a lifetime ago already. The Chicago Bears (5-11) have notoriously been a two or three win team ever since losing the NFC Championship in 2010. Then comes the San Francisco 49ers (6-10) who has had a roller coaster ride all decade. Ever since losing head coach Jim Harbaugh the 49ers’ wins have been lacking.

The Bears and 49ers have already reached out of bottom feeder status as of last season. It’s no coincidence that acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo and Mitch Trubisky have helped tremendously. All three of these teams are currently heading in the right direction. The biggest question mark lies on the Cleveland Browns, coming from zero wins last year. Cleveland possibly has the most impressive roster we’ve seen in a very long time. Even four wins from the Browns would be considered a successful season at this point. With these teams currently on the rise to success, there can only be three new teams to take their place. What new franchise will take the dishonor of being the new bottom feeder?

1. Cincinnati Bengals

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Only one thing prevented the Cincinnati Bengals from being the worst team in their division last year: the luxury of sharing the division with Cleveland. Last season definitely exposed some holes in Cincinnati’s arsenal. The Bengals missed every opportunity to pick up any top rated free agents to patch any of those holes. Most teams are becoming a running back by committee, and the Bengals have the same mentality. Between Jeremy Hill, Giovanni Bernard, and Joe Mixon they’re not sure which RB to use. The answer seems obvious: go with Mixon. There should be no doubt that Joe Mixon will eventually become a great running back. It will take longer to see results when he’s only allowed eight carries a game.

 

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Tampa Bay has some pretty great weapons on their team. Mike Evans has always been a top wide receiver each year. Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander have been crucial pieces that can provide help on any team in the NFL. Jameis Winston has proven himself as a good franchise quarterback. He has the unfortunate circumstance of sharing the same division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan. Winston is young and has plenty of time to hone in his talents. Despite all the pro-bowlers on the roster, the Bucs still have not been able to click into gear. Perhaps the blame should fall on the coaching staff. Tampa Bay is high on their first-round pick Vita Vey, a defensive tackle from Washington. Vey has high regards but still doesn’t fix their running back problem after releasing Doug Martin.

3. Miami Dolphins

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The Miami Dolphins have lingered on the border of bottom feeders for quite some time. Ryan Tannehill will be returning from his ACL injury this upcoming season. The Dolphins continue to believe in Tannehill being their starting QB, despite Adam Gase not achieving much success with him. Tannehill has fewer weapons to work with since Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry are no longer on the team. Minkah Fitzpatrick was a great first-round choice in the draft. Even the DB from Alabama won’t be able the save the problems Miami will face in the near future. Miami has a window of opportunity to build once Tom Brady retires from the Patriots. The competition will be severe as the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are doing the exact same thing. With the Dolphins allowing their best players to be traded, there is a high probability that they could be the worst team in the NFL this coming season.

Big 10 Remains Wide Open

There are only three games left in NCAA Football, which means everything is on the line here for a lot of teams across the conferences. The same is to be said for the Big 10, which has received a lot of attention this season for its domineering rosters and very athletic programs. Some people argue that the Big 10 may be the most competitive power conference in college football, but SEC fans like to politely point out that Georgia and Alabama are forces to be reckoned with. That’s not to say that the Big 10 isn’t competitive, having six teams being ranked in the Top 25 (the most out of any conference). The competition however seems a bit one sided getting ready for the conference championship.

Wisconsin should be an easy shoe-in making it to the conference title game. The only team that is undefeated among the Big 10, along with one of five teams who remain undefeated in the entire country.  What makes it easier for them is Wisconsin is in the Big 10 West, where the second best team is Northwestern (6-3), a team who Wisconsin already has defeated. Iowa (6-3) is in third, but makes this coming up Saturday very interesting as they have taken down the mighty Ohio State, and now prepare themselves for the undefeated Wisconsin. A good argument could be made that Iowa is really the second best team in the Big 10 West, and we’ll find out after this coming week how good Wisconsin really is. Defeating Iowa should only gain more respect in the polls for Wisconsin, who are ranked #6 in the country right now, despite being below three 8-1 teams having an untarnished record. The reason behind this? Wisconsin has had a pretty easy schedule this year. Up until this point, Wisconsin’s hardest opponent on paper would have been a heavily criticized Michigan team. That is, until Iowa decided to make a name for themselves now. Getting wins against Iowa and Michigan may change a few votes for Wisconsin, but either way the committee has to be looking more in the direction of the Big 10 East right now.

It should be no secret that the playoff committee loves Ohio State. Urban Meyer is the second most respected coach right after Nick Saban, and it seems as though every year half of the Ohio State roster gets drafted by the NFL. It was shown last year when Penn State won the Big 10 Championship and Ohio State still made the playoffs. Between Ohio State and Penn State alone it looked as though the the Big 10 East was going to be a brutal battle getting to the top. Plus add Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines in to the mix and it’s a recipe for upsets and great football. While these three teams have been in the spotlight (all with tied records at 7-2), Michigan State has quietly climbed past them all and currently holds the top spot in the East. This Saturday Michigan State faces off against Ohio State, in a game that could determine the outcome of which makes the Big 10 Conference Championship. Meanwhile, Penn State and Michigan are trying to win out the rest of their season in order to have a chance towards the conference game. Michigan has the toughest schedule ahead of them. Maryland is next, followed by Wisconsin, and then Ohio State. Especially after losing to Michigan State earlier this year, Michigan looks doomed at the moment, but will still make a bowl game. Penn State has a cake walk the rest of the year with their future opponents being Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland. Penn State has to have their fingers crossed with a lucky rabbit’s foot in hopes that Michigan State can upset Ohio State and then lose a following match up in the next two games to follow that. It’s a long shot, but they still have a chance of making it to the championship.

As it currently stands the playoff picture looks to be Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Clemson. Within the next three weeks the teams officially in will be subject to change, depending on how everything plays out. Even teams that look like they don’t stand a chance still have a shot at the playoffs. Ohio State was ranked #14 in the playoff polls when they upset Alabama in the BCS Championship game. The odds are against any teams in the PAC 12 on making the playoffs this year. Clemson should have an easy invite, but that could all be changed depending on how the ACC Conference Championship goes against the Miami Hurricanes. Alabama and Georgia look pretty locked in their spots as well, unless somehow one of those teams gets majorly upset by an unranked team in next few weeks. That leaves Notre Dame and a good handful of teams in the Big 10 all fighting for one playoff spot. Notre Dame has been impressive this year — their one loss came from Georgia in an absolute heartbreak. They are also the only team that have come remotely close of taking down the mighty Georgia program.

Hypothetically, is Notre Dame more impressive than a 12-0 Wisconsin team who also wins the Big 10 Conference? Would they be more impressive than a sleek and subtle Michigan State team who takes down Urban Meyer’s Ohio State and also wins the Big 10? Or how about the Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield and his impressive Oklahoma team over in the Big 12? These are questions that will all need to be addressed in the next few weeks, and it makes the playoff hunt that more exciting to watch for college football this year.