Which NFL Team Will Go From Worst To First In 2019?

Andrew Brocker
The Independent

The NFL is famed for its parity.

There are few sports leagues worldwide that routinely see teams go from the bottom tier of the competition to championship contenders in the space of twelve months.

In the NFL, even the most pessimistic of fans leave room for optimism.

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Since the NFL aligned to a four team – eight division format in 2002, a total of 22 teams have gone from last place in their respective division to first place the following season.

Here we take a look at the likely candidates to cause a surprise.

Team

Division

Last

W/L

First

W/L

Houston

AFC South

2017

4-12

2018

11-5

Chicago

NFC North

2017

5-11

2018

12-4

Jacksonville

AFC South

2016

3-13

2017

10-6

Philadelphia

NFC East

2016

7-9

2017

13-3

Dallas

NFC East

2015

4-12

2016

13-3

Washington

NFC East

2014

4-12

2015

9-7

Philadelphia

NFC East

2012

4-12

2013

10-6

Carolina

NFC South

2012

7-9

2013

12-4

Washington

NFC East

2011

5-11

2012

10-6

Denver

AFC West

2010

4-12

2011

8-8

Kansas City

AFC West

2009

4-12

2010

10-6

New Orleans

NFC South

2008

8-8

2009

13-3

Miami

AFC East

2007

1-15

2008

11-5

Tampa Bay

NFC South

2006

4-12

2007

9-7

Philadelphia

NFC East

2005

6-10

2006

10-6

New Orleans

NFC South

2005

3-13

2006

10-6

Chicago

NFC North

2004

5-11

2005

11-5

Tampa Bay

NFC South

2004

5-11

2005

11-5

San Diego

AFC West

2003

4-12

2004

12-4

Atlanta

NFC South

2003

5-11

2004

11-5

Kansas City

AFC West

2002

8-8

2003

13-3

Carolina

NFC South

2002

7-9

2003

11-5

Heading into the 2019 NFL season, eight teams have the chance to claim an unexpected division title:

Team

Division

2018 record

2019 Division odds

NY Jets

AFC East

4-12

13/2

Cincinatti

AFC North

6-10

18/1

Jacksonville

AFC South

5-11

15/4

Oakland

AFC West

4-12

12/1

NY Giants

NFC East

5-11

11/1

Detroit

NFC North

6-10

12/1

Tampa Bay

NFC South

5-11

17/2

Arizona

NFC West

3-13

25/1

In this article we will not so much be considering which teams are more likely to flip the script on their 2018 campaigns, but which teams offer the best value in terms of division title betting.

As the odds above suggest, bookmakers do not expect last season’s cellar dwellers to make much of a mark in 2019.

In fact, six of last seasons last place finishers are expected to land bottom again this coming season with only the New York Jets (expected to finish a distant second to New England in the AFC East) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (expected to finish third in the AFC South) anticipating anything other than a last place finish.

Worst To First Best Bet – Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC South Odds: 15/4 at bet365​

It was just over a year ago that Jacksonville led the New England Patriots by 10 points early in the fourth quarter of an AFC Championship game. That 2017 season saw Jacksonville win ten games before claiming two playoff victories including a divisional round win in Pittsburgh on their way to their title match with the Patriots. After what appeared a breakout season, a season that brought the club its first division crown in twenty seasons, the Jags would win just five games in 2018.

Despite their 2018 win loss record, the Jags defence managed to rank fifth in yards conceded per game, down just three places on their 2017 campaign. But while the Jacksonville defense claimed 33 turnovers in 2017 ranking second overall for takeaways, the club claimed just 17 a year later.

While the Jags’ defence was not as opportunistic as a season prior, it was on offence where the Jags struggled most. Despite issues, the Jacksonville offence ranked sixth for yards per game in 2017 and 12th for turnovers conceded. A season later the Jags offence plummeted to 27th for yards per game and sixth worst for turnovers conceded.

Why The Jags Can Bounceback in 2019

Nick Foles has been brought in to replace the infuriating Blake Bortles at quarterback. Foles has been considered a low end starter / high end back up quarterback for most of his career but has performed when required and on the biggest stage. But while the Super Bowl 52 MVP is an upgrade on Bortles it remains to be seen whether Foles is the long term solution in Jacksonville. Regardless of the long term outlook, Foles brings experience and leadership to Jacksonville and should provide enough at the position in 2019 to keep the Jags in the division hunt throughout the regular season.

The Jags addressed other positional shortcomings through free agency and the draft, signing Chris Conely at wide receiver, Geoff Swaim at tight end and both Cedric Ogbuehi and A.J Cann to sure up the offensive line before taking standout linebacker Josh Allen with the seventh overall selection in the 2019 NFL draft.

An upgraded and healthy offensive line will assist running back Leonard Fournette who will look to rebound from a disappointing 2018 campaign. Fournette ran for over a thousand yards in 2017 in 13 games before accumulating just 439 yards in eight games played a season later. Fournette will be hungry for redemption and if the offensive line remains healthy, Fournette and Foles will provide more than a handful for opposing defenses.

Josh Allen of Kentucky will bolster the Jags (Getty)
Josh Allen of Kentucky will bolster the Jags (Getty)

Can The Jags Top The Colts?

Indianapolis are rated favourites to win the AFC South with their win total over under at 9.5 wins, while the Jags are listed to finish third at 8 wins.

In what will be a tight battle, divisional matchups will likely determine the division crown. While the Colts are expected to regain division supremacy in 2019, a resurgent Jacksonville should stay in the fight well into the season.

Given their upside, at odds of 15/4 the Jags are the best bet to bounce from last to first this upcoming season.

Other Value Bets To Consider

New York Jets – AFC East odds 13/2 at bet365​

Many a punter has looked foolish betting against the Patriots over the last fifteen seasons. New England may be coming off another successful Super Bowl campaign, but there is genuine optimism in New York heading into 2019. While it may be folly to anticipate decline in New England, this is the season that the balance of power begins to shift away from the Patriots. The Jets are the most likely challenger and at odds of 13/2 provide decent value.

Cincinnati Bengals – AFC North odds 18/1 at bet365​

The AFC North is set to be a division in transition in 2019. While the bookmakers believe it will be a race of three, there is no clear favourite. Given this divisional power vacuum and the fact bookmakers have Cleveland winning the division at just 9.5 wins and Cincinnati finishing bottom at around 6.5 wins, the Bengals are a decent small stakes value bet at odds of 18/1 to win the AFC North.

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