Worst To First: NFL Teams Poised To Bounce Back In 2014

by Michael Drahota | Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 | 0

The NFL is an unpredictable league. Teams that head into a season with high expectations can find themselves falling quickly due to the speed, skill level, and most of all, high level of injuries in the pro game.

This happened in a big way to three prominent teams in 2013, ruining their seasons and relegating them to high draft picks in May’s NFL draft. Atlanta, Houston, and Detroit were all supposed to make the playoffs last year, but instead, a myriad of disappointing factors forced them to end the season an especially sour note.

However, all is not lost.

All three teams return a solid core of talent, and 2014 is a brand new year. Let’s take a look at how Atlanta, Detroit, and Houston will bounce back in 2014:

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons:

The Falcon were definitely one of the NFC’s Super Bowl contenders before injuries to star wide receiver Julio Jones and a bevy of defensive players put their 2013 season in the trash.

Jones is back healthy and looking as dominant as ever, as is veteran wide receiver Roddy White, who played through multiple injuries last year. With quarterback Matt Ryan in his prime, Atlanta should light up the stat sheets.

Losing starting offensive tackle Sam Baker for the season hurts, but they drafted prized rookie Jake Matthews to help fill that void.

The defense is still suspect, meaning that the Falcons will have to win several shootouts in 2014. But they’re perfectly built to do just that, and will contend for the NFC South title if they can get a few breaks to go their way.

Rookie running back Devonta Freeman is currently buried on the team’s depth chart, but if oft-injured veteran Stephen Jackson gets hurt (and he probably will), watch out. He could be a true difference maker for Atlanta.


Detroit Lions:

The Lions started hot out of the gate in 2013, but true to recent form, they couldn’t capitalize and faded in big games down the stretch. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was erratic, star wide receiver Calvin Johnson was hurt, and the whole team looked they just didn’t really care to be playing anymore.

Perhaps that attitude started at the top, as underachieving head coach Jim Schwartz was replaced by former Colts head man Jim Caldwell. The regime change should inspire new hope in Detroit, as the team is undoubtedly stacked with talent.

Stafford has reportedly been working extensively on his mechanics in the offseason. The Lions went out got him two new weapons by signing receiver Golden Tate away from Seattle while drafting tight end Eric Ebron with the No. 10 overall pick, signifying that they are ready to win several high-scoring affairs.

Their defense could be underrated, but they’ll have to show up huge in the dangerous NFC North. If they do, the Lions could be headed for the playoff push that their talent level suggests they should be making on a yearly basis.


Houston Texans:

The Texans were thought to be a Super Bowl contender last year as well, but several early season mistakes caused them to drop all the way to the status of the worst team in the NFL. Former head coach Gary Kubiak was fired and new coach Bill O’ Brien was enlisted to pick up the wreckage.

They got rid of quarterback Matt Schaub, and they haven’t really signed a suitable replacement, instead grabbing inconsistent veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played for Tennessee last year.

However, the down season may have been a blessing in disguise for the Texans. They were able to select once-in-a-lifetime defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick in May’s draft to pair with their already elite end JJ Watt, instantly giving them the most feared pass rush duo in the league.

Question marks remain on offense, such as the health and overall motivation of star running back Arian Foster, who saw his 2013 season cut short due to injury. He’s taken a pounding in the past five years, and the wheels may be falling off. The same could be said for talented wide receiver Andre Johnson, who started 2014 with a contract holdout.

The offense has a lot of work to do, but the defense could keep them in most games in the relatively shallow AFC South. Their closest competition should be the Indianapolis Colts, so if the Texans can get in Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck’s face and force some turnovers, a chance at a playoff spot might not be out of the question for Houston.

About the Author

Both an avid NFL fan and analyst, I’ve been following professional football since the late 1980s. I’m also an avid fantasy football player with several league victories under my belt. Check out my NFL articles on TSM for the latest NFL news, highlights, predictions, and more.

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