5 NFL Teams With Losing Records That Could Contend in 2013
5 Teams with Losing Records That Could Contend in 2013
With the NFL playoffs fast approaching everyone is focused on the league’s competitive teams that are currently fighting for division titles, playoff seeds, or wild card spots. This slideshow will focus on teams that are not currently competitive but could be next year with their current rosters. There are several teams in the league this year that are young, rebuilding, or that have simply underperformed this season which has kept them from reaching their full potential in 2012. But with the players they currently have, they could very well compete in 2013.
In 2012 the Indianapolis Colts had a spectacular draft which led to their surprising 2012 season and currently has them in one of the AFC wild card spots. They are living proof that one good draft can quickly turn your franchise around. Certainly there are teams that have struggled this year that could have a great draft and become a contender next year but since it’s impossible to know every player that will enter the 2013 NFL Draft and exactly where they will land, this slideshow will only focus on current rosters.
Five teams with losing records that could contend in 2013 include young teams, rebuilding teams, and teams that simply underperformed in 2012. Those teams are the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While each of these teams has losing records and are out of playoff contention, each has shown signs in some way that they could contend next season.
Many have blamed this season’s disappointment for the Buffalo Bills on Chan Gailey. The Bills came into the season with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller fighting for the starting running back. With a lack of quality receivers, it was assumed that one of those two would help carry the offense. Jackson was projected to be the Bills starting running back but when he was injured early in the season Spiller became the most dangerous player in the Bills offense averaging seven yards a carry. Gailey’s refusal to make Spiller his featured back this season has been criticized widely and if the Bills’ head coach decides to make that change next season that could significantly improve the team.
Another problem has been the Bills defensive line. Surprising everyone in the league, the Bills splashed this past offseason for defensive end Mario Williams. The new acquisition was expected to lift the Bills defense to the next level. They also added defensive end Mark Anderson, who had successful stints with the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, to play alongside defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Unfortunately the defensive line has not produced as management had hoped. However, lately Mario Williams has shown signs of his past performance level which has the Bills hopeful for next season. His play as of late already has the Bills defense playing at a much higher level. If the Bills defensive line can find a way to cause more pressure on opposing quarterbacks that will also significantly improve this team.
On both sides of the ball the Bills have shown that they have the ability to be competitive. In 2011 quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick showed the ability to lead an NFL team. Slightly altering the play calling and better performances by key defensive players could transform the Bills into a contending team in 2013.
The most disappointing team in 2012 has been unquestionably the Detroit Lions. After a 2011 season in which the Lions made the postseason, they have been held to a losing record in 2012. But the Lions still have the core of the 2011 team that made the postseason and 2013 could very well be a return to January football.
The problem for the Lions this season has been losing late games. Eight of their nine losses this season have been by a touchdown or less. Three of those eight have been by a field goal or less. If the Lions next season can find a way to win those games they will be in contention in the tough NFC North.
Offensively the Lions have put up impressive numbers with the core that took them to the postseason last year. They are currently 2nd in yards per game only behind the New England Patriots. Their problem is that they are 14th in points per game. If the Lions figure out how to turn those yards into points they will be a very dangerous team.
While not as impressive as their offensive teammates, the Lions defense has been pretty solid. Just like the offense, yards aren’t a problem but points are. The Lions are 12th in yards allowed but 28th in points allowed per game. If the Lions can find a way to keep teams out of end zone they’ll be strong on both sides of the ball. They still have their core from 2011 with players like Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Stephen Tulloch.
More than any other team on this list, 2012 may just have been a down year for the Lions. With the talent that the Lions have returned this year and will be returning next year, it’s hard to believe that they won’t compete in 2013.
New Orleans Saints
The fact that the New Orleans Saints currently sit with a losing record is not surprising. This past offseason they had to go through the well-publicized bounty scandal, widely known as “Bountygate”, which resulted in a season long suspension of head coach Sean Payton as well as two key defensive players being suspended for multiple games. Even with a team that has been competitive over the past few seasons, it’s very hard to compete under those circumstances.
Next year the Saints will have Payton back and will be beyond “Bountygate” which will be a huge plus. As for the players currently on the roster, the Saints still have their star offensive players Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, and Marques Colston. Offense hasn’t been their problem in 2012 as they rank third in the league on that side of the ball.
It’s certainly been an up and down season for the Saints. After losing their first four games to start the season, they went on to win five of their next six. At that point they were looking like they could contend for a playoff spot before those dropped their next three effectively eliminating themselves.
The Saints have been great on offense this year ranking 3rd in yards per game and 4th in points per game. The biggest move by the Saints during the offseason was re-signing quarterback Drew Brees. Helping Brees are wide receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore. While Colston is expected to be the team’s number one receiver, Moore has had a breakout year and both could end the season receiving over 1,000 yards.
The normally strong defensive unit of the Saints was decimated by the suspensions following “Bountygate”. Along with Payton’s suspension, the NFL suspended linebackers coach Joe VItt for eight games. Next year the Saints will have their entire coaching staff and their entire defense which should make a dramatic impact.
Even with the suspensions and drama this season, the Saints nearly made a playoff push. With all of that behind them next season, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t return to the team they’ve been the last few years.
St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams are currently in a rebuilding process but have looked very good at several points this season. While their offense hasn’t been very good for most of the year, they’ve shown signs that they could improve for next season. The defense is already playing at a contender’s level and will likely remain there for years to come.
The Rams have certainly looked good during points this season. One team they have played well against is the San Francisco 49ers, possibly the best team in the league. They tied the Niners in San Francisco earlier in the season and then beat them at home recently. One of the keys for the Rams is that they are usually beating team they should. Four of their seven losses are by teams that are in the playoffs or are in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The Rams offense is led by quarterback Sam Bradford who will break 3,500 yards passing this year and Steven Jackson who will break 1,000 yards again. They’ve also got some solid production out of receivers who weren’t expected to do so. Young receivers Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and Chris Givens lead the team in receptions and yards. These three should improve next season which, along with Jackson, should improve the Rams next season.
Defensively the Rams are strong ranking 9th in the league in yards allowed per game. Their defensive line is anchored by defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn who have been great this year. In the defensive backfield rookie Janoris Jenkins and Pro Bowler Cortland Finnigan have also been impressive and show promise that this defense could even improve. They are anchored in the middle by middle linebacker James Laurinaitis who is showing that he will be the next great NFL linebacker.
The Rams are young but heading in the right direction. They’ve done a solid job in the draft over the past four or five years and look to be on the verge of being a contending team. If they can continue the offensive improvements they’ve shown this season, they could easily be a contender in 2013.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played better than their 6-8 record for much of the season. Seven of their eight losses have been by eight or less points and three of those have been by less than a field goal. That includes a game against the New Orleans Saints where the Bucs lost because of an obscure rule on the last play.
Like the Rams, the Bucs have some good young talent on their team and look on the verge of becoming a contender. While their defense has struggled at times, the offense has looked very strong. If the defense can play just a little better next season, the Bucs record could dramatically improve.
The Bucs offense is led by quarterback Josh Freeman who will break 3,500 yards for the season. In the backfield rookie Doug Martin has become a star having rushed for 1,250 yards already. They’ve had fantastic production out of veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson who has 1,226 receiving yards this season and have gotten a solid year out of Mike Williams who is at the 800 yard mark. Helping the young offense is veteran Dallas Clark who spent many years with Peyton Manning led Indianapolis Colts and is a leader for the young Bucs.
For the Bucs defense to reach their offense, they need to improve through the air. The Bucs are in a unique position where they possess the best rushing defense in the league but the worst passing defense. If the Bucs can be a little stronger in the defensive backfield and force opponents to run the ball, they will be a very hard team to beat.
The Bucs offense and rushing defense is already at a playoff level. If the passing defense can improve just a little bit, they could be contenders in 2013. Just like the other teams on this list, they are one part of the game away from turning from a losing team to a contending team.