2011 NFL Predictions: 8 Surefire Cellar-Dwellers for Every Division This Season
To have winners, there needs to be losers.
Each season, certain NFL teams elevate themselves above the rest through their outstanding play. To sit among the top-ranked teams is an honor only few can claim and cherish.
But there is a flip side to this coin.
Those teams need to beat up on others.
Many articles focus on which team or teams will finish with the best record, make the playoffs or win the Super Bowl.
This slideshow won't.
This slideshow details the cellar-dwellers, those organizations that will finish last in their division, making it possible for the great teams to get the W's on their schedules.
AFC East: Buffalo Bills
The poor Bills.
Given another division, the Buffalo Bills would probably fare better for themselves. The team isn't terrible, and last year they showed the ability to compete with high-caliber teams (they lost to three playoff teams by only a combined nine points).
The bad news is, the team is in the AFC East.
It's hard for any organization to hope to make the playoffs or compete within the division when there are the New England Patriots and New York Jets to go through.
This offseason seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag for Buffalo. Ryan Fitzpatrick provided a bit of a spark for the offense last year, yet Lee Evans was traded away to Baltimore a few weeks back, removing some chemistry. Marcell Dareus was drafted fourth overall and has impressed in the preseason, so the already-decent defense looks to improve this year.
In the end, being in the AFC East really hurts the Bills, who will sit in fourth place on Week 17.
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals
Was there any other team expected to be here?
Like the Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in a very tough division. The playoff perennials of the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers reside in the AFC North, so unless something strange happens, that's almost a certain four losses for the Bengals.
Unlike Buffalo, Cincinnati isn't that decent of a team. Just a few years removed from looking like a Super Bowl contender, the Bengals are in full rebuilding mode. That's what happens when your franchise quarterback basically forces retirement on your organization.
The Cincinnati defense is very good, which will help Andy Dalton win a few games. But with the shortened training camp, a rookie starting at quarterback looks fairly unattractive. It doesn't help at all when your star running back will most likely serve a suspension for offseason legal troubles either.
2011-2012 will be a rebuilding season for the Bengals' organization, and as such they can be expected to come in last in a tough division.
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars can be expected to finish last in the AFC South.
Unlike the first two slides, this division isn't nearly as tough as the others. The Indianapolis Colts are always a playoff-caliber team, and the Houston Texans might actually live up to expectations this year, but these don't compare to the other more difficult divisions.
The Jaguars really seem to find themselves in a unique position. General management is showing they want the team to win now (signing free agents up to $100 million) while getting rid of important players (Mike Sim-Jones) and drafting a new quarterback.
Really, the offense is nothing special under David Garrard, and the defense is average, at best. This team has a very difficult schedule, especially on the road, which could only lead to more losses.
Jack Del Rio might want to win now to keep his job, but the reality is Jacksonville will fall into last place in the AFC South.
AFC West: Denver Broncos
Not even Tim Tebow will be able to save the 2011-2012 Denver Broncos campaign.
The first two slots in the division are going to the Chargers and Chiefs, simple as that.
That said, there's little chance the Broncos could win enough games this year to beat out the Oakland Raiders for the third place spot in the AFC West.
John Fox is a fantastic coach, and given some time, I believe he will be able to reverse the Denver franchise from its losing tradition of the past few years. With the amount of drama behind his quarterbacks on the depth chart, the switch to a 4-3 in a short training camp and an overall lack of threats on the offense, Fox's veteran coaching savvy will have to wait another year or two to fully work.
The Broncos aren't helped at all with their schedule, as the team hits some very tough locations.
A combination of all these factors will lead to Denver being the loser of the AFC West.
NFC East: Washington Redskins
With John Beck and Rex Grossman as your starting quarterbacks, good luck in the defense-heavy NFC East.
The Washington Redskins are not a bad team. The defense is actually pretty effective, and this preseason has been a great reflection of that.
Now that that's out of the way, there's no chance the franchise will climb out of the division's cellar this year.
The offense will find it extremely difficult to put points up on the board to help the D out, as the passing game should be shaky behind either of the two quarterbacks mentioned above. The running game isn't anything to write home bragging about either, which won't help to keep defenses honest and give Beck—or Grossman—a real chance.
Did I mention how much the NFC East loves their defenses?
The Redskins will come in last.
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings
Can someone get Adrian Peterson some help in blocking?
The Minnesota Vikings had a very active offseason, trading away several notable players (Sidney Rice) while receiving some as well (Donovan McNabb). Almost everything about this team's starting lineup screams either "new" or "replace me."
O-Line? "Replace me!"
Receiving Corps? "Why are we starting?"
Jokes aside, the Vikings aren't necessarily a bad team. The franchise is in a very competitive division with the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears looking strong—in that order. Wins will be hard to come by.
This year should be utilized for McNabb to mentor the young talent at quarterback and for hopefully getting a new offensive lineman (Matt Kalil).
NFC South: Carolina Panthers
In perhaps the most competitive division in the NFL, what do you not want to find your team with?
If you answered a fresh start, that is correct!
Cam Newton may have bright years ahead of him in the NFL, and by extension the Panthers may be a very good team in the future.
But what can be guaranteed is that this year will not be a winning season for the Carolina Panthers.
This isn't a bad thing, especially given the debacle that was last season for the Panthers. The front office brought in solid veterans, drafted Newton to be the quarterback/face of the franchise and added on to an already-impressive group of defensive players.
In other words, Carolina fans have much to look forward to in the future.
Don't be too excited for this year though, as the Panthers will land in the fourth spot of the brutally-competitive NFC South.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
This was a tough call between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, but the 49ers won out due to a great head coach and some continuity in the roster.
On the other hand, after a 7-9 playoff team that beat the defending champion New Orleans Saints, the Seattle front office gave up the soul of the the team.
Matt Hasselbeck left to play for the Tennessee Titans and was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson.
That is the main reason the Seattle Seahawks will bring up the lower end of the weakest division in the NFL, the West. Jackson is not a proven quarterback, and although he does have threats to throw to, the rest of the Seattle team is simply not effective enough to win many games.
Add in the fact that the other teams in the division have improved, from Kevin Kolb signing with Arizona to Jim Harbaugh providing quality coaching in San Francisco, and it's a recipe for Seattle to be cellar-dwellers in the cellar-dwelling division of the NFL.