The 2019 Dirty Dozen

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During the season, we post weekly power rankings. In the offseason, we pretty much do whatever.

This year, we’ve decided to dispense with ranking all 32 teams and to focus on the teams currently at the bottom of the stack. And even in this time of EVERY TEAM CAN MAKE THE PLAYOFFS! propaganda, the reality in a 32-team, zero-sum league is that some teams will be good, and just as many will be bad.

This following list is far from scientific. It’s a qualitative assessment of where the franchises currently are, and where they’ve been, both recently and in some cases historically.

The list isn’t a prediction as to where these teams will finish in 2019. Several of them could make the playoffs. And maybe one will make it to the Super Bowl. Still, for now, when considering the league’s teams from top to bottom, there necessarily has to be teams from 21 through 32.

And here they are, from 32 to 21.

1. Cardinals: Not long ago, they were one of the best eight or so franchises in the NFL. But a free fall in recent years has depleted the roster, with millions wasted in an effort to replace Carson Palmer, an embarrassing “extreme DUI” arrest and jail time for the franchise’s top executive, a trade up one year ago to get Josh Rosen followed by a trade of Rosen for a low second-round pick because the coach who replaced a one-and-done misfire coveted someone else at quarterback, and (most recently) news that G.M. Steve Keim has never bothered to call Rosen during or after three months of dangling and a few days of rollercoastering along with the six-game suspension of the team’s most recognizable defensive player for taking a PED, taking a masking agent to hide the PED, and getting busted on both counts. They’ll need Kyler Murray to have a Mahomes-Mayfield-style impact to avoid becoming the chronic No. 32 team in a season they quite possibly will begin as the underdog in every single game.

2. Jets: The decision to fire coach Todd Bowles in January and to keep G.M. Mike Maccagnan and to overpay Le'Veon Bell at a time when no one else was pursuing him in that range and to fire Maccagnan after the draft and to make new coach Adam Gase the interim G.M. has made plenty of fans long for the days of Woody Johnson and Rex Ryan. Woody’s kid brother Christopher, whose arrival actually had some rivals concerned that the Jets would turn things around, is learning as he goes, and in his trial-and-error effort to figure out how to run a football franchise it’s been more error than success. That said, the decision to trade up and take quarterback Sam Darnold could eventually eradicate the fumes of Christian Hackenberg from the building, and the Jets actually could be in position to surprise everyone in 2019.

3. Giants: The plan is there is no plan, and the more they try to convince everyone they have a plan, the less obvious it is that they don’t. Everyone except those making decisions for the franchise realizes that it’s keeping former franchise quarterback Eli Manning around because of what he’s done, not because of what he’s expected to do. But even as they cling to Eli, they overdrafted (in the opinion of everyone except those making decisions for the franchise) Daniel Jones to eventually replace Manning, whether in one year or three years or whenever the plan-is-there-is-no-plan spinning wheel lands on Jones. Meanwhile, there’s reason to believe that Jones could be the Week One starter, if he’s as good as the Giants believe and if they remove the helmet-catch-colored glasses when evaluating the training camp and preseason performances of Jones and Manning. The fact that they traded receiver Odell Beckham Jr. after paying him $20 million for 12 games serves merely as the acrid icing on a rancid cake. But, hey, at least the Jets are still the Jets.

4. Dolphins: Although being in the same division as the Patriots hasn’t helped, the Dolphins have done little to help themselves. The slide began when Dan Marino retired, and it accelerated when doctors told Nick Saban to send a second-round pick for Daunte Culpepper and his wrecked knee in lieu of signing Drew Brees and his wrecked shoulder. The Dolphins continue to grope for an answer at quarterback, and the absence of one has been the biggest impediment to sustained success. Giving up too quickly on coach Adam Gase didn’t help matters, and now owner Stephen Ross can only hope that new coach Brian Flores will bring a New England vibe to South Florida. Quickly. The fact that this franchise was once so relevant makes it even more glaring that, over the past two decades, it has plunged into the role of perennial afterthought, with periodic but fleeting exceptions.

5. Bengals: Malaise has been the operative word for the Bengals in recent years. Five straight playoff runs ended with five straight wild-card losses, extending a string of playoff futility that traces back to January 1991. The organization never seems like it makes winning a priority, unless (as it seems) the organization defined “winning” as making money not competing for championships. There’s a certain pragmatism to accepting the fact that only one of 32 teams will be satisfied every year, if that’s accepted as the widespread standard for NFL success. Maybe the secret of Cincinnati’s success has been to accept that it’s far easier to turn a profit than it is to turn up in February. Regardless, this team chronically feels like it could use a new everything, from top to bottom.

6. Raiders: Reason exists for guarded optimism when it comes to the Raiders, thanks to the pilfering of receiver Antonio Brown from the Steelers and a draft headlined by three first-round draft picks. But the organization continues to be mired in the funk of mostly 17 years of struggles unbecoming to what once was one of the greatest brands in football. The looming move to Las Vegas carries a vague sense of promise, but to make that happen the marriage between Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock must bear fruit in the form of great football players, sooner than later. It won’t be easy in a division headlined by a perennial contender in Kansas City and an underrated powerhouse in L.A. The current placement in the middle of the worst-franchise pack is deserved, and some would say the Raiders should be even higher (as in lower). The fact that they aren’t primarily flows from the notion that the inevitable return to glory is coming sooner than later. Even if, in reality, “later” continues to be the operative term.

7. Washington: Mired in at-best mediocrity for most of Daniel Snyder’s tenure as owner, the franchise has hovered in the general vicinity of “maybe” when it comes to potential contention, but hasn’t delivered. This year’s first-round haul of Dwayne Haskins and Montez Sweat has boom-or-bust potential for Washington, which is 28 years removed from its last championship. A run of health could fuel a rebound, but the upper reaches of the operation seem to be destined to keep the team from being as good as it can be — and it’s still not quite clear how good the team can be, with or without the upper reaches of the organization holding it back.

8. Buccaneers: But for the arrival of Bruce Arians, who unretired in a Hail Mary effort to salvage Jameis Winston, the Bucs would be among the worst teams in the league. They’ve struggled to sell tickets, and for good reason. In the 17 years since winning a championship, the team has languished more often than not, unable to consistently compete with the other teams in the NFC South. Ownership moves too quickly to move on from coaches, preventing the kind of continuity that characterizes the franchises that manage to make it to the postseason at least once every few years. For the Buccaneers, it’s been an extended dry spell, and but for the fading memories of a run that could have/should have yielded more than one Lombardi Trophy, the Bucs would still be spinning their wheels among the very worst organizations in all of sports. They continue to slide back in that direction, and only a major jolt from Arians will keep that from happening.

9. Lions: Bobby Layne’s 50-year curse has lasted a decade longer than expected, and the Lions now must hope that the efforts of Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia to change the culture will take root before they’re gradually swallowed by the internal and, among much of the media covering the team, external acceptance of also-ran status that has kept the team from winning a playoff game for 28 years and counting. Periodic promise has yielded playoff berths but no postseason success, and the career of franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford has largely been squandered. The only question at this point is whether the team will step up before the current power structure decides to tell Stafford to step off. The answer depends on whether the Lions can incorporate sufficient Patriot DNA to spark change before ownership decides to press the restart button prior to the effort to embrace a shot at greatness taking root.

10. Broncos: Yes, they’ve won three Super Bowls, including their most recent trophy only three years ago. But a sustained run of relevance has been replaced by a sharp plunge to the bottom made even more conspicuous by the fact that, for the first time since the early 1970s, the Broncos have had a losing record for consecutive seasons. While a decorated history spared Denver from being closer to the top of the list, three years of post-Peyton flopping in the boat have earned them a spot in the bottom 12. Whether they remain there depends on whether Vic Fangio is the answer at coach (he very well may be), whether Joe Flacco is the answer at quarterback (he very well may not be), and whether the linger intra-family Willie Wonka competition for control of the team is ever resolved (at times it feels like it never will be).

11. 49ers: Those five Super Bowl trophies are getting lonelier and lonelier. Things simply haven’t been working for the 49ers since the “mutual parting” with Jim Harbaugh. Last year, expectations were too high, and injuries derailed a season that may not have resulted in a playoff berth anyway, given the presence of the Rams and Seahawks in the division. This year, expectations are high once again, which will make another failure for a team in perpetual turmoil even more noticeable. The 49ers would be wise to stay the course with Kyle Shanahan, who has four more years remaining on his contract, but another sub-.500 season should provoke serious soul-searching regarding the best way to dig out of a protracted funk.

12. Browns: Speaking of protracted funks, the Browns would have been the clear-cut No. 1 team on this list a year ago, with an 0-16 season in 2017 preceded by 1-15 in 2016. A surprising turnaround in 2018 has them on the brink of escaping — but as their coach would say they haven’t won anything yet, including a path out of the bottom dozen franchises in the league. While all indications are that the Browns have the players to turn things around (starting with Baker Mayfield, who may end up with a full mantle of MVP trophies), an unproven coach was hired in January, and ownership that has proven to be far too meddlesome remains. So before penciling the Browns in for a division title or a Super Bowl berth, the first step is to have the kind of season that will get them to be considered to be in the upper half of a 32-team league. Here’s hoping they do.

51 responses to “The 2019 Dirty Dozen

  1. I’m confused. I don’t see the Vikings here, and we all know that no matter what they do, they won’t win a Super Bowl, so they should be listed as #33 (behind Alabama) in any ranking.

  2. Sorry but Jets & Dolphins are at least better than Bengals & Bucs, respectively. If they and the Bills didn’t have to play the Patriots twice every season, and pull out all the stops in those two games each time, their records would all be notably better – at least middling with Miami above 500 and the other two just under. Put the Pats in the AFCN, S or W and suddenly their best teams will all struggle to 9-7 or tank every year. Look at AFCN at which Brady is 25-6. Brady wins 66% to 75% against ALL divisions, AFC and NFC. Hence the salty league.

  3. Two things:

    1) How were the Cardinals a great organization at one point? They’ve reached the playoffs four times in the past 21 years (10 times in their history combined)! They had ONE cinderella run to the Super Bowl, and it was exciting no doubt, but it was also punctuated by a HoF QB that was benched for far too long to give a (USC-provided) Matt Leinart a chance… that success was in spite of themselves, and short lived… not what I’d consider reflecting upon ‘one of the best’ franchises in the NFL at that time.

    2) How can you mention the Broncos without tying their plunge directly to John Elway?

  4. I don’t see how you could leave off the Raiduhs from this list. What have they done to improve that team so much which makes you forget that they won 4 games last season?

  5. Of these 12, I can see most of them at least moving to the middle of the pack this next season…

    The Cardinals, Bucs and Redskins are HIGHLY likely to remain in the bottom.

  6. You left out the Packers.

    A once great, diva QB on the downside of his career. …though no one will acknowledge it. Nor will management surround him with weapons in his last few years because they’re desperately trying to rebuild a defense that had been neglected for a decade. Add in a rookie coach chosen as to not ruffle the feathers or challenge their once great yet temperamental QB…..and you have a team on the decline.

  7. Stafford is such a bad QB, every time there’s a big game on the line he chokes! He’s a fumble and INT machine, the Lions better begin looking for another QB. This Patricia and Quinn thing isn’t going to work, they will both be gone within two years.

  8. Liberalsruineverything says:
    May 20, 2019 at 10:41 am

    The Packers have been swept by the Lions 2 years in a row. Just sayin…..

    ____________________

    The Lions have been failing for 62 years, SIXTY TWO YEARS and one playoff win in the nineties, nothing since then!!! Just saying….

  9. Browns need to be off this list. Haslam has stepped aside and has let Dorsey take the reins.

  10. nyneal says:
    May 20, 2019 at 10:40 am
    I don’t see how you could leave off the Raiduhs from this list. What have they done to improve that team so much which makes you forget that they won 4 games last season?
    ——–
    6. Raiders: Reason exists for guarded optimism when it comes to the Raiders….

  11. 8th grade bully says:
    May 20, 2019 at 10:09 am
    Raiders 13-3 guaranteed
    ————————
    LOLLOLLOLLOL

    Yeah,maybe next century.

  12. trubiskyisjustahairbetterthankyleortonandmuchbetterthanstafford says:
    May 20, 2019 at 10:51 am
    Liberalsruineverything says:
    May 20, 2019 at 10:41 am

    The Packers have been swept by the Lions 2 years in a row. Just sayin…..

    ____________________

    The Lions have been failing for 62 years, SIXTY TWO YEARS and one playoff win in the nineties, nothing since then!!! Just saying….
    ————————————

    Yes I know. That was my point.

  13. I agree with the others that the Packers should be on this list. They ended their playoff appearance record two years ago, and honestly have only got worse this offseason. It’s time to put up or shut up for Rodgers this season. $33 million a year and another 6 win season will make Cousins look like a steal lol.

  14. 1. WIDE RECEIVERS
    2019: Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, Marcell Ateman, Hunter Renfrow, J.J. Nelson, Saeed Blacknall, Brian Burt, Keelan Doss, Rico Gafford, Keon Hatcher, Dwayne Harris
    2018: Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, Marcel Ateman, Dwayne Harris, Keon Hatcher, Rico Gafford. Injured reserve: Martavis Bryant, Brandon LaFell
    Not just the most improved position group on the Raiders, but very likely the most improved group of any team in the NFL.
    The Raiders disputed the notion last season Jordy Nelson had lost a step. Once the season was underway, it was clear that while Nelson could still catch the ball, his game-breaking days were left behind.
    Enter Brown via trade, the most explosive receiver in the NFL who has shown no signs of slowing down at age 30. And Williams from the Los Angeles Chargers, who can stretch the field with the best of them. It’s the best Raiders duo since Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, and much younger.

    2019: LT Kolton Miller, LG Denzelle Good, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Trent Brown, T Brandon Parker, T David Sharpe, T Tyler Roemer, T Justin Murray, T Andre James, C-G Jordan Devey, G Lukayus McNeil, G-T Denver Kirkland, G-T Chaz Green, G Lester Cotton Sr.
    2018: LT Kolton Miller, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Denzelle Good, RT Brandon Parker, G Chaz Green, T David Sharpe, T Justin Murray, G Denver Kirkland, G Cameron Hunt. Injured reserve: T Donald Penn, T T.J. Clemmings, G Gabe Jackson.
    If Miller and Brown can protect Carr’s flanks and perform somewhere in the realm of Hudson and Jackson, the Raiders can get their offensive line back on track. As recently as 2016, it was among the best in the NFL.
    Considering right tackle has been the one spot that’s been a revolving door, Brown assuming that position makes some sense. Don’t overthink the whole left-right tackle thing in terms of pecking order. Lincoln Kennedy was the rock of the Raiders offensive line back in the day and he was basically just a smaller (believe it or not) version of Brown.
    2019: Josh Jacobs, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Chris Warren III, Keith Smith (FB), Ryan Yurachek (FB), Alec Ingold (FB). Injured reserve: Isaiah Crowell.
    2018: Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Keith Smith (FB). Injured reserve: Marshawn Lynch, Chris Warren III
    The big change was the selection of Jacobs in the first round, and the belief here is he could be the most talented all-round back since Marcus Allen since he’s bigger than the ultra-productive Charlie Garner.
    Martin is back in case Jacobs needs to be spelled after never having been a carry-the-load back at Alabama, and Richard can be penciled in for another 60-plus receptions out of the backfield. Warren led the NFL in preseason rushing a year ago, but beware of big preseason rushing totals — the more yardage you get, the less likely you are to make the roster.

    JUST THE FACTS
    JUST WIN BABY

    RAIDERS 2019

  15. I’m actually happy that the Browns are on this list. All the hype has been scaring me a bit. Need to let a bunch of air out of that balloon before a possible 9-7 is considered an abject failure. Any other year 8-8 or 9-7 would seem like a positive and logical yet major step forward. This year, with all the hype, it seems like the media is setting it up as playoffs or bust. Gots to chill. This is a young team with a new everything.

  16. They left out the “LA” Chargers or LA “Gypsies.” The disastrous “relocation” leaves a once- fun-to-watch franchise with few fans in an over-crowded Pro-sports market where the Rams own NFL football. Pretty good line-up of players, but with only a trickle of fans they’ll never win the big one. Sadly, they have no “home” games because they have no home! Can a perpetual road team go all the way? Don’t think so. can an ownership who “rents” everything with no market roots win big? No. In 2020 They’ll rent playing time in Kroenke’s new stadium. They’ll come from their rented practice facility and rented HQ in Costa Mesa to play in a rented stadium. Total fiasco and Goodell does nothing to fix it. Unbelievable!

  17. Really disagree on the Jets, and I’m far from a fan. Despite management being in disarray, they have some nice pieces in place. Probably not a playoff team, but knocking on the door. Especially if Darnold can make a big 2nd yr jump in a soft division. The win total in Vegas is 7.5. That’s not the 31rst ranked team.

  18. When was the last Superbowl victory for Minnesota or Chicago for that matter?

  19. Spring is for Optimism , Summer is the battle to make 53 and the season preview, Fall is for the pigskin, and Winter is for the trophy.

    Go Raiders!!!

  20. The Cardinals are far from the worst team in the league. They will return to middle of the pack in 2019, and back to contention in 2020.

    The 49ers, Dolphins, Redskins, Bills, and Giants will all easily be worse than the Cardinals in 2020. Seattle is a candidate for regression and will be about the same class as the Cardinals this year, ie around 7-9.

  21. I agree that Atlanta is irrelevant and therefore left off the list, but Atlanta is a bottom feeding nfl team.

  22. Raiders have certainly earned their spot. 1 winning season out of the last 16 to go along with two 8-8 campaigns and nothing but losing besides. Endless wasted 1st round picks. I think the franchise is trending up at last, so I’ll predict another 8-8 year with a breakout in 2020. We’ll see.

  23. Calling the Cardinals a good franchise is quite a stretch. They had the greatest run of seasons the franchise ever had a few years back, but they still had the same crap GM and owner.

  24. Being a mid pack team is good when you started at the bottom and are trending upward. As long as you don’t stay mid pack. That’s opposed to the Dolphins, who are yet again blowing up a bad team

  25. Lol, this is what they get paid to due. Make assumptions, bat 300, and think it’s baseball. Group-tank think, is what defines and limits the NFL from what it should be.

  26. Absolutely shocking that the Packers get a pass.
    Haven’t beat Minnesota in 900 + days and got swept again by the Lions, two years running.
    Why respect moldy cheese? 27-27 is AR over last 54 starts. So please save your typing on how he is such a difference maker. This guy is so overrated!

  27. Like many, I made a list of 12 before reading the story and put the Packers at 10. They belong on the list.

    Also, my Jaguars aren’t mentioned, not even in the comments. What about the tarps? What about not having any fans? Oh, that’s right, they were 15th in the NFL in home attendance last year.

  28. If they can stay healthy, the Redskins will surprise people this year. No, not going to win the division, but 10-6 or 9-7 should not be out of reach.

  29. silvernblackpa says:
    May 20, 2019 at 2:47 pm
    Raiders have certainly earned their spot. 1 winning season out of the last 16 to go along with two 8-8 campaigns and nothing but losing besides. Endless wasted 1st round picks. I think the franchise is trending up at last, so I’ll predict another 8-8 year with a breakout in 2020. We’ll see.
    ————————————-
    A Raiders fan with half a brain. How unusual. The Raiders will finish with 6 or 7 wins.

  30. thewizardsrevenge says:
    May 20, 2019 at 10:54 am
    Agree on the Jets throwing all that money at Bell. Head scratcher.
    ————————–
    Bell is going to be the best thing that’s happened to the Jets since Joe Namath.

  31. imo #1 cleveland [ provided their nucleus of core players stay healthy ie mayfield, landry, beckham, johnson, hunt & njoku ] is going to the playoffs based on what they did last season combined with their free agent adds. i can’t see them going worse than 11-5.

    imo #2 denver already has john elway doing his part as a gm. he won a super bowl relatively quick for a front office guy with past experience which tells me he knows what’s up on both sides of the wall, so bringing in j flacco, again imo makes them contenders again, not to mention before that hiring vic fangio was a plus considering the def pieces they already had on the roster. imo they go 10-6 or better.

  32. iprosportsfan1 says:
    May 26, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    imo #1 cleveland [ provided their nucleus of core players stay healthy ie mayfield, landry, beckham, johnson, hunt & njoku ] is going to the playoffs based on what they did last season combined with their free agent adds. i can’t see them going worse than 11-5.
    ————————————————————————————-
    You named a bunch of skill position players completely ignoring defense, line play and coaching. This tells me you know a lot about fantasy football, and nothing at all about real football.

    I like Cleveland and I hope they do well this coming year, but line play and coaching will determine weather they go 11-5 or 6-10 next year no matter how many shiny new toys they have.

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