If the NFL has taught us one thing over the years, it’s that the league is almost completely unpredictable. Before 2020, the only thing that was predictable about the NFL was that the Patriots would win their division every year, but even that’s not a guarantee anymore. 

As a matter of fact, with a new starting quarterback and eight players opting out of the season, there’s a very real chance that the Patriots could end up falling to last place in 2020. The idea of a team going from first place to last place in the span of one season might seem improbable, but it actually happens pretty regularly in the NFL. 

Since the NFL realigned its divisions in 2002, there have been a total of 18 teams that have gone from worst to first, which is an average of exactly one team per year over that 18-season span (The last team to do it was the 2018 Jaguars, who went 5-11 one year after winning the division in 2017 with a 10-6 record) 

Basically, NFL history says that at least one team is going to go from first place in 2019 to last place in 2020, and because we love ranking things here, we’re going to rank the eight first place finishers from last year to determine which team is the most likeliest to be a cellar-dweller in 2020. 

For a look at our list of potential worst-to-first teams, be sure to click here. If you click, I’ll wait here until you get back. For everyone else, let’s get to the first-to-worst rankings. 

Ranking teams most likely to go from first-to-worst

(All division odds via William Hill)

2019 record: 12-4
Odds to win AFC West: -450

After winning the Super Bowl last season, the Chiefs might be even better in 2020, and that’s because they’re bringing back nearly everyone. Even though Kansas City had two players opt out for the year, the Chiefs will still be returning 18 of 22 starters from last year’s team. As if that’s not enough, they have a coach in Andy Reid who has turned the rest of the division into his own personal punching bag. In his past 29 games against AFC West opponents, the Chiefs have gone 27-2. I think what I’m trying to say here is that If the Chiefs finish in last place this year, I will print out this story, sprinkle some salt on it and eat it with a small cup of nacho cheese. On a related note, I will only eat half the story if they finish in last because of an injury to Patrick Mahomes. 

2019 record: 14-2
Odds to win AFC North: -260

The Ravens had the best record in the NFL last year and although they probably won’t win 14 games again, it’s hard to imagine them falling all the way to the AFC North basement. Of course, it’s not impossible. The last time a team went 14-2 or better with the eventual NFL MVP as their quarterback came in 2015, when the Panthers went 15-1. In 2016, Carolina followed up its miraculous season by going from first-to-worst with a 6-10 finish. The difference there is that the Panthers played in a much more competitive division. One big advantage for the Ravens this year is that the other three teams in the AFC North have some big question marks: The Bengals have a rookie quarterback, the Browns have a first-year coach and the Steelers don’t know how Ben Roethlisberger is going to look. All of that seems like an advantage for Baltimore. 

2019 record: 13-3
Odds to win NFC South: -110

In a loaded NFC South, it won’t be surprising at all if the Saints don’t repeat as division champs this season, but it would be surprising if they fell all the way to last place, and that’s mainly because the Panthers exist. When you look at what happened this offseason and the fact that teams didn’t get to practice during the spring, that was something that benefits a veteran team like the Saints, but hurts a team like the Panthers, who will be breaking in a new head coach, two new coordinators and a new starting quarterback this year. 

2019 record: 9-7
Odds to win NFC East: +150

If the Eagles have one advantage over the rest of the NFC East, it’s the fact that they’re the only team in the division that WON’T have a new head coach in 2020. Basically, this means that while Washington, Dallas and New York will all be installing new stuff during training camp, the Eagles will get to spend their time perfecting Doug Pederson’s system. The NFC East hasn’t seen a repeat division champion since 2004, so it won’t be surprising if the Eagles don’t finish in first place, but it would be a total shocker if they were to finish in last place. 

2019 record: 13-3
Odds to win NFC West: +100

After watching the 49ers make it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2019, you might be wondering why they’re ranked fourth on this list, and the answer to that question mainly has to do with the fact that they play in the toughest division in football. The NFC West is so loaded that the 49ers could finish in first or last place, and neither result would be a surprise. One interesting thing to watch with the 49ers will be how they do in division play. Although they went 5-1 last season against NFC West teams, three of those five wins came by less than five points (One other win — against Arizona — came by 10 points, but that’s misleading, because the 49ers were actually trailing with 40 seconds left to play). The NFC West is going to be a dog fight, which is a big reason why the 49ers are only even money to win it. 

3. Patriots

2019 record: 12-4
Odds to win AFC East: +125

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Patriots aren’t the overwhelming favorite to win the AFC East. However, don’t feel bad for them, because they are still the co-favorite to win the division, according to the oddsmakers in Vegas. At +125, the Patriots have the same odds as the Bills, which tells you all you need to know about how much respect the oddsmakers have for New England. The Patriots haven’t named a starting quarterback yet, they’ve had eight players opt-out for the season, and somehow, they still have the best odds to win the division. Despite the friendly odds, the Patriots are looking vulnerable, and although they’ve dominated the division for almost all of the Bill Belichick era, every other team in the division is improved enough that it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see New England fall to last place for the first time since 2000, which was Belichick’s first year with the team. 

2019 record: 13-3
Odds to win NFC North: +140

After going 13-3 last season and making it all the way to the NFC title game, it felt like the Packers might only be a player or two away from a potential Super Bowl run, but it’s almost as if they went out of their way to NOT add those players. For one, they didn’t draft any receiving help for Aaron Rodgers during the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft, which you probably heard about. Also, the help they did bring in at wide receiver (Devin Funchess) wasn’t much help, because he decided to sit out the season. The NFC North feels like the one division this year that any team could win, so it wouldn’t be totally shocking to see the Packers go from 13-3 to last place. 

2019 record: 10-6
Odds to win AFC South: +300

If Bill O’Brien has proven one thing over the past few years, it’s that he has no idea what he’s doing as a general manager. Every offseason, it seems like O’Brien the GM seems to make at least one move that makes things harder on O’Brien the head coach. This year, that move was dumping the Texans best offensive player (DeAndre Hopkins). Giving up your best offensive player is never a good idea, but it’s especially not a good idea in a year where your two main division rivals (Indianapolis and Tennessee) both got better. To finish in last place, the Texans would have to finish behind Jacksonville, which doesn’t seem likely, but you know what, we’ve already seen O’Brien go from first-to-worst once in his career (2016 to 2017), so we probably shouldn’t rule out the possibility of it happening again.

At +300, the Texans have the worst division-winning odds of any team that won its division last year. 

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