Good luck finding an NFL fanbase on their favorite team right now. When I predicted the records for every single NFL teamanything other than 17-0 for literally any franchise is met with nothing short of derision and derision. The Brinson Model ™️ aims to please!
A three-toed sloth could count the number of winning seasons the Browns have had since returning to Cleveland in 1999 … on one foot. But Browns fans are apoplectic if you suggest 7-10 could be on the table.
Last year at this time, my good friend Jason La Canfora has identified five teams he believes in is in the worst shape and for the toughest ride in 2022. He is almost nailed it: Chicago and Houston have the top two overall picks in the draft, while Carolina and Atlanta are “involved” in an ugly NFC South race before getting the top-10 selections (Carolina will trade up to No. 1 overall) and Washington, well, they ordered another awesome Snyder-esque season.
Now it’s my turn to find the five teams set up for the toughest trip in 2023. This year is even tougher: I personally enjoy what the Falcons are doing and three of JLC’s five teams from last year — Carolina , Houston and Indy — ended up drafting a quarterback with a top-five pick. Unless you really hate a prospect, er, prospect, you have to be optimistic about decent rosters adding young quarterback talent at the top of the draft.
In the end, this list will likely be a mix of teams that will struggle in 2023 as well as teams that have long-term questions about the overall direction of the franchise. The Washington Commanders will automatically be added to this list if Dan Snyder still owns the team in Week 1, but if he does sell I can’t point them to wrong direction.
1. Arizona Cardinals
Not gonna lie and suggest I start alphabetically here: the Cardinals profile as by far away the worst team in football for 2023 and it’s not particularly close. Arizona has a first-year GM and a first-year head coach, both of whom have had some interesting missteps early on. Monti Ossenfort self-reported charges of interfering with Jonathan Gannon leading up to the hiring process, essentially costing his team a top-100 pick. Gannon declined to meet with the media following Arizona’s first day of the draft and told Arizona reporters as well everyone wants to remove him because the Eagles’ blitz wasn’t enough. It could be a lie. For a team that could seriously struggle to compete this year, it wasn’t an ideal way to start things off with the press and fans.
The quarterback could be a mitigating factor here but Kyler Murray is recovering from a torn ACL suffered late in the season. It would be a huge surprise if he’s ready to roll in Week 1. And there’s the added question of whether the Cardinals like for him to be ready. Arizona has its own first-round pick and Houston’s in 2024 — factor in a new regime and Caleb Williams/Drake Maye making a full play for the desert birds.
Oh and there’s the whole pesky matter of former personnel VP Terry McDonough accuses owner Michael Bidwell of “grass misconduct, which includes cheating, discrimination and harassment.
Arizona owns its own tier in these rankings right now.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Putting the Bucs here isn’t an indictment of the organization’s long-term health but rather a snapshot of where Tampa stands right now. The Bucs won the Super Bowl in 2020 after the bold acquisition of Tom Brady — not to mention the rest of the roster built by GM Jason Licht — and have made the playoffs the past two years, albeit amid a turnaround of coaching from Bruce Arians to Todd Bowles.
But with Brady retiring this offseason, the bill must be paid for Tampa’s immediate and possibly long-term future. Baker Mayfield is in town on a one-year deal and the Bowles seat heat isn’t talked about enough. Arians won the Super Bowl; a disastrous season for the longtime defensive coordinator could certainly result in Tampa changing head coaches next offseason (or before).
There’s still a lot to like about this roster, especially on the defensive side and you won’t hear anyone complaining about Tampa’s pass catchers either. But the offense isn’t the same without Arians and now without Brady pulling the trigger it’s impossible not to worry about how 2023 plays out for this team.
3. Tennessee Titans
Totally prepared to look like an IDIOT when Mike Vrabel won his division and landed the No. 1 seed in the AFC a few months from now. But 2023 profiles as a potentially bumpy ride for the Titans as they move from Ryan Tannehill — in the final year of his contract — to Will Levis, whom they drafted with a second-round pick this offseason. . Levis’ status doesn’t guarantee him future franchise material (see: Malik Willis just last year for Tennessee) but he feels like someone Vrabel is setting his future against the now-ousted GM Jon Robinson.
The issue for Tennessee fans isn’t so much that the team will be “terrible” or one of the worst teams in the league, but that there is a weakness in how the Titans appear to be built. The offensive line wasn’t as good as it was when Derrick Henry was racking up 2,000-yard seasons. Tannehill could play 17 games and play them well, but it’s entirely possible he’ll ride the pine at some point in the season so Tennessee can see what they have in the rookie. Rough patches are to be expected if that’s the case.
Offensively, it’s just hard to see the Titans scoring a ton of points on a weekly basis. Defensively, they are better than people give them credit for. It’s hard to win a ton of 16-13 games — the fragile nature of football when you let the lines get that good.
Henry is also in the last year of his deal. Maybe he and Tanny made a big push to break the bank, but the Titans — as we’ve known them for the past few years — are changing their identity during the 2023 season, which could make things got a little messy along the way.
4. New England Patriots
WHAT COULD BE WRONG?? The single greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports, like the last 25 years have been so bad that Bill Belichick’s back is kind of/probably against the wall, so why don’t I pile on it hoping I don’t get burned. of the greatest coach in football history, professional or otherwise???
The Pats traded Matt Patricia and Joe Judge for Bill O’Brien, a very significant and obvious upgrade in terms of running the offense. I’m still not sold the offense is above average, though. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Devante Parker and Tyquan Thornton were not the 1927 Yankee receiving corps. Rhamondre Stevenson may be an elite running back but things get thin after him on the depth chart. Mac Jones still has a lot to prove to a lot of people!
Defensively no one doubts Belichick, especially when he stole Christian Gonzalez in the first round. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Pats looked like the Titans. But that goes back to the weakness of things in the NFL when you want to run the ball and play defense in 2023. And it’s magnified for a team like the Pats in a division like the AFC East, where Buffalo is in three years of dominance, the Dolphins are a dangerous contender if their QB is on the field and the Jets just added Aaron Rodgers. I’m bullish on New England this year but it’s very possible that 2023 will be a long season for Pats fans.
5. Las Vegas Raiders
Let’s bring out everything connected to the Patriots dynasty why not?!? I feel like the Raiders took a step forward throughout the offseason. Adding Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Derek Carr is the perfect metaphor for this team: they made the ultimate lateral move, even if it could benefit the team long-term because of Jimmy’s fit in Josh McDaniels’ system.
I’m a big fan of both Jakobi Meyers (essentially a one-year deal) and Josh Jacobs (franchise tag) but expecting the latter to perform the same way he did last year is asking a lot, especially with the disappointment of another single-year deal that could potentially last. Even if the offense explodes, the Raiders are easily the fourth-best offense in their own division.
Tyree Wilson is a very attractive add as a pass rusher, but will he see significant action this season with Chandler Jones playing the (likely) final year of a questionable contract? It’s hard to find a way where this Raiders defense is better than last season.
The division is just flat-out stacked. The Broncos almost certainly have to be better, the Chargers’ offensive coordinator upgrade should produce immediate benefits and the Chiefs will remain, well, the Chiefs. Last year people were calling for McDaniels to head midway through his first season, what happens when the division is loaded and the Raiders are struggling this year? Tom Brady probably won’t need to fire McDaniels in his first year as minority owner of the Raiders, but the idea was too awkward to contemplate.