Success is relative. A handful of NFL teams would be disappointed by anything short of a Super Bowl LIV win, like the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints. The second tier of teams would set their minimum at making the playoffs. A third tier might simply want to compete for a playoff berth.
There’s a fourth tier of teams that might set their sights even lower. While they likely harbor dreams of playing competitive football in January, their realistic goals for the upcoming season have more to do with developing young talent or finding a solution at a key point of weakness on their roster. Let’s run through the teams that probably don’t have playoff football looming in 2019 and get a sense of what would help make their seasons feel more productive by the end of the year.
To figure out which teams are least likely to make the postseason, I used ESPN’s Football Power Index‘s projections of the 2019 season and went with the 10 teams with less than a 20% chance to make the playoffs. Of course, there’s still a chance that these organizations will buck the odds; their combined playoff odds top 100%, suggesting that one of these 10 will make it to the playoffs. Last season, FPI gave the Bears just an 18.3% chance of making it to the playoffs, but after trading for Khalil Mack and drastically improving their interception rate, they rode the league’s best defense to a 12-4 record and a comfortable division title.
We’ll start with the team that has the best (relative) playoff odds, which requires a trip one mile high:
FPI chance to make the playoffs: 17.2%
Clear signs of development from their young receivers. John Elway has sought to rebuild his team’s receiving corps over the past two drafts, drafting wideouts Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton in 2018 before trading down and taking tight end Noah Fant in the first round in April. The refresh is overdue; Elway traded away Demaryius Thomas last season and has 32-year-old Emmanuel Sanders entering the final year of his contract in 2019, while prior draft picks like Cody Latimer, Carlos Henderson, Jeff Heuerman and Jake Butt have failed to turn into useful pass-catchers.
The Broncos need at least one of these guys to look like a starting receiver and an offensive building block by the end of 2019. Fant has the loftiest draft pedigree as a first-rounder, but the list of rookie tight ends who delivered an immediate impact isn’t long, as just four tight ends since the 1970 merger have topped 700 receiving yards during their debut campaigns. He also left Monday’s preseason game against the 49ers with an ankle injury. Even beyond what appears to be a minor ankle issue, it might be more realistic to expect Fant to harness his potentially devastating…