This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
Three NFL teams improved so much during the low season that they have a legitimate chance of going from last place to first place in their division.
One of the most challenging achievements to achieve in professional sports is to go from last place in a division to first place in the matter of a unique offseason. No matter how you want to say it, it is incredibly difficult to go from worst to first or from zero to completely by drastically improving a roster, coaching team and culture over the course of 6-8 months. This is especially true in the NFL, where the term “any given Sunday” is prevalent, yet teams near the bottom of the barrel typically spend years – sometimes decades – without climbing the ranks. The hope that comes from one big upset victory can only mean so much, and in the long run it is often more destructive than the usual craving.
With the historic and hectic nature of this 2022 NFL offseason, however, there are three teams that have made such solid improvements that they could very well take the leap from the basement to the bell tower.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the NFL over the last ten or twelve years, it’s that this league is nothing more than a boat race to find the quarterback who can bring your team to the Promised Land. This offseason, the Denver Broncos finally got their guy.
In a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, the Broncos acquired Russell Wilson for a few players and a significant draft capital. Seattle received two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick in 2022, quarterback Drew Lock, tight-end Noah Fant and defensive veteran Shelby Harris.
Whether or not the Broncos got Wilson – a nine-double Pro Bowl selection – too cheaply is not the focal point here. Rather, we are discussing whether Denver can move from last place in the AFC West in 2021 to first place in 2022, and the answer is a resounding yes.
Since Hall of Fame inauguration Peyton Manning ended his four-year tenure in Denver in 2015, the Broncos have been at the bottom of the AFC West totem pole, constantly on the hunt for their guy. They have remained competitive by maintaining a solid defense year in and year out, and have done a fine job of drafting additional prospects, but the Broncos have always swung and missed quarterbacks in the years since.
Since Manning’s departure, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenan, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Phillip Lindsay * (running back), Kendall Hinton * (wide receiver) and Teddy Bridgewater have all taken pictures in Denver.
Wilson’s arrival means a complete revival of the Broncos offense. He will be surrounded by a very talented receiving corps of Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy, as well as a solid backfield commanded by Javonte Williams and veteran Melvin Gordon. Although running backs proved to be effective regardless of the situation last season, it will be the first time this receiving corps plays alongside a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback with a marvel of an arm.
Finally, the Broncos defense is expected to continue to thrive in 2022. Depending on what statistics are being pulled up, Denver’s defense last season was certainly a top-ten unit and arguably closer to the top-five overall. That success was largely due to the efforts of the defensive secondary, led by stars Pat Surtain II and Justin Simmons. Their efforts will be complemented this season by an intensified passing rush in which a – hopefully – healthy Bradley Chubb will be stacked with Randy Gregory (from Dallas) and rookie Nik Bonitto.
It will be a great achievement to defeat the six-time reigning division champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Chargers, who have threatened the throne for years, and the Las Vegas Raiders, who made as big a splash in free agency as any organization in the league, but given the reinforcements in Denver and the energy they want to deliver is absolutely possible.