Last NFL season both the Chiefs and Panthers shot up the standings into double digit wins territory. Who will be this season’s Carolina Panthers? Its getting sunny in St. Louis. Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in part one of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
In 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs won 11 games on their way to clinching a wild card berth in the AFC. The year prior, you will remember KC went 2-14, tying for the worst record in the league and finishing with by far the worst point differential in the NFL.
A nine-game improvement is elite level stuff. However, every season in this league, one or two teams make a considerable jump up the standings. Besides the Chiefs, the Carolina Panthers also saw a vast improvement between 2012 and 2013. Last year, Carolina won 12 games and the NFC South title, up from just seven victories the year before.
Between 2011 and 2012, both the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks made huge leaps up the standings, improving by five wins and four wins respectively.
I’m not saying there will be another Kansas City situation in 2014. After all, only a handful of squads could even physically improve by that many wins. However, who will be this year’s Panthers? Who’s the team that jumps up by four or five wins and bursts its way to stardom?
There are a ton of options here. I’ll give you my best bets and you tell me who you like, or who I neglected to touch on.
Washington Redskins (3-13 in 2013)
New York Giants (7-9)
Detroit Lions (7-9)
Tennessee Titans (7-9)
Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
And the Houston Texans (2-14) just because they lost so many games. It seems almost a given they will improve by at least four wins.
I’d love to find you this season’s Chiefs, but you’re right, worst to first won’t happen amongst the long list of bad to mediocre franchises from 2013. However, lots of potential teams can be this season’s Panthers (a team gaining 4 or 5 wins).
Both the Texans and Falcons hit bottom last season after multiple years of success (see last week’s debate), so I’m ruling them out. Any dramatic turnaround in the wins column will get written off as simply returning to form. Besides the fact that I don’t think either team will rebound more than four wins, this discussion is about the surprise element and a true shot up the standings into double digit wins territory. Neither team is winning double digits.
I’m also ruling out the Giants and Lions from your list. Both teams should improve this upcoming season, but they’d be lucky to get three more wins. I don’t see either team entering the realm of 11 or 12 wins needed to qualify as this season’s Panthers. The teams remaining on your list are getting lonely. I’m adding three more.
Vikings (5-10-1 in 2013)
St. Louis (7-9)
Oakland Raiders (4-12)
You may have guessed that I do not think either the Redskins or Titans will enter double digit win territory this upcoming season. Washington should gain five or six wins, but do we care if they miss the playoffs at 8-8 or 9-7? I sure don’t. The team I wanted to pick was Minnesota. I really like what the Vikings did last year, but then I looked at their opponents for 2014. They play their division, the NFC North, as well as the AFC East and NFC South. Whoa.
This year’s Carolina Panthers will be the St. Louis Rams. They finished 2013 with a passable record of 7-9 in arguably the toughest division in football. Their schedule for 2014 is a rough road on paper, but looks can be deceiving. Besides divisional matchups with the Seahawks and 49ers, whom the Rams have always played well against, they face a total of three other ‘scary’ opponents all season. Games against the Patriots, Packers, and Bears will be tough. The rest of the Rams’ schedule favors their surge up the standings.
I like St. Louis to split with San Francisco and Seattle, losing to the Patriots, Jets, and Bears as well. That gives them eleven wins and a wild card berth into the playoffs. The Rams have an under the radar quarterback who has real breakout potential, Sam Bradford, playing besides a running back, Zac Stacy, and wide receiver, Tavon Austin, with star potential. And their coaching staff is something special: Jeff Fisher (head coach) teamed up with Brian Schottenheimer (OF) and Gregg Williams (DEF). Watch out for St. Louis in 2014.