For the 11th straight year last season, an NFL team made the leap from last place to first. It’s the best streak in the NFL. Last year, two teams actually pulled it off – the Panthers (12-4) and Eagles (10-6) won their divisions after going 7-9 and 4-12, respectively, in 2012. Who are the candidates for next season?
Atlanta/Tampa Bay (4-12)
St. Louis (7-9)
Washington, with a healthy RG3 and the addition of DeSean Jackson, figures to be a contender in the NFC East, especially if it bolsters the defense in the draft. Atlanta, which was in the NFC Championship game two seasons ago, will have a healthy Julio Jones and be much improved. St. Louis will be a sexy offseason pick to win the NFC West, but it still must unseat Seattle and problem-ridden San Francisco.
I’d rank them thusly:
Absolutely No shot: Oakland.
Seems unlikely, but if there’s an injury …: Buffalo and Houston. If Tom Brady or Andrew Luck go down, both divisions are wide open.
It’s possible, but you don’t feel good about it: Minnesota, Atlanta/Tampa Bay, Cleveland.
Best bets: St. Louis. Washington.