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NFL Worst-Case Season Preview: The Pessimistic Outlook For All 32 Teams

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at January 1, 1970

An unlucky injury. A new system that flops. An acquisition who doesn’t quite jell. A brutal schedule.

There are oh-so-many ways a season can go wrong, and with the NFL season set to kick off on Thursday, all 32 of the league’s teams are surely trying to fight off the thought that they could be doomed. But we’re not so positive. Here’s a look at how far each team might sink this season, with analysis from Forbes.com’s expert SportsMoney contributors.

Related on Forbes.com: The Optimistic Outlook For All 32 NFL Teams

Buffalo Bills

Worst-case scenario: The Bills’ faith in a pair of rookies goes unrewarded, Josh Allen falls back to earth, and aging acquisitions fail to make a difference for an ineffective pass rush. Read more on the Bills’ outlook from Forbes contributor Nicholas McGee.

Miami Dolphins

Worst-case scenario: Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t take a step forward in Year 2, and the NFL’s 23-ranked offense sinks even lower, letting down a stout defense as the Dolphins miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season. Read more on the Dolphins’ outlook from Forbes contributor Patricia Traina.

New England Patriots

Worst-case scenario: Reinforcements on the offensive line and in the secondary do little for a team still wondering if rookie quarterback Mac Jones can be Tom Brady’s long-term successor, leaving the Patriots at their lowest point in two decades. Read more on the Patriots’ outlook from Forbes contributor Liam Fox.

New York Jets

Worst-case scenario: Zach Wilson sees some of the same “ghosts” that materialized before Sam Darnold’s eyes, the defense’s youth is exposed repeatedly, and the gleam of a new era dulls rapidly. Read more on the Jets’ outlook from Forbes contributor J.P. Pelzman.

Baltimore Ravens

Worst-case scenario: The losses of running backs J.K. Dobbins (to injury) and Mark Ingram (in free agency) are too much for a run-heavy offense, and the Browns and the Steelers surge ahead in a brutal division. Read more on the Ravens’ outlook from Forbes contributor Liam Fox.

Cincinnati Bengals

Worst-case scenario: Joe Burrow’s left knee again buckles under the weight of a defender, or he buckles metaphorically from the pressure of quarterbacking a struggling team. Meanwhile, third-year coach Zac Taylor goes to wherever failed offensive gurus go. Read more on the Bengals’ outlook from Forbes contributor J.P. Pelzman.

Cleveland Browns

Worst-case scenario: Baker Mayfield takes a giant step backward, and Odell Beckham Jr. becomes a distraction, keeping a talented team out of the Super Bowl once again. (Oh, well, what’s another year?) Read more on the Browns’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jim Ingraham.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Worst-case scenario: Ben Roethlisberger succumbs to the wear and tear of life in the NFL, and his arm strength does not not return after some concerning signs last year, putting extra stress on a running game that has already had trouble executing. Read more on the Steelers’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jack Magruder.

Houston Texans

Worst-case scenario: Deshaun Watson’s situation remains unsettled, and David Culley proves to be in over his head as a first-year head coach as the Texans post one of the worst regular seasons in modern NFL history. Read more on the Texans’ outlook from Forbes contributor Vincent Frank.

Indianapolis Colts

Worst-case scenario: Carson Wentz struggles in his first year in Indianapolis, and the roster’s low rate of Covid-19 vaccinations causes problems, dropping the Colts below .500. Read more on the Colts’ outlook from Forbes contributor Evan Sidery.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Worst-case scenario: Urban Meyer becomes the latest highly successful college coach to crash and burn in the NFL, and the Jaguars’ pass rush and run defense remain abysmal. Read more on the Jaguars’ outlook from Forbes contributor Rob Reischel.

Tennessee Titans

Worst-case scenario: Derrick Henry no longer looks like a one-man wrecking crew, and the Titans, lulled into a false sense of security in the weak AFC South, watch the Colts surge past them into first. Read more on the Titans’ outlook from Forbes contributor Phil Rogers.

Denver Broncos

Worst-case scenario: Von Miller’s ankle injury robs him of his explosiveness and leaves the defense in trouble, which ultimately sends coach Vic Fangio packing. Read more on the Broncos’ outlook from Forbes contributor Patricia Traina.

Kansas City Chiefs

Worst-case scenario: Additions on the offensive line fail to coalesce, keeping Patrick Mahomes under pressure, and the loss of receiver Sammy Watkins leaves the offense too predictable, ending the Chiefs’ stranglehold on the AFC West. Read more on the Chiefs’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jeff Fedotin.

Las Vegas Raiders

Worst-case scenario: A lack of size in the front four ensures the defense remains atrocious, and the drama of the off-season across the organization spills into the regular season, souring the Raiders’ first season in Las Vegas with fans in attendance. Read more on the Raiders’ outlook from Forbes contributor Vincent Frank.

Los Angeles Chargers

Worst-case scenario: The defense is slow to absorb its new schemes, and the job proves too big for Brandon Staley, just as it did for the two men hired before him who had never before been a head coach at any level, Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn. Read more on the Chargers’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jay Paris.

Dallas Cowboys

Worst-case scenario: The defensive front can’t keep offenses from running wild, and the secondary remains weak, keeping the Cowboys out of the playoffs for a third straight year. With Dak Prescott back on the field, Dallas is out of excuses. Read more on the Cowboys’ outlook from Forbes contributor Emily Iannaconi.

New York Giants

Worst-case scenario: The offensive line and third-year quarterback Daniel Jones can’t answer their doubters, and running back Saquon Barkley, receiver Kenny Golladay and tight end Kyle Rudolph all prove unable to recapture their pre-injury form. Read more on the Giants’ outlook from Forbes contributor Patricia Traina.

Philadelphia Eagles

Worst-case scenario: Jalen Hurts crashes and burns at quarterback. Worse than their miserable record, the Eagles are forced into another reset. Read more on the Eagles’ outlook from Forbes contributor Howard Megdal.

Washington Football Team

Worst-case scenario: Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t help an offense in flux, wasting a fierce defense in a winnable division and forcing Washington to rethink its decision to go with a caretaker instead of a long-term answer at quarterback. Read more on Washington’s outlook from Forbes contributor Emily Iannaconi.

Chicago Bears

Worst-case scenario: A patchwork offensive line can’t overcome the early loss of rookie tackle Teven Jenkins, embattled general manager Ryan Pace is shown the door, and the season winds up meaning little beyond the development of Justin Fields. Read more on the Bears’ outlook from Forbes contributor Phil Rogers.

Detroit Lions

Worst-case scenario: New quarterback Jared Goff and new coach Dan Campbell can’t find a fit, and the defense remains porous, extending the Lions’ streak without a playoff win to 30 years. Read more on the Lions’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jack Magruder.

Green Bay Packers

Worst-case scenario: Aaron Rodgers, looking ahead to his next home, plays more like he did in 2018 and 2019 than he did in 2020, and the defense takes a step backward under Joe Barry after last year’s surprise showing. Read more on the Packers’ outlook from Forbes contributor Rob Reischel.

Minnesota Vikings

Worst-case scenario: Talented skill-position players on offense can’t make up for a weak defense, and a lack of depth proves fatal in a 17-game season, keeping a competitive team from staying above .500. Read more on the Vikings’ outlook from Forbes contributor Steve Silverman.

Atlanta Falcons

Worst-case scenario: The pass rush and the rushing offense continue to provide little, and the Falcons keep blowing big leads, landing among the NFL’s bottom feeders once again. Read more on the Falcons’ outlook from Forbes contributor Rob Reischel.

Carolina Panthers

Worst-case scenario: Sam Darnold is stuck in a replay of his time with the Jets, with an offense that stalls in the red zone and a defense that can’t force enough turnovers. Read more on the Panthers’ outlook from Forbes contributor J.P. Pelzman.

New Orleans Saints

Worst-case scenario: Turnovers plague Jameis Winston in his attempt to succeed Drew Brees, and a lack of depth at wide receiver and cornerback leaves the Saints outside of the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Read more on the Saints’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jeff Fedotin.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Worst-case scenario: Tom Brady finally experiences the decline many expected years ago, and the Buccaneers are caught without a safety net, spoiling their chances of repeating despite the NFL’s most complete roster. Read more on the Buccaneers’ outlook from Forbes contributor Nicholas McGee.

Arizona Cardinals

Worst-case scenario: Injuries place additional speed bumps in Kyler Murray’s development, and the wear on his 205-pound frame calls into question the Cardinals’ big bet on him in the 2019 draft. Read more on the Cardinals’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jack Magruder.

Los Angeles Rams

Worst-case scenario: Sean McVay’s offensive vision—with Matthew Stafford in for Jared Goff and a scheme built on big plays rather than long drives—is put to the test, and the Rams sink in the ultra-competitive NFC West, missing a chance to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Read more on the Rams’ outlook from Forbes contributor Jay Paris.

San Francisco 49ers

Worst-case scenario: Jimmy Garoppolo goes down with an injury, and rookie quarterback Trey Lance shows that the “project” label slapped on him ahead of the 2021 draft was deserved. Read more on the 49ers’ outlook from Forbes contributor Vincent Frank.

Seattle Seahawks

Worst-case scenario: A strong NFC West division and a first-place schedule stick the Seahawks with a mediocre record, leaving Russell Wilson the subject of trade rumors or Pete Carroll on the way out. Read more on the Seahawks’ outlook from Forbes contributor Liam Fox.

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