We all know the ‘it’ teams and probable playoff squads heading into 2019, but which clubs are in line to surprise and outperform expectations? Here are the five clubs we have in that category.
NFL Head Coach Power Rankings 2019
Buffalo Bills – Over 7 Wins
The Buffalo Bills were a playoff team in 2017, but they fell flat on their face in the first half of 2018. The club improved down the stretch and looked much better, but the overriding takeaway from last year was that the Bills were a team going nowhere.
That may have been an arguable point in the middle of 2018, but it’s a vastly different story today. The club entered the offseason with a clear plan and hit all of the right notes. Josh Allen now has additional weapons via the addition of John Brown and Cole Beasley, and he should see better protection with the improvements made to the line.
The defense looked a lot better over the second half of last year, and it could be even more improved with a new puzzle piece in the mix. Buffalo was able to nab Houston DL Ed Oliver in the draft, and he could evolve into a solid building block.
Oddsmakers aren’t sold on the Bills, as the bar has been set at seven regular season wins. We’ll gladly take the Over while also looking for spots in which the team is undervalued in the coming year.
Tennessee Titans – Value Opportunities
Back in 2017, a record of 9-7 was enough for the Titans to sneak into the playoffs. The club hit the mark last season, but the club fell short of a postseason bid in the competitive AFC. While that’s a bummer, Tennessee enters 2019 as a team which no other club wants to see on their schedule.
The Titans hit hard, play hard, and aren’t shy about slowing the game down to suit their offense. That formula translated into a number of big wins in 2018, including a 34-10 pasting of the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
The AFC South is going to be competitive this year, but the Titans are being overlooked as a potential contender. That’s not the wisest move, as this is a team that was a few bounces away from making the playoffs for a second year in a row.
We’re not calling an unexpected AFC South crown here, but we do know that the Titans are better than most give them credit for. That may set up some intriguing value opportunities in the coming year.
Minnesota Vikings – Over 9 Wins
After disappointing in 2018, many observers are sleeping on the Vikings in 2019. We’re not making that mistake. This club made it to the NFC title tilt in 2017, and it wouldn’t stun us to see a return to the postseason at a minimum.
While there were plenty of fingers to be pointed for what went wrong last year, the club has already taken steps to address that. John DeFilipo was relieved of OC duties last December. Kevin Stefanski will now get a crack at seeing what he can do for a full season.
He just may be able to get more out of Kirk Cousins and his super-talented supporting cast. It also sounds like Dalvin Cook is going to be more heavily involved this time around. The offensive line was a trouble spot last year, but the club has taken steps to shore that up.
As the futures market sees it, the Vikings are a nine-win team. We’re expecting much more, and we’ll be happy to pounce on favorable lines for Minnesota games in the fall.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Underdogs Who Can Bite
A sad 2018 campaign led to the Buccaneers wishing Dirk Koetter well in future endeavors. Bruce Arians takes over after a year away from the sidelines, and he knows the mission at hand: get more out of Jameis Winston and improve the defense.
For the latter, Arians has enlisted his former tag-team partner from Arizona. Todd Bowles was relieved of his head coaching duties with the New York Jets, but Arians was more than happy to bring him into the fold.
Bowles may have been out of his element as a head coach, but he remains a solid defensive mind. Add in the general ability of Arians to get the most out of the QB position, and the environment is ripe for marked improvement.
The Buccaneers have been tagged with 6.5 wins by oddsmakers, but this team may surprise. There also should be a number of spots this year in which the Buccaneers are in an attractive position as underdogs who can bite.
San Francisco 49ers – Over 8 Wins
The San Francisco 49ers were a preseason darling heading into 2018. Then the injury bug started to bite in big league fashion. Among the casualties were starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who would go down for the year in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 49ers would finish up with a dismal record of 4-12, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. This is not a team which collectively folded up like tents once the QB went down. San Francisco played hard and competed well throughout the year.
Were there a few shellackings when the team was outgunned? Absolutely, but there wasn’t any quit to be found. That’s a testament to head coach Kyle Shanahan, a coach who didn’t suddenly forget how to put together an efficient offensive attack.
Garoppolo is back and healthy, and he’ll have an intriguing supporting cast surrounding him. The club made some nice progress on defense in the offseason, including the addition of potential game-changing DE Joey Bosa.
Eight regular season wins is the target number for San Francisco, but this club can surprise. We’ll also keep an eye out for ways in which the market is undervaluing the 49ers once the games get underway.