Previewing the 2024 NFL Season: What Can We Expect from Teams?

Previewing the 2024 NFL Season: What Can We Expect from Teams?

What can we expect from NFL teams this upcoming season?

Mackenzie Salmon breaks down what to expect from a handful of teams as we lookahead to the 2024 NFL season.

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NFL power rankings following the 2024 draft (previous rank in parentheses):

1. Kansas City Chiefs (1): They got the tackle prospect (Kingsley Suamataia) they needed in Round 2. They got the hyperlight receiver (Xavier Worthy), who’s a bit of a terrifying luxury (a likely suspension to WR Rashee Rice notwithstanding) in Round 1. And knowing HC Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach, another notable move or two could still be in the offing for a team taking aim at the first-ever Super Bowl three-peat.

2. San Francisco 49ers (2): Feels like they’re just a player away from that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. As well as 2023 WR3 Jauan Jennings played in Super Bowl 58, could first-round WR Ricky Pearsall, if not second-round CB Renardo Green, make all the difference, next season – especially now that it seems the questions surrounding WR2 Brandon Aiyuk have been put to bed … for 2024 anyway?

3. Baltimore Ravens (3): A new-look offensive line, which should include second-round RT Roger Rosengarten, and a defense under new management (DC Zach Orr) are among the retooled elements that must come together for the defending AFC North champs. But just no telling how opponents are going to cope with the Lamar Jackson-Derrick Henry combo.

4. Detroit Lions (4): They still project as the class of the NFC North, especially after bringing in three quality corners (Carlton Davis III and rookies Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr.) for a 27th-ranked pass defense. But this division looks a heckuva lot tighter and will almost certainly be the class of the conference, if not the league, in 2024.

5. Green Bay Packers (5): After taking an unexpected quantum leap in 2023, they added first-round LT Jordan Morgan, second-round ILB Edgerrin Cooper and second-round S Javon Bullard – and all should be upgrades at their respective positions. The apparent absence of an elite offensive weapon – and new RB Josh Jacobs isn’t quite that – might be the only thing holding this ascendant Pack back.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (7): New RB Saquon Barkley, provided he remains healthy, will be this squad’s main delta in 2024. But getting DBs Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean with its first two draft picks should remedy what truly ailed Philly during 2023’s late-season collapse … though relative inactivity from the reigning NFC East champion Cowboys sure doesn’t appear to hurt.

7. Buffalo Bills (9): Could the subtraction of WR Stefon Diggs be a “less is more” situation? TBD, the performance of second-round WR Keon Coleman sure to ultimately sway that verdict. But let’s not forget this morphed into a rush-heavy team in the second half of last season, and one that also became more reliant on TE Dalton Kincaid. This could be a Kansas City-like evolution if the defensive alterations (and health of LB Matt Milano) also pan out.

8. Houston Texans (8): We know they’ll look good. But how will they play with the added burden of what are sure to be Texas-sized expectations for a franchise that’s never advanced beyond the divisional playoff round? The veteran acquisitions (Diggs, RB Joe Mixon, DE Danielle Hunter) need to be the difference-makers they’re unlikely to find among this year’s rookies – who have no chance of matching last year’s freshmen (QB C.J. Stroud, DE Will Anderson Jr., WR Tank Dell).

9. Cincinnati Bengals (6): QB Joe Burrow’s return to health may now need to trump the unhappiness of fellow stars Trey Hendrickson and Tee Higgins, who could both be part of a significant roster turnover in 2025.

10. New York Jets (12): All due respect to new QB2 Tyrod Taylor, this team is one Aaron Rodgers injury away from a 14th consecutive season finishing shy of the playoffs – which would extend the current NFL mark of futility. Yet reloaded and reinforced, it’s also one vintage Rodgers performance from its first Super Bowl appearance in 56 years.

11. Cleveland Browns (11): Rookie DT Michael Hall Jr. is the first player this team has selected in the first two rounds over the past three drafts. Their Deshaun Watson draft debt paid in full, the Browns are scheduled to return to Round 1 in 2025. But do they have enough, aside from the return of Watson and RB Nick Chubb, to go further in the interim?

12. Los Angeles Rams (10): Though it seems like this team is getting increasingly younger on the heels of what could be a banner draft – and Aaron Donald’s retirement – its two oldest players are QBs Matthew Stafford (36) and Jimmy Garoppolo (32).

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (17): A revamped offensive line is set to start four players acquired over the past year and change. Assuming it coalesces, good news for QBs Russell Wilson and Justin Fields – they absorbed a combined 89 sacks with their former teams in 2023 – and maybe more so for what should be re-emphasized run game.

14. Indianapolis Colts (19): Getting DE Laiatu Latu 15th overall in the draft and WR Adonai Mitchell at No. 52 were very likely two of this draft’s biggest value picks. Add them to the mix of a nine-win team that had limited snaps from QB Anthony Richardson and RB Jonathan Taylor in 2023, and Indy is shaping up as one of next season’s breakout candidates.

15 Chicago Bears (20): Yes, they drafted first overall to get QB Caleb Williams, but don’t forget this team went 7-10 (including a 5-3 finish) before its infusion of rookie talent – and WR Rome Odunze is a huge part of that equation – and the acquisitions of veteran WR Keenan Allen, RB D’Andre Swift, TE Gerald Everett and S Kevin Byard. The playoffs should be a legit possibility in 2024.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (22): The 2011 49ers improved by seven wins in then-HC Jim Harbaugh’s first season. These Bolts are also getting built inside out and, all due respect to Alex Smith, Justin Herbert is a better quarterback. So … 12 wins here? (Highly unlikely, but you can see where this could be headed.)

17. Miami Dolphins (13): After taking some broadsides in free agency, they got good players in the draft. Yet their overlap with some already strong areas of the depth chart, combined with degradation in the middle of each line, portend potential pitfalls for a team riding a 23-season streak without a playoff win – currently the league’s longest.

18. Dallas Cowboys (14): Maybe the “all in” mantra for 2024 should be replaced by “lame duck”? What better way to exemplify the state of affairs for HC Mike McCarthy and QB Dak Prescott than drafting the left tackle of the future, Tyler Guyton, before signing the running back of the past, Zeke Elliott, rather than obtaining fresh legs … or any players that seem especially ready to contribute immediately.

19. Atlanta Falcons (15): Seems like they have the best talent in the NFC South. But after a draft that can only be described as a fiasco, can QB Kirk Cousins – or shocking first-rounder Michael Penix Jr. – take this team where it hopes to go in 2024?

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16): Seems like they have the best team in the NFC South. But will that be enough given their modest personnel gains this offseason coupled with the division’s hardest schedule?

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (18): Are they much better prepared to protect QB Trevor Lawrence? Are they much better prepared to shut down opposing passers? Is there any reason to believe they’ve kept pace with the Texans and Colts this offseason?

22. Arizona Cardinals (26): Still ample work to do here on both sides of the ball. But the Cards are clearly on the way up, and first-round WR Marvin Harrison Jr. is going to be among the Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunners … assuming the line holds up in front of QB Kyler Murray.

23. Minnesota Vikings (29): As predicted, they ultimately traded up in the first round … the difference being, almost no one expected them to do it twice for a pair of players. Of course, everything rides on the bet the Vikes have made on QB J.J. McCarthy – though this team likely won’t be anyone’s doormat, whether he’s thrown into the fire this season or redshirts.

24. Las Vegas Raiders (23): They remain a quarterback away, seemingly by their own admission. Yet they won’t be pushovers, either, bridge QB Gardner Minshew II – a Pro Bowler in 2023 for whatever that’s worth anymore – a good Sin City bet to roll from a very hot table on many weeks … and be a cooler on others.

25. Seattle Seahawks (24): Hard to know what to make of this team until we see how it adapts to new HC Mike Macdonald’s philosophy and defensive scheme – not to mention new OC Ryan Grubb’s approach − even while predecessor Pete Carroll’s roster remains widely in place.

26. Washington Commanders (27): Between a very active draft – which featured six of the top 100 picks, including QB Jayden Daniels at No. 2 − and free agent intake, this roster has been heavily churned by new GM Adam Peters and HC Dan Quinn. It also appears to be significantly better, even if results in the win column don’t manifest straight away.

27. New Orleans Saints (21): Unless new OC Klint Kubiak radically rejuvenates this offense, just feels like this krewe is steadily losing ground – or at least entrenched at mediocre – in a division that’s incrementally advancing beyond average. The top draft picks (OT Taliese Fuaga, CB Kool-Aid McKinstry) are good players, but ones unlikely to change this team’s trajectory for the better in the near term.

28. Tennessee Titans (25): A somewhat unexpected free agency spending spree that netted good players might have been offset by an uninspiring draft. Regardless, they’re likely to go as second-year QB Will Levis does while trying to operate a new offense.

29. Denver Broncos (32): Admittedly a low slotting for a team in a division where second place might be up for grabs yet has a made guy like Sean Payton calling the shots. But given how bad Denver was on both sides of the ball in 2023, QB Bo Nix –steady and mature as he is – has a Rocky Mountain climb to thrive as a rookie with this supporting cast and while attempting to ingest Payton’s demanding system.

30. New England Patriots (30): They’re pretty much running it back with a team that went 4-13, aside from changes at quarterback and head coach. OK, so not really running it back. But, aside from whatever the plan becomes behind center, this team’s success (or lack thereof) will likely stem from how it adjusts to its radically altered environment.

31. New York Giants (28): Alright, Daniel Jones – here’s a reinforced offensive line and an actual game-breaking wide receiver (first-rounder Malik Nabers) this team hasn’t had since LSU predecessor Odell Beckham Jr. was shipped out five years ago. Make it work, bud, or we’re not bypassing your replacement next year.

32. Carolina Panthers (31): They selected talented, intriguing players – almost all who will either need extensive coaching to contribute or, in the case of second-round RB Jonathon Brooks, time to recover from his November ACL tear. The Panthers could well double their win total in 2024 … which would still mean a 4-13 finish.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

2024-05-01 17:47:27
#Bears #Cowboys #directions

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