Football is currently in a holding pattern; the draft and free agency are mostly over, and training camp is still a few months away. So last week I started looking at some NFL win totals. The teams we profiled were of the upper echelon and up-and-coming variety. Now let’s look at the bottom of the league.
Who is better than their mediocre prognosis, and which teams will struggle to win a few games?
2017 NFL Win Totals to Target
Cleveland Under 4.5
The Browns have gotten a lot of positive buzz for the way they handled the draft. That stands in contrast to the mocking they’re used to taking during the season. Last year, the Browns went 1-15, following a 3-13 mark in 2015. They have failed to win five games or more in four of the last six seasons. Regardless of the impact you expect rookies Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, David Njoku, and DeShone Kizer to make, the bottom line is the organizations philosophy has nothing to do with winning right now.
When Cleveland hired former baseball executive Paul DePodesta to run things, they did so with an analytics and long-term plan. Nobody, including those working for the Browns, has any notion of succeeding in the short-term. They want to accrue young talent and draft picks, with the idea the playoffs are possible in two year’s time, not now. So in their mind, winning hurts their ability to get top draft picks. The Browns are the most eager team in the league to trade decent players who won’t be valuable down the line.
An ideal season for the Cleveland brass is 3-13 and getting the first draft pick. To think they’ll win five games or more, which runs counter to their long-term plan, is unlikely.
Jacksonville Under 6
What makes 2017 any different than the last six years? There will always be a wise guy who points to the Jags young talent, new coaches, or bad division, but since going 8-8 in 2010, Jacksonville is 22-74 overall and has not won six games or more in any of those campaigns.
It is hard to get excited about coach Doug Marrone, who overplayed his hand when stepping down in Buffalo, settling for a position coaching assignment in Jacksonville. But after being a part of a bad organization for the past three years, Marrone somehow got elevated to the top job. His 25-25 record at Syracuse included a 4-8 first year, and he was 15-17 with the Bills, going 6-10 in year one.
In general, Tom Coughlin, who is now the exec vice president of football operations for the Jags, should be looked at positively. But at 70 years old, this is his first attempt at running a roster, and he finished his Giants career with back-to-back 6-10 seasons. Also to consider: this Jacksonville team has Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson, not Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
To lose an under bet on the Jags, they need to win seven times. History tells us that isn’t likely, and the principals don’t give us a lot of confidence.
Washington Over 7.5
Are we sure the NFC East is good? Yes, the Cowboys won 13 games last year, but that came after they posted just four wins in 2015. The Giants jumped from three straight under .500 seasons to 11-5 in 2016. The Eagles have gone 7-9 the past two years. Washington, who for some reason has the lowest win total in the division, went 8-7-1 last year following a 9-7 mark two years ago.
Nobody in the league is more motivated to have a good year than Skins quarterback Kirk Cousins. He’s in-line for a huge contract if he plays well in 2017. Though GM Scott McCloughan was shown the door before free agency began, bringing in Terrelle Pryor, while letting DeSean Jackson go, and saving a bunch of cash as a result seems smart. Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain are much needed additions on the defensive front. Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson are two draft picks that should also aid the defense a lot.