Three NFL Teams That Could Make A Surprising Run Into Next Year’s Playoffs: Bengals, Raiders & 49ers
Every NFL season, teams emerge to become playoff contenders that few could predict. With new developments in the offseason and the right coaching staff, here are three teams that could make a surprising push into the 2019 playoffs.
The Bengals have a new coach for the first time since 2003 in former Los Angeles Rams QB coach Zac Taylor to bring in a new vision of a modern offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton had the highest-graded season of his career last year, and has returning options in A.J. Green and developing stars Tyler Eifert and Tyler Boyd. The Bengals also picked up the highest-rated linemen of the 2019 draft in Jonah Williams. It’s clear Taylor has a new perception of this Bengals team, and could possibly piece together a highly efficient offense this season. On the defensive side, the Bengals lack significant talent in the middle but the men up front and behind them in the secondary could overshadow that. Carl Lawson was the second-best edge rusher on pass-rushing, while Carlos Dunlap is a proven veteran rusher. William Jackson III scored a 73.4 at the corner position, and Jessie Bates III scored an 80.9 a rookie.
While Jon Gruden questionably let edge-rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Amari Cooper go last year, his rebuilding this offseason has been one of the league’s best. Derek Carr now has rookie Josh Jacobs on his hip, who looks like an all-purpose running back, while they also picked up the undeniable threat of Antonio Brown out wide. While Carr had limited options last year, he still threw over 4,000 yards while getting sacked 51 times. The free-agent signing of Trent Brown at tackle provides security for Carr, while Pro-Bowl guard Richie Incognito joins the team as well. On defense, Gruden used his first pick to get Clemson DE Clenin Ferrell up front, and Johnathan Abram in the backend.
Nick Mullen had to take the mantle for the 49ers after Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week three of the season. With Garoppolo back this year, Kyle Shanahan and his outrageous offensive scheme could be one of the league’s best this season. George Kittle is a top-10 tight end after just one season in the league, and new rookie Deebo Samuel provides some width for Garoppolo. The signing of former Falcons RB Tevin Coleman, paired with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida to provide explosive options in the backfield. Not to mention the 49ers using their second overall pick to get Ohio State product Nick Bosa, who will be paired with former Chiefs edge-rusher Dee Ford. The 49ers lost the reliable Reuben Foster, but found a nice replacement in Kwon Alexander. Expect the 49ers to give the NFC West a run for their money this year.