Ranking of NFL teams set to struggle in 2023: Current and former Patriots could face trouble

Good luck finding an NFL fan base on their favorite team right now. When I have predicted records for every single team in the NFLanything other than 17-0 for literally any franchise was met with nothing short of scorn and derision. The Brinson™️ model aims to please!

A three-toed sloth could count the number of winning seasons the Browns have had since returning to Cleveland in 1999…on one foot. Yet Browns fans are apoplectic if you suggest that 7-10 might be on the table.

Last year around this time, my good friend Jason La Canfora identified five teams he believed in they were in the worst shape and for the roughest run in 2022. He pretty much nailed it: Chicago and Houston had the top two overall picks in the draft, while Carolina and Atlanta were “caught up” in a bad NFC South contest before scoring the top -10 picks (Carolina would move to No. 1 overall) and Washington, well, worked their way to another impressive Snyder-style season.

Now it’s my turn to find the five teams prepared for the toughest ride in 2023. This year has been much, MUCH tougher – I’m personally excited about what the Falcons and three of last year’s five JLC teams are doing – Carolina, Houston and Indy – ended up drafting a quarterback with a top-five pick. Unless you really loathe a prospect’s prospects, you need to feel optimistic about decent rosters adding young quarterback talent to the top of the draft.

Ultimately this roster will likely end up being a mix of teams struggling in 2023 and teams that have long-term questions about the overall direction of the franchise. Washington commanders are an automatic addition to this list if Dan Snyder still owns the team in week 1, but if he actually sells I can’t possibly get them listed in the wrong direction.

1. Arizona Cardinals

I won’t lie and suggest starting alphabetically here: profile of cardinals as per distant the worst team in football for 2023 and it’s not particularly close. Arizona has a first year GM and a first year head coach, both with some interesting missteps early on. Monti Ossenfort has denounced allegations of tampering with Jonathan Gannon that led to the hiring process, which essentially cost his team a top-100 pick. Gannon refused to meet with the media after Arizona’s first draft day and told him he also told Arizona reporters everyone wanted him fired because the Eagles haven’t blitzed enough. It may have been a lie. For a team that could seriously struggle to compete this year, it’s not the ideal way to start things off with the press and fans.

The quarterback might be a mitigating factor here, but Kyler Murray is recovering from a torn ACL suffered late in the season. It would be a pretty big surprise if he’s ready to go by week 1. And there’s the further question of whether the Cardinals Want him to be ready. Arizona has its and Houston’s first-round pick in 2024 – factor in a new regime and Caleb Williams/Drake Maye are absolutely in game for the Desert Birds.

Oh, and there’s the whole annoying ex-VP of Personnel thing Terry McDonough accuses owner Michael Bidwell of “serious misconduct, including cheating, discrimination and harassment.

Arizona owns its own level in these rankings right now.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs’ placement here isn’t an indictment to the long-term health of the organization so much as a snapshot of where Tampa is right now. The Bucs won a Super Bowl in 2020 after the bold acquisition of Tom Brady – not to mention the rest of the roster which was built well by GM Jason Licht – and have made the playoffs in the past two years, even amid a change of coach from Bruce Arians to Todd Bowles.

But with Brady retiring this offseason, the bill has come for Tampa’s immediate and possibly long-term future. Baker Mayfield is in town on a one-year contract and the warmth of Bowles’ place isn’t talked about enough. Arians won the Super Bowl; a disastrous season for the longtime defensive coordinator could certainly lead to Tampa changing head coaches next offseason (or sooner).

There’s still a lot to like about this roster, particularly on the defensive end and you won’t even hear anyone complaining about Tampa’s pass catchers. But the offense just wasn’t the same without Arians and now without Brady pulling the trigger it’s impossible not to be concerned about how 2023 will play out for this team.

3. Tennessee Titans

Completely ready to look like an IDIOT when Mike Vrabel wins his division and gets the No. 1 seed in the AFC in a few months. But 2023 looms as a possible rocky journey for the Titans as they transition from Ryan Tannehill — in the final year of his contract — to Will Levis, who they drafted with a second-round pick this offseason. Levis’ status doesn’t guarantee him future franchise material (see: Malik Willis just last year for Tennessee) but he feels like someone Vrabel is pointing his future at compared to now-ousted GM Jon Robinson.

The problem for Tennessee fans isn’t so much that the team will be “terrible” or one of the worst teams in the league, but there is a fragility to how the Titans appear to be built. The offensive line isn’t as good as it was when Derrick Henry ripped 2,000-yard seasons. Tannehill could very well play 17 games and play them well, but it’s entirely possible that he ends up riding the pine tree at some point in the season so Tennessee can see what they have in the rookie. If so, rough patches are to be expected.

Offensively it’s hard to see the Titans score a lot of points on a weekly basis. Defensively they are better than people give them credit for. It’s hard to win a lot of 16-13 games – it’s just the fragile nature of football when you let the lines get so thin.

Henry is also in the last year of his contract. Maybe he and Tanny make a big push to break the bank, but the Titans – as we’ve known them for the past few years – are switching their identities during the 2023 season, which could make things a little bumpy down the road.

4. New England Patriots

What could go wrong?? The single greatest dynasty in pro sports history, as down as they have been for the past 25 years with Bill Belichick’s back/maybe against the wall, so why shouldn’t I pile in here expecting never to get burned? from the greatest coach in the history of football, professional or not???

The Pats replaced Matt Patricia and Joe Judge with Bill O’Brien, an extremely significant and obvious update in terms of running the offense. I’m not convinced yet, but the offense will be above average. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Devante Parker and Tyquan Thornton are not the 1927 Yankees of the receiving corps. Rhamondre Stevenson may be an elite running back, but things get thin after him on the depth chart. Mac Jones still has a lot to prove to a lot of people!

Defensively no one doubts Belichick, especially when he stole Christian Gonzalez later in the first round. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Pats look a lot like the Titans. But that comes back to the fragility of things in the NFL when you want to handle the ball and play defense in 2023. And it’s magnified for a team like the Pats in a division like the AFC East, where Buffalo has a three-year run of dominance, the Dolphins are a dangerous contender if their QB is on the field and the Jets just added Aaron Rodgers. I’m optimistic about New England this year, but 2023 is very likely to be a long season for Pats fans.

5. Vegas Raiders

Let’s eliminate everyone connected to the Patriots dynasty, why not?!? It looked like the Raiders had been stepping back and forth throughout the offseason. The addition of Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Derek Carr was the perfect metaphor for this team – they made the lateral move last, even though it could benefit the team in the long run due to Jimmy fitting into Josh McDaniels’ system.

I’m a huge fan of both Jakobi Meyers (essentially a one year deal) and Josh Jacobs (franchise label) but to expect the latter to produce the same way he did last year is asking a lot, especially with the frustration of another potentially lingering single year deal. Even if the offense blows up, the Raiders could easily be the fourth best offense in their division.

Tyree Wilson is a very attractive addition as a pass rusher, but will he see significant action this season with Chandler Jones playing in the (likely) final year of a questionable contract? It’s hard to find a run where this Raiders defense is substantially better than it was last season.

The division is simply stacked. The Broncos almost need to be better, the Chargers’ offensive coordinator upgrade should generate immediate benefits, and the Chiefs remain, well, the Chiefs. Last year people were asking McDaniels to head midway through his first season, what happens when the division is loaded and the Raiders struggle this year? Tom Brady probably won’t have to fire McDaniels in his first year as a Raiders minority owner, but the idea is super embarrassing to think about.

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