16. Chicago Bears
The Bears have relatively weak staying power for a team that won 10 games last season. Despite a 7-1 start, they missed the playoffs when Minnesota finished with wins at Houston and vs. Green Bay. Chicago replaced coach Lovie Smith with Marc Trestman. Now QB Jay Cutler has entered the last year of his contract. LB Brian Urlacher retired. They need to pass protect better and diversify the passing game to break through in a tough NFC North.
17. St. Louis Rams
Coach Jeff Fisher’s first season produced a five-win improvement. The Rams are stabilizing now that QB Sam Bradford will play for the same offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career. They added speed at the receiver positions — first-round pick WR Tavon Austin and TE Jared Cook. They believe their offensive line, with former Pro Bowl LT Jake Long, is better equipped to protect Bradford. If Bradford takes advantage, the Rams would take a major step forward.
18. Miami Dolphins
Miami’s staying power depends on overtaking New England in the AFC East, which is why general manager Jeff Ireland spent on speedy playmakers during the offseason. WR Mike Wallace is a weapon for second-year QB Ryan Tannehill. Free agent CB Brent Grimes and third-overall pick Dion Jordan, a former Oregon DE, should help improve a poor pass defense.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Three straight non-winning seasons sparked changes in Dallas, and instability is the opposite of staying power. Coach Jason Garrett relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, patriarch of the Tampa-2, is converting Dallas’ personnel to a 4-3. QB Tony Romo now has more say in play calling and game planning, but he hasn’t proven he can win big games.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Several elements are helping to increase the Bucs’ staying power: Coach Greg Schiano established a disciplinary culture in his first season. RB Doug Martin emerged as a rushing (1,454 yards) and receiving (472) threat as a rookie, and they upgraded their secondary by acquiring CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson and drafting CB John-
than Banks. But QB Josh Freeman is not a convincing solution, and Tampa Bay is looking up at Atlanta and New Orleans in the NFC South.
21. Tennessee Titans
The Titans are within striking distance of some staying power, but they play in a difficult division and are still waiting on QB Jake Locker to take a step forward. The completion percentage issues he faced in college have continued in his first two pro seasons (56 percent). Explosive RB Chris Johnson should thrive behind an offensive line fortified by the selection of Alabama RG Chance Warmack.
22. San Diego Chargers
If Philip Rivers, 31, reduces his turnovers and improves his accuracy under new head coach Mike McCoy, the Chargers could return to respectability. They have a young, talented defense led by DEs Corey Liuget. San Diego will have to fight, though, to overcome recent unproductive drafts.