23. Kansas City Chiefs
Hiring Andy Reid as head coach this offseason should stabilize an organization that has averaged five wins over the last five seasons. It’s uncertain whether 29-year-old QB Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, is a long-term solution. But the Chiefs do have talented RB Jamaal Charles, WR Dwayne Bowe and ILB Derrick Johnson, each of whom is younger than 30. They could turn it around quickly in a wretched division.
24. Carolina Panthers
Carolina has gone four years without a winning record, but the roster isn’t bare. That means coach Ron Rivera is on the hot seat entering his third season. The Panthers have a good foundation in QB Cam Newton and LB Luke Kuechly, young studs on both sides of the ball. Newton’s completion percentage dropped slightly in his second year, but he also threw five fewer interceptions. He lacks a deep receiving corps.
25. Detroit Lions
They’re proof of how difficult it is to achieve staying power. The Lions won only four games a year after a 10-6 record earned them their first playoff berth since 1999. WR Calvin Johnson is 27 and QB Matt Stafford is 25, but Detroit lacks balance in the running game. The Lions’ selection of three top-15 defensive linemen from the past four drafts helps to explain that. They signed free agent RB Reggie Bush to make the offense multidimensional, but they’re at the bottom of a strong division.
26. Philadelphia Eagles
New coach Chip Kelly used an up-tempo speed-option offense to establish Oregon as a national power. He inherited a weak quarterback situation in Philly, though. QB Michael Vick won the job over second-year QB Nick Foles, but Vick has turned the ball over too often when healthy in recent seasons. Kelly is going to a 3-4 defense, too, so this once-dominant team has a long way to go before it returns to the top of the NFC East.
27. Buffalo Bills
Forget staying power — the Bills would settle for their first winning season since 2004. Buffalo underwent a complete overhaul during the offseason following four straight seasons of six or fewer wins. New coach Doug Marrone and new general manager Doug Whaley drafted former Florida State QB E.J. Manuel 16th overall. They continued targeting offense with WRs Robert Woods in the second round and Marquise Goodwin in the third.
28. New York Jets
Two seasons removed from the AFC Championship Game, the Jets are trending in the wrong direction. They fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum in the offseason and left coach Rex Ryan as a lame duck in the last year of his contract. QB Mark Sanchez doesn’t complete enough passes (54 percent last season), leaving the job open to rookie Geno Smith. New GM John Idzik got rid of 11 starters, most notably trading cornerback Darrelle Revis.
29. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals don’t have a quarterback. That’s a trend among teams at this level of the rankings. QB Carson Palmer will bridge the gap between this season, the first for general manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians, and whatever passer they draft next offseason. It also hurts that the other three teams in the NFC West are ahead of Arizona and on the rise. Free agent RB Rashard Mendenhall must spark the running game if the Cardinals are to compete.
30. Oakland Raiders