To be clear, the Ravens are not definitely going to finish last. But of last year’s first-place teams, they seem to be the one most in danger of doing so.
Also possible: Texans.
The Texans had a huge turnaround last season, and that often doesn’t bode well in the N.F.L. or any other league. Typically, sports’ inherent gravity is more likely to pull such a team back down than to let it rise further.
The Texans have their share of big names like Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, but their depth isn’t as impressive. They also have a challenging schedule. The Indianapolis Colts (10-6) and Tennessee Titans (9-7) were right behind the Texans (11-5) last season. While the Jaguars were a bust, they could be better this year behind the newly acquired quarterback Nick Foles. It’s not impossible to see the Texans finishing last.
Maybe: Chargers, Bears, Cowboys.
Probably not: Chiefs, Saints, Rams.
Are you kidding?: Patriots.
New England has won 10 division titles in a row. Is losing Rob Gronkowski to retirement going to send the Pats all the way to the basement? No way.
Worst to First?
Most likely: Jaguars.
First-to-worst to worst-to-first? The Jaguars have been a roller-coaster team, winning three games in 2016, then 10 in 2017, then five last season. The pendulum may swing back this year with the addition of the Super Bowl M.V.P. quarterback Foles, an obvious upgrade over Blake Bortles. The receiving corps, not a strength, was bolstered by the addition of Chris Conley from the Kansas City Chiefs. The defense — led by cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is angling for a new contract next off-season — was already good, second in the league against the pass last season.
To top the division, the Jaguars will have to beat out both the Titans (hardly unlikely) and the Texans (as we’ve seen, possibly due for a fall). The Colts are the main obstacle, but an off season or an injury for quarterback Andrew Luck could open the door.
Also possible: Jets.
Eight years without a playoff appearance and consecutive five-, five- and four-win seasons don’t seem to bode well for a turnaround. But the New York Jets have had a pretty good off-season and could surprise.