- Bovada has updated division odds for all 32 NFL franchises
- At least one NFL team has gone from the bottom to the top of their division in 15 of the past 16 seasons
- This year’s worst-to-first contenders in the AFC include the Bengals, Jaguars, Jets and Raiders
Hero to Zero
At the start of each season, there are also opportunities for some of the worst-performing teams from the previous year to make it to the top. While there is always a lot of pressure to win the Conferences, with the right work in the off-season these teams can climb to the top of the rankings. We’ll take a look at the teams that could possibly make it.
After losing 12 games and bottoming out in their division in 2017, the Houston Texans captured the AFC South with an 11-5 record last season. Of course, going worst to first is nothing new in the NFL, where in 15 of the past 16 years at least one team that finished last (or tied for last) in its division won it the following season.
This stat would seem to indicate there’s value in backing a divisional cellar-dweller in 2019. Then again, over the past five campaigns, 19 of 40 last-place teams went on to finish last again.
Counting down from least-to-most likely to win their division, I use the odds at Bovada to determine which AFC team will go worst to first this fall.
AFC Worst-to-First Odds
|Team||Division||Odds to Win Division at Bovada|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||AFC South||+375|
|New York Jets||AFC East||+650|
|Oakland Raiders||AFC West||+1100|
|Cincinnati Bengals||AFC North||+1600|
*All odds taken on 06/28/19
Cincinnati Bengals: +1600 to win AFC North
When Marvin Lewis started coaching in Cincinnati in 2003, Friends was still on the air and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” ruled the airwaves. So while a new direction was overdue, it’s unclear whether the Bengals hired the right “offensive genius” for the job.
Zac Taylor was the Rams’ QB coach under Sean McVay last season, but he didn’t call plays. In fact, the last time the 36-year-old donned the headset was in 2016 as offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati. They went 4-8 and were 123rd of 128 FBS teams in points scored.
When jokes are made about coaches getting hired simply for knowing Sean McVay, those jokes are basically about Zac Taylor. The Bengals swung big on their coaching hire, even if the roster is mostly the same. https://t.co/lrvqmLxQeJ
— Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) June 24, 2019
The Bengals have ascending talents such as bell-cow back Joe Mixon and receiver Tyler Boyd, but Andy Dalton is still the quarterback and they just lost 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams for the year. Considering Taylor’s troubles finding a defensive coordinator, Cincinnati is more likely to finish dead last in the league than they are to win the AFC North.
Oakland Raiders: +1100 to win AFC West
While many people will never forgive HBO for a mediocre final season of Game of Thrones, the network won me back by casting the Raiders on Hard Knocks.
After trading star edge rusher Khalil Mack and flaming out with a 4-12 record in his first year back on the sidelines, Jon Gruden promises to provide must-see TV along with mercurial receiver Antonio Brown.
Jon Gruden on Hard Knocks. Entertainment guaranteed.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) June 11, 2019
With three first-round draft picks in the fold—DE Clelin Ferrell (no. 4), RB Josh Jacobs (24), safety Johnathan Abram (27)—The Silver and Black’s talent level is much-improved, but it’s difficult to imagine Chucky’s crew displacing both the Chiefs and Chargers atop the AFC West.
Jacksonville Jaguars: +375 to win AFC South
In 2017, Jacksonville won its first AFC South title. Not so coincidentally, Andrew Luck missed that entire year with a shoulder injury and Deshaun Watson tore his ACL at mid-season.
Following a miserable 5-11 campaign plagued by poor quarterback play and culture problems, the Jaguars mercifully ended the Blake Bortles era only to severely overpay Nick Foles (four years, $88 million) so he would “command more respect in the locker room.”
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 11, 2019
Given the high probability that 2017 no. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette is a mega-bust and that cornerback Jalen Ramsey won’t suddenly mature after already squabbling about his contract this summer, the Jags seem likely to continue serving as a divisional doormat.
New York Jets: +650 to win AFC East
The Patriots have won the AFC East in 16 of the past 18 years with 10 straight division titles.
While this admittedly makes it insane to pick against them, Tom Brady will be 42 when the season starts, Gronk retired, running back Sony Michel is experiencing more knee issues, first-round wide receiver N’Keal Harry struggled at camp, and defensive assistant Brian Flores, who held the Rams to just three points in Super Bowl 53, is now coaching the Dolphins.
Jets QB Sam Darnold turns 22 today. His ability to extend plays and maintain poise stood out as a rookie. Stud potential. pic.twitter.com/Y4qmt71nk4
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) June 5, 2019
Wild-eyed Adam Gase sure isn’t getting much respect for his 23-25 record in Miami over the past three seasons, but Vince Lombardi wouldn’t have done much better with Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Jay Cutler and Brock Osweiler as his starting quarterbacks.
As I said way back in early May, Sam Darnold makes the Jets a sneaky bet to win the AFC East. New England’s reign will end one day soon and I want my money on the 22-year-old sophomore quarterback who is inspiring coaches to go on expletive-filled rants of effusive praise.