NFL ’18: Three last-place teams that could contend for the postseason

For those who struggled in 2017, the new season brings a chance to move on from the past. Here's a look at some who could surprise.

(Photo Credit: USA Today via Reuters/Matthew Emmons)

After going 3-13 in 2016, the Jacksonville Jaguars improved to 10-6 and won the AFC South to complete a remarkable worst-to-first scenario. Will we see another improbable run to a division title, or at least the postseason, in 2018?

Here are three teams that have a good chance to turn things around and make a case for the postseason:

Denver Broncos

The AFC West could be the toughest division in the conference if Kansas City doesn't regress with young quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Los Angeles Chargers live up to their preseason hype. And with Jon Gruden back in Oakland, well, anything is possible.

So where do the Broncos fit in?

With Case Keenum their new quarterback, Denver has at least upgraded that position. Which means Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should be more productive than they were last season. Depending on health, a Denver defense that ranked third (290.0 yards per game) overall might be even more daunting with the addition of rookie pass rusher Bradley Chubb to go along with star Von Miller.

Denver will also play three of its first four games at home, including dates with the Raiders and Chiefs, so a quick start is very much possible.

Houston Texans

It's simple, Houston's success depends on how well J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson bounce back from their season-ending injuries. Or if they can stay healthy at all, which for Watt has been a problem (combined eight games played the last two seasons).

Watson was a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate before a torn ACL ended his 2017 season after seven games. He showed with his arm (1,699 yards) and his legs (7.5 yards per carry) that he's capable of elevating the Texans' offense to heights usually associated with playoff teams.

Watt, meanwhile, is an elite defender who makes the rest of the unit better. Adding ex-Cardinal Tyrann Mathieu to a group that also includes Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, makes them potentially one of the league's best if they can stay healthy.

San Francisco 49ers

Considering the 49ers won their final five games last season with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, they should have plenty of momentum heading into the season. While their running backs and receivers are void of star quality, Garoppolo has shown during his short stint as a starter that he can make anybody look good.

While the Los Angeles Rams should remain the class of the NFC West, Arizona and Seattle are teams San Francisco should be able to compete with and possibly beat. Veteran Richard Sherman should help improve a pass defense that yielded 235.2 yards per game.

It's also important to note that Kyle Shanahan has one season as a head coach under his belt. He was learning along with the rest of his young team last season, so those growing pains should be gone. There's an obvious comfort level that comes in Year 2, and based on the way San Francisco finished, it's already started. The bar has been raised.

  1. Who has the best playoff chance this season?

    1. Broncos
    2. Texans
    3. 49ers
    7 votes
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