As the winds of the NFL begin to swirl, and NFL odds with common and uncommon bets are being laid down, I'd like to focus on expectations. In almost every team's camp, they're working to be better than they were last year. Whether a team was terrible, mediocre or last year's champs, all 32 teams are seeking to exceed last year's limits. Here is a breakdown of what teams are doing to help prepare for improvement.
The Cellar Dwellers
Yes. In theory, every team has an equal chance of winning the Super Bowl. In reality, that's far from the truth. Even before the 12 teams are slotted in the postseason, teams are viewed as rebuilding based on lack of talent or inexperienced talent. But some team puts chemistry and improved play together in a way that propels them forward, even if it's not all the way to the title. Last year's Cleveland Browns are the perfect example, as then-rookie Baker Mayfield replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor and led the team to seven unexpected wins.
Of course, teams that are projected to be bad usually have valid evidence that supports them not having a winning season. Other teams are more talented and better coached, just to name a few reasons. So with the eternal spring of hope, the late summer brings for every football team, those leaves fall as the calendar turns autumn. If your favorite team has little but something to place hope in, protect it. Because it may not bloom until next season.
The rock and hard place of mediocrity
In any spectrum of people and things that range from great to awful, someone or something has to be average. This does not mean that everything the team does is average. But if you, well, average out strengths and weaknesses, they land somewhere close to the middle. For example, Ryu is an average character in the latest Street Fighter game (yes, everything is still video games). He's not terrible: meaning it's impossible to win with him. But there are more than a few of the 20+ characters who have better tools than him to achieve victory. Since Street Fighter V launched in 2016, Ryu has not a major tournament since the first season of the game. We are now in season four and closing in on SFV's fourth appearance at the EVO World Championships. While Ryu players may win a few matches, it is highly unlikely that they make it near the top eight finalists. Still, Ryu players like myself stick to him, hopeful that we and the character have enough to overcome that tough spot of mediocrity.Imagine only knowing the glory of 8-8. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Here is where teams like the Washington Franchise and Detroit Lions find themselves. They're talented enough to put a maybe in people's heads that real success will happen this time. Could this be the year Washington makes the playoffs? Or will a team like them flirt with the postseason, only for it to leave in the winter like the second half of Stevie Wonder's, "Superwoman (Where Were You)"? Time and the season will tell.
Going from good to great
An important part of that spectrum of great to awful teams is that several teams are genuinely good. Whether or not they win the championship does not discredit a good team or its season. Yes, good teams like the Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans fell short of achieving that ultimate championship goal. But they were good last year and have the potential to be good this year.
Sometimes – every time, really – going from good to great requires letting go of something good and sacrificing it to receive something great. For an NBA reference, think about the Toronto Raptors firing Duane Casey and trading DeMar DeRozan, then hiring Nick Nurse and acquiring Kawhi Leonard. The moves were emotionally tough, but the result was the best season in franchise history and an NBA title. If your team is in this category, you should find your hope resting on the belief that a move they made in the offseason will get them over that proverbial hump and vying for a Super Bowl.
Championship or Bust
Parity is a lie. I repeat. Parity is a lie. Every year, there are only a handful of teams who can truly compete for a championship. These are the teams that seem to dominate throughout the regular season, have multiple Pro Bowl players on both sides of the ball, and are among league leaders in major statistical categories. But there is only one champion each year. And even that champion has no claim to this year's trophy.
Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and of course the New England Patriots are in this category. The expectation is for them to contend. These teams will be on most analysts' and bettors' shortlist of favorites. They'll be returning most of their talent from their great seasons of last year. Younger talent will be getting better. Veteran talent will still be close to peak ability. There are so many places for hope to reside that fans of these teams are surely annoying you with their gloating wherever you are, even if you're a fan of one of these teams.
But lo, every team must be cognizant of injuries. They are the most unpredictable variable in sports. While we don't wish injury on anybody, it is to be expected. That dashes hope faster than game-ending interceptions. But we are still in summer. No real padded snaps have been taken. So for now, every team is still pretty much at full strength, or at least know the health status of most of the team as the regular season looms. For these great teams, it's winning a Super Bowl or the season is a failure.
There you have it. Chances are, your team fits into one of these four categories and with them, your hope is there, as well. I hope you enjoy the upcoming NFL season.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.