5 NFL teams that could surprise people in 2018
After talking about the biggest remaining needs for each team in the NFL at this stage of the offseason, I decided to look at the squads that I believe could make a serious improvement and surprise some people in 2018. With that I mean they should exceed expectations despite not being looked at as contenders right now.
Therefore I didn’t mention the obvious candidates such as the Packers, who get their franchise QB back, or the Texans, who are everybody’s offseason darling right now. All but one of the upcoming teams missed the postseason by multiple games, with the final one not really being looked at as a playoff team for some reason:
Watching Mitch Trubisky early on last season, it felt like the Bears were trying to keep him in chains and simply didn’t want him to make a mistake, to give the feeling that he was thrown into the fire too early. Mike Glennon, whom he took over for, was treated similarly and still turned the ball over. While I think it helped Trubisky ease into the offense, with the way the organization has surrounded their young franchise quarterback during this offseason and the creative Matt Nagy as their new head coach, they will let Mitch loose.
A lot of what they did was built off the zone run game featuring Jordan Howard, with bootlegs off of that, and those two elements fit their personnel very well, but they will definitely use the modern RPOs to keep defenses off balance, like Nagy did with Alex Smith in Kansas City. The addition of Trey Burton will be key as a move tight end, which will help them identify if opponents play man - or zone - coverage, by seeing if a safety/linebacker moves outside with him or the cornerback stays on the perimeter.
With Burton and second-year man Adam Shaheen, the Bears have an excellent duo of young pass-catching tight-ends to go with Allen Robinson, who I expect to have a big year, Taylor Gabriel and hopefully (finally) Kevin White. Tarik Cohen should be an all-purpose weapon for them as well. The Bears defense was a top-ten unit in terms of yards and points allowed already last year, but they have become even faster and more aggressive on that side of the ball with Georgia’s Roquan Smith being drafted eighth overall next to Danny Trevathan.
This front-seven looks scary, with Akiem Hicks becoming a disruptive force up front along with Eddie Goldman, Leonard Floyd coming into his own as an edge rusher and Aaron Lynch hoping to recreate some of the early success he had in San Francisco. Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos might be the most underrated safety tandem in the league, as Jackson’s range at free safety allows their corners to be aggressive and Amos bringing a downhill style of play. I’ve always been a fan of Kyle Fuller at corner and Prince Amukamara looked like a very good number two last year. I know the NFC North is a very tough division with Aaron Rodgers back, the Vikings just coming off an NFC Championship game appearance and even the Lions having playoff hopes, but I believe Chicago could surprise some people this upcoming season.