Jason Garrett became head coach of the Cowboys during the 2010 season. His ability to extend his tenure beyond 2018 could hinge on whether the team makes it to the playoffs in 2018.
Five of Jacksonville’s six 2017 Pro Bowlers were below the age of 28, so there’s little reason to believe one of the league’s youngest and deepest teams won’t be even better in 2018. But all of the teams surrounding them in the top 10 spots of these rankings are more secure at the quarterback position, because there are still legitimate questions regarding Jags starter Blake Bortles.
Blake Bortles, the 2014 No. 3 pick, salvaged his career with a half-decent 2017 season that included a pair of strong road playoff performances in Pittsburgh and New England. Still, he was the league’s 13th-lowest-rated passer among 32 qualifiers.
If Bortles excels in his fifth season, the Jaguars can win it all. If he struggles, they’ll likely linger as a talented second-tier contender. But they’re so stacked that they’ll be competitive either way.
The Atlanta Falcons weren’t themselves in 2017 after blowing Super Bowl LI. And while that offense might never get back to where it was under Kyle Shanahan in 2016, the Falcons still have Matt Ryan under center, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu and Tevin Coleman surrounding Ryan and one of the best young defenses in the NFL.
Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal were dominant at all three levels for that unit in 2017, and all remain below the age of 25. That speedy, athletic D ranked in the top 10 in points and yards allowed in 2017, and it should be better even without departed veteran defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
Look for the offense to bounce back at least a little bit in Steve Sarkisian’s second season as offensive coordinator and for the Falcons to give the Rams, Vikings, Saints and Eagles a run for their money now that they’ve recovered from their Super Bowl hangover.
The Detroit Lions approached free agency like a team that would be satisfied with a third consecutive 9-7 season in 2018. In with DeShawn Shead, out with D.J. Hayden. In with Devon Kennard, out with Tahir Whitehead. In with Luke Willson, out with Eric Ebron.