Jun 102013
 

Matt Flynn3. Oakland Raiders
Head Coach: Dennis Allen
2012 Record: 4-12
2012 Offense: 290 points scored, 26th in points, 18th in yards (8th passing, 28th rushing)
2012 Defense: 443 points allowed, 28th in points, 18th in yards (20th passing, 18th rushing)

Key Additions
QB Matt Flynn, DB Charles Woodson, DB Tracy Porter, S Usama Young, WR Josh Cribbs, LB Kevin Burnett, LB Nick Roach, DE Jason Hunter, CB Mike Jenkins, DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker, RB Rashad Jennings, P Chris Kluwe, CB DJ Hayden, T Menelik Watson

Key Losses
QB Carson Palmer, DE Richard Seymour, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, TE Brandon Myers, DL Tommy Kelly, DE Desmond Bryant, DE Dave Tollefson

Why 2013 will be better
In this case, “better” is a relative term that means the Raiders are in the process from emerging from years of irrelevance. The ever-moody Carson Palmer has been replaced by the enigmatic Matt Flynn, which will either solve the team’s quarterback needs for the next several seasons or else will result in emergence of Terrelle Pryor or Tyler Wilson. If the Raiders can get a full season out of Darren McFadden and production from their wide receivers, they could make most games tolerable for the Raiders’ faithful to watch.

Why 2013 will be worse
Matt Flynn has shown flashes, but is unproven and the Raiders might be expecting too much, especially given that Palmer threw for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. The defense is a patchwork of one year contracts while the Raiders absorb an ugly cap year after years of mismanagement. They’re taking care of their business in the right way, but it might well get worse before it gets better. The defensive line is still in need of serious help after last year’s second worst pass rush.

Outlook
In all likelihood, Oakland is looking at a lost season as it recovers from years of cap and draft mismanagement. There is no easy fix for the problems the Raiders are facing, but once they get through the 2013 season, they are likely to emerge with a high draft pick and somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million in cap space to begin building the once proud franchise. Beyond McFadden, there are few reliable targets on offense, though Denarius Moore looks to be a potential star in the making. However, McFadden has missed 23 games in the past five seasons and could well be regarded as injury prone. The defense is a temporary patchwork with a talented secondary but a problematic front seven. As I have said before, I fully expect the Raiders to be atop the AFC West in the next three seasons if they stick to their rebuilding plan, but five or six wins represents an absolute ceiling for the 2013 Raiders.

Jun 102013
 

Gus Bradley2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Head Coach: Gus Bradley
2012 Record: 2-14
2012 Offense: 255 points scored, 30th in points, 29th in yards (21st passing, 30th rushing)
2012 Defense: 444 points allowed, 29th in points, 30th in yards (22nd passing, 30th rushing)

Key Additions
Head Coach Gus Bradley, LB Geno Hayes, DT Roy Miller, RB Justin Forsett, DB Alan Ball, DT Sen’Derrick Marks, WR Mohammed Massaquoi, CB Marcus Trufant, DT Brandon Deaderick, DT Kyle Love, T Luke Joeckel, S Johnathan Cyprien (6/13: QB Mike Kafka)

Key Losses
DT CJ Mosley, T Guy Whimper, S Dawan Landry, CB Aaron Ross, T Eben Britton, DB Derek Cox, LB Daryl Smith, RB Rashad Jennings, FB Greg Jones, DT Terrance Knighton, DB Rashean Mathis, DB William Middleton, WR Laurent Robinson, RB Montell Owens

Why 2013 will be better
After winning only two games last season, it probably can’t get worse. Bradley has brought in new defensive parts to replace a slew of departing players, but none of these is a proven blue-chipper and several have previously under-achieved. Still, Miller promises to help stuff the run, while Ball and Trufant should provide leadership to the five defensive backs that the Jaguars scooped up by the Jaguars in the draft. Blaine Gabbert’s job is hanging by a thread, so he has plenty of motivation to improve on his 77.4 passer rating (1,662 yards, 9 TD, 6 INT), while the consistently pedestrian Chad Henne waits in the wings. While the Jags have not brought in a quarterback to compete with Gabbert, it is entirely possible that Jacksonville will start the year with Henne at the helm. Maurice Jones-Drew returns from a lost 2012 campaign (once again proving that players who hold out more often than not get hurt or fail to perform), yet still led the team in rushing in only six appearances. However, it is an open question as to how effective he will be this coming season, and he is currently mired in controversy over his role in an off-field incident. This makes the signing of Forsett an important safety net for the club. Any improvements on offense will be a boon for the defense, which was last in the league in quarterback sacks last season. Assuming any offensive improvement at all in 2013, the Jaguars should be capable of winning four to five games this season, a marked improvement over 2012 that still nets the team a top five draft pick next spring.

Why 2013 will be worse
Gabbert will fail to improve while Hennne won’t be much better. MJD won’t return to form, and the defensive patchwork won’t be an improvement over last season. The Jags win two games again and secure the top pick in the draft. Hmmm… maybe that isn’t worse.

Outlook
Despite the lack of good quarterback play, the Jaguars couldn’t run the ball in 2012, nor could they stop the run. While Gus Bradley is a tremendous defensive coach who helped turn around the Seattle Seahawks, it’s going to take a lot more than his brain power to turn around this woeful franchise. The addition of Joeckel secures the left tackle position for the foreseeable future, but the team lacks playmakers after Jones-Drew. Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts both showed promise last season, but the team needs to see both players surpass their production from last season. This will be hard for Blackmon to do since he will miss the first four games due to a suspension. Hopes for anything beyond a four win season should be regarded as wildly optimistic.

UPDATE (6/13): The Jags have claimed QB Mike Kafka, who was released by the Patriots earlier this week. Kafka adds an interesting wrinkle at quarterback, but doesn’t change the overall fate of the team for 2013.