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Reason for optimism for all 32 NFL teams in 2024: Jayden Daniels is teeming with potential, Mike Macdonald kicks off new era in Seattle

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• Jayden Daniels spearheads a new-look Commanders team: He led all FBS quarterbacks in overall grade and rushing yards last season while finishing second in passing grade.

• Mike Macdonald has plenty of talent to work with in Seattle: With the talent on his roster, particularly on defense, the new Seahawks head coach should have postseason expectations in his first year at the helm.

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Estimated Reading Time: 22 minutes


It’s the time of year for optimism around the NFL, and there are legitimate reasons for each franchise to be excited about the forthcoming season. Whether it’s perennial contention, a killer free agent class, a draft haul or any roster-related reason, all 32 NFL teams have something to look forward to.

We’ll break down a reason for optimism for each team ahead of the 2024 season.


JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray is healthy, and the Cardinals’ offense is a serious threat

Kyler Murray showed that he could still be an elite playmaker toward the end of last season. The Cardinals ranked 10th in the NFL in offensive grade during the weeks that Murray played. They have now added dynamic rookies Marvin Harrison Jr. and Trey Benson to an offense that already includes James Conner, Michael Wilson and Trey McBride.

Assuming Murray is healthy and Harrison can live up to his WR1 potential, Arizona’s offense will be a credible threat to any opponent. The defense may limit their ceiling, but the Cardinals could find themselves in plenty of shootouts this season.


Atlanta Falcons

They have a quarterback — two, actually

The Falcons ranked dead last in the league in passing grade last season. Otherwise, they had a good team. They improved their defense with the addition of Jessie Bates III last season, and they boasted potentially elite offensive playmakers in Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. They just needed a quarterback.

Atlanta acquired two this offseason. High-priced free agent Kirk Cousins ranked seventh in the NFL in passing grade (85.1) last year, and his recovery and continued health will be paramount to the team’s success. The Falcons have a top-three offensive line that should be able to support him. The team also drafted Michael Penix Jr. to be a long-term solution at quarterback. The leader of the national runner-up Washington Huskies led the FBS in passing yards last season while posting an elite 90.5 passing grade.

Click here to see Michael Penix Jr.’s 2024 NFL Draft profile.

Baltimore Ravens

They are still stacked with talent

The Ravens are the AFC version of the 49ers. They are incredibly talented and balanced. Their overall team grade in 2023 ranked second behind San Francisco. Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP. Now, they’ve added running back Derrick Henry, who continued to excel last season with a 90.1 overall grade.

Baltimore’s defense lost linebacker Patrick Queen but retained elite playmakers in Roquan Smith, Justin Madubuike and Kyle Hamilton. First-round pick Nate Wiggins adds needed speed and length at cornerback. If the Ravens find enough help at wide receiver and along the offensive line, they will contend for a Lombardi Trophy.


Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen can elevate his supporting cast

Josh Allen is unquestionably one of the best quarterbacks in football. His physical skills are unique, even in an era of athletic quarterbacks. He led the NFL in overall grade and big-time throws last season. Despite the loss of Stefon Diggs and the perception of constant chaos in Buffalo, Allen is the main reason the Bills win games.

The demise of his supporting cast is greatly exaggerated. While losing Diggs hurts, he did not have a 90-yard game after Week 6 last season. The offense became more balanced and the target share became more of a meritocracy as the campaign progressed. The combination of James Cook, Khalil Shakir, Curtis Samuel, Dalton Kincaid and rookies Keon Coleman and Ray Davis will be fully capable of winning the AFC East with Allen leading the charge.


Carolina Panthers

There is a new regime and a new environment for Bryce Young

Dave Canales did an incredible job to resurrect Baker Mayfield’s career in Tampa Bay last season. He brings his modern ball control offense to Carolina in the hopes of accomplishing the same for Bryce Young. Canales chose to keep incumbent defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero so that he could focus on the offense himself.

His primary task this offseason was surrounding Young with talent. Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis were added to the league’s second-worst interior offensive line unit. Several perimeter weapons were brought in at little cost, including Diontae Johnson, Xavier Legette and Ja’Tavion Sanders. The Panthers also drafted Texas running back Jonathon Brooks to give them much-needed balance. Carolina should now have a viable supporting cast for Young.


Chicago Bears

Caleb Williams

First overall pick Caleb Williams will be the most talented quarterback to ever don a Bears uniform. He has a loaded receiving corps with D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen and fellow rookie Rome Odunze. The onus will be on the Bears’ 28th-ranked offensive line to protect him. If they do, they will be protecting a passer who led college football in clean-pocket passing grade last season.

If they don’t, however, Williams will need to be careful with his ball security late in plays. He led the FBS last season with 16 turnover-worthy plays under pressure. Pass protection could be the key to his early success, but there is no doubt about Williams’ physical ability.


Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow is back with a vengeance

Joe Burrow is one of the elite quarterbacks in football. When his offensive line holds up in pass protection, he’s arguably the best pure pocket passer in the NFL. Last season, he suffered a season-ending wrist injury and Cincinnati’s Super Bowl hopes immediately vanished.

Burrow is back, and with an outstanding receiving corps that added Alabama’s Jermaine Burton, he will look to return his team to the AFC’s elite ranks. Another key piece added in the draft was Amarius Mims, who should compete early for the starting right tackle job. Mims is an athletic freak who could raise the ceiling of the Bengals’ offense if he reaches his potential.


Cleveland Browns

Their defense will always give them a chance to win

Cleveland’s defense led the NFL in EPA allowed per play and pass-rush grade last season. Neither of those statistics should come as a surprise since the team is loaded with defensive stars such as Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

The Browns’ defense almost always gave the team a chance to win last year. That unit is one of the few that can win games against elite NFL offenses, as evidenced by victories over Baltimore, Cincinnati and San Francisco. The Browns will continue to piece together the offense, but they don’t need to score a ton of points when the defense plays up to its potential.

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Dallas Cowboys

They are talented at all the right spots and consistently win (in the regular season, at least)

For as much criticism as the Dallas Cowboys get, they have won 12 games in three straight regular seasons and are loaded with talent at premium positions. They posted top-five offensive and defensive grades last season, joining San Francisco and Baltimore as the only teams to do so.

Dak Prescott finished third in passing grade. CeeDee Lamb finished fourth in receiving grade. Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence were dominant off the edge, per usual, and the team returns arguably the best pair of cornerbacks in the NFL in DaRon Bland and Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys may lack depth, but they certainly don’t lack the high-end talent needed to win games.


Denver Broncos

Sean Payton found his quarterback

Broncos head coach Sean Payton identified Bo Nix as his franchise quarterback, likely seeing some similarities to Drew Brees in the process. Nix led college football in passing grade and adjusted completion percentage last year. He gets rid of the ball extremely quickly and accurately.

The process of surrounding Nix with weapons has already started. Courtland Sutton remains a reliable option on the outside. Nix’s Oregon teammate Troy Franklin fell to Denver in the fourth round of the draft, giving him a familiar deep target. A running back room composed of Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin and rookie Audric Estime gives the team plenty of ground options. Sean Payton has an interesting group to work with, and Bo Nix is the centerpiece of it all.


Detroit Lions

They have an elite offense and an improved secondary

Hope is eternal in Detroit, as the Lions carry an elite offense, led by Jared Goff and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. They also boast an elite receiver in Amon-Ra St. Brown, a dynamic running back duo in Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery, an emerging star tight end in Sam LaPorta and the best offensive line in football.

Their undoing last season, though, was their secondary. They used this offseason to overhaul their cornerback room, acquiring Carlton Davis via trade and Amik Robertson via free agency. They also spent their first two draft picks on talented cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. The Lions likely would’ve made the Super Bowl last season with a better coverage unit. They have one this year, and expectations should be incredibly high.


Green Bay Packers

Jordan Love is just getting started

One of the biggest stories down the stretch of the 2023 season was the rapid ascent of Jordan Love’s production. Through Week 8, Love ranked 24th in the league in passing grade and was tied for second in interceptions. From Week 9 through the end of the year, he led the NFL with a 90.7 passing grade and tied for second with 28 big-time throws.

Love’s elite production coincided with the development of young weapons like Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs and Dontayvion Wicks. The Packers will also hope for the healthy return of Christian Watson, which would give the team arguably the deepest receiving corps in the NFL. If new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley can improve his side of the team, there’s no telling what the ceiling will be for Jordan Love and the Packers.


Houston Texans

A loaded offense gives the team Super Bowl hopes

Everything changed for the Texans franchise with the selection of C.J. Stroud. He had arguably the greatest rookie quarterback season ever. Outside of a couple of tough performances against the Ravens and Jets, he was a top-five signal-caller last season. The Texans are perhaps the best current example of a team taking advantage of possessing an elite quarterback on a rookie contract.

They already carried excellent weapons like Nico Collins, Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz last season, and they’ve since added Stefon Diggs to form arguably the best receiving trio in the NFL. Running back Joe Mixon was also acquired to give the team a three-down option it didn’t have last season. The Texans have one of the best offenses in the NFL, and they could ride it to an AFC title and beyond.

Click here to see Tank Dell’s PFF Premium Stats profile.

Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Richardson is back

With all due respect to Gardner Minshew nearly leading the Colts to the playoffs last year, this team’s hopes rest on the shoulders of Anthony Richardson. His right shoulder, in particular, will be closely watched this season after being operated on after Week 5 of last season. Richardson has all the athletic talent in the world, and a mastermind play caller in Shane Steichen to boot, but he has to learn to protect himself on the field.

The Colts have also done a nice job of surrounding Richardson with the requisite weapons to succeed. Jonathan Taylor is a former rushing champion. Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs and second-round pick Adonai Mitchell make for a potentially dangerous receiving corps. The team has a top-10 offensive line. Richardson can excel in this environment.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence leads a potentially explosive passing attack

Lawrence is one of the best deep passers in the league. He now has two serious size-speed threats at wide receiver who can threaten opposing safeties. Former Bill Gabe Davis is coming off a tough season, but he still posted a 99.4 deep receiving grade, ranking ninth in the NFL. The team also drafted Brian Thomas Jr., who led college football in deep receiving grade, 99.9, and deep touchdowns, 12.

Those two vertical threats should make life a lot easier for underneath targets Christian Kirk and Evan Engram. They should also lighten the defensive front for Travis Etienne and an offensive line that ranked dead last in run-blocking grade last year. Jacksonville needed explosive threats to complement Trevor Lawrence’s tremendous arm and create space for everyone around them. They found two this offseason.


Kansas City Chiefs

They attacked their biggest weaknesses

Wide receiver and offensive tackle are two of the premier positions in the modern NFL. The Chiefs found a way to win another championship despite their wide receivers ranking 26th in receiving grade and their tackles ranking 29th in overall grade. We know they can win consistently as long as Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Steve Spagnuolo exist, but there’s no reason for the Chiefs to rest on their laurels.

They certainly didn’t do that this offseason, especially at wide receiver, where they added speedsters Marquise Brown and Xavier Worthy in an attempt to reignite the deep passing game. They didn’t make a volume of moves at offensive tackle, but second-round pick Kingsley Suamataia is the big name to watch as he competes with Wanya Morris for the starting left tackle job. If Kansas City significantly improved at wide receiver and offensive tackle, a three-peat is very much on the table.


Las Vegas Raiders

The have the most underrated defense in the NFL

Fortunes changed immediately for the Raiders last season when Antonio Pierce took over as the head coach. He knew his first task, of course, was to fix a defense that posted the fourth-worst EPA allowed per play through the team’s first eight games. Pierce commandeered an immediate turnaround that was, at times, startling to watch.

From Weeks 9 through 18, Las Vegas’ defense ranked ninth in overall grade, fourth in run-defense grade and fifth in EPA allowed per play. Maxx Crosby is perennially great, but major contributions from Malcolm Koonce, Jack Jones and Robert Spillane, among others, gave the Raiders new life on defense. There is hope the team can compete for a playoff spot this season despite a questionable quarterback situation.


Los Angeles Chargers

Jim Harbaugh is bringing in his winning ways

Jim Harbaugh has had one losing season as a head coach since 2009, a COVID-shortened 2020 campaign at Michigan when he went 2-4. He’s the culture changer that the Chargers needed. His influence was immediately evident in his first Chargers draft class when selecting physical players like tackle Joe Alt, linebacker Junior Colson and defensive tackle Justin Eboigbe.

Harbaugh has always emphasized the importance of running and stopping the run. His coordinators Greg Roman and Jesse Minter are fully on board with that philosophy. All of that is meant to complement Justin Herbert, who is the most talented quarterback Harbaugh has worked with since he had Andrew Luck at Stanford. With Harbaugh in charge, a turnaround in Los Angeles could come sooner than later.


Los Angeles Rams

Stafford and McVay still lead the way

NFL football is a complicated game, but if a team has an elite quarterback and head coach, they will probably be fine. Such is the case in Los Angeles, where Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay remain in the fold. Expectations were low heading into last season after a disastrous 2022, as there were legitimate doubts about the offensive line and a ton of young players starting on defense.

Stafford and McVay, along with breakout star receiver Puka Nacua, maximized the talent of the offense all the way to the postseason. The team’s eventual undoing was its pass defense, and while they lost Aaron Donald to retirement this offseason, they did draft players like Jared Verse and Braden Fiske in an attempt to fill that void. As long as the team’s shortcomings aren’t too great, Stafford and McVay will give the Rams a chance to win every week.


Miami Dolphins

They are the fastest team in the NFL

The Dolphins have built an athletic freak show on offense. Tyreek Hill is the most explosive receiver in the NFL. Jaylen Waddle isn’t far behind him. Odell Beckham Jr. is as good as a third option gets. They also may have the fastest running back room in NFL history with Raheem Mostert, Devon Achane and Jaylen Wright all in the fold.

Mike McDaniel masterfully uses those pieces in an offense full of motions and run-pass options to give defenses fits. If the Dolphins can consistently protect Tua Tagovailoa in dropback situations and hold their defense together after some offseason losses, they can compete for an AFC East title and beyond.

Click here to see Tyreek Hill’s PFF Premium Stats profile.

Minnesota Vikings

The environment is right for J.J. McCarthy to succeed

J.J. McCarthy was one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft class. Even those who doubt his talent can’t deny the talent around him in Minnesota. Justin Jefferson, with a contract extension in hand, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, Aaron Jones and a top-10 offensive line is as good a supporting cast as a rookie quarterback can have.

Add in that the Vikings got an elite pass-rushing talent, Dallas Turner, in the draft and picked up two other solid edge players, Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard, in free agency, and you have a quietly ascending defense under Brian Flores’ leadership. There is absolutely a world where McCarthy leads Minnesota to the postseason in his first year at the helm.


New England Patriots

They created an offensive renaissance through the draft

New England spent seven of its eight draft picks on the offensive side of the ball with the hope that first-round quarterback Drake Maye could lead them into a new era of greatness. Maye, the FBS leader in big-time throws over the past two seasons, should add a vertical element to the passing game that was dormant with Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe at the helm.

They also provided Maye with a few new weapons that should make the offense more explosive. Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker were two of the best deep threats in college football in 2023. Both finished the season with an FBS-best 99.9 deep receiving grade. Keep an eye on seventh-round tight end Jaheim Bell, too. He was arguably the best after-the-catch tight end in college football after Brock Bowers.


New Orleans Saints

Derek Carr improved down the stretch last season

Derek Carr’s Saints tenure got off to a rocky start, as he posted a mediocre 67.5 passing grade through his first 10 games. However, over his final seven games, he earned an 84.4 passing grade, the fifth-best mark in the NFL in that span, after developing better chemistry with Chris Olave. Olave posted his three highest receiving yardage totals within the final six weeks of the season.

The Saints will hope to ride that newfound chemistry, as well as one of the NFL’s best secondaries, to an NFC South title. The question will be whether they can hold up in the trenches on both sides of the ball. If they are at least competent there, especially in pass protection, they can return to the postseason following a three-year absence.


New York Giants

The offensive supporting cast should be much improved

Running back Saquon Barkley departed in free agency, but the Giants managed to add several offensive pieces that should make them more well-rounded. They signed two starting-caliber offensive linemen, Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor, to a unit that was the league’s lowest-graded last season. That alone should give the offense more functionality than it had last year.

They also spent significant draft capital on offensive weaponry. The headliner is first-round pick Malik Nabers, who led the nation in receiving grade at LSU last season. He’s New York’s most explosive playmaker since Odell Beckham Jr. They also drafted tight end Theo Johnson and running back Tyrone Tracy Jr., both of whom should compete for playing time early despite being Day 3 picks.


New York Jets

Aaron Rodgers is healthy, and this time, he has an offensive line

The story of the Jets’ 2023 season was Aaron Rodgers’ torn Achilles, but a culmination of questionable decisions and bad injury luck on the offensive line doomed the team, too. New York likely wouldn’t have succeeded no matter who played quarterback behind the league’s second-worst offensive line.

This offseason, future Hall of Famer Tyron Smith, the league’s leader in pass-blocking grade, was brought in to lock things down at left tackle. New York added two other starters, Morgan Moses and John Simpson, at tremendous value. Right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker returns from injury, and the team drafted Penn State tackle Olu Fashanu as the eventual replacement for Smith. Rodgers should be well-protected in 2024.

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Philadelphia Eagles

They threw resources at the secondary

The Eagles have elite talent at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and defensive line. The one glaring weakness was a 28th-ranked coverage unit. They reunited with safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and two extremely talented cornerbacks in the draft in Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean. DeJean, in particular, should be an asset in the slot after Philadelphia ranked dead last in the NFL in slot coverage grade last year.

Philadelphia has an extremely strong roster, and their offseason work to fix the secondary should keep them in Super Bowl contention.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Stability at quarterback and offensive line

It is astounding that the Steelers made the playoffs despite ranking 23rd in passing grade and 31st in pass-blocking grade last season. In fact, they were the only team to make the postseason that placed in the bottom 10 in both facets. The biggest reason was their defense, headlined by T.J. Watt, but Pittsburgh improved upon its biggest weaknesses this offseason.

Russell Wilson and Justin Fields were brought in at incredible value to stabilize the quarterback room. Both are closer to solid than elite, but Wilson threw 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions last season and Fields is one of the NFL’s most dynamic runners. In front of those two is an offensive line that was a primary focus in this year’s draft. Tackle Troy Fautanu, center Zach Frazier and guard Mason McCormick all have starting potential and should vastly improve a unit that desperately needs an infusion of young talent.


San Francisco 49ers

They have the best roster in the NFL

The 49ers have elite talent at nearly every position. Simply put, they have the best roster in the NFL. Brock Purdy is a legitimate force who finished sixth among quarterbacks in overall grade last season. Christian McCaffrey is unquestionably the best running back in the NFL. George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams are all elite talents at their positions — and that’s just the offense.

Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Fred Warner, Charvarius Ward and more return to the NFL’s third-highest-graded defense. The team is stacked. They just haven’t been able to thwart Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Their roster, though, is certainly championship-caliber.


Seattle Seahawks

Mike Macdonald has plenty of talent to work with

New head coaches often have to walk into reclamation projects. That’s not the case for Mike Macdonald in Seattle. He has a solid starting quarterback in Geno Smith, whose 82.1 passing grade ranked 12th in the NFL last season. Of course, Smith has a bevy of weapons to work with, including DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Kenneth Walker III.

Macdonald, though, is a defensive coach and has no shortage of talent on that side of the ball. Stellar cornerbacks Devon Witherspoon and Tariq Woolen headline the secondary. Leonard Williams and first-round pick Byron Murphy II provide an excellent interior duo. Tyrel Dodson is an interesting name to watch at linebacker after he led the position with a 90.2 overall grade last season. With the talent on his roster, Macdonald should have postseason expectations in his first year at the helm.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They kept the core together and added to it with an excellent draft

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht managed to do the impossible by retaining Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans and Antoine Winfield Jr. Those three, along with left tackle Tristan Wirfs, comprise the core of the 2023 NFC South champions. The goal this offseason, aside from retention, was to add talent despite having little salary cap room to work with.

Tampa Bay accomplished that task by having an excellent draft. First-round pick Graham Barton should immediately start at center. Tykee Smith and Chris Braswell will contribute on defense. Jalen McMillan is another weapon in a loaded wide receiver room. Even fourth-round running back Bucky Irving should contribute early on passing downs. The Buccaneers acquired young talent at key positions, which should help keep them in NFC South contention.

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Tennessee Titans

The offensive infrastructure is much improved

A quick look at Tennessee’s current group of offensive weapons shows a potentially dangerous one, albeit one stacked mostly with veterans. DeAndre Hopkins, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd and Treylon Burks each bring different dynamics to a suddenly deep receiving unit. Tony Pollard and Tyjae Spears have the potential to form a nice running back duo. The 24-year-old Chigoziem Okonkwo has ability and potential at tight end.

The key to it all will be Will Levis and how well the team can protect him. Levis flashed his big arm talent last season but finished with a 36.1 passing grade under pressure, one of the worst marks in the league. Tennessee’s 25th-ranked pass-blocking unit certainly didn’t help matters, but Lloyd Cushenberry III and first-round pick JC Latham were brought in to aid that cause. If they can buy Levis some time, he has a solid group of weapons to which he can distribute the ball.


Washington Commanders

Jayden Daniels

Washington selected LSU’s Jayden Daniels with the second overall pick in this year’s draft. He’s the face of a new regime that has overhauled its roster with hopes of competing sooner rather than later.

Daniels enters the NFL as one of the best athletes at the quarterback position. He led all FBS quarterbacks in overall grade and rushing yards last season while finishing second in passing grade. He also holds the Power Five record with a career 1.6% turnover-worthy play rate (minimum of 600 dropbacks). The Commanders finally have a franchise quarterback.

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