In the last three NFL seasons, four teams have vaulted from worst-to-first in a division in a span of one year, including the 2017 NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles.
You can expect a team to vault from worst to first again in 2018 and, according to last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, you can expect it to be the Houston Texans.
We listed the eight last-place finishers of a year ago and asked our listeners and readers which one would make that bottom-to-top jump in 2018 and the Texans won going away with 42.3 percent of the vote. The San Francisco 49ers were next with 17.9 percent support, followed by the New York Giants at 12.8 and the Denver Broncos at 10.3.
“The Texans actually were not so much worst a year ago as unlucky,” Talk of Fame Network host Ron Borges said. “Bill O'Brien's team has had a string of bad luck injuries to key players that has to stop one of these seasons. I predict it's this season for Houston.”
A run of bad luck indeed.
Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt played only five games last season because of back and knee injuries and quarterback DeShaun Watson was steaming toward NFL Rookie of the Year honors before tearing up a knee in practice after only six starts. He had a 400-yard passing game against Seattle and a five-TD pass game against Kansas City.
Their absences torpedoed the Texans, who finished 4-12. Both are now back – and look for the Texans to rebound in a big way in their pursuit of AFC South champion Jacksonville. The Jaguars, by the way, vaulted from worst to first in 2017.
“The Texans have all their injured stars back, which means I'd warn Jacksonville not to look in its rear-view mirror,” Talk of Fame Network host Clark Judge said. “That image of the Texans is much closer than it seems.”
The 49ers enter the season with Jimmy Garappolo as their starting quarterback. A mid-season trade addition from New England last fall, San Francisco closed 2017 5-0 with Garappolo taking the snaps. The Giants used the second overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft on All-America running back Saquon Barkley and will finally have a running game to complement the arm of Eli Manning.