- Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for ESPN.com.
I wrote last week about the five NFL teams I expect to improve in 2021. Let’s go in the opposite direction and discuss the five teams I expect to decline this season. This is the fifth edition of this column, and over the past four, I’ve nominated 20 teams to decline. Sixteen of those teams have failed to match their record from the prior year. Three have matched their records, while one managed to improve by a single game. The average team of the 20 has dropped off by 3.4 wins from its record the previous season.
The 2020 version of this column, though, was the least accurate of the bunch. The Packers maintained their 13-3 record from 2019, while the Seahawks became the first team to improve, going from 11-5 to 12-4. On the other hand, the Saints declined by a win from 13-3 to 12-4, while the wheels came off the wagons for the Texans, who dropped from 10-6 to 4-12.
This season, I’m nominating five teams to take at least a small step backward in 2021. I expect several of them to still be playoff contenders and even think one of them will win the Super Bowl. Keep in mind that the NFL is moving to a 17th game and each team is getting an extra chance to win during the 2021 season, so to defy the odds, they’ll need to win one more game than they did last season. Let’s start with a team that felt unbeatable until the final game of the 2020 campaign:
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