With less than 100 days until the NFL season begins, football will be back every Sunday before you know it. While last year’s final four (Patriots, Rams, Chiefs, Saints) are all expected to be in contention once again, there are a number of teams who are flying under the radar and could surprise people this year. Here are five sleeper teams for the 2019 NFL season.
Green Bay Packers
Key Additions: HC Matt LaFleur, OLB Za’Darius Smith, OLB Preston Smith, S Adrian Amos, G Billy Turner
Key Losses: WR Randall Cobb, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Nick Perry, HC Mike McCarthy
Super Bowl Odds: 22/1
After a disappointing 6-9-1 season that resulted in McCarthy’s firing before it even ended, the Packers have signs of hope for this season. Green Bay hired LaFleur, the former OC for the Titans, as their new head coach, and hope his offensive game plan is more modernized than McCarthy’s was. They also spent money this season on addressing their pass rush with the additions of the two Smiths, along with drafting Michigan DE Rashan Gary 12th overall. With a new head coach, an improved defense, a healthy Aaron Rodgers and a weaker schedule, the Packers have all the makings of a bounce-back team who could find themselves in the playoffs and beyond.
Key Additions: QB Nick Foles, ILB Jake Ryan, WR Chris Conley, EDGE Josh Allen, OT Jawaan Taylor
Key Losses: QB Blake Bortles, DT Malik Jackson, S Tashaun Gipson, WR Donte Moncrief, RB T.J. Yeldon
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1
It was a fairly controversial offseason for the Jaguars, with multiple players leaving in free agency and Foles receiving a hearty four-year contract. But by replacing Bortles and acing the draft, the Jaguars could be a sleeper team heading into the season. After finishing 5-11, they will be playing a last-place schedule. They still have Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Leonard Fournette, among a couple of other key pieces. And the addition of Foles will vastly improve the quarterback position, making the Jags a possible Wild Card team this year.
Key Additions: S Earl Thomas, DE Shane Ray, RB Mark Ingram, WR Seth Roberts
Key Losses: OLB Za’Darius Smith, LB C.J. Mosley, EDGE Terrell Suggs, S Eric Weddle
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1
It’s hard to believe that a reigning division winner is considered a sleeper, but that’s the position the Ravens find themselves in. Fresh off of a 10-6 campaign, Baltimore has lower Super Bowl odds than both the Browns (14/1) and the Steelers (25/1). But now they will enter 2019 with Lamar Jackson starting from Week 1 after he led the Ravens in a 6-1 stretch from Week 11 on to win the division. Behind Jackson, Baltimore featured one of the league’s best running games and has now added Ingram to the fold. They also gave Jackson a pair of downfield options with rookie WRs Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. There will be some questions about their defense after losing a few key pieces, but if Jackson elevates his game in his second year, they could very well repeat as division champs.
Key Additions: QB Kyler Murray, HC Kliff Kingsbury, ILB Jordan Hicks, CB Robert Alford, DT Darius Philon, G J.R. Sweezy
Key Departures: QB Josh Rosen, EDGE Markus Golden, S Antoine Bethea, G Mike Iupati, WR J.J. Nelson
Super Bowl Odds: 125/1
No one is expecting the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl after finishing with the league’s worst record in 2018. But there are enough things in place — mainly the additions of Murray and Kingsbury — to show that they could be a very deep sleeper this season. Arizona’s season will be largely decided by the success of the rookie quarterback and head coach following a disastrous season with Rosen and Steve Wilks. The Cardinals also made some additional improvements and had a loaded draft class, giving them a chance to turn some heads this season.
Key Additions: WR Cole Beasley, WR John Brown, C Mitch Morse, G Spencer Long, DT Ed Oliver
Key Losses: G John Miller, DT Kyle Williams, TE Charles Clay
Super Bowl Odds: 125/1
While winning the division is a long shot, a return to the playoffs for the Bills is very possible. After Josh Allen’s solid rookie year where his ability to run was on display, Buffalo gave him a couple of additional options in the passing game with the slot receiver Beasley and deep threat Brown. In addition to a couple of signings along the OL, along with drafting OT/OG Cody Ford in the second round, getting Oliver with the ninth overall pick was a steal for a team looking for a perennial Pro Bowler along the defensive line. Buffalo was 6-10 last season and got better this offseason, and if Allen takes a step forward, the Bills could be in the Wild Card race in the final weeks of the season.