Predicting which NFL teams will exceed expectations, underperform in 2024



Even before a single snap of the NFL season is played, there are expectations for each team, some being much higher than others. There are always sure bets to make the playoffs and sure bets of teams that are predicted to flounder.

Then the season actually begins and a lot of that goes out the window. Every year there are teams that far exceed the expectations set in the offseason and teams that fall flat of how fans and media believed they would do.

With training camp around the corner and the 2024 season under three months away, we asked a panel of our CBS Sports NFL writers: Shanna McCarriston, Cody Benjamin, Tyler Sullivan, Garrett Podell, Bryan DeArdo and Jordan Dajani to give their predictions for which teams will surprise people with how well they perform and which will surprise people with how they struggle.

Here is a look at who we think will exceed expectations and who will underperform, along with the team’s record last year and their biggest gains and losses this offseason:

Teams that will exceed expectations

McCarriston — Chargers: Maybe I haven’t learned my lesson from the past, but I am once again counting on the Chargers to do something with their talented, well-paid quarterback. They finally have a competent head coach in Jim Harbaugh and while he may not have made as many big splashes as expected this offseason, I can see him leading the Chargers to a winning record and dare I say, possibly a playoff bid.

They fired Brandon Staley late in the 2023 season and replaced him with a proven winner. The Chargers have had high expectations in the past and failed to meet them, but I believe this will be the year they are a team that gives their opponents a bigger challenge and certainly will rack up more wins than last year.

Their offensive losses will take some time to adjust to, but saving money to lose aging players can help them in the end. Keeping defensive end Joey Bosa and linebacker Khalil Mack in L.A. at a cheaper price was huge for a team that needs that veteran presence and experience on defense. 

They won’t win the division, since the AFC West includes the defending champion Chiefs, but they have the easiest strength of schedule in the AFC, which will help them heaps.

Last year’s record: 5-12
Offseason losses:
RB Austin Ekeler, LB Kenneth Murray, WR Keenan Allen, WR Mike Williams
Offseason acquisitions:
Head coach Jim Harbaugh, T Joe Alt, RB J.K. Dobbins, CB Kristian Fulton, RB Gus Edwards
Over/Under win total:
9.0

Benjamin — Vikings: The Minnesota Vikings may not have a clear-cut quarterback for the 2024 season, or at least a confirmed plan for both Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy, but the talent level around them under Kevin O’Connell is top-notch. Throw in Brian Flores’ defense, which has a potentially deeper pass rush, and this club could muddy up an NFC North race between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.

Last year’s record: 7-10
Offseason losses: QB Kirk Cousins, DE Danielle Hunter
Offseason acquisitions:
QB J.J. McCarthy, RB Aaron Jones
Over/under win total:
7.0

Sullivan — Jets: I think people are sleeping on New York. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is maddening at times, but he’s a four-time MVP. Even if he is 80% of his former self coming off of his torn Achilles last season, that’s still the best quarterback play the Jets have had in decades. Pair that with a stellar defense, a refurbished offensive line, and superstar weapons like Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, you have the makings of a very dangerous team. They also have the fourth-easiest schedule in the league based on their opponents’ projected win total, which makes them an outside threat for the No. 1 seed. 

Last year’s record: 7-10
Offseason losses: RB Dalvin Cook
Offseason acquisitions: 
WR Mike Williams, DT Javon Kinlaw, OT Olu Fashanu
Over/under win total:
10.0

Podell — Packers: The Packers earned the distinction of being the youngest team to win a postseason game since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger (average age of 25 years and 214 days) following their 48-32 demolition of the NFC’s No. 2 seed, the Dallas Cowboys, in the wild card round. They led that game 27-0, and quarterback Jordan Love set the Packers’ single game playoff records for passer rating (157.2) and yards per pass attempt (13) after carving up Dallas’ top-five defense for 272 passing yards and three touchdowns while completing 16 of his 21 passes.

Green Bay nearly toppled the San Francisco 49ers, the No. 1 seed and eventual NFC champs, on the road in a 24-21 defeat —  a game in which they led for most of the night. Since, they have aggressively added to their roster with the signings of two-time Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs (four years, $48 million) and Pro Football Focus’ best safety in coverage (91.2 coverage grade) in Xavier McKinney (four years, $67 million). They also addressed key positions of need by firing Joe Barry and hiring a more aggressive, man coverage based defensive coordinator in Jeff Hafley on top of drafting well to plug spots at offensive line, linebacker and safety. The Packers came away with USC running back Marshawn Lloyd in the third round, a player some viewed as the draft’s top running back.

In summary, the Packers could take a big leap to true Super Bowl contention with the youngest team in football getting a year older and because general manager Brian Gutekunst did what he needed to do this offseason. 

Last year’s record: 9-8
Offseason losses: RB Aaron Jones, OT David Bakhtiari
Offseason acquisitions:
SAF Xavier McKinney, RB Josh Jacobs
Over/under win total:
9.5

DeArdo — Commanders: I personally love just about everything the Commanders did this offseason, especially the hiring of Dan Quinn as head coach, Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator, the free agent signings of Austin Ekeler, Tyler Biadasz and Bobby Wagner (among others) and the selection of rookie QB Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick. Don’t sleep on D.C. in 2024.

Last year’s record: 4-13
Offseason losses: QB Jake Fromm, TE Logan Thomas
Offseason acquisitions:
QB Jayden Daniels, head coach Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, RB Austin Ekeler, LB Bobby Wagner, TE Zach Ertz
Over/under win total:
6.5

Dajani — Titans: Some fans in Nashville have declared this offseason the most exciting offseason in Titans franchise history. Mike Vrabel was replaced by the offensive-minded Brian Callahan, who has a young, big-armed quarterback to develop in Will Levis. That development could be expedited by the moves Tennessee made in free agency, signing center Lloyd Cushenberry, running back Tony Pollard and creating what appears to be one of the best WR trios in the league with Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins and Tyler Boyd. Levis is going to have a shot to prove he’s the guy in an offense that should feature plenty of passing. What’s the Titans’ ceiling if he’s a legitimate QB?

Defensively, the Titans hired a new coordinator in Dennard Wilson, who has excited everyone with his approach to that side of the ball. Tennessee’s pass defense hasn’t finished in the top half of the league since 2018, but will have a chance now that it added cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and L’Jarius Sneed. Could the Titans surprise in 2024?

Last year’s record: 6-11
Offseason losses: RB Derrick Henry, head coach Mike Vrabel
Offseason acquisitions:
 Head coach Brian Callahan, WR Calvin Ridley, RB Tony Pollard
Over/under win total:
6.5

Teams that will underperform

McCarriston — Bills: Some may look at the Bills as a successful team because yes, at a glance, a team that gets to the playoffs and wins divisional titles is a successful team. For me, they are one of the most disappointing teams in the league, because their ceiling is so much higher than where they are reaching. Making one conference championship in the Josh Allen Era is the definition of underperforming and while it is a difficult road through the Chiefs, it has been a history of small mistakes and unpreparedness that resulted in those losses.

Do I think the Bills will be a playoff team next year? Absolutely, but I do not believe they will meet the high expectations that are set for them for as long as Allen is running the offense. With a salary cap to address, they lost a lot of key players and there will be an adjustment period as they look to replace holes left on all sides of the ball. 

When you toss in playing a strong Miami Dolphins team and a potentially revitalized New York Jets team lead by Aaron Rodgers twice each, as well being tied for the sixth toughest schedule in the league, we could see some serious struggles from a team that has already shown some shakiness. 

Last year’s record: 11-6
Offseason losses:
 WR Stefon Diggs, C Mitch Morse, S Jordan Poyer, WR Gabe Davis, CB Tre’Davious White
Offseason acquisitions: 
WR Keon Coleman
Over/under win total:
10.5

Benjamin — Colts: The Indianapolis Colts are a popular pick to take a leap forward after Anthony Richardson’s hot start to an abbreviated rookie season. Coach Shane Steichen certainly seems cut out for the job. But Richardson’s style of play lent itself to multiple injuries in a short period of time, and his team isn’t exactly loaded with proven play-makers on the perimeter, both offensively and defensively.

Last year’s record: 9-8
Offseason losses: QB Gardner Minshew, RB Zach Moss, WR Isaiah McKenzie
Offseason acquisitions:
QB Joe Flacco, DL Raekwon Davis, DE Laiatu Latu, WR Adonai Mitchell 
Over/Under win total:
8.5

Sullivan — Ravens: A year ago, I had Baltimore as my pick to come out of the AFC and reach the Super Bowl. I’m singing a different tune now. Currently, they own the second-best odds to win the AFC only trailing the Chiefs, and I feel like that may be a bit too rich. Their division should be more competitive with Cincinnati getting Joe Burrow back, and if that’s the bar we’re holding them to (winning the AFC North), I can see a scenario where they come up short. The road is also pretty rough for them this year as they own the fourth-toughest strength of schedule based on their opponents’ projected win total. Also, don’t underrate the departure of defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and linebacker Patrick Queen this offseason either. 

Last year’s record: 13-4
Offseason losses: OL Kevin Zeitler, RB Gus Edwards, S Geno Stone, LB Patrick Queen, LB Jadeveon Clowney 
Offseason acquisitions:
RB Derrick Henry
Over/Under win total:
11.0

Podell — Browns: The Cleveland Browns scratched and clawed their way into the postseason in 2023 on the strength of the No. 1 total defense (270.2 total yards per game allowed) in the entire league powered by Defensive Player of the Year edge rusher Myles Garrett. Cleveland became just the second team ever to make the playoffs with five different starting quarterbacks, joining the 1984 Chicago Bears. 

However, Deshaun Watson returning from having surgery on his throwing shoulder may be more of a negative than a positive: he has ranked 35th or worst in completion percentage (59.8%, 41st), passing yards per attempt (6.5 (36th) and passer rating (81.7, 37th) among 45 qualified quarterbacks since 2022 when he became a Cleveland Brown. Plus, four-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb is attempting to return from a gruesome knee injury in which he suffered the following: a torn left MCL, meniscus tear and a partially torn ACL. Naturally, Chubb required two separate surgeries last fall to fix his knee.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Cleveland’s offense doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain once again in 2024, which could lead to the Browns missing the postseason if their defense doesn’t bring its A-plus game every single week. 

Last year’s record: 11-6
Offseason losses: Offensive line coach Bill Callahan, LB Anthony Walker
Offseason acquisitions:
RB Nyheim Hines, QB Jameis Winston, RB D’Onta Foreman
Over/Under win total:
8.5

DeArdo — Bears: Chicago’s wins over/under has been seen at 8.5, which seems a bit high. I know that the Bears went 7-10 last year, and — at least on paper — Chicago is a much better outfit in 2024. While both of those things are true, I’m leery when it comes to putting too high of expectations on a rookie starting quarterback, which is what Caleb Williams will be this season. Add in the fact that they play in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions is another reason why I’m hesitant to buy too much Bears stock this season. Talk to me in 2025, after Williams has had a full season under his belt.

Last year’s record: 7-10
Offseason losses: QB Justin Fields, NT Justin Jones, C Cody Whitehair
Offseason acquisitions:
QB Caleb Williams, RB D’Andre Swift, S Kevin Byard, WR Rome Odunze
Over/Under win total: 9.0

Dajani — Bears: Caleb Williams may end up being a star, but will he hit the ground running? Chicago has a head coach fresh off the hot seat in Matt Eberflus, and a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron. Quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall haven’t surpassed six wins in their first seasons since Andrew Luck in 2012, and the NFC North isn’t exactly a cakewalk. The Bears Over/Under win total is set at 9. Is that too high?





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