Hope springs eternal every fall in the NFL, and with that hope often comes oversized expectations.
Every offseason, a number of teams and players become the trendy picks to be the talk of the upcoming NFL season, whether it be contending for titles, winning awards or simply elevating to the next level.
The expectations will be sky-high for many teams and players as the season approaches, but who will live up to the hype and who will crash and burn?
Here are our five candidates that are most likely to disappoint in 2018:
Jacksonville Jaguars — The Jaguars surprised everyone last season by winning the AFC South and making an appearance in the AFC Championship. Blake Bortles and Co. are expected to be atop the division again in 2018, but they’ll play a first-place schedule that sees them play the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, along with home-and-homes with the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. Look for Jacksonville to take a step back this season.
Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets — New York entered the preseason with three quarterbacks vying for the starting job, but rookie Sam Darnold impressed during the opening weeks, winning the job and forcing the Jets to trade Teddy Bridgewater to the New Orleans Saints. The USC product has a load of upside, but rookie quarterbacks struggle more often than not, and Darnold doesn’t have the talent around him to light it up the way Jets fans might expect.
San Francisco 49ers — Following Jimmy Garoppolo’s 5-0 run to end last season, Kyle Shannahan’s crew has been predicted by many to make a jump in 2018 and earn a playoff spot. The 49ers gave Garoppolo franchise quarterback money, but the Eastern Illinois product can’t do it all himself. With running back Jerrick McKinnon tearing his ACL in the preseason, Garoppolo will have to rely on wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and tight end George Kittle to be his main weapons. Expect Jimmy G and the ‘9ers to hover around .500.
Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders — It’s been 15 years since Gruden walked an NFL sideline, and we’re just supposed to buy him turning the Raiders into the Super Bowl contender they were meant to be last year? Aside from one Super Bowl title with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, Gruden was a mediocre head coach during his first stint in the NFL and after there’s a real chance the game has passed him by. Couple that with the recent trade of star Khalil Mack and Oakland looks like it might struggle to finish better than third in the AFC West.
Los Angeles Chargers — The Chargers are everyone’s preseason AFC Super Bowl sleeper, and how often do those pan out? LA has an immense amount of talent on both sides of the ball, but they’ve shown a penchant for losing close games in confounding ways in recent seasons, keeping them from reaching their potential. Could the Chargers run away with the AFC West? Absolutely. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see them finish at 9-7 or 8-8 and miss the playoffs again.
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