It won’t be long before the pressure starts to mount in the NFL. Most teams are probably feeling good about their roster right now, but by the time Week 1 is over, half the league will be 0-1.
From there, the pressure is on because each loss brings compound pressure.
When training camp starts, every team’s goal is to be as prepared for the beginning of the season as possible. For some teams it is more difficult than others.
Teams that are adjusting to big coaching changes, a lot of turnover, suspensions and injuries, or just have a brutal early schedule, will have a hard time finding their footing at the beginning of the season.
With these factors in mind, these teams have some tough sledding ahead of them.
The 2022 Arizona Cardinals were 3-8 in games Kyler Murray started. In other words, they were bad.
Then Murray tore his ACL and they went from bad to worse. They went 1-5 in their last six games with a combination of Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley and David Blough starting.
The late season collapse was enough to get Kliff Kingsbury fired. Now the Cardinals will go rebuilding with a defensive-minded coach at the helm. Jonathan Gannon parlayed his success as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator into the head coaching gig.
It will be difficult for the team to show much improvement in Gannon’s first season.
Murray is still recovering from the torn ACL. Although he reportedly is hesitate a little to get on the field, there is no clear timetable for his return. That leaves either Colt McCoy or rookie Clayton Tune as the likely early-season starters.
Even when he does return, he’ll have the challenge of getting up to speed in the middle of the season while playing in a new offense. He talked about a similar challenge last season.
“Having to deal with all that stuff and trying to focus on football and then I got Covid in camp, I hurt my wrist in camp so I missed a lot of reps and I had to play catch-up in the season, starting with the Chiefs, it was kind of a compilation of (expletive)-up things going on,” he said per Darren Urban of the team’s website.
It will be clear early on that this is a rebuilding year for the Cardinals.
In theory, the Raiders should be more prepared for the start of the season than they were last season. They are now in Year 2 with Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, so there is more continuity.
That aside, there has been turnover at several key positions that makes it fair to wonder how much that will help.
On offense, Jimmy Garoppolo takes over for Derek Carr. Jimmy G has proven to be an effective starter when healthy, but he has a different skill set than his predecessor and questions about his health.
Garoppolo had foot surgery this offseason, and former GM Michael Lombardi noted that the Raiders knew the quarterback would not be available for the offseason program because of a foot injury suffered in an appearance at The Pat McAfee Show.
On defense, the front should be able to move forward in Graham’s system, but the secondary has been overtaken. They could get three new starters, including safety Marcus Epps and cornerbacks Duke Shelley and Brandon Facyson.
There are a lot of unknown and new faces that need to be ready immediately. They are away in each of their first four games and are not beneficiaries until Week 5 when they host the Packers on Monday night football.
A potential 0-4 start before a game on national television is a recipe for McDaniels to be on the hot seat.
Expectations are not super high for the Los Angles Rams. Their win total is set at 6.5 over at DraftKing’s Sportsbook.
They are in a middle ground where they still have the biggest stars from the team that won the Super Bowl two years ago. Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald are all speculative trades for a team that has otherwise blown up the roster.
General manager Les Snead even has addressed that speculation, indicating that they will not trade these players. But the trade noise will only get louder if the Rams get off to a slow start as the trade deadline approaches.
They start on the road against a Seahawks team that went to the playoffs last season. Then they get back-to-back Super Bowl contenders in the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
They get a winnable game against the Colts, but then follow that up with a matchup with the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.
A 1-4 record in mid-October could cause the front office to question their current road map to becoming a contender again.
The pressure may already be building in New England, and it will only get more intense when the games start.
Ben Volin of Boston Globe reported that friends of Bill Belichick believe the coach could be on the hot seat in 2023. As Volin notes, Kraft expects the Pats to win a playoff game for the first time in five years and has already paid Jerod Mayo handsomely to keeping him in New England as a potential coach-in-waiting.
Those kinds of reports and rumors can only grow as the Pats have their work cut out for them early in the season.
The season starts with the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, then they get the Miami Dolphins coming from a playoff spot before traveling to the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.
The Jets are a bit of a mystery with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but there is plenty of talent on their roster and the Cowboys won 12 games last season.
The Pats will also break in new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. He’ll have to get Mac Jones playing at a really high level just to get off to a 2-2 start with the four games to go.
Last year, Brian Daboll gained instant credibility as the Giants’ new head coach as the team jumped out to a 6-1 start to the season. It was an impressive feat for a team that won four games the previous year.
Daboll certainly improved the team, but they also go an assist off the schedule. The first four wins were one-score games against the Titans, Panthers, Bears and Packers. All four of those teams ended up with losing records.
This year they will have to come out in even better shape because the opening stretch of the schedule is much tougher.
They start at home against the Dallas Cowboys, a team that beat them twice last season. Then they came on the field in four of the next five games. While they shouldn’t have a hard time beating an Arizona Cardinals team that might not have Kyler Murray, the rest of the games will be challenging.
They have the 49ers, Seahawks, Dolphins and Bills over the next four weeks. All four teams were in the playoffs last season.
To be fair, the Giants were also a playoff team. But they largely earned that spot from their early season run before finishing the season 3-5-1 after their bye week.
We’ll find out soon if the Giants are ready to go from a good season under a new coach to consistent playoff contender in the NFC.
The Jets have been one of the biggest stories of the offseason. They have a fun young core that includes potential stars in Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson, they just signed Quinnen Williams to a four years, $96 million contract extension, and of course they added four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers to round it all out.
All of this means they will be under scrutiny when the season gets underway. To be subject to Hard shocks during training camp it won’t help either. Rodgers already has let it be known he is not happy about it.
The 39-year-old already has a certain built-in familiarity with his new team. Joining him are Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, as well as former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who will reprise the role in New York.
But they want everything and everyone in sync early. They are an underdog in four of their first six games DraftKing’s Sportsbook.
Granted, all lines are tight. They get less than a field goal against the Bills (Week 1), Cowboys (Week 2), Chiefs (Week 4) and Eagles (Week 6). They are 4.5-point favorites against the New England Patriots in Week 3 and one-point favorites against the Broncos in Week 5.
Still, there are four teams with conference championship ambitions in the first six weeks. If things break exactly as the odds say, the Jets could sit at 2-4 through the first six games.
Safe no one would overreact to that kind of start in New York.