From national jokes to playoff contention, can the Lions, Jets, Panthers or Jaguars reach Championship Weekend?
Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in fans across the country. Sign up here to participate.
Going from worst to first in the NFL isn’t that unusual of an outcome. Each year there is a team that uses strong rookie play and a favorable schedule to shoot up the standings. But for a few teams, that doesn’t begin to show the journey.
The teams in that category – the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets – weren’t just bad, they were punchlines. Those teams represented the bottom of the NFL barrel. Even when they won a game, fans nationally wouldn’t take them seriously.
But this season things may be changing. All four of those teams are within shouting distance of the playoffs this season. While some of that has to do with weak divisions, it doesn’t change the fact that the former bottom-feeders can no longer be ignored.
Each team is in a slightly different position. The Jets are the only one of the group currently over .500, but also sit in last place in the AFC East. Despite some uncertainty at the quarterback position, the young Jets are only outside of the playoff pictures as of publish because of a tie-breaker with New England.
The Jaguars sit just one spot down from the Jets in the Wild Card race, but are just as close to claiming the AFC South title. With a win in hand already over the Titans and one more still to be played, the Trevor Lawrence lead Jaguars could win their way into a shocking division championship.
In the NFC, the Lions are arguably the hottest team in the league right now outside of Philadelphia. Detroit has won five of the last six games, including wins over each divisional opponent during that stretch. With a schedule full of winnable games remaining, the Lions have a shot of reaching even the sixth seed in the playoffs. They could do this and still draft a quarterback early in the draft thanks to the Matt Stafford trade.
The biggest surprise may be the Panthers, who even earlier this season looked to be playing for a draft pick. But in an extremely weak NFC South, the Panthers are in second place and only a game out of first behind the Buccaneers.
Of course, simply reaching the playoffs in the expanded NFL playoffs doesn’t mean a team is “good.” What is more interesting is which team can sustain success. In this week’s SB Nation Reacts survey, let us know which of those four teams will reach the AFC or NFC Championship Game first.
Vote now and be on the lookout for results later this week.
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SBN Reacts: Which former NFL punchline could play for a title first? – SB Nation