NFL

Which NFL teams are a QB away from competing?

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Several NFL teams will head into next year seemingly set at every position except for the one that matters most: quarterback.

Here are the teams that need to find a way to get an above-average (or better) quarterback in place if they want to take the next step.

TEAMS THAT WOULD BE OK WITH SAME QB, BUT MAJOR UPGRADES ELSEWHERE

Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson won Super Bowls in back-to-back years, which goes to show a team can be iffy at quarterback and still win a title if it has an extraordinary defense.

Of course, that was more than a decade ago and the game has swung in favor of offensively oriented teams in the years since. But it can still be done. A couple of teams are straddling the line where they could win with the guy they have provided there is serious upgrading around him.

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith was just a pair of muffed punts from reaching a Super Bowl with the 49ers, so it stands to reason that he would be good enough to make the Chiefs a contender — he’d just need a top-3 defense and a stellar receiving corps to make it happen.

He has neither. The Chiefs have a good enough pass defense and rushing game to contend, but can be exploited by opposing rushing attacks.

Travis Kelce is a decent tight end, though he’s had trouble holding onto the ball with four fumbles this year. Dwayne Bowe is the only competent receiver on the team, and somehow he doesn’t have any touchdowns this season.

Is it easier to upgrade your quarterback or your receiving corps? That’s Kansas City’s question this offseason.

CINCINNATI: I don’t know what to do about Andy Dalton. Getting this franchise to the playoffs on a regular basis is an extraordinary feat. But you also get the feeling any schmoe off the street could perform as capably as Dalton has in the playoffs — one touchdown, six interceptions and three losses.

Barring disaster, Dalton will have a fourth playoff game in his fourth season. Can he finally get it done this time? And if not, what quarterback available on the market can the Bengals realstically pick up to upgrade?

It’s impossible to fully trust Dalton, but the alternatives could be even worse. Stocking up on defense could be Cincy’s best course of action.

THE ASTERISK TEAM

ARIZONA: Carson Palmer looked like the Carson Palmer of old this season, but unfortunately that includes having his season end with a devastating knee injury.

If Arizona can count on a fully healthy Palmer, it certainly has a good enough team to compete, though a top-tier running back would help.

However, can the Cardinals count on a fully healthy Palmer? Their offseason upgrade may be finding the best backup on the market for dealing with the inevitable.

HELP WANTED

BUFFALO: As we saw against Green Bay last week, Buffalo has a badass defense. And as much as I love Kyle Orton in a “that guy could totally be my neighbor, but somehow he’s an NFL quarterback” kind of way, he’s also the ultimate “going to finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7” quarterback.

No Kyle Orton team will ever be terrible. No Kyle Orton team will ever be great. He basically personifies the average American’s lifetime experience.

The Bills have a chance to be special with a special quarterback. But they must choose wisely. Some team will likely fall for the lure of Jay Cutler this offseason, and Buffalo seems like a mark to be had.

HOUSTON: Ryan Fitzpatrick is the really smart guy version of Kyle Orton, but with a a slightly lower range of expected records — think somewhere between 5-11 and 8-8.

J.J. Watt is a once in a generation defensive player. His talent cannot be squandered. Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins give Houston a solid one-two punch, and the Texans have a strong running game headed by Arian Foster.

This team is just a couple years removed from a division title. They are one good-to-great quarterback away from accomplishing much more.

ST. LOUIS: As I’ve said here before, the Rams have the potential to be next year’s Cardinals — the team that is poised to take the league by surprise after a strong finish. Not many teams have a good enough defense to make Peyton Manning look foolish, but St. Louis was able to do so this year. The Rams also pitched back-to-back shutouts this year, which has only been done four times in the NFL since 2000.

But without a better quarterback, .500 is ceiling for this team.


About Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey can vividly recall most significant NFL events going back to Walter Payton's final game in 1987, including the ones that didn't make him cry. Since 2008, his full-time job has been covering college football, specifically McNeese State, for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. Free time is spent informing, amusing or annoying you for Football Insiders.