The NFL announced today that the 2024 International Games will see three of the UK’s six Global Markets Program (GMP) teams take the stage in London. With all signs pointing towards a massive year for the NFL across the pond, Decyfr reflects on what has been and what is to come for the six NFL teams actively looking to build a British fan base.
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) January 11, 2024
San Francisco 49ers
Aside from a three-game slump in the middle of the season, 2023 has been almost exactly what San Francisco 49ers’ fans had hoped for – claiming the NFC’s number one seed. Behind the record-breaking play of Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey, the 49ers ranked second in total offense – while boasting a top-10 defense. With an astonishing nine players selected to the Pro Bowl, San Francisco undoubtedly has the necessary talent to lift the Lombardi trophy in Vegas this time next month.
When the time comes to look to next season, an upgrade to their aging offensive line will be essential if they hope to build off of their success in 2023. Over the course of the year, PFF ranked the 49ers 26th for pass blocking with a grade of just 55.0 – allowing pressure on over 31% of passing plays. Given how central Purdy is to their sustained success, maximising his time in the pocket will be the priority in 2024.
Player of the Season: Christian McCaffrey
Biggest Need in 2024: Offensive Lineman
Why you should be interested next season: The NFC’s best team in 2023
Mike McDaniel made prioritising speed very clear when he took over as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2022 – exemplified by his blockbuster trade for Tyreek Hill just six weeks later. In 2023, McDaniel’s approach paid dividends as the Dolphins finished the season with the NFL’s number one ranked offense – with Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill leading the league in passing and receiving yards respectively.
Despite an extensive injury report, which contributed to Miami losing the AFC East title in Week 18, the Dolphins defense managed to finish the season with the third most sacks and eighth most takeaways in the NFL. In an attempt to rebuild their depleted depth chart – ahead of their Wild Card clash with the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead – the Dolphins have signed four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, Justin Houston. That said, at 34 years old, Houston is every bit a stop-gap and unable to provide the Dolphins with the necessary depth long-term. As a result, Miami will need to strengthen their front seven this offseason – building a championship-calibre defense to match their high-powered offense.
Player of the Season: Tyreek Hill
Biggest Need in 2024: Linebacker
Why you should be interested next season: 2023’s most explosive offense
2023 was a season of two halves for the Jacksonville Jaguars. After starting the season 8-3, one win from their final six games resulted in the Jaguars missing out on both the playoffs and the AFC South title. Injuries were constant and devastating on the offensive side of the ball – with stars Trevor Lawrence, Christian Kirk and Evan Engram all missing extensive periods of time. To make matters worse, Jacksonville finished the season with the 31st ranked offensive line – meaning running back Travis Etienne Jr. only just eclipsed 1000 rushing yards despite leading the NFL in broken tackles.
Exceptional performances from Travon Walker and Josh Allen weren’t enough to save the Jaguars defense either, with the team sitting 25th in sacks and 22nd overall – leading to defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell being fired, following their heartbreaking loss to the Titans in Week 18. With Doug Pederson determined to rectify the mistakes of 2023, look out for the former Super Bowl-winning head coach to bolster his offensive line – giving a healthy Lawrence the support needed for a bounce-back season in 2024.
Player of the Season: Josh Allen
Biggest Need in 2024: Offensive Lineman
Why you should be interested next season: A healthy Trevor Lawrence and new defensive coordinator
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) January 9, 2024
New York Jets
After trading for Aaron Rodgers in April last year, the New York Jets came into the season tipped for the Super Bowl. Then, just four snaps into the regular season, Rodgers infamously tore his Achilles tendon and was marked out for the season. Behind their top-three defense, the Jets managed to pull together a 3-3 record heading into their bye-week – with a favourable schedule to follow. Unfortunately for Jets fan though, an unrelenting stream of injuries resulted in a revolving door on the offensive line – giving quarterbacks Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian little to no opportunity to move the chains, as the team finished with the NFL’s second-worst offense. Despite the overwhelming inefficiency offensively, the Jets defense continued to dominate on a weekly basis, ranking seventh in sacks, third in forced turnovers and second in passing yards allowed.
For head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas the pressure is well and truly on in 2024, after owner Woody Johnson guaranteed their return. With an Aaron Rodgers return on the horizon, it will be essential for the Jets to not only find another wide receiver – taking pressure off of Garrett Wilson – but also find an offensive tackle to protect their now 40-year-old QB1.
Player of the Season: Quinnen Williams
Biggest Need in 2024: Wide Receiver/Offensive Tackle
Why you should be interested next season: The return of Aaron Rodgers
General manager Ryan Poles had a phenomenal offseason in 2023. Through placing his faith in Justin Fields, Poles was able to bring in superstar receiver D.J. Moore and a haul of draft picks in return for the first overall pick in 2023. Fields went on to show notable improvement, despite underwhelming offensive line play, as he racked up over 3000 total yards for 20 touchdowns – while D.J. Moore made the Panthers regret trading him away by putting up 1364 yards for eight touchdowns. That said, the offense was still the weak-link for the Bears this season, as free agent additions T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds led the defense to a number of surprisingly strong outings on their way to becoming the 12th best defense in the NFL – number one against the run.
The recent firing of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy made it apparent that the head office will be attempting to rebuild this offseason – as they hope to win the NFC East for only the second time since 2010. With two picks in the top 10 of the upcoming NFL Draft, Chicago now have a decision to make – stick with Justin Fields and trade for more draft capital, or trade Fields and use the first overall pick to draft a new quarterback, such as USC’s Caleb Williams.
Player of the Season: D.J. Moore
Biggest Need in 2024: Wide Receiver
Why you should be interested next season: Two top 10 draft picks and a new offensive coordinator
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) January 11, 2024
Coming off of a 13-4 season in 2022, many saw this year as playoffs or bust for the Vikings. However, an unprecedented series of events made it clear that a postseason run wouldn’t be on the cards for Minnesota. After starting the season 1-4 – Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles, Justin Jefferson missed seven games and Josh ‘Passtronaut’ Dobbs went from zero to hero before quickly collapsing and handing the QB1 spot over to Nick Mullens. Despite the adversity, however, Minnesota somehow managed to finish with the 10th ranked offense – thanks in no small part to stellar performances from rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison, who finished his rookie year with 911 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Vikings were incredibly inconsistent defensively – ranking as the eighth worst against the pass but the eighth best against the run. That said, undrafted rookie Ivan Pace Jr. shone in just 12 starts as he recorded 102 total tackles and nine QB hits – pairing nicely with superstar Danielle Hunter, who finished fifth in the NFL for sacks with a staggering 16.5.
Kirk Cousins’ contract coming to an end in March means all eyes are on the quarterback position heading into 2024. Whether it’s re-signing Cousins or targeting a new QB in the draft, deciding who will sit at the helm of the offense next season is paramount to Minnesota’s success.
Player of the Season: Danielle Hunter
Biggest Need in 2024: Quarterback
Why you should be interested next season: The potential return of Kirk Cousins
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