The whole idea started on our award-winning* podcast (embedded below): what would each NFL team look like in its "Armageddon scenario"?
In other words, what's the absolute worst thing that could happen to each NFL team? And, conversely, what's the best-case scenario for each team? (Yes, theoretically "16 wins and the Super Bowl" works, but let's be realistic.)
We'll go by division on these and if you want to hear the breakdown for each one, subscribe to the Eye on Football podcast via iTunes. Up now, the AFC South.
DREAM WEAVER: Despite serious early season losses -- Donald Thomas and Vick Ballard are already done for the year -- Pep Hamilton steadfastly stands by his ball-control offense designed to highlight Trent Richardson and it works out. Richardson achieves half the expectations for him and develops into a feature back while justifying the Colts' decision to give up a first-round pick. (Yes, this feels ridiculous. But just play along.) Andrew Luck's life is easier as a result, and he becomes even more efficient, rising closer and closer to the closely watched and completely subjective "elite" status rarely handed to quarterbacks. Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener stay healthy and dominate from two-tight sets. Hakeem Nicks is motivated, Donte Moncrief is a steal and Da'Rick Rogers emerges. Reggie Wayne is healthy again and gets rested. Robert Mathis can take the rest of the season off with the Colts rolling to 12 wins.
ARMAGEDDON: Richardson does his thing ...
... the offense sputters, the defense struggles and Luck is forced to drag everyone's sorry drowning asses out of the pool and to a couple of victories. This is nothing new and Luck's adept at it, but the close game magic finally wears off a little and the Colts "only" win seven games. They win the AFC South anyway. Everyone spends a week screaming about how we need to completely redo the playoff seeding rules.
DREAM WEAVER: OH MA GOD THAT'S BLAKE BORTLES' MUSIC. Bortles overtakes Chad Henne in such impressive fashion Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley have no choice but to start him. Luke Joeckel and Zane Beadles begin to turn into one of the better blindside protection combos in the game and Marqise Lee/Allen Robinson start to make Duval forget about Justin Blackmon. Dwayne Gratz and Johnathan Cyprien lead a surging secondary. Toby Gerhart quietly waltzes to 1,200 rushing yards. Seven wins sounds disappointing after all that, but the future is bright.
ARMAGEDDON: Bortles isn't ready, Lee won't hustle, Gerhart gets hurt and the offensive line can't even protect for Henne, who ends up starting the entire season despite the team not, you know, winning anything. The defense is still good and 2015 is attractive, but it feels very far away with everyone in the cabanas demanding to watch RedZone instead of the winless Jaguars in Week 6.
DREAM WEAVER: Ken Whisenhunt shows up, sprinkles his reclamation pixie dust on Jake Locker and the Titans' passing offense takes off. They have an offensive line so deep it can't accommodate first-round pick Taylor Lewan as a starter and a trio of Kendall Wright/Justin Hunter/Delanie Walker is better than it seems, I swear. If Locker gets dialed in and Bishop Sankey can pick up something in the range of 4 yards a carry this offense will be interesting. Meanwhile, Ray Horton's new defensive scheme clicks immediately, Jurrell Casey remains effective as a 3-4 DE, Zach Brown can dominate as an interior backer and an up and coming unit doesn't skip a beat. Seven or eight wins are on the table.
ARMAGEDDON: Locker is injured early so Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger resort to neckbeard-growing contests in order to determine the starter each week -- a homeless man's version of roshambo. Sankey, Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster -- honest to God high up on the running back depth chart -- can't get the running game going and the offense flops. The defensive transition doesn't go as planned but at least Whisenhunt gets to pick from any quarterback he wants in the 2015 NFL Draft.
DREAM WEAVER: A last-minute trade for Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallett/Kirk Cousins serves as a defibrillator for the Texans' quarterback position and causes Andre Johnson to back off the ledge. He and DeAndre Hopkins are inspired and put together impressive receiving seasons while a suddenly healthy Arian Foster is rolling on the ground. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are a more entertaining combo than Owen Wilson and Martin Lawrence in Blue Streak. Look everyone! The Texans are BACK. In so much as "fighting your way to six or seven wins and not losing 14 games in a row" qualifies you as being "back" anyway.
ARMAGEDDON: Clowney's "lazy" gene infects other members of the defense who simply stop caring about football. The Texans are forced to field 10 guys on defense because everyone is so lethargic and lacking in passion. Other teams, feeling sorry for Houston, also field only 10 players on defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick still manages to throw 25 interceptions, but the good news is it's less than the number of helmets Andre Johnson smashes on the sidelines. Somehow all of this doesn't feel worse than 2013.
*May not be true.