The whole idea started on our award-winning* podcast (embedded below): what would each NFL team look like in their “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 NFC East.
DREAM WEAVER: The team that inspired this all doesn't inspire much in the way of victories. Dallas had the worst defense by many metrics (included Football Outsiders weighted DVOA) and lost their best pass rusher. But the offense is still impressive so in this dream scenario let's give Tony Romo 16 games after coming off serious offseason back surgery at the age of 34 while being forced to throw 40-plus times a game.
The offensive line suffers nary an injury and looks for most of the season like it did against the Chargers in the first week of the preseason. DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle each develop into viable workhorse backs.
All of this offense is necessary because even Rod Marinelli can't turn Jeremy Mincey and George Selive into Pro Bowlers on the defensive line while waiting for the return of Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Lawrence. The defense holds its own enough to get the Cowboys back to 8-8 after a crippling Week 17 loss to the Redskins in Washington.
Time is a flat circle.
ARMAGEDDON: Romo goes the way of 2010, throwing 41 times a game to start the season before suffering an injury in Week 6 (at Seattle ... this actually seems reasonable). Brandon Weeden enters the picture and even Tyron Smith can't save the day. Dez Bryant isn't getting enough catches (or a contract and, really, what's up with that?) and implodes on the sideline every single week down the stretch.
The defense breaks every bad record imaginable and by Week 10 Marinelli is literally starting a cheese grater at defensive tackle. No. Literally.
The shock factor could result in at least a couple sacks. You never know.
Meanwhile, Jason Garrett has been long gone. Promoting Monte Kiffin to interim head coach doesn't work.
FOX installed a "Jerry Cam Channel" in Jerry Jones luxury box during Week 8, ratings are higher than the NBA Finals.
After a disastrous two-win season, Jones finally reaches his breaking point and releases Romo regardless of cap implications, trades the Browns two future first-round picks (including No. 1 overall in 2015) for Johnny Manziel. Jones doubles down by giving the 49ers another pair of first rounders for Jim Harbaugh, who he promptly signs to a 10-year, $100 million contract.
It's utterly ridiculous but feels more likely than 8-8. Sorry Cowboys fans.
DREAM WEAVER: Chip Kelly's offense doesn't skip a beat. Even without DeSean Jackson in the lineup, Jeremy Maclin provides the deep threat the Eagles need to truly stretch defenses out. Riley Cooper builds on a big 2013, Zach Ertz emerges as a bonafide "elite" tight end and Jordan Matthews is a perfect fit for this offense. LeSean McCoy leads the league in rushing again and Darren Sproles becomes a PPR dynamo in a dangerous backfield.
The Eagles don't put another player on IR after the season starts ... again. Jerry Jones hires a bumbling group of Russian spies to kidnap the Eagles sports scientists. Nick Foles doesn't throw only two interceptions (10 is a totally reasonable number even without his season falling apart) but he becomes more aggressive and puts up massive numbers.
The defense is vastly improved from 2013 but still an average unit at best. Against a much tougher schedule, Philly is still great and wins 11 games as they cruise to a second-straight NFC East division title and No. 3 seed in the NFC. They win a playoff game at the Linc, steal a shootout at the Superdome against the Saints and come up a drive short of a Super Bowl berth in Seattle during the NFC Championship Game.
Sub the opponents or even push the Eagles into the Super Bowl if you want: if things break right for Chip Kelly again this team can contend for a title.
ARMAGEDDON: Defensive coordinators adjust to Kelly's up-tempo, packaged plays and the Eagles offense is slowed a bit. Foles is turning the ball over at an alarming rate and after 314 carries in 2013, Shady is starting to feel the weight of overuse. Sproles looks too old to be a difference maker.
This team badly misses the speed of DeSean and with Maclin slow to recovery from an ACL injury, suddenly Cooper has to beat top cornerbacks. The offense is still potent but not completely the same.
Defensively, things are even worse. Marcus Smith isn't making an impact and Trent Cole is the top pass-rushing option. The Eagles can't pressure anyone and it leverages their secondary into a bad spot.
Still, they're playing in a bad division and an easy NFC East slate means eight wins.
The honeymoon is far from over for Chip Kelly, especially with another division title (worst case!) but the sharp-toothed Philly media smells blood in the water, while national critics gleefully return to decrying Kelly as "maybe more of a college coach" after another one-and-done playoff season.
DREAM WEAVER: The whole preaseason was an elaborate hoax! Eli Manning comes out absolutely dialed into Ben McAdoo's new offense and looks like Philip Rivers did in 2013. Resurgent, accurate, energized. The backbreaking interceptions are a thing of the past.
Odell Beckham, Jr., is healthy and Reuben Randle is breaking out. With top options on the outside, Victor Cruz is smoking nickel cornerbacks down the seam for huge touchdowns. Rashad Jennings and Andrew Williams are the new Wind and Fire (no one actually needs Earth) for the Giants backfield.
The rest of the division isn't strong and suddenly nine or 10 wins is on the table. Don't forget: Coughlin and Eli hoisted the Lombardi twice with 9-7 squads.
ARMAGEDDON: The offense does not click. 70 percent isn't even on the table, it's not in the dining room as Eli struggles to complete 60 percent of his passes while averaging a low yards per attempt and still finding ways to toss picks. Will Beatty can't hold up in pass protection on the left side and the Jennings/Williams combo looks pedestrian. ODB isn't healthy and Randle can't break out. Cruz is mired in slot receiver hell, unable to thrive amid double teams.
JPP isn't healthy and the Giants don't have a pass rush. This leaks into the linebackers and the secondary and suddenly the Giants are just an average team. Again.
Like in 2013 a slow start (at Detroit, Arizona and Houston at home, at Washington could equate to 1-3 out of the gate) dooms the season from the get go. Coughlin makes adjustments and, like he has before, coaches his team towards .500.
But the talent's deteriorated too much at this point and the Giants struggle to six or seven wins. Coughlin rides off into the sunset amid questions about Eli's ability to age as well as his brother while staring at a massive contract and two straight years of leading the league in interceptions.
DREAM WEAVER: After spending the last few weeks of preseason studying how to slide, everything suddenly clicks again for Robert Griffin III. Jay Gruden gets through to him too; he's no longer tentative and desperate for a home run on every play. He's willing to take his medicine and grow in the offense.
The result is a confident pocket passer with the necessary legs to destroy defenses when he has to, plus the awareness to avoid injury. Griffin flourishes into 2012 form, using Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to stretch the field and decimate defenses as a concussion-free Jordan Reed picks them apart underneath.
Alfred Morris grinds his way to another 1,200 yards and a new Mazda. Ho. Hum.
David Amerson returns to his 2011 form, when he led the NCAA in interceptions and looked like a top-five pick. With Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo and Trent Murphy relentlessly attacking quarterbacks, the young secondary isn't required to cover as long and begins making plays.
Philly has a new challenger in the NFC East as Washington provides shades of 2012, ripping off six wins in their last seven games to get to 10 wins and flirt with a playoff berth once again.
Jay Gruden's collecting Coach of the Year hardware and it's like 2013 never happened.
ARMAGEDDON: It's almost impossible for 2014 to be worse than 2013 unless Gruden decides to one-up Mike Shanahan and throws Griffin under a real bus. But there's disaster potential.
It all starts with RG3, who, in this scenario, barely makes it out of the preseason alive and struggles to stay healthy the entire year. Kirk Cousins ends up starting 8-plus games and the Redskins aren't very explosive even if they are gritty and leader-y.
DeSean and Garcon spend the season fighting over targets and publicly griping about one another. Reed can't shake the concussion bug and spends most of 2014 on the sideline.
Morris is a better fit for the Shanaclan offensive system and struggles to adapt to Gruden's schemes.
And the defense suffers one or two injuries and suddenly looks like the sieve it was in 2013. The downside of a Washington disaster season is four wins. The upside? They'll get to keep their high pick this time around.