The Detroit Lions no longer look like a lost cause after quarterback Matthew Stafford tossed 19 touchdown passes with two interceptions during a 6-2 finish to the season. The organization could still misplay its hand -- history has conditioned Lions fans to expect it -- but as the situation stands now, the Lions look like one of the 2015 non-playoff teams set up best for next season.
The Lions made my short list, but they weren't No. 1. That distinction went to one of the teams welcoming back a Pro Bowl QB.
One quick note before we dive in: Much will change in the coming months as teams tweak their coaching staffs, venture into free agency and add players through the draft. This initial look focuses on non-playoff teams that should have the best shot at improving, with special consideration for the ones that finished below .500.