The 2020 NFL season is just a few months away and excitement is building for every team and fan base. Coming off an offseason that saw teams across the league make big moves, the landscape of the NFL could change dramatically this season.
Of course, teams like the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs remain the elites. There is also plenty of quality competition behind them that could challenge for the Super Bowl. However, a few teams are flying under the radar with many setting expectations and win totals too low for the upcoming year.
As we look ahead to the upcoming NFL season, here are the five most underrated NFL teams who could easily surpass expectations in 2020.
Los Angeles Chargers
It’s understandable why expectations are low for the Los Angeles Chargers. A team with a history of falling apart in clutch moments and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory usually merits a seven-win projection. However, when you examine the Chargers’ depth chart, it becomes clear why this is a team that can contend.
Austin Ekeler is one of the best all-purpose backs in football. Coming off a season with over 1,500 scrimmage yards, the 25-year-old could do bigger things this season behind an improved offensive line. Meanwhile, the weaponry of Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry and Mike Williams provides Tyrod Taylor with the help he needs to be successful. Oh, we also love this defense and expect it to be one of the best units in the NFL this year. The Chargers simply need Taylor or Justin Herbert to protect the football. If that happens, this team could win 10 games this year.
Matt Patricia will head into the 2020 season on the hot seat and deservedly so. The Lions have won just nine games in his two seasons at the helm and last year’s 3-12-1 record was an embarrassment. However, lost in Detroit’s miserable year was a hot start and injuries to Matthew Stafford and Kerryon Johnson that derailed the offense.
If a controversial finish against the Green Bay Packers went in Detroit’s favor, it would have been 3-1-1 early in the year. Instead, the team was never the same after the loss and got dragged down even further after Stafford’s season-ending injury. If he can stay healthy and maintain the success we saw early in 2019, when he had 2,499 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in eight games, this will be an outstanding offense. Now factor in D’Andre Swift and an improved offensive line, suddenly you have a potential NFC North sleeper. It all comes down to Patricia keeping this team together.
The Chiefs are understandably an overwhelming favorite to win the AFC West, but the Denver Broncos could cause them a lot of problems. Denver is a tough divisional opponent, especially in Colorado with the unique home-field advantage and a strong defense. This upcoming season, though, we’re ready to rumble with the Broncos’ offense.
Credit to general manager John Elway for assembling an offense that could soon join the NFL’s elite tier. Noah Fant is a strong pass-catching weapon at tight end, while the running back duo of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay will complement each other nicely. We’re especially excited about this receiving corps as Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler will be electrifying for years to come. It all rests on Drew Lock’s shoulder. He will make or break this franchise this season and we believe he helps the Broncos ride into the playoffs.
Winning games in the NFC West, one of the toughest divisions in football, won’t be easy. We saw the Arizona Cardinals give the San Francisco 49ers a good fight this past season and they even stole a game in Seattle. Now that Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury are entering their second year together, this team could take off in 2020 and may eventually become the class of the division.
The blockbuster trade for DeAndre Hopkins changed everything for this team. He instantly became Arizona’s No. 1 wide receiver and Murray can now take advantage of an All-Pro weapon. That addition will allow Murray to take riskier throws, sling more shots down the field and it opens up this offense. The trade also enabled Arizona to draft Isaiah Simmons, one of the most unique defensive chess pieces the NFL has ever seen. The Cardinals are projected to win seven games, but we expect this to be at least a 9-7 team next season.
Admittedly, we’re not as high on the Miami Dolphins as one current NFL executive. But Miami’s front office put in extensive work to shape this team’s foundation during the offseason, devoting a lot of money and picks to overhauling the roster. Brian Flores has the makings of a great head coach, especially if the new talent can gel quickly in Miami.
Even with a delayed practice schedule, the Dolphins should start Tua Tagovailoa immediately. He is arguably an equal talent to Joe Burrow and it sounds like Tagovailoa is also making a miraculous recovery from offseason surgery. He will make this offense better and we know this defense, especially the secondary with Byron Jones and Xavien Howard, will be strong. After battling to win five games this past season, the Dolphins could be an 8-8 squad in 2020.