Five sleeper contenders for Super Bowl LV

Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry stand for national anthem
Nov 14, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) and Jarvis Landry (80) stand with Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) and cornerback Tavierre Thomas (20) for the national anthem before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The start of the 2020 NFL season is still a few months away, but the work that will lead two teams to Super Bowl LV has already begun. While at least one of the favorites from before the season makes it to the Super Bowl each year, we also see a surprising team in the final game.

It’s no surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers enter the season as the favorites. All three teams proved themselves this past year and will head into the upcoming season with even more talent on offense. However, it’s difficult to become an NFL dynasty and the recent history for Super Bowl losers isn’t promising for the 49ers.

The NFL will also be loaded with more balance this season, especially in the AFC. Following an offseason that saw a few front offices dominate the 2020 NFL Draft and find great talent in free agency, the landscape looks promising for 2020. Here are five teams that are sleeper contenders for Super Bowl LV.

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland went into the 2019 season viewed as a dark-horse Super Bowl contender. The team certainly had a nice mix of talent, but there was also a lot of inexperience on the roster with a head coach who shouldn’t have been there. Now this young, talented team has experienced disappointment and will head into training camp with a superior team and a better coach.

The Browns recognized a big part of Baker Mayfield’s struggles this past season fell on the offensive line. So, general manager Andrew Berry signed Jack Conklin and drafted Jedrick Wills. Mayfield will have two pillars protecting him this year, giving him more time to throw to a healthy Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry. Cleveland’s one-two punch of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb is outstanding, too. If the defense can make a leap with Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, this becomes a wild card team capable of making a run to Super Bowl LV.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts came to understand in 2019 how quickly a window to contend can close. When Andrew Luck suddenly retired, a Super Bowl contender tumbled down in the standings and the team looked lost. It’s precisely why they signed Philip Rivers, the kind of presence that could help put this team over the top.

This isn’t all about Rivers. He can only be successful and help push this team towards its ceiling if all the pieces are around him. Fortunately, the Colts have the NFL’s best offensive line and just added Jonathan Taylor to this backfield. Indianapolis’ offense will depend on the running game, which should dominate this year. Given time to throw and with more options open, Rivers could be a Pro Bowl quarterback once again. Pair that with the addition of All-Pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and the Colts can have a shot at competing for the AFC crown.

Arizona Cardinals

The NFC West is one of the best divisions in the NFL. Understandably, San Francisco will head into the season as the team to beat and it certainly deserves that title. If we’re picking one team that could surprise the 49ers to potentially challenge for the division, potentially even being a sleeper contender for Super Bowl LV, that team is the Cardinals.

It started with the trade for DeAndre Hopkins, a deal that should be considered grand theft. Arizona provided Kyler Murray with an All-Pro receiver that makes plays after the catch and can make absurd grabs. He will elevate Murray’s game as the young quarterback enters his second season and Hopkins will also help Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald. This can be one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2020, which puts pressure on the defense. We love the additions of Jordan Phillips and Isaiah Simmons and believe this unit is ready to make a leap. The Cardinals will be tested all year in the NFC West, but those matchups can prepare them nicely for the playoffs.

Denver Broncos

Drew Lock’s reaction to his team’s top picks in the 2020 NFL Draft says everything. Young quarterbacks need a great supporting cast to be successful and general manager John Elway made sure to give Lock everything he needs. When Lock takes the field this season, he will have an outstanding running game and a great cast of pass-catchers supporting him.

It won’t be long before the trio of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler becomes one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. Meanwhile, Noah Fant is an emerging weapon at tight end and Melvin Gordon can be effective out of the backfield. On the other side of the ball, the additions of A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey were outstanding. If Von Miller and Bradley Chubb stay healthy, this can be an elite defense under Vic Fangio. The pressure will be on Lock to take advantage, but everything else is in place to be a Super Bowl contender.

Dallas Cowboys

The Masters is an incredible tradition, but the greatest tradition in recent sports history is the Cowboys constantly disappointing. A majority of NFL fans love to see this team fail every year, especially given how long they stuck with Jason Garrett. Now that he is gone and Mike McCarthy is at the helm, this could once again become America’s Team.

While Dak Prescott might fall short of being an elite quarterback, he is in the next tier right behind it. As for this offense, the Cowboys boast a dominant offensive line, a lethal rushing attack and boast the NFC’s best receiver trio. Prescott will thrive in this situation and could even post MVP-caliber numbers this season. It all comes down to the defense. The front seven will be strong, especially if Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory can stay on the field. So, it will be up to the secondary to take advantage of opportunities created by the pass rushers. The NFC East belongs to the Cowboys and if their defense can create turnovers, this might become the best team in the NFC.