The 2020 NFL season is now unofficially set to hit its midway point. A lot of things have happened throughout the first eight weeks, including the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins shockingly looking like NFL Playoff teams.
In D.C., the Washington Football Team finds itself in second place in the horrible NFC East. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos have rebounded after a slow start to the NFL season.
It’s in this that we look at five teams that could make a surprise trip to the NFL Playoffs this coming January.
Related: NFL Week 9 schedule, predictions
Cleveland Browns: Long downtrodden no more?
There’s some potentially major issues that could keep these Browns out of the NFL Playoffs. Primarily, the team’s defense has not been good thus far this season. Cleveland is yielding an average of 29.6 points per game, the sixth-highest mark in the NFL.
The season-ending torn ACL Odell Beckham Jr. suffered back in Week 7 could also have an impact on the Browns’ hopes to make the playoffs. Even then, he was not necessarily finding a connection with quarterback Baker Mayfield prior to suffering said injury.
Now, on to the good news. First-year head coach Kevin Stefanski looks like a real keeper. He has the Browns averaging 29 points per game. For his part, Mayfield put up what could have been a career-defining performance back in Week 7. Meanwhile, the Browns are going to get stud young running back Nick Chubb back here soon. At 5-3 on the season, Cleveland could very well be looking at earning its first trip to the NFL Playoffs since all the way back in 2002.
Denver Broncos: Stranger things have happened
After starting the season with an 0-3 mark (two one-score losses included), the Broncos have won three of their past four games. Sure Drew Lock has struggled under center. Denver is also without Pro Bowl wide receiver Courtland Sutton and future Hall of Fame pass rusher Von Miller for the season.
Even then, Vic Fangio has his team playing competitive football. Enough to make the NFL Playoffs? That remains to be seen. It’s really going to be about Lock’s maturation under center and the running back duo of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay behind him.
Miami Dolphins: Young head coach Brian Flores has the Fins playing playoff-caliber football
The NFL Playoffs in South Beach? Stranger things have happened. With the New England Patriots at 2-5 and considering the Buffalo Bills’ recent struggles, these Dolphins have a chance of winning the AFC East. In fact, young head coach Brian Flores has the Fins at 4-3 and just one game behind Buffalo in the loss column.
The decision to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick for Tua Tagovailoa might prove to be minor in the grand scheme of things after the latter struggled in his NFL debut back in Week 8. Even then, Miami is coming off a dominant defensive performance in a win over the Los Angeles Rams and has come out on top in four of five since an 0-2 start to the season.
Following Week 9’s outing against the Arizona Cardinals, Miami has four consecutive games against teams with losing records. There’s a chance this squad could find itself at 8-4 heading into a Week 14 outing against the Chiefs. If so, the playoffs could be in the cards. What a story that would be around the NFL world.
Detroit Lions: A trip to the playoffs to save Matt Patricia
Detroit’s blowout loss to the Colts in Week 8 notwithstanding, embattled head coach Matt Patricia has his team in playoff contention. The Lions sit at 3-4 on the season and have a nice upcoming stretch of games. That includes outings against the Vikings (2-5), Washington (2-5), Panthers (3-4) and Texans (1-6). There’s a darn good chance the Lions could be 6-5 or better after that stretch.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to play at a high level. Meanwhile, the combination of rookie D’Andre Swift and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson at running back provides him balance. In order for Detroit to make the playoffs, it’s going to have to see vast improvement on defense. The team is giving up nearly 30 points per game. After adding a reinforcement on that side of the ball, the NFL Playoffs could be the name of the game in the Motor City.
Washington Football Team: NFL Playoffs could come calling
Despite a 2-5 start to the season, Ron Rivera’s squad could very well be thinking playoffs. That’s primarily because Washington exists in an NFC East that currently has the Philadelphia Eagles in first place at 2-4-1.
Since benching Dwayne Haskins for Kyle Allen, Washington’s offense has improved. It also boasts a defense that has yielded the 11th-fewest points in the NFL. It’s a unit that continues to improve by the week.
Sure Washington would likely be blown out if it were to make the NFL Playoffs. That’s fine. But imagine the optics after some major offseason drama. How cool would that be for Rivera as he continues to battle the Big C word?
This story has been updated with a video added.