While the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs look to build a dynasty, there are plenty of NFL franchises seeking to rebound from a disappointing 2019 season. Eight teams finished with five or fewer wins last season: the Bengals, Cardinals, Chargers, Dolphins, Giants, Lions, Panthers and Washington. Eight other teams finished with records below .500: the Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, Jets and Raiders. So, thinking about those organizations ...
With the start of the regular season less than a week away, which NFL team will enjoy the biggest turnaround in 2020?
BRIAN BALDINGER: The Bucs had seven wins last season, and I expect them to win 11 in 2020. A four-game turnaround might not seem like the biggest, but the manner in which this team will do it is a big deal. Tampa Bay led the entire NFL with 41 giveaways (!) last year, and as a result, a very young secondary faced a league-high 664 passing attempts. Enter Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and a winning mentality. They join a roster with a lot of talent and will lead the way for a monster season that lives up to the hype. No team will be in the spotlight more than the Bucs -- in the regular season and postseason.
CYNTHIA FRELUND: The Arizona Cardinals are my pick to make the biggest turnaround in 2020. Despite their fourth-place finish in the NFC West (5-10-1) last season, there were signs that a turnaround was coming. Kyler Murray's improvement from the beginning of the season until the end (nine total touchdowns in Weeks 1 to 8, ranking 22nd in the NFL; 15 TDs in Weeks 9 to 17, ranking 11th) despite a leaky O-line (Murray was sacked 48 times, tied for the league high) was notable -- and the young QB will be greatly aided by the addition of receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Running back Kenyan Drake, an acquisition before the trade deadline last year, also improved throughout the season as he increasingly folded into the Cardinals' offense. Other key free-agent pickups and draft picks (notably Isaiah Simmons) should create the kind of improvement on both sides of the ball that will allow Arizona to outpace its opponents. The Cardinals have a good chance for a playoff berth if these productive pieces work together.
NATE BURLESON: The Cleveland Browns didn't live up to the hype in 2019, and now they are flying a bit under the radar heading into 2020. The best thing the organization did to take the next step this offseason was hire head coach Kevin Stefanski. Just like we saw with Minnesota, where Stefanski was offensive coordinator, the Browns' offense will finally find balance by leaning on the run game. This is the year that Cleveland clicks on both sides of the ball and finally breaks through.
DeANGELO HALL: I want to be a homer and pick the Washington Football Team, but its season will rise and fall as young quarterback Dwayne Haskins goes through growing pains. So I'm rolling with the Detroit Lions. Matthew Stafford is healthy. Kenny Golladay is coming off a huge season in which he led the league in receiving TDs while playing with a hodgepodge of QBs. Rookie D'Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson should give this offense an explosive run game. Add in other offensive weapons, a wave of Patriot influence on the defense and the fact that Matt Patricia is on the hot seat, and this Lions team has the makings of a squad on the comeup.
MAURICE JONES-DREW: Having won just five games last season, the Chargers have a lot of room to improve. I like what they did in the offseason, bringing in key players in the trenches (RT Bryan Bulaga, RG Trai Turner, DT Linval Joseph) and in the draft (QB Justin Herbert, LB Kenneth Murray). If Tyrod Taylor can limit turnovers and the team can avoid losing more key players to injury, the Bolts could be on the cusp of something special.