Six NFL Teams That Will Improve Their Record in 2020
1. Bengals - Cincinnati had the worst record in the league last season (2-14 SU). That allowed them to take QB Joe Burrow with the #1 pick in April’s Draft. The Bengals are projected for 5.5 wins in 2020, so oddsmakers see them as likely to improve - substantially. It’s not just because of Burrow. This team wasn't actually as bad in 2019 as you might think. They led in 12 of 16 games. But they were 0-8 (straight up) in one-score affairs and also had a -14 turnover differential. Those numbers will improve this season. It’s a case of “low-hanging fruit” here, but the Bengals WILL win more games in 2020.
2. Lions - Detroit wasn’t much better than Cincinnati last year. They finished 3-13 (SU). Unlike the Bengals, the Lions did not draft a QB of the future. They didn’t have to though. They are getting back a (hopefully) healthy Matthew Stafford, which should certainly help their 2020 prospects. A futile record in one-score games (3-8 SU) last year was another problem for the Lions, who lost only one game by more than 13 points. One reason I see the Lions being able to possibly go Over this season’s win total (6.5) is that they play in the NFC North, an “up for grabs” division that has no dominant team.
3. Chargers - The Lightning Bolts finished 5-11 SU last season, but were only outscored by eight points! They were actually favored to win nine games, so it was a clear case of underachieving. A league worst -17 turnover differential and a 2-9 SU record in one-score games did them in. Philip Rivers is gone after being a big contributory factor to that poor TO margin. But I worry about how LA is going to replace him. Veteran Tyrod Taylor will presumably begin the season as the starter, even though the team used the #6 overall draft pick on Justin Herbert. Still, I expect LA to be closer to .500 this season, which is right in line with the oddsmakers’ projection of 8 wins. Despite having (arguably) the weakest home field advantage in the league, you have to figure the Chargers will improve upon last season’s 2-6 SU home record. They also failed to win a single division game last season. Look for improvement in that area as well.
4. Bucs - Even before acquiring Tom Brady (and Rob Gronkowski), Tampa Bay was a team likely to improve in 2020. They outscored and outgained their opponents last year (both on a per game and per play basis). Jameis Winston was the big reason the Bucs were -13 in turnover margin last season. Brady will help cut down on that number and also improve on last year’s 3-6 SU record in one-score games. By the way, the Bucs’ defense was #5 in DVOA last year. I’m a little scared of how trendy the Bucs are this year, but the fact they could be favorites in as many as 13 games shows the oddsmakers are taking them very seriously. I do see them challenging the Saints for first place in the NFC South and they are a strong bet to win at least 10 games!
5. Cowboys - It’s definitely fair to say that the Cowboys underachieved last year. They were favored in all but two games, finished with the league’s 6th best point differential (+113), yet ended up 8-8 and missed the playoffs. The Dak Prescott contract situation is a perceived “distraction,” but don’t let it distract you from the fact this is one of the more talented teams in the entire league, particularly on the offensive side of the football. Perhaps most important of all is that Jason Garrett was FINALLY relieved of his head coaching duties. Mike McCarthy probably wasn’t the best possible replacement for Garrett and an unprecedented offseason doesn’t exactly help a first year coach. But McCarthy did win 10 or more games EIGHT times with the Packers. Oddsmakers project his new team to win 10 games in 2020.
6. Cardinals - I’m starting to see Arizona as a darkhorse team in the NFC West. Some of that has to do with the fact that I project the three other teams in the division (49ers, Seahawks, Rams) to all win fewer games this season compared to last. Fleecing Houston in the DeAndre Hopkins trade is another big reason why the Cardinals may fly higher than their projected win total of 7.5 in 2020.