Coming out of the offseason is when NFL teams feel the most optimistic. After free agency and the draft, teams are riding waves of optimism. Even a rebuilding team can see bright spots on their team this time of year. But once the season begins, all expectations have the chance to be shattered. Every year there are teams who take that next step forward, and this year will be no different. So today we will be predicting the 2020 NFL breakout teams.
Predicting the 2020 NFL Breakout Teams
When predicting breakout teams, looking at second-year head coaches is a good start. In his rookie year, Kliff Kingsbury only managed a 5-10-1 record. But his sophomore season looks much more promising. For starters, trading for superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was a massive deal. Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers of the last decade and should be a perfect fit for Kyler Murray. Next, breakout running back from 2019 Kenyan Drake returns with a new addition upfront in rookie right tackle Josh Jones. If the young receivers from last year’s draft improve, Kingsbury can go six deep at the position.
Last years’ Arizona Cardinals team was hurt by a really bad defense. Statistics show the Cardinals finished last in yards per game allowed, 27th in takeaways per game, and 30th in third-down percentage. And although they’re far from being an elite defense, the potential to be an average defense is there for 2020. The play of the eighth overall pick Isaiah Simmons will go a long way in deciding the ceiling for their defense. Adding Robert Alford, and De’Vondre Campbell gives them needed depth. But other young guys like Byron Murphy, Budda Baker, and free-agent signing Jordan Phillips will also need to step up and help cornerstones Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones. The quantity of young players is abundant, and if they play up to their draft stock, this team can challenge for a wild card spot.
The Indianapolis Colts would like to forget the 2019 season. To start, the Colts finished 7-9 and third in their division. The injury bug had taken out key players such as T.Y. Hilton, Malik Hooker, and Darius Leonard. And after the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck, the future for the team was murky. But now they have Philip Rivers at the helm and look to be AFC South favorites. Granted Rivers had some issues last season, but the Colts roster is far greater than his Los Angeles Chargers counterpart. To assist Rivers, the team drafted Michael Pittman Jr. who some think could have the best season of all rookie wide receivers. As for the rest of the offense, the most complete offensive line in the league returns fully intact. Not to mention offseason additions Trey Burton and Jonathan Taylor will both play meaningful snaps in already good position groups.
Considering the Tennessee Titans are their biggest threats in the AFC South, having a good defense is a must. Luckily for the Colts, they’ve done a great job building up their current unit. Their biggest acquisition DeForest Buckner may have cost a first-round pick, but his play warrants the move. The rest of their front seven has plenty of talent, most notably Justin Houston and a fully healthy Leonard. The cornerback position is the one with the most uncertainty. Kenny Moore and Rock Ya-Sin are joined by former pro-bowler Xavier Rhodes who is looking to bounce back from his worst season as a pro. But all in all, if Rivers provides a steady presence at quarterback, this team will be a hard out come January.
Since 2001 when the New England Patriots won their first super bowl, they’ve only lost the division twice. However, entering 2020 there is a new favorite to win the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills were a 10-6 playoff team last year and had one of the best defenses in the league. Since then they’ve added a lot of talent to their team. Although they lost their sack leader Jordan Phillips to the Cardinals, the additions of Mario Addison, Vernon Butler, and A.J. Epenesa actually make their defensive line better on paper than a year ago. Losing Lorenzo Alexander to retirement stung, but Buffalo signed A.J. Klein to help mentor rising linebackers Matt Milano, and Tremaine Edmunds. In addition, adding Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines as low-risk depth was smart. Head coach Sean McDermott has a good chance at coaching the number one defense in football this year.
Ultimately, the ceiling in Buffalo is decided on whether the offense can keep up with the defense. Josh Allen will be entering year number three and has never had a better chance to succeed. By adding Stefon Diggs via trade, Allen now has an instant number one option to throw to alongside Cole Beasley and John Brown. Plus, now that Frank Gore left for the New York Jets, Devin Singletary has the potential to shine as a workhorse back. Another year of continuity on the offensive line also helps, but the unit needs to perform better than in 2019. When predicting breakout teams for 2020, the Bills have to be in the discussion due to their already good continuity and offseason additions.
Predicting Breakout Teams Sets High Expectations
Of course, it’s no sure thing that all three teams will break out and have the seasons we expect. And there are plenty of other teams that will surprise us throughout the 2020 season. But when a team gets labeled a breakout candidate, that’s when the pressure is on. Whether or not the teams shine under pressure or not is what separates contenders from pretenders.
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