AFC Dark Horse Teams That Could Win a Championship in 2020

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    AFC Dark Horse Teams 2020
    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 29: Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

    Are you ready for some football? Any sport will do at this point, but for the football junkies in the room, this will be an interesting season. The AFC always seems to come down to certain teams but with the ever-changing rosters having a major impact on the NFL as a whole, there may be some teams emerging as candidates for this year’s championship. Here are the AFC dark horse teams that could win a championship in 2020.

    AFC Dark Horse Teams That Could Win a Championship in 2020

    Cleveland Browns

    This is a make-or-break season for Baker Mayfield and he has all the pieces he needs if only he can make it happen for the boys.

    Of course, fans know about Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, but not enough people talk about Rashard Higgins, a fifth-year receiver out of Colorado State. His inconsistencies as a receiver and the lack of production are things that need to change this season, and really could.

    The biggest thing for this team will be learning from the new set of coaches coming in. Kevin Stefanski is new to head coaching but he has plenty of help from some coaches with a ton of experience. He brought with him some coaches who could help mold this Browns team into the championship team they could be. Coaches Bill Callahan and Alex Van Pelt bring a combined 25-plus years experience with them.

    Not to mention they have a monster running back in Nick Chubb who had 1,494 yards rushing on 88 attempts and eight touchdowns. He was such a vital part of that offense in 2019 and could be a huge factor in a super bowl run.

    Defense

    The thing that will give this AFC dark horse team a championship in 2020 is the defense. It is just as important to the team as the offense. Great super bowl champions have proven that. Look at the Denver Broncos. It was their defense that won them their championship in 2016.

    They have a strong front line lead by Myles Garrett and they could really do some damage this season. He’s going to have to rally the rest of the defense around him, which he could, no problem.

    Enlisting the help of cornerbacks like rookie Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward will help the Browns establish an identity early in the season. Williams needs to have a breakout season if this team is going to win a super bowl.

    New England Patriots

    I know if you’re reading this, you’re like, “What? The New England Patriots? They’re not a dark horse, they go to the super bowl all the time!” Well, that’s before they decided to part ways with their hall-of-fame, six-time-championship winning quarterback. It was over for them. At best, they had who, Jarrett Stidham?

    Enter Cam Newton, a stud quarterback who the Carolina Panthers released on March 24 after they “failed to find a trade partner,” according to The Charlotte Observer. Newton knows what he’s capable of and so do the Patriots apparently after they signed him June 28. He suffered what appeared to be an insurmountable amount of injuries his last three seasons with the Panthers, which were his ultimate demise. The Patriots have placed Newton in the optimal position to win a championship, but that can only be determined by some key players.

    Mohamed Sanu has been an essential part of every team he’s been on. He suffered a high ankle injury during the 2019 season, which he later had to have surgery on. The rehab process has been vast for the 31-year-old receiver, but he’s really looking forward to making a greater impact on his new team. He was seen working out with Newton which is a great sign for the tandem. When healthy, Sanu contributed plenty to the Patriots during his short stint: 10 catches for 81 yards in just his second game. Julian Edelman with his team-high 100 catches is always a stud no matter who’s under center. Newton provides a layer of offense to the Patriots that they haven’t seen. That could work to the Patriots’ advantage.

    Defense

    Former Michigan Wolverine, Josh Uche will be a surprise and a welcome new piece on their defense as they lost many contributors to free agency. Uche has quick feet which allows him the get-off he needs to be an effective pass rusher. He accumulated 16.5 sacks in four years at Michigan but the Patriots believe he will be an instant contributor so they’ll push him. Adding him to their defense might just be what the Patriots need.

    They signed key players including safety Patrick Chung to a two-year extension, but they’ll need to play lights-out if they expect to make a run.

    The Patriots have been such a dominant force over the last two decades but with so many changes in some vital areas of the team, it’s no surprise that they are a dark horse. They have an opportunity to win a championship in 2020.

    Cincinnati Bengals

    The Bengals wouldn’t seem like a likely candidate to win a championship which is what makes them the perfect ones to do just that. What makes them an AFC dark horse that could win a championship in 2020?

    After firing Marvin Lewis in 2018 after 16 years with the franchise, the team seemed to be in a monotonous cycle of trying to rebuild their team, which they seem to have done so far this offseason.

    Joe Burrow was the biggest name of the 2020 draft coming from LSU. What makes him so impressive is that he struggled with circumstances up until his senior year when he passed for 60 touchdowns and rushed for another five. That’s impressive on so many levels. Just for substance, Tim Tebow was considered a great college quarterback and only had 32 touchdowns at the height of his college career. Will Burrow throw 60 touchdowns his first season in Cincinnati? Probably not likely, but that sort of drive as a rookie gives this team a lot of hope.

    Tee Higgins

    As one of Trevor Lawrence‘s favorite targets at Clemson, he caught just under half his touchdown passes for two seasons. Could he be the answer to their prayers? That’s a question for the season to answer, but it bodes well for this team if they can get him going. He’s not the fastest guy on the field, but he is, as the highlights eluded to, the jump-ball king. His 6-foot-4-inch stature will allow him the ability to win those battles with even some of the top defensive backs of the league.

    Schedule

    Their schedule is going to be an uphill battle. Being a team who is known for their mediocrity and shortcomings, they have a ton to prove to the league. If they can put all the pieces together, it’ll happen. They have one of the lighter schedules of the teams chosen, but it only takes one game to throw the entire season off balance. Their game against the Browns in late October will be a good gauge for how they will proceed the rest of the way. Burrow, going up against a Baker Mayfield backed into a corner will determine if that rookie can go the distance.

    The Bengals give us no reason to believe they would win a championship in 2020…which makes them dangerous.

    Which Dark Horse Will It Be?

    There isn’t a clear-cut winner of the teams chosen to win the championship in 2020. Let’s consider for a moment that Patrick Mahomes is still the best quarterback on the AFC side and possibly in the entire league. He might have something to say about this. But, if any of these teams are going to win a super bowl, especially given the stiff talent, they’re going to have to work twice as hard to prove they deserve to be there.

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