2020 NFL Power Rankings: Fringe playoff contenders
If a few things go right, these teams could find themselves in the hunt for the playoffs towards the end of the year. Remember that the NFL is expanding the playoff field by one team in each conference.
The Browns have definitely beefed up their roster in the offseason. Jack Conklin was a great signing, and the team did mostly well in the draft.
Simply put, the Browns need to get better play out of Baker Mayfield. While Freddie Kitchens and a lot of other factors contributed to his fall in 2019, seeing Mayfield regress was still concerning. The Browns are a playoff contender if they can fix the offense, but that’s a pretty big if for first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Raiders play under the level of talent that they have in my view. Consistency was a problem from week to week. Just when people started thinking that they were for real last year, they took three consecutive blowout losses, one of which was to the Jets.
On paper, their offensive roster is good enough. Derek Carr is a decent quarterback surrounded by players like Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller and Henry Ruggs III. Their defense leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s steadily improving with a youth resurgence.
At the end of the day, the quarterback situation and the defense are really what gives me pause. 2015 and 2016 were peak seasons for Carr, but he’s been mediocre since then. Better linebacker and secondary play are also needed for them to become a true playoff contender.
The Falcons have been doing somewhat of a quasi-rebuild over the past year or so with their roster. The offense, for the most part, is fine. Atlanta was fifth in yards per game last season. Additions like Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley were good, low risk moves to reaffirm the offense.
What really will decide the Falcons’ fate is defense. As potent as their offense was, their defense is a mess. Dante Fowler was a good signing, but it’ll take significantly more player development to fix 29th in the league in sacks and 22nd in defense against the pass. Dan Quinn, welcome to the hot seat.
The Rams are close to the wild card contenders tier, but just miss out for a few key reasons. For one, they play in the NFC West. San Francisco, Seattle, and newly improved Arizona is just a really tough gauntlet to run.
Offensive line play was one of the best aspects of the 2018 Rams. In 2019, their offensive line was mauled by injuries. Perhaps because of that, the front office feels like they can stand pat and just bring their offensive line back healthy. I’m just not as confident in that belief, especially given Andrew Whitworth’s age and the inconsistency of the others on the offensive line.
For as hyped as their defense is, they rank between 10-15 in a lot of statistical categories. While that’s not bad, one wonders if losing players like Cory Littleton, Fowler, and Nickell Robey-Coleman causes the Rams to lose a step. The departure of Wade Phillips leads a void to fill as well.