2020 NFL Power Rankings: Bona fide playoff contenders
These teams have a chance to potentially take the division and make some playoff noise.
The Cowboys finally made the move to fire Jason Garrett after years of underperforming with the roster they have. Mike McCarthy is the new coach in Dallas.
On paper, it was already a great roster last season. Gerald McCoy was a terrific free-agent acquisition to boost the interior line. CeeDee Lamb was an aggressive draft pick that takes their offense to an even higher level.
While the offense and defense are generally good, there are still some questions about Dak Prescott. One of them is about whether they’ll extend him (they will). The other is about his performances in critical games. Prescott fizzled out with some pretty poor games at the end of the year, especially his dud against an Eagles’ team with a depleted secondary. If he can have more consistency, Dallas’ potential is scary.
Some have gone as far as to put the Buccaneers in the top 10, but I’m not quite there yet. They’re certainly a playoff contender with the changes they’ve made on offense. Of course, Brady and Rob Gronkowski being back together is a huge plus, but Tristan Wirfs was also a really great pickup via draft.
The secondary is a concern for me. Tampa Bay gave up 270.1 yards passing per game last year, which was ranked 30th in the league. That’s a far cry from what Brady had in New England with the number one passing defense in the league.
Brady himself is also a concern for me. Yes, he’ll be more efficient than Jameis Winston. There’s no doubt about that. But his passing stats have declined over the past few years. Perhaps an injection of talent will change his fortunes, but there’s a larger chance of further decline than many would like to admit.
Philip Rivers being a Colt is still a weird thing to process, but it’s happening. It’s an upgrade for Indianapolis over Jacoby Brissett. Rivers is certainly on the downswing of his career, but he’ll have one of the league’s best offensive lines. The Colts were 30th in passing yards per game in 2019. There’s no doubt that the gunslinger mentality of Rivers changes that in 2020.
Other than the addition of their new quarterback, the rest of the offseason impressed me as well. Getting DeForest Buckner from the 49ers for a mid-first-rounder was a really great move that no one saw coming. On offense, Colts fans should be incredibly excited to see what Jonathan Taylor brings to the table.
The Vikings impressed me last year. More importantly, Kirk Cousins finally had his breakout year. They got a lot of value out of trading Stefon Diggs and turned it into quality draft returns. Justin Jefferson and Tajae Sharpe aren’t bad replacements for Diggs either.
Minnesota is mostly running the same roster back with an infusion of some draft talent. The big question is still if they’re able to surpass Green Bay or not. They’re clearly ahead of Chicago and Detroit, but to move up to the Super Bowl contenders tier, they have to take out Green Bay in the division. Since Aaron Rodgers has been there, they haven’t been able to do that.
The Eagles dealt with an insane amount of injuries last year. DeSean Jackson, Cre’von LeBlanc, Malik Jackson, Brandon Brooks, Kamu Grugier-Hill and several other players all dealt with serious injuries that held them out for long stretches of the season. Carson Wentz ended up dragging a depleted squad to the playoffs, only for him to get rammed in the back of the head by Jadeveon Clowney and put in concussion protocol.
Should the Eagles not suffer from as many injuries this year, they’re a clear NFC East favorite along with Dallas. With Doug Pederson at the helm, I give the edge to the Eagles. The transition to a new head coach will take some getting used to for Dallas. Philadelphia has been really smart in the offseason, especially with the addition of Darius Slay to lead the secondary.
The Bills are the current favorites in the AFC East with the Patriots being knocked down a peg. It feels weird to say after all these years. Serious draft capital went into getting Diggs, which was a good move for Josh Allen’s chances at becoming more accurate.
The Bills’ strength is their defense. They’re able to keep them in every game. Last year, Buffalo ranked 3rd in total defense and 4th in passing defense. AJ Epenesa was a great addition in the draft who will make an impact sooner rather than later.
While Josh Allen is still a hard sell for me because of his accuracy issues, the Bills are able to play to his strengths enough to get by. Perhaps he takes a leap this year in becoming a more efficient passer, but Buffalo will contend either way.
The runner ups to the AFC Championship round out the playoff contenders. They finally have found a formula that clicks with Ryan Tannehill’s efficiency mixed with the bowling ball running style of Derrick Henry. While they lost Jack Conklin, they still have enough experienced pieces on the offensive line.
Some view the Titans as a potential one-hit wonder, and while it’s possible with potential regressions from Tannehill or the defense, the coaching of Mike Vrabel is not to be underestimated. He’s turned that franchise around 180 degrees.
The question for Tannehill in year two is if he can be consistent enough for 16 games. We’ll see, but his ability to stretch the field in year one was super impressive.