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The NFL season has finally arrived! After COVID-19 left the start of the season in doubt and without a preseason, the NFL kicks off their 2020 season Thursday night as the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans. Before we sit back and celebrate the return of the NFL season, let us take a look at the top-10 teams entering the campaign.
- Kansas City Chiefs (2019 record: 12-4)
It should come as no surprise the defending Super Bowl champions start the season as the top team and the favorites to win it all again. The Chiefs rallied from three double-digit deficits in last year’s postseason to capture their first Lombardi Trophy since Super Bowl IV in 1969. The Chiefs rewarded Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes with the richest contract in sports history. The Chiefs, despite losing guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and cornerback Kendall Fuller, are mostly the same team and Mahomes will have no trouble leading his team to more success in 2020.
2. Seattle Seahawks (2019 record: 11-5)
The Seahawks last season lost their top-three running backs to injury by Week 17 and had a woeful secondary that got torched repeatedly last year, especially by Packers’ wide receiver Davante Adams in their 28-23 loss at Green Bay in the divisional playoff round. No team made a more significant positional upgrade than the Seahawks as they scooped up all-pro safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets. With Russell Wilson still in his prime, the Seahawks are in a great position to steal the NFC West title from the San Francisco 49ers and make another run at the Super Bowl.
3. Baltimore Ravens (2019 record: 14-2)
Despite getting embarrassed in their playoff opener last season against the Tennessee Titans 28-12, the Ravens are still a serious threat to compete for a Super Bowl championship. 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is on a mission to prove his doubters wrong after two consecutive seasons of losing the playoff opener at home. The Ravens buffed up defensively by adding defensive lineman Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and rookie linebacker Patrick Queen. With improvements on defense, the Ravens will dominate the regular season once again and attempt to avoid a third-straight one-and-done postseason.
4. San Francisco 49ers (2019 record: 13-3)
The defending NFC champions come into 2020 with a target on their back, looking to avoid the Super Bowl hangover and overcome losing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs. The 49ers had the best defensive line in the NFL last season but needed to cut it down due to cap restraints; so they traded defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick. They drafted DT Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina with the pick and replaced wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders with first-round selection Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State. The 49ers dropped in quality personnel-wise but with their leftover talent and coaching staff, the 49ers are still among the NFL’s elite.
5. New Orleans Saints (2019 record: 13-3)
The Saints posted a 13-3 mark last season but due to the Green Bay Packers riding an easy schedule to a 13-3 record of their own, the Saints were forced to play their nemesis, the Minnesota Vikings, in the wild card round where they lost 26-20 in overtime. Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees signed a two-year contract this offseason, indicating the Super Bowl window the Saints have after three painful postseason eliminations in a row. With the additions of Malcolm Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders, the Saints are going all-in and will once again compete at the top of the NFC playoff picture.
6. Dallas Cowboys (2019 record: 8-8)
The Cowboys last year had Super Bowl expectations placed on them but failed to live up to the hype as they went 8-8 despite having the NFL’s number one offense. Dak Prescott was second in passing yards and running back Ezekiel Elliott was fourth in rushing yards but untimely mistakes doomed their playoff chances. This offseason, they fired head coach Jason Garrett and replaced him with Mike McCarthy along with drafting Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. With a revamped coaching staff and deeper offensive arsenal, the Cowboys will take the NFC East back from the Philadelphia Eagles.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019 record: 7-9)
The Buccaneers were the 2020 offseason champions as they acquired the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady. While being 43-years-old, Brady brings excitement this franchise hasn’t felt since they won the Super Bowl in 2002. On top of new uniforms, the Bucs changed their offense as they acquired running back Leonard Fournette and tight end Rob Gronkowski. After moving on from interception-machine Jameis Winston, the Bucs are attempting to become the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium. While their offense could be unstoppable, their secondary still holds many question marks after having the third-worst pass defense a year ago; the Bucs did little to address this issue in the offseason. The Bucs will be contenders as they are pushing all-in in their tiny Super Bowl window but a lackluster secondary and mediocre offensive line will doom their chances against other NFC teams stated above in the postseason.
8. Buffalo Bills (2019 record: 10-6)
The Bills have risen to become one of the AFC’s top teams after a strong 2019 regular season and 2020 offseason. Led by a young and solid defense along with a raw talent in quarterback Josh Allen, the Bills won 10 games for the first time since 1999 and reached the playoffs for only the second time since then as well. While they lost 22-19 to the Houston Texans in overtime, the future looks bright in western New York. The Bills gave help to Allen by trading for deep-threat wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Vikings. Buffalo has a golden opportunity to take advantage of the weakened-New England Patriots and captured their first AFC title since 1995 and I believe they will.
9. Minnesota Vikings (2019 record: 10-6)
Speaking of the Stefon Diggs trade, the Vikings let him go after disputes with the team last year. However, the Vikings found success as they reached the postseason and defeated the Saints 26-20 in overtime. Even though they lost 27-10 to the 49ers in the next round, quarterback Kirk Cousins proved the Vikings made the right choice by signing him with clutch throws to defeat the Saints, giving Cousins his first career postseason victory. The Vikings replaced Diggs with LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson and added pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite losing offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings offense will still produce and the defense will improve from a mediocre 2019 season and take the NFC North title from the Packers.
10. Indianapolis Colts (2019 record: 7-9)
Andrew Luck dropped a bombshell a little over a year ago, abruptly retiring in the middle of the preseason, forcing the Colts to start Jacoby Brissett in his place. The offense lacked punch with the third-lowest passing offense and the Colts finished 7-9 after a 5-2 start. This offseason, the Colts made two major moves, bringing in long-time Los Angeles Chargers Chargers’ quarterback Phillip Rivers to spark the offense while defensively, they acquired defensive tackle, DeForest Buckner, from the 49ers. With these additions to go with an elite offensive line and rising defense, the Colts will surpass the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans to win the AFC South.