Will Matt Ryan lead an Atlanta Falcons' resurgence? Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Seeing a team go from worst-to-first has become the norm in the NFL, and 2020 is not likely to see that change. There will be many top teams that sink to the bottom while others rise up and surprise the football world.

We’re not here to predict which team will go from worst-to-first, but we are here to examine five teams that could surprise in one form or fashion here in 2020.

Let’s take a look:

5. Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons started off 1-7 in 2019 and things looked grim. However, they rebounded to close out the season by winning six of their final eight games to give them a 7-9 record for the second consecutive season. The turnaround was enough to save some jobs and give the current regime one more chance in 2020. They’ve since added running back Todd Gurley via free agency and selected Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell in the 2020 NFL Draft, essentially improving on both sides of the ball. With quarterback Matt Ryan still under center and some young building blocks spread out across the roster, we’re more likely to see the Falcons team that went 6-2 to close out last season than we are to see the Falcons team that went 1-7 to open last season.


Dec 29, 2019; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) celebrates defeating the Oakland Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

4. Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos were a mess entering Week 13 of last season, sporting an ugly 3-8 record at that point, but then came rookie quarterback Drew Lock. While Lock didn’t exactly light the NFL world on fire, he did represent a substantial upgrade over what the Broncos had been going with, and the young signal caller led Denver to a 4-1 finish to the season. With Pat Shurmur, the quarterback whisperer, now taking over as offensive coordinator, it can mean only good things for Lock and his offensive teammates. Moreover, the Broncos padded their roster with the addition of running back Melvin Gordon, as well as selections of wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the 2020 NFL Draft. They’ll need their defense to continue playing well, but so long as that happens, expect to see a vastly improved Broncos team in 2020.


Jan 2, 2020; Ashburn, VA; Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera speaks during his introductory press conference at Inova Sports Performance Center. Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

3. Washington

It’s a new era in Washington, which includes a new team name. And while many anticipate Daniel Snyder’s team finishing the year near the bottom of the league, there is reason to believe they will play well above expectations. Second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins looks like a man on a mission this offseason; wide receiver Terry McLaurin will soon be a household name; running back Adrian Peterson is apparently ageless; and cornerback Fabian Moreau should lead a defense that is trending upwards. Oh yeah, there’s also a brand new coaching staff led by Ron Rivera, who has a history of winning. While Washington may not excel to the point of competing for the division or even a playoff spot, don’t be surprised if they are mid-pack and well ahead of where many football analysts project them to be.


New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) celebrates with Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) after connecting on a touchdown pass. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

2. New York Giants

Are the Giants finally nearing the end of their seemingly endless rebuild? The young core of the team looks exciting on paper, but there are still some depth issues New York must overcome. What we see of the Giants in 2020 won’t be the best of what’s coming, but it could be enough to surprise many across the NFL landscape. The Giants have retooled and repaired their much-maligned offensive line, finally added a playmaking linebacker, and added some much-needed veteran experience and youthful speed to their secondary. So long as players like Golden Tate, Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Jabrill Peppers can stay on the field, the Giants have a good chance to compete for an NFC East title.


Dec 22, 2019; Miami Gardens, Florida; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores walks the sideline during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

1. Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins were supposed to be a joke in 2019, but despite their 5-11 record, they played well above expectations. Here in 2020, they will potentially usher in a new quarterback and have substantially upgraded their personnel on both sides of the ball. Add in the uncertainty surrounding the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots, and the AFC East could very well be open for the taking. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins will swoop in and steal the show, but they are clearly headed in the right direction and could make some waves before the division is settled. There is a lot of potential here.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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