Ranking NFL's Top 5 Sleeper Teams for 2020 Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2020

Ranking NFL's Top 5 Sleeper Teams for 2020 Season

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    Lindsey Wasson/Associated Press

    Hope abounds for sleeper teams as the 2020 NFL season looms. 

    Look no further than last year, when the San Francisco 49ers went from a four-win bottom-feeder all the way to the Super Bowl.

    While that was an astonishing turnaround, it wasn't entirely unimaginable. The Niners got a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo back under center and were aggressive in both free agency and the draft while following a long-term rebuilding plan. 

    This year, several sleepers stick out when looking at Super Bowl LV odds from Caesars Palace. They're ranked here based on quarterback situation, offseason moves, past performance and overall well-roundedness that could help them exceed expectations. 

5. Washington Redskins

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 150-1

    Oddsmakers aren't high on the Washington Redskins. Their 150-1 Super Bowl odds trail only the Jacksonville Jaguars (250-1) across the entire NFL.

    Granted, Washington won only three games last year and picked second in the 2020 draft. But a massive offseason overhaul, including hiring Ron Rivera as head coach and reshaping the front office, could help spark a quick turnaround.

    Heading into his second NFL season, quarterback Dwayne Haskins will benefit from more organizational stability. No. 1 wideout Terry McLaurin will have a chance to build on his breakout rookie campaign (58 receptions for 919 yards and seven touchdowns), while Washington added all-purpose weapon Antonio Gibson and Liberty wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden with third- and fourth-round picks, respectively. 

    Meanwhile, running backs Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice should take pressure off Haskins in the backfield. While injuries have limited Guice to only five games across his first two seasons, he ripped off an impressive 245 yards and two touchdowns on only 42 carries last year.

    But most of all, this is about Washington's wicked front seven on defense. No. 2 overall pick Chase Young is joining Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan on a front that had 46 sacks last year and now has defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio at the controls. 

    The Redskins aren't the most appealing sleeper pick, but better coaching and a stable offense not hanging a strong defense out to dry so consistently—plus a softer schedule—makes them a team to watch.

4. Arizona Cardinals

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 60-1

    Thanks to their strong offseason, the Arizona Cardinals could be poised to soar in 2020.

    Last season, rookie quarterback Kyler Murray guided the Cardinals to a 5-10-1 record while throwing for 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He added 544 yards and four scores on the ground, including seven runs of 20-plus yards, en route to the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

    This season, he'll be throwing to four-time Pro Bowl wideout DeAndre Hopkins along with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. In the backfield, Kenyan Drake will look to build off the 643 yards and eight touchdowns he piled up on only 123 carries with the Cardinals last season.

    The Cardinals defense was putrid last year, ranking 32nd in yards allowed and 28th in points allowed. However, new arrivals like Jordan Phillips, De'Vondre Campbell and No. 8 pick Isaiah Simmons will join forces with Patrick Peterson, who played only 10 games last season. 

    Murray will largely determine how far the Cardinals go in 2020, but the offseason upgrades on both sides of the ball plant them firmly in sleeper territory.

3. Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 50-1

    The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs overshadowed the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, but Denver quietly shook off a 0-4 start to finish 7-9 and second in the division last season.

    The Broncos turned to rookie quarterback Drew Lock late in the year, and he responded by guiding them to a 4-1 record over his five starts. The Missouri product completed 64.1 percent of his passing attempts for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns against only three interceptions.

    This offseason, the Broncos bolstered Lock's supporting cast. They spent the No. 15 overall pick on Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy and the No. 46 pick on Penn State receiver KJ Hamler, and they signed running back Melvin Gordon in free agency to form a bruising one-two punch with Phillip Lindsay.

    Denver's Von Miller-led defense put up 40 sacks last season and permitted only 19.8 points per game. The Broncos ranked 11th against the pass (225.6 yards per game), which was impressive against a schedule including two games against Kansas City and matchups with Green Bay, Minnesota and Houston. 

    Having a balanced, more explosive offense around Lock should only help Denver's defense. Considering the Broncos went 3-3 last year in a tough division and lost three games by only two points, they could easily be in the playoff mix this season.

2. Detroit Lions

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 60-1

    Getting a healthy Matthew Stafford back under center should do wonders for the Detroit Lions.

    A back injury limited Stafford to only eight games last season, but he completed 64.3 percent of his pass attempts for 2,499 yards and 19 touchdowns against only five interceptions before going down. 

    The Lions offense predictably imploded without Stafford, as backups David Blough and Jeff Driskel combined for more interceptions than passing touchdowns. No running back tallied more than 403 rushing yards, and the defense ranked 26th in points allowed per game (26.4). 

    Stafford's return is the biggest reason for the Lions' sleeper status, but another offseason of building to head coach Matt Patricia's liking doesn't hurt, either.

    The Lions bolstered their offensive line by signing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in free agency, and they replaced three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay with Desmond Trufant and No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah. They also grabbed every-down back D'Andre Swift with the No. 35 overall pick to give Stafford some instant-impact help.

    The Lions came within four points of beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4 last season, and they lost six other games by a touchdown or less. Continued smart additions to the roster around Stafford and an improving Trey Flowers-led defense give them major sleeper appeal. 

1. Houston Texans

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: 55-1

    It's easy to scoff at the idea of the Houston Texans being underdogs in 2020 after they won 10 games and the AFC South last year. Yet oddsmakers feel differently, as evidenced by Houston's 55-1 odds to win Super Bowl LV.

    The Texans traded star wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, which remains perplexing. They also lost a foundational building block in defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who left to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.

    However, quarterback play has a way of masking other problems, and it doesn't get much better than Deshaun Watson.

    Despite being sacked 44 times last season, Watson completed 67.3 percent of his pass attempts for 3,852 yards and 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. He added another 413 yards and seven scores on the ground.

    While Watson will miss Hopkins, the offseason additions of Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb will hope round out a receiving corps that already included Will Fuller V and Kenny Stills. The Texans can only hope to get more than eight games out of star pass-rusher J.J. Watt, too.

    The Texans' sleeper status mostly boils down to Watson, who tied for the NFL lead with five game-winning drives last season. If he can overcome the loss of Hopkins, the Texans should be right back in the thick of the AFC South race this year.

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