5 likeliest NFL teams to go worst-to-first in 2020

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals
Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

It happens almost annually, but it didn’t last year. Someone will go worst-to-first in its division. Here are five NFL teams who have a good shot to do it.

You can deny it all you want, but it’s bound to happen next season on the NFL gridiron. Seemingly every year, a team will massively overachieve, going from the worst team in its own division to its champion in one year’s time. Worst-to-first didn’t happen last season, but the San Francisco 49ers did go from the second-worst team in football to NFC Championship in one fell swoop.

In a league driven by parity, there is a really good chance we’ll see some bottom-feeder from last year climb all the way to the top. Playing a last-place schedule, getting a new coaching staff or even drafting a new face of the franchise might end up making all the difference. Maybe even the talented defense becomes a one-year juggernaut that nobody stands a chance against?

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So every year, there are only eight candidates to pull this off. There’s usually one team who stands out, but there are plenty of others who have a pathway to get this done, no matter how improbable it may sound or how little margin of error. Even though every year is different, some team is bound to pull off the impossible this fall and host a playoff game.

Here are the five likeliest teams to go worst-to-first in the upcoming 2020 NFL season.

Pick Analysis. North. Cincinnati Bengals. player. 5. 56. Scouting Report. AFC

When you’re looking at the fifth-most likely team to go worst-to-first, you’re really grasping at straws. There’s like a next-to-nothing percentage chance of it happening, but there is a reason this franchise edges out the other three contending for inclusion on this type of list. Here is the case for why the Cincinnati Bengals have a better shot at pulling it off than a few other teams.

Cincinnati will draft LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick. If he can help transform an LSU offense living in the Stone Age to one capable of setting the entire NCAA on fire, Burrow can make the Bengals respectable right away in year one. Though they may not be a great team, they’re not going 2-14 again. They should be at least a few wins better than a season ago.

Add in Zac Taylor being in his second season as a head coach and in a situation that is more positive than a year ago, it will certainly help. But what this really comes down to is if the Bengals can usurp a few teams ahead of them in the AFC North pecking order. Can all three of their rivals have down seasons? We’ve seen stranger things happen before in football, so you never know.

The Cleveland Browns are dysfunctional. There are no guarantees Ben Roethlisberger will be good any more for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Burrow and the Bengals defense will be key here. However, they’ll need a disastrous season out of the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North. Then again, the Bengals did make the playoffs five years in a row with Andy Dalton as a young player.