5 NFL teams who could shock us and play for a conference championship

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Which NFL teams could be this year’s Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers?

Look for at least one NFL team to crash the conference championship party in January.

We know this to be mostly true, as this phenomenon happens all the time. If we look at the last handful of teams to play in AFC and NFC Championship games, we’ll notice a team or two who we didn’t expect to see there at the start of the year. While the 2015 Carolina Panthers, the 2016 Atlanta Falcons and the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars quickly come to mind, just look at last season.

Though nobody was shocked to see the Green Bay Packers or the Kansas City Chiefs play in their respective conference championship games, who outside of the Bay Area and the Music City saw the San Francisco 49ers and the Tennessee Titans play for the right to go to the Super Bowl in 2019? San Francisco crushed Green Bay at home, while Tennessee came up short in Kansas City.

In the last half decade or so, we’re usually guaranteed to get one surprise team in the NFL’s final four. Over the course of the campaign to follow, it does present itself who that team will be. Carolina, Atlanta, Jacksonville, San Francisco and Tennessee all had something truly special about them in that particular year. It is why they shocked us all to rise to the top of their conferences.

If we’re going to forecast teams capable of pulling this sort of maneuver off, let’s do our best to keep an eye on one of these five teams. Surely, two or probably three will end up disappointing us. Again, we’re looking at teams with the potential to shock us. Keep in mind expectations for this quintet are relatively low for a reason. However, look for one of them to arrive in a big way this fall.

One of these 5 NFL teams can shockingly reach their conference title bout.

Scouting Report. Cleveland Browns. 5. Pick Analysis. AFC. North. player. 53

Have you seen the talent they have to work with offensively?

Does head coach Kevin Stefanski have what it takes to take the Cleveland Browns to the Super Bowl? Let’s hope so, because why else did Cleveland hire the former offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings? He is joined in Cleveland by Andrew Berry as his general manager, trying desperately to make the Browns consistently respectable for the first time since the 1980s.

What gives the Stefanski/Berry tandem a great shot at success is they’re not their predecessors. These are two Ivy League-educated men, hoping to bring some brains to the overstated brawn often associated with Cleveland professional football. Though the pen will always be mightier than the sword, the Browns do have a roster capable of making some serious noise in the AFC this year.

From a personnel standpoint, there are few rosters in football with better offensive weapons than Cleveland. There are Pro Bowlers galore for third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield to spread the ball around. With a pair of upgrades at both tackle spots, there are no excuses for Mayfield not to have a bounce-back season for the Browns in 2020. If he’s serviceable, this team can be good.

As for what they’re up against, the second tier of the AFC is wide open. Cleveland may not catch the rival Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. The Browns should be better than the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals and may very well be better than the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Cleveland gets in as a Wild Card team, maybe they can catch fire and go on a second-half run like the 2019 Titans did?