The 2020 NFL season is less than a week away and whilst every team has aspirations of getting to the Super Bowl, only two of them will achieve that dream. Here are four teams that have to be in ‘win now’ mode.
As with the majority of teams on this list it all hinges on the quarterback. Drew Brees, 41, is the second-oldest player in the NFL and fresh off his highest-rated season of his illustrious career with the Saints but surely this is the last chance to add to his Superbowl XLIV win against the Colts.
Last season the Saints went 13-3 and seemed destined to progress deep in the playoffs but a disappointing overtime defeat to the Vikings has put more pressure on the 2020 season. Brees threw 27 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions last season but injuries have started to take their toll.
Brees missed 5 games and now that Teddy Bridgewater has left for the Panthers, less optimism will be shown on Taysom Hill (only 13 career attempts) and Jameis Winston (30 interceptions for the Buccaneers in 2019) if Brees can’t stay healthy. The Saints might also have an issue with their salary cap after this season, with reports of their projection coming in $36 million over. If Brees does decide to play more than one more year then this would mean that it would be hard to keep hold of star running back Alvin Kamara and safety Marcus Williams who are entering contract years.
If the Saints are not lifting the Lombardi trophy come February 2021 then it is hard to see them being challengers in the years that follow.
The 2019 season showed what happens when your star quarterback misses 14 regular season games, though the Steelers actually did pretty well to reach 8-8 with backup Mason Rudolph and then Devlin Hodges.
They will be hoping that Ben Roethlisberger returns 100% healthy and can put pressure on a Ravens team that will be favourites to win the AFC North for the third consecutive season. Ben is now 38 years old though and will be leading a team who didn’t have a 500 yard back or a 1000 yard receiver in the 2019 season. James Conner and star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also missed 8 games between them and keeping this trio on the field will be key to the Steelers making a post season run, but Roethlisberger is only one more serious injury away from calling it a day.
The truth is that the Steelers have been on the decline since Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown left, and there is also the issue of the improving Browns and Bengals who will be looking to challenge in the near future.
Aaron Rodgers, at 36 years old, seems relatively young compared to the aforementioned quarterbacks but after taking Jordan Love in the 2020 draft the Superbowl window is definitely shortening for the Packers. The Packers reached the post season for the ninth consecutive season with a 13-3 record but once again fell short of making the Super Bowl.
It is hard to see them fail to make a post season run again in 2020 but behind an ageing offensive line you wonder how many more shots they have with Rodgers at the helm. The failure to draft a stand out wide receiver, or any receiver at all for that matter, will pile more expectation on Devante Adams and if anything were to happen to the pro bowl receiver then the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes would surely be over.
Add to this the potential issue of low cap space going into the 2021 season if they wish to retain the likes of Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari, and you have a window that could slam shut at any moment.
The only team on this list who doesn’t possess an ageing quarterback, the Rams missed out on the playoffs in 2019 after finishing 9-7; a disappointing turn of events after featuring in Super Bowl LIII only a season earlier.
After some big name signings prior to the 2019 season, the opposite can be said for this pre-season, losing the likes of Dante Fowler Jr and Corey Littleton which isn’t going to help the fortunes of a defence that allowed 22.8 points per game last season.
Maybe the biggest concern is the form of quarterback Jared Goff, who regressed in yardage, percentage, touchdowns and quarterback rating through 2019. Is the former number 1 pick still suffering from only putting up 3 points in Super Bowl LIII or will the 2020 season see an upturn in fortunes?
He has weapons – Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are legitimate WR1’s, but getting out of a strong looking NFC West isn’t going to easy. The 49ers and Seahawks could be double digit win teams and the Cardinals are only going to improve. It’s looking like now or never for the Rams to have another deep post season run or 2021 could see the start of a rebuilding project.