The most underrated teams in the NFL aren’t necessarily underdog teams. The public might consider teams to be contenders, but that does not mean that they are not underrated. Online sports betting is a great way to capitalize on these overlooked teams and bring in some cash.
Top Five Underrated NFL Teams Heading Into 2020
The Browns had a lot of expectations heading into 2019, but they fell completely on their face. After trading for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns offense was expected to be dynamic. Unfortunately, quarterback Baker Mayfield could not build off of his fantastic rookie campaign, and the rest of the Browns roster failed to make up for that. Beckham struggled mightily throughout the season, as his inconsistencies were reflective of the Browns overall performance. Heading into 2020, things should look better for Cleveland.
Mayfield’s statistics should be drastically improved in 2020. The Browns upgraded their offensive line, they hired a new coach, and the poor luck that plagued Mayfield last season should normalize this season. There were many instances in which a Mayfield pass would be tipped up into the air and intercepted last season, and ideally, that trend would not continue. If both Mayfield and Odell Beckham can get back into their 2018 form, the Browns offense will be dynamic. They have solid tight ends, and their running backs are probably the best in football. Furthermore, Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett are both potential superstars on the defensive end. If everything comes together, the Browns might finally break their long playoff drought.
Philip Rivers had a disappointing end to his illustrious Chargers career. After a great 2018 season, the Chargers went 5-11 in 2019. Rivers was still pretty good, and the hope is that his solid play puts the Colts over the top. Despite mediocre play from Jacoby Brissett, the Colts offense still managed to put up league-average production. They averaged 0.011 EPA per play, which was exactly the league average. The Colts are generally considered to be just that, league average. However, their potential is so much better.
Quenton Nelson is the best offensive lineman in football, and arguably a top-five player in general. The Colts had the second most efficient rushing offense in 2019, and if their passing game improves, they will be good. Rivers can do so many more things than Brissett. The Colts also drafted receiver Michael Pittman to complement T.Y. Hilton. Their defense was around league average last season, and it should be a bit better now that they traded for stud pass rusher Deforest Buckner. If Rivers performs well, the Colts will be a lot better than what many expect.
The Rams had a very disappointing 2019, but there is reason to be optimistic heading into 2020. For one, they got rid of Todd Gurley, who, despite averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt, was given 223 carries. Without a “workhorse” back that the Rams would feel obligated to run with, it is likely that the Rams will throw more passes. When they do throw the ball, they will need quarterback Jared Goff to return to form.
Goff isn’t the most intelligent quarterback, but he can run a system very well. From 2017-2018, the Rams offense was elite, averaging 31.4 points per game and 0.104 EPA per play. They also averaged 0.169 EPA per play on passes, with Goff averaging 0.216 EPA. The Rams went 24-7 with Goff and made the Super Bowl in the 2018-2019 season. However, they fell down to earth in 2019, going 9-7 and missing the playoffs entirely. Their passing efficiency fell all the way down to 0.088 EPA per play and Goff put up a Pro Football Focus grade of 72.4, his worst since his rookie season.
Despite the poor offensive performance, the Rams talented defense finally performed to their potential in 2019. The Rams defense currently sports one of the best young corners in Jalen Ramsey, and the best all-around player in football in Aaron Donald. With Ramsey and Donald both playing, the Rams defense averaged -0.071 EPA per play vs the passing game and -0.049 EPA vs the run game. Both of those are great totals, and what is even more impressive is that they were better against the pass than against the run. This is all despite two horrendous performances vs the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys. It is very likely that the Rams defense could be one of the best units in all of football.
The Rams were an elite team from 2017-2018, and that was despite slightly underachieving defensive talent. If Goff gets back to form and the Rams defense continues to improve, they might very well be the best team in football. It’s a big “if”, but it is well within the realm of possibility.
This might be an odd choice for some, but it seems like many people do not truly understand what the Buccaneers could be in 2020. Despite 30 interceptions from their quarterback in 2019, the Buccaneers were still a decent team. They had a positive point differential and managed to win seven games. Heading into 2020, they might just be the best team in football. While Tom Brady isn’t in his prime, he doesn’t need to be. Brady has not had a roster this good around him since 2007. In 2007, the Patriots went undefeated.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are two of the best receivers in football. Evans has never had a season in which he accumulated fewer than 1,000 yards, and Godwin led the entire NFL in both EPA per target and PFF grade in 2019. The Buccaneers also drafted Minnesota receiver Tyler Johnson in the fifth round, who is known for his incredibly polished route running. Even without many other improvements, the Buccaneers offense would be great. However, they also went and added Rob Gronkowski from the retirement home.
If Gronk performs as he did in 2018, he will already be a solid contributor and help boost the offense to greater heights. He could also be so much better. Gronkowski has always struggled with injuries, but he has now had a full year off from football. If he returns to his 2017 form, the Buccaneers offense will be unstoppable. Evans, Godwin, Johnson, Gronkowski, and O.J. Howard as well are a terrifying group of weapons, similar to what Brady had in 2007. Brady had league-average production in 2019 with the worst receiving group in football. The talent group is now the best he has had in years. If Brady manages to avoid father time for another year, the Buccaneers offense will be unstoppable.
The most underrated aspect of the Buccaneers is arguably their defense. In 2019, their defense ranked sixth in EPA per play, fifth in DVOA, and third in weighted DVOA. Linebacker Lavonte David is one of the best linebackers in football. They have a young but talented secondary featuring Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Carlton Davis. In the second half of the season, Davis had the fifth-highest PFF grade among cornerbacks and Dean ranked third. Many people will discount the Buccaneers since they believe that the defense is really bad, but it is actually quite the opposite. The Buccaneers are likely to have one of the better defenses in football, and their team as a whole should be dominant.
1. Dallas Cowboys
If you see any social media post about the Cowboys, you will see some moronic comment talking about how they are just going to go 8-8 yet again. That constant criticism of the Cowboys is lazy and completely unfounded. For one, 2019 was the first time they had gone 8-8 since 2013. Quarterback Dak Prescott is 40-24 as a starter in the NFL. The Cowboys literally made the playoffs in 2018. Heading into 2019, the Cowboys should be considered one of the best and most underrated teams in football.
In 2019, the Cowboys ranked seventh in DVOA and were in the same EPA tier as the Kansas City Chiefs. Prescott ranked fifth in the NFL in EPA per play and somehow ranked second in PFF WAR. Prescott wasn’t the only factor in their statistical success. Receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup were both elite last season, hauling in 2,296 receiving yards as a duo. The Cowboys then went and drafted CeeDee Lamb, who has superstar potential and also a very high floor. The Cowboys lost Randall Cobb in the off-season, and while Cobb is pretty good, Lamb is still a significant upgrade. They now have three elite receivers instead of two. Prescott is the perfect quarterback to play with that personnel, and the Cowboys offense will be even more productive than last year.
Former coach Jason Garrett was the root of many of the Cowboys’ problems. His conservative coaching style did not bode well for the Cowboys, so they went and hired Mike McCarthy. Contrary to the opinion of many Packers fans, McCarthy was a great coach in Green Bay for years. The Cowboys will now be taking a more analytical approach this season. They will increase their volume of early-down passes and fourth-down attempts. By improving their approach, many of the close games that the Cowboys lost in 2019 will now tip in their favor in 2020. With all of that being said, the Cowboys could very easily win 12 or 13 games this year.