NFL 2020: Here's what each NFC team must do to dethrone the 49ers as conference champions
What do the other 15 teams in the conference need to do this offseason? Let's dive in
The Kansas City Chiefs own this offseason's bragging rights after their come-from-behind Super Bowl victory, but they're not the only team ripe for close inspection by the rest of the league. Football is notoriously a copycat sport, and that means plenty of eyes will also be on the San Francisco 49ers, who didn't win this year's Lombardi Trophy but, for a while, looked as though they might. After all, the Niners also made a far more improbable run to the Super Bowl, going from 4-12 to 13-3 in a matter of 12 months, then cruising their way to their first NFC title in more than a half-decade.
Now, just once in the last 20 years has the same team won the NFC championship in back-to-back years, so if the rest of the conference is worried about being incapable of knocking off Kyle Shanahan's squad in 2020, history is on their side. But that doesn't mean the rest of the NFC shouldn't actively try to get better. The Niners still boast one of the league's top defenses, and even if they don't dominate the field, someone else inevitably will.
As we enter the 2020 offseason, then, here's a look at one thing each and every NFC team needs to do to dethrone San Francisco as next year's conference champion:
Be Ravens-level creative with Kyler Murray
A lot has to be done to get Arizona to the playoffs, but a start would be acknowledging Kyler Murray's ridiculous athleticism at QB and building upon it. He needs more help, particularly at WR, but most important is Kliff Kingsbury tailoring game plans -- sometimes radically so -- around his ability to move. Don't run him into contact, per se, but keep his legs churning a la Lamar Jackson.
Make a splash addition on defense
If this requires some salary-cap massaging, then so be it. Atlanta cannot afford to waste its current talent and divisional opportunity by failing to add an impact something to its defense, whether that be a stud pass rusher, rangy linebacker or play-making corner. Do it in the first round of the draft. Do it in free agency. Or do it in both. But the unit that came on late in 2019 needs some juice.
Trade up for a first-round quarterback
You might think retaining Cam Newton would give them the best shot at getting back to the postseason, but then you might also be living in 2015. Look, here's to Cam successfully rebounding, but Carolina would be better off letting new coach Matt Rhule build his program with a fresh, more durable talent under center. At least then you know the upside is far more tangible.
Stop dancing around Mitchell Trubisky
The Bears don't necessarily have to outright dump their former first-round pick, but if they're going to keep him, the biggest thing they can do for themselves is to stop pretending he's something he's not. Matt Nagy can't afford to sugarcoat his flaws or try to scheme around them. Either lean dangerously heavy on his running ability in hopes of capturing lightning in a bottle, or move on altogether.
Be aggressive (be, be aggressive)
Now that Jason Garrett is out as Dallas' head coach, we can stop assuming the annual Cowboys hype train has to come screeching to a halt because the guy in the headset would rather flip the field with a punt than use his high-priced weapons on fourth-and-short. Is Mike McCarthy a safe bet to be bold in his oversight? Not necessarily. But he and Kellen Moore need to be moving forward.
Promote Darrell Bevell to head coach
Whoa! Catch you off guard? It shouldn't have. Matt Patricia has won nine games and not won 23 in two years running the show. Worse yet: "His" defense has progressively gotten worse. The best thing the Lions can probably do for a quick turnaround is to let the most proven offensive mind on staff take the reigns and let a rested-up Matthew Stafford uncork it with freedom.
Give Aaron Rodgers a real No. 2 WR
Rodgers didn't have his grandest performance in 2019, and it wasn't all because Green Bay's WR corps was whittled down. But they can't afford to waste another year by banking on Davante Adams alone to bail out No. 12. If Matt LaFleur wants to capitalize on the time he's got left with Rodgers, his QB needs either a top prospect or a proven name -- like A.J. Green or Emmanuel Sanders.
Spend like crazy on the offensive line
An apter long-term suggestion might be something along the lines of Stop paying Jared Goff as your franchise QB, but we don't have time for that. Instead, if Sean McVay is serious about reviving his team in 2020, they need to empty a couple of Brinks trucks to ensure Goff is kept upright -- and then some. If somehow you can keep the grass stains off him, he's a different QB.
Find a way to add another play-maker
This team's greatest need might very well be CB, but the Vikings aren't going to cover people much worse than they did in 2019, with Xavier Rhodes all but stealing money. What they really need to do, if they believe in Kirk Cousins, is to fortify the play-action game around him. That means finding a way to load up with at least one more dynamic RB, WR or TE to take the offense to another level.
Get Michael Thomas some help
We talked a lot in 2019 about the Saints' enviable all-around depth, but the reality is Thomas is akin to Davante Adams in Green Bay; as in, he needs a running mate if New Orleans wants to make like the Chiefs and really go off. This should be the plan, really, regardless of whether Drew Brees is back. In fact, it should be the plan especially if No. 9 retires, as the new QB will need support.
Pay up for pass rushers
Daniel Jones' development is obviously tantamount to New York making any kind of sizable leap forward in 2020, but there's no greater need in the Big Apple than for someone who can send positive ripple effects through the defense, which was mauled week in and week out in 2019. A Jadeveon Clowney would be huge, but a mid-tier starter and a high-upside rookie would be great, too.
Add a deep threat who can stay healthy
Priority No. 1 is helping Carson Wentz. And you can't rely on DeSean Jackson to be available. Even if both he and Alshon Jeffery are still around, the Eagles need fresh legs that can stretch the field. Maybe that means Robby Anderson. Maybe it means drafting a WR early. No matter what, the Birds have to get more explosive on a consistent basis.
Let Russell Wilson throw the ball
This may sound counterintuitive if you're of the belief that Seattle's staunch devotion to run-first offense is the reason they're a contender in the first place. But at what point in No. 3's career are we going to let him off the leash? Yes, Wilson plays plenty of backyard ball anyway, but that's because his O-line is almost always a wreck. Build around his arm, and watch it work.
Trade for Derek Carr
The Raiders could reasonably sell their QB now that they've #rebranded in Vegas and are potentially after either a hot rookie or hot oldie (Tom Brady). And no, Carr doesn't sling it like Jameis Winston, a seemingly ideal style fit for Bruce Arians, but at a cheaper rate, with a history of much more efficiency? Carr would allow you to pay for other needs and then potentially break out in fresh scenery.
Find a left tackle
Dwayne Haskins can have all the arm talent in the world, but if he's not going to have Trent Williams covering his blindside (hint: he's not), then Ron Rivera had better ensure his roster includes an above-average left tackle by Opening Day. Otherwise, Washington doesn't have a great shot of finishing runner-up in the NFC East, let alone making a surprise run at the Super Bowl.
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