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A new NFL season brings new hope to teams that failed to meet expectations the year before. It's almost a certainty that at least one team fans and pundits expect to be a bottom feeder will surprise and compete for a division title. Last season, it was the San Francisco 49ers, who went from 4-12 to playing in the Super Bowl.
Which team in the NFC is most likely to go from worst to first? We break down the field to find the best bet.
Odds to win NFC East: +1000
The Redskins should be much improved in 2020 under Ron Rivera and a new coaching staff. A lot will depend on the development of second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who struggled as a rookie for an offense that averaged an NFL-worst 16.6 points per game. The defense added stud defensive end Chase Young to an already talented line, so expect a big jump on that side of the ball.
The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are cofavorites to win the NFC East, and while the Redskins are undervalued by the betting market heading into the season, they're probably still a year away from competing for a division title.
Odds to win NFC North: +1000
On paper, the Lions may look like a dead team walking with a lame-duck coach in Matt Patricia. He's gone a disappointing 9-22-1 in two seasons with the Lions, so it's obviously time for the former New England defensive coordinator to win or find a new job.
While the jury is still out on Patricia, the Lions weren't as bad as their 3-12-1 record last season. Detroit lost half its games by eight points or fewer, despite starting quarterback Matthew Stafford missing the last two months of the season.
Patricia still has a lot of work to do, including fixing a defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last season. However, the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears all have major question marks entering 2020, so the Lions ascending up the NFC North standings isn't inconceivable.
Odds to win NFC South: +1800
The Panthers were a mess last season, and the franchise is starting over by parting ways with its longtime head coach (Rivera) and quarterback (Cam Newton). New coach Matt Rhule's first order of business will be addressing a defense that allowed just under 30 points per game last season. He started the rebuilding process by using all seven draft picks on the defensive side of the ball.
The Panthers should be involved in plenty of exciting games this season. Carolina brought in Joe Brady from LSU to run the offense, while new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has plenty of talent at the skill positions to strike fear in opposing defenses.
The Panthers will be better in 2020, but they play in a division with the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Though the Panthers will be entertaining, winning the NFC South is too much to ask.
Odds to win NFC West: +800
The Cardinals are a popular sleeper pick this season, mainly because of an offense led by second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. He threw for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns last season on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. Arizona averaged 22.6 points per game in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's first season and will be even better with the acquisition of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The problem with backing the Cardinals is on the other side of the ball. Arizona finished last in total defense last season, allowing 402 yards and 27.6 points per game. The Cardinals are playoff contenders but will need to vastly improve on defense to win a division with the 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams.
The Cardinals are the most talented team in this group, but a big factor in teams going from worst to first is the strength of their division. On paper, the NFC West is tougher than the NFC North. The Packers and Vikings made the playoffs last season, but both teams look due to regress in 2020, while the Bears are one of the biggest mysteries in the NFL.
All that uncertainty gives the Lions a chance to surprise and win the division. If Stafford stays healthy and the new-look defense improves, the Lions are the most likely team to go from worst to first in the NFC.
Thomas Casale is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. A devoted fan of the wishbone offense, Thomas bets on all sports but specializes in college football, NFL, and college basketball. Find him on Twitter @TheTomCasale.