'Hard Knocks' 2020 Season: Ranking the Five Candidates to Feature in the HBO Series

One of the byproducts of the NFL season ending and vacancies being filled in the coaching carousel is that fans get a clearer idea of who may feature in the next season of Hard Knocks.

The 2020 instalment of HBO's access-all-areas, behind-the-scenes documentary won't air until August and the identity of the team featuring in the 15th season remains unknown.

In previous years, the announcement was made in May, but last year the NFL waited until June to confirm the Oakland Raiders—and the plethora of storylines they carried—would feature on Hard Knocks.

What is known is that HBO has a five-team pool to choose from, which includes the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Because of NFL regulations, teams are exempt from consideration if they have played in the postseason in the past two years or have been the focus of the series in the previous decade. Teams who have a first-year coach are also not considered.

According to bookmakers, the Steelers are the overwhelming favorite at 21/25, followed by the Cardinals and the Jaguars at 9/4 and 9/2 respectively. The Broncos and the Lions, meanwhile, are 6/1 and 7/1 outsiders.

Newsweek has taken a look at each of the five candidates.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are the bookmakers' favorites for a variety of reasons. First and foremost they are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL and are loaded with storylines.

From Ryan Shazier's potential return after being almost paralysed two years ago, to James Conner overcoming cancer during his college days, human interest would be through the roof should the series focus on Pittsburgh.

Throw in Ben Roethlisberger's imminent return from a major elbow injury and the fact the Steelers have never appeared on Hard Knocks and all the ingredients are in place for an instant classic.

Just don't tell coach Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin on “Hard Knocks.” 😂 (Via @KGorman_Trib) #Steelers pic.twitter.com/3fpjXkIYou

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) December 31, 2019

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals aren't new to appear in front of the cameras, as they were the first to feature on Amazon's All or Nothing series in 2015.

That season ended with the Cardinals reaching the NFC Championship Game and while it's hard to imagine Arizona going as far in 2020, the team would be an interesting choice.

From Kyler Murray, the first overall pick of the 2019 draft, to second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and his high-octane offense to veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona would come with plenty of talking points.

Last week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill sounded open to his team featuring on the series.

"We're always going to listen to everything," Bidwill said, via the Arizona Republic. "We'll see what comes up. I think we've done a good job of being available and volunteering to do things, like All or Nothing. So we'll see where we end up."

Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Kliff Kingsbury, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray #1 talk on the sidelines during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 22, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Abbie Parr/Getty

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars would be an intriguing choice for HBO. On the one hand, charismatic second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew would certainly command a fair share of attention after becoming a sensation in his first season in the NFL.

Aside from the moustachioed signal caller, the Jaguars' decision to play two consecutive games in London next season would also be an interesting subject as would the future of head coach Doug Marrone.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have been consistently uninspiring over the last four years, missing the playoffs on each occasion since winning Super Bowl 50.

What Denver may lack in storylines, however, could be largely offset by the charisma of the man in charge: John Elway.

Elway won two Super Bowls as a player in the Mile High City but has been less successful as general manager, failing to land a quarterback capable of turning the franchise's fortunes around.

In Drew Lock, however, the Broncos may have unearthed a talent and while the young signal caller could make for entertaining viewing, don't hold your breath for Denver to feature on Hard Knocks this season.

Detroit Lions

The Lions are in the running for the second consecutive year and there's very little to suggest HBO producers will pick them this season.

It's not just that Detroit went 3-12-1 last season—after all part of the intrigue of Hard Knocks is to see a struggling team turn their fortunes around—but that the team lacks any meaningful narratives that may appeal to viewers outside Michigan.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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