2020 NFL PREVIEW

NFC EAST

Philadelphia Eagles 11-5

The biggest issue for the Philadelphia Eagles will once again be the health of quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles have a potentially explosive offense and a strong pass rush. Wentz needs to prove that he can play 16 games s his injury history has to be the main concern for Philadelphia. Despite the addition of Darius Slay, the Eagles secondary remains a concern, but in a division that is not known for its prolific passing, they should be able to get by. The East will again come down between a battle between the Eagles and Cowboys, with Philadelphia getting the slight edge, with Carson Wentz proving he is among the top ten quarterbacks in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys 10-6*

After years of underachieving under Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys have brought in an experienced winning head coach in Mike McCarthy. Expect the Cowboys to be much more consistent with McCarty at the helm, as they could make a serious run at the Super Bowl if all breaks right. Defense remains a question for Dallas, as Mike Nolan plans to install a new system. Ezekiel Elliott should have a big season and will be among the leading rushers in the NFL, while Dak Prescott will be under the microscope. If he wants a big contract, he needs to prove he can take the Cowboys to the next level. If he can’t his days in Dallas may be numbered.

New York Giants 7-9

It is a new day in the Meadowlands, as Eli Manning is gone and the quarterback job now belongs to Daniel Jones. There is also a new sheriff in town as Joe Judge laid down the law in his first training camp as head coach, having any player who made a mistake run laps. This old school discipline will serve the young Giants well as they will learn fundamentals and should help them stay in games, as they will be a longshot at best to make a run for the postseason. Saquoun Barkley should make a run for the rushing title, which will help take the pressure of Daniel Jones, as the Giants make a run at finishing .500.

Washington Football Team 2-14

The tidal wave of social justice has swept through and taken away the Redskins, leaving the NFL in Washington without a name, as they had no time to secure trademarks and logos for the 2020 season. Called Washington Football Team or WTF, as that is what fans will be crying as the team with no name could also be the team win no wins. Dwayne Haskins is not a longterm solution at quarterback; the good news is a terrible season for Washington could come with the reward of Trevor Lawrence in the draft. Coach Ron Rivera will be fighting cancer, while fans hope that they can eradicate the tumor that is Daniel Snyder.

NFC NORTH

Minnesota Vikings 10-6

The NFC North promises to be one of the tightest division races in the NFL with little separation among the top teams. The Minnesota Vikings rode the back of Dalvin Cook to set up a strong running game. This helped take the pressure off Kirk Cousins, who showed he could win a big playoff game, as the Vikings stunned the Saints in the Wild Card last year. If the Vikings can’t get a strong season from Cousins, they will emerge as the winners in the North, as their defense is superior to the Packers, and their offense is more potent than the Bears. In addition, Mike Zimmer is the top coach in the division.

Green Bay Packers 9-7

Last season, the Green Bay Packers overachieved and found their way to the NFC Championship Game. The Packers did not do a good job addressing their needs in the offseason as they picked Jordan Love in the first round, raising the ire of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The loss of Jimmy Graham to a division rival could hurt the passing game. Without changes in the offseason, the Packers could find themselves making adjustments as teams should know how to scheme against Green Bay, as they appear ready to ride Aaron Rodgers again. Teams that stand still get passed by in this league, and that is the fate of the 2020 Packers.

Chicago Bears 9-7

This is a make or break season for Mitch Trubisky, as Nick Foles, who was signed in the offseason, is ready to take over at a moment’s notice. The Bears’ defense, led by Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, should keep them in every game. The Bears offense could be compromised early in the season, as David Montgomery recovers from a groin injury. With questions at quarterback, the Bears need to get production on the ground. The longer it takes Montgomery to get to full strength, the worse things could get for Chicago. Expect Nick Foles to be starting by Halloween as the Bears just miss the playoffs again.

Detroit Lions 5-11

Last season, the Detroit Lions fell apart when they lost quarterback Matthew Stafford to a back injury. It is a never-ending cycle of pain for the Lions franchise, which begins another decade of futility. The Lions have not won a playoff game in nearly 30 years and had won just once in the postseason since 1957. Even if Stafford is at full strength and has a big season, the Lions lacking on defense will be too much to overcome, as they have a non-existent pass rush. Coach Matt Patricia barely survived last season. He won’t survive another poor season, meaning it will be back to the drawing board for the Lions who again finish in last place.

NFC SOUTH

New Orleans Saints 12-4

This has to be an all-in season for the New Orleans Saints, as Drew Brees has given an indication he could be retiring following the season. The Saints have been just short of returning to the Super Bowl in the last few seasons as they were robbed by the refs in 2018  and lost out on the top seed by tiebreakers last year. The Saints will again be among the top teams in the NFC, with the Buccaneers and Tom Brady being one of their prime challengers. The addition of Emmanuel Sanders to a loading receiving core should lead Brees to big things for New Orleans, who look to send Brees out on top.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6*

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made headlines during the offseason as they lured Tom Brady away from New England. Joining Brady is his BFF, Rob Gronkowski, who ends a one-year retirement. Tompa Bay has become quite a popular destination for veteran free agents, as the Buccaneers hosting the Super Bowl have aspirations of playing in the big game. The Buccaneers have not been to the postseason since 2007. On paper, the have a group of names that sound like they can make a run to glory, but without preseason games, the new faces will take time to find their groove, and with the Saints awaiting in Week 1, the Buccaneers will likely be playing catchup all season.

Atlanta Falcons 7-9

The Atlanta Falcons have been hard to figure out since their epic collapse in Super Bowl LI. Inconsistency has been the name of the game, as last season they started 1-7 before a strong second half saw them post a record of 7-9. A key will be if Todd Gurley can regain his strength and return to being an offensive juggernaut. A big season from Gurley will help the Falcons stay be a factor in the playoff chase. Matt Ryan is a solid but often struggles in the red zone. The Falcons defense will need to be strong as they had two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history in their division. Unless all the pieces come together, Atlanta appear heading for another 7-9 season.

Carolina Panthers 5-11

Teddy Bridgewater will be given a chance to start. Still, there is not much talent around him as the Carolina Panthers are clearly rebuilding with the departure of players like Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Julius Peppers, and James Bradberry. Christian McCaffery could benefit from the addition of Bridgewater, but in a division with Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the focus is more 2021 than its 2020 for Carolina. The Panthers focused on defense in the draft and will be starting several rookies that will need time to find their game. Unless Bridgewater and McCaffery can score 30 points a game, the Panthers are likely in for a long season.

NFC WEST

Seattle Seahawks 10-6

Russell Wilson may not be the best quarterback in the NFL, but he is a proven win whose steady leadership as made the Seattle Seahawks a perennial playoff contender. Wilson has seen many top receivers come and go, yet his stats remain consistent. One major worry for Seattle was their front seven that appeared to be a weakness. However, the Seahawks have addressed that issue in a big way by acquiring Jadeveon Clowney. Look for Clowney to have a big year and to help guide the Seahawks to win the NFC West.

San Francisco 49ers 10-6*

The San Francisco 49ers were 15 minutes from a sixth Lombardi Trophy before Patrick Mahomes found the groove and led the Chiefs to a victory in Super Bowl LIV. If the Niners are to make a return trip to the big game, they will need more from Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners quarterback was adequate last season as the San Francisco defense was among the best in the NFL. One year removed from an ACL injury, Garoppolo will be stronger, the Niners defense will continue to be reliable, led by Nick Bossa. Once again, they will battle with the Seattle for the division, but in the top-heavy NFC, the 49ers will be hard-pressed to return to the Super Bowl, though they should get into the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams 9-7

The Los Angeles Rams played in a fog all season in 2019, as Jared Goff’s poor play from Super Bowl LIII seemed to carry over. The Rams dealt with a host of injuries and should be improved just by getting healthy. However, the Rams gave up on Todd Gurley, who at times was their MVP before breaking down late in the 2018 season. If they are to return to that Super Bowl level, they will need some to emerge as a threat out of the backfield because Goff is not able to carry the team by himself. The Rams defense should be strong as Aaron Donald is a monster pass rusher, but it will not be enough as the Rams finish at 9-7 again.

Arizona Cardinals 6-10

The addition of DeAndre Hopkins gives Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals a home run threat that can open up the offense, even helping veteran Larry Fitzgerald continue to add to his Hall of Fame resume. However, the defense is a significant concern for the Cardinals, as the unit which ranked last in the NFL last season made slight improvements, but not enough to make a difference in a tough NFC West Division. The Cardinals also must do a better job of protecting Kyler Murray as 40 sacks take their toll on a quarterback. The Cardinals should be in most games but will not reach the playoffs as more improvements are needed in the trenches.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills 8-8

With the departure of Tom Brady, the AFC East is open for the first time in a decade. Is there any team good enough to step forward and take advantage? Last season the Buffalo Bills used a superior defense to slip into the postseason. Looking to help the erratic Josh Allen, Buffalo acquired Steffon Diggs from the Vikings. This should help somewhat, though Allen often throws the ball, where not even the best receivers have a chance to haul it in. The Bills’ defense should be the key to their success, and in a division in which no team looks like a Super Bowl contender, it will be the Buffalo that emerges in a mismatch for mediocrity to win the division and make the playoffs.

New England Patriots 7-9

For 20 years, the New England Patriots have owned the AFC East, winning the division 17 times in 19 seasons, including 11 straight years since 2008. Now that Tom Brady has sailed away to Tampa Bay, the Patriots have questions for the first time in a long time. Cam Newton will be the starter, and after injury-plagued seasons in Carolina, he must prove that he still has some of the 2015 magic left. The Patriots defense has also been diminished as Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins left via free agency, while league-high eight players led by Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung have opted out. If the Patriots still win ten games and contender for the Super Bowl, Bill Belichick will have to be a wizard.

Miami Dolphins 6-10

The future looks bright in South Florida, as Brian Flores had his team playing hard last season, winning five games with a roster that looked like an expansion team. The Miami Dolphins were able to draft Tua Tagovailoa as the fifth overall pick. Now they must fight the temptation of the quick fix and continue the slow, steady approach. Without a preseason game, the smart process is the slow approach. Tagovailoa should not start until he is fully healthy and ready after a hip injury last season at Alabama. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the perfect veteran quarterback for a rookie of Tagovailoa’s ability; he has no ego and is willing to help guide the rookie slowly. These are the goals of the Dolphins, who are a year or two away from being a contender.

New York Jets 5-11

The only thing that coach Adam Gase is good at is alienating his best players. In Miami, he left the Dolphins in a mess when he was fired after three seasons. The same things are happening now with the New York Jets. The Jets were forced to trade Jamal Adams due to his strained relationship with the coach. The reputation as a quarterback guru has also been false, as it was based on his work with Peyton Manning in Denver. Ryan Tannehill did not improve under Gase in Miami, and Sam Darnold will not improve in New York. Look for more players to seek to get away from the erratic Gase as the Jets watch another season go up in smoke.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens 11-5

Last season Lamar Jackson proved his critics wrong by leading the Baltimore Ravens to the best record in the NFL, winning Offensive Player of the Year, and the NFL MVP. Jackson will not catch teams by surprise this season, so he will have to prove himself all over again. The Ravens though, have done a good job improving the team around Jackson, acquiring pass-rusher Calais Campbell while drafting J.K. Dobbins to lead the running game. Lamar Jackson will have some bumps in the road, but he will guide Baltimore to a division title. The real test for Lamar Jackson will come after the regular season, as he needs to play better in the playoffs to reach elite status.

Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6*

Each of the last two seasons,  the Pittsburgh Steelers have just barely missed the playoffs. In 2020, a third Wild Card team has been added. If that spot existed in 2018 and 2019, Pittsburgh would have been in the postseason. The Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger to demonstrate that he can still throw the ball down the field coming off elbow surgery. Mason Rudolph was decent last season, but is a downgrade at quarterback, especially for a team that worked hard to improve the offense in the offseason. The Steelers do have a strong defense and should be able to challenge the Ravens in the AFC North, especially as T.J. Watt continues to look like his older brother on the pass rush.

Cleveland Browns 8-8

Don’t believe the hype. Last season, the Cleveland Browns entered the season with high hopes as their brash quarterback Baker Mayfield proclaimed they were the team to beat. It was a disastrous season for the Browns as they crashed and burned, leading coach Freddie Kitchens to be dismissed after one season. The Browns have had their share of coaches fired over the last ten years, as they have become the laughing stock of the NFL. This year the Browns are taking the subtle approach under new coach Kevin Stefanski. Expect the Browns to be a factor in the playoff race, as a humbled Mayfield has a better season, while Myles Garrett has a big season after his embarrassing helmet swinging incident.

Cincinnati Bengals 5-11

After a 2-14 season, there is no place to go but up for the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow was taken with the number one pick after winning the Heisman and leading LSU to a National Championship. With Burow expected to be the face of the franchise, look for the Bengals to take their lumps, especially early in the season, as no preseason games mean the rookie will be thrown in the deep end of the pool. The Bengals will not contend for the postseason. Success will be determined how much Burrow improves at the end of the season and how many close games that Cincinnati can play. A five-win season would be an accomplishment for Cincinnati. The Bengals should be better later in the season and could play spoiler.

AFC SOUTH

Tennessee Titans 11-5

It was a January to remember for the Tennessee Titans as they reached the AFC Championship Game after upsetting the Patriots in Foxboro and Ravens in Baltimore. Leading the way for the Titans was Derrick Henry, who had two monster games and made Ryan Tannehill look like a serviceable quarterback. With Marcus Mariota gone, Tannehill has the job to himself, and he needs to allow Henry the room to carry the load, as is big things are expected in Nashville. The Titans won the Jadevon Clowny sweepstakes and should have an improved defense that also now features Vic Beasley. The defensive improvements will help the offense as the Titans emerge the winner of a three-way race in the AFC South.

Indianapolis Colts 9-7*

The Indianapolis Colts were rocked by the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck last season. Despite scrambling to find a quarterback, the Colts were competitive most of the season, as several games early in the season were lost due to missed field goals and extra points. Hoping to make a playoff run, the Colts, who drafted Jacob Eason, signed veteran Phillip Rivers. Rivers has been an All-Pro, but he has never taken his team to the Super Bowl. At the age of 38, Rivers, who was in the draft class with Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, hopes for one last chance to prove he can win the big game. The Colts have a solid team and can make some noise. Even at his best, Rivers was erratic in pressure situations.

Houston Texans 9-7*

The Houston Texans have won the AFC South the last two seasons, but can’t seem to get past the Divisional Round in the playoffs as they watched a 24-0 lead evaporate in record time against the Chiefs. The Texans traded away DeAndre Hopkins, removing a valuable weapon from DeShaun Watson’s arsenal. The Texans hope that David Johnson can regain his status as a top dual-threat running back as they have a revamped backfield. If not, there will be a tremendous amount of pressure on Watson to carry the load. The defense is getting old as J.J. Watt no longer seems to be able to play 16 games. If the Texans are to take a step forward, they will need everything to click, which rarely happens in the NFL.

Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13

It is stunning how fast things have fallen apart for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Just three years ago, they were 15 minutes from the Super Bowl. Now they feel like a million miles away. The defensive core that led that team to the AFC Championship Game has all been traded away, the running back that was expected to be a star has been released, and now all they have is Gardner Minshew at quarterback. It is hard to root against Minshew and his magical mustache, as he produced a training montage video that was for the ages. Minshew knows he is a long shot to be a star in the NFL, and the montage video shows he is going to milk whatever time he has in the NFL.

AFC WEST

Kansas City Chiefs 12-4

The era of Tom Brady is over. It is now Patrick Mahomes’ time to be the face of the NFL. Mahomes showed a magical ability to comeback in the playoffs as the Kansas City Chiefs overcame a double-digit deficit three times on the way to winning Super Bowl LIV. Mahomes is the most exciting player in the NFL and is now the best player in the league. His ability to run, his arm strength, and an uncanny knack to improvise make him must-see television in a year when most stadiums will be empty. As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy and plays on a team loaded with offensive talent, the Chiefs will be the team to beat. It has been 16 years since a team won back-to-back Super Bowls, the Chiefs are well-positioned to end that drought.

Denver Broncos 8-8

After a strong finish, there are hopes that Drew Lock can become the franchise quarterback that the Denver Broncos have been waiting for. The Broncos have upgraded the offense, acquiring Melvin Gordon from the Chargers. This should help take some pressure of Lock. The Broncos do have a strong defense as Von Miller remains one of the scariest pass rushers in the league. The Broncos should be able to compete for a Wild Card spot, but having a tough schedule that includes games against the NFC South, including the Buccaneer and Saints, will leave them on the outside looking in when the season is over, as Lock continues to grow into a proven NFL quarterback.

Las Vegas Raiders 7-9

Welcome to Sin City, home of the gambling, the bunny ranch. Now the colors of black and silver go along with the neon lights for the strip, as the Las Vegas Raiders take the field after 60 years in Oakland and Los Angeles. With the continuing COVID pandemic, the Raiders’ new stadium will be empty. Still, the hope is that the Raiders can revive the Commitment to Excellence playing in the giant Roomba in the desert. The pressure is on quarterback Derek Carr, as the Raiders signed Marcus Mariotta in the offseason, and there is nothing that coach Jon Gruden likes more than new quarterbacks he can fix. The Raiders should be competitive, but they will need to hit more than a few lucky sevens to get into the playoffs.

Los Angeles Chargers 6-10

No team is better prepared to play in empty stadiums than the Los Angeles Chargers who do not have any fans and would be playing in front of an empty stadium or a stadium full of fans of the opposing team in there new home SoFi Stadium under normal circumstances. The Phillip Rivers era is over for the Chargers, as they drafted Justin Herbert and signed Tyrod Taylor. Taylor will start the season under center but has never been a longterm solution. The loss of Melvin Gordon will also hurt the Chargers. The defense is solid for Los Angeles, with Joey Bossa and Melvin Ingram III leading the way. Expect Herbert to be starting by November as the Chargers’ goal is to set up a playoff run in 2021.

NFL AWARDS

  • Coach of the Year
  • Comeback Player of the Year
  • Defensive Rookie of the Year
  • Offensive Rookie of the Year
  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • Offensive Player of the Year
  • NFL MVP
  • Mike McCarthy
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Chase Young
  • Joe Burrow
  • T.J. Watt
  • Derrick Henry
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Washington Football Team
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Coach of the YearMike McCarthy
  • Comeback Player of the YearBen Roethlisberger
  • Defensive Rookie of the YearChase Young
  • Offensive Rookie of the YearJoe Burrow
  • Defensive Player of the YearT.J. Watt
  • Offensive Player of the YearDerrick Henry
  • NFL MVPPatrick Mahomes
  • Dallas CowboysMike McCarthy
  • Pittsburgh SteelersBen Roethlisberger
  • Washington Football TeamChase Young
  • Cincinnati BengalsJoe Burrow
  • Pittsburgh SteelersT.J. Watt
  • Tennessee TitansDerrick Henry
  • Kansas City ChiefsPatrick Mahomes

PLAYOFFS

NFC Wild Card
24
20
13
27
37
23
AFC Wild Card
20
24
13
20
23
6
NFC Divisional
17
27
37
34
AFC Divisional
30
34
13
27
NFC Championship
38
41
AFC Championship
24
34

FIRING SQAUD

Coaches who will be looking for work after the season
  • Adam Gase-New York Jets
  • Doug Marrone-Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Matt Nagy-Chicago Bears
  • Bill O'Brien-Houston Texans
  • Matt Patricia-Detroit Lions
  • Dan Quinn-Atlanta Falcons

Predictions Made: September 7, 2020

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