2020 NFL Preview
Especially given the circumstances this year, the three best words in the English language carry an even greater weight this year: NFL Week One.
Honestly, I'm surprised we are at this point to be able to have NFL games, judging from how much COVID-19 has altered everyone's life. Obviously, the health and well-being of everyone in our society is the most important, but the NFL coming back is definitely something to look forward to in order to brighten spirits.
With the NFL about to start, here's a look at how we think the 2020 season will shake out.
A few caveats to these predictions:
- All these predictions are under the assumption that the NFL has a standard, unchanged 16-game schedule. Personally, I doubt that will happen just because I do think there will be some form of COVID-19-related shakeup at some point, but for the sake of stats and predictions, that's the basis.
- This doesn't take into consideration injuries because, seriously, who can predict that?
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The story of the NFL season will be the Chiefs and the Ravens. Top to bottom, these two teams easily have the best rosters, and the week 3 match-up between the pair will go a long way in determining who the number one seed will be.
The Bills and Titans return pretty much all of their key assets and both teams made great improvements, so I see them maintaining their good form from last year.
The Browns have too talented of a roster to flounder again. Freddie Kitchens is out as head coach, which was a huge reason for the team underperforming. This is as good any chance Baker Mayfield will get in proving he deserved to be the number one pick.
The Steelers and Texans will both sneak into the playoffs with skillful, yet flawed rosters. The Broncos will be much improved with their new look offense, but will just miss the cut. As will the Brady-less Patriots.
In the NFC, the Cowboys talent is too much to deny. The big question is Dak Prescott. While I don't think he will have an MVP-caliber year, he's playing for a massive payday and Mike McCarthy should help his development at least a little.
The Saints have a fantastic team, but I do think Drew Brees' limitations will hurt them come playoff time.
Don't forget about the 49ers. Remember, they were the better team for three quarters in the Super Bowl this past year. They return the bulk of their team and had a solid offseason/draft.
Similarly to last year, I think the Packers will over-perform, not because they are truly an elite team, but at least in part to their weak division.
The Eagles made it to the playoffs last year with half the roster riddled with injuries. Assuming no one makes an Eagles voodoo doll and beats the crap out of it, the path to the playoffs should be less stressful.
I like the Seahawks to make the playoffs, but I have serious concerns of the offensive line. It will likely be another carry job by Russell Wilson.
The new look Buccaneers will be the last team in. Tom Brady and Bruce Arians seems like too good a match and the roster is stacked. They might take a few weeks to gel, but this will be a team to look out for.
The AFC Championship will really be a tossup. My gut says that Lamar Jackson will make enough strides as a quarterback to get the Ravens past the Chiefs. The Ravens defense will be the toughest the Chiefs will face all year.
While there is always the threat of a classic Pat Mahomes-led comeback, we seem to forget that what necessitates those comebacks is the Chiefs going down big early. The Texans and Titans defenses are not anywhere close to the Ravens'. I think the Ravens would be able to hold on in that scenario.
In the NFC, I have the 49ers making it back to the big game. I don't feel that Dak will have enough gas to fire the team into the Super Bowl. When Dak struggles, which I think he would against the Niners' defense, the Cowboys simply cannot expect a clear victory.
In the Super Bowl, I think it comes down to experience. Just last year the 49ers were another victim to Patrick Mahomes' trademark comebacks. The biggest knock on Lamar Jackson is that he has not yet learned how to play from behind. The 49ers were the better team for the majority of this year's Super Bowl. If they get ahead against the Ravens, they are much more likely to stay there.
2020 Super Bowl Prediction: 49ers 34, Ravens 24
MVP: Lamar Jackson
Other Candidates: Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson
Just as the AFC will come down to the Chiefs and Ravens, so too will the MVP race. Mahomes and Jackson are the two most dynamic players, not just quarterbacks, in the league right now.
This one is coin flip, but I will go with Jackson because the MVP award has been announced right before the Super Bowl in recent years, and Mahomes/Jackson making the Super Bowl would be the last little bit each player would need to get over the finish line for the award.
Keep an eye on Russell Wilson as a dark horse. I have a feeling the Seahawks will once again be carried by the Seahawks, and if the team overperforms, that could be big for Wilson.
Offensive Player of the Year: Lamar Jackson
Other Candidates: Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, Derrick Henry
Not to be boring, but this would also come down to Jackson/Mahomes, however this would be less dependent on who makes the Super Bowl, and more on stats.
I will still go with Jackson, since he has the added threat of racking up rushing touchdowns.
Defending OPOY Michael Thomas should also be looked at here. He is in the perfect offense and perfect quarterback for his talents. Drew Brees gets the ball into his hands oodles of times per game and lets him to the rest.
If Derrick Henry carries the Titans like he did last year, keep an eye on him as a dark horse candidate. Running backs are increasingly an "option number two", but with Henry, he is that offense.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jamal Adams
Other Candidates: Chandler Jones, TJ Watt, Aaron Donald
Jamal Adams quite simply put is a playmaker. He's not your typical coverage safety, although he can do that. He forces fumbles, recovers fumbles, hits, sacks, and does whatever else the defense needs with high quality. I think that he will lineup at both safety and linebacker over the course of the season, and excel at both. Production and versatility will lead him to the award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Johnathon Taylor
Other Candidates: CeeDee Lamb, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, J.K. Dobbins
Almost went with CeeDee Lamb here, just because I think he will benefit from an uptick in Dak Prescott's performance.
However, I'm going with the Colts' new lead running back out of Wisconsin. Taylor really landed in a perfect situation: experienced QB, great offensive line, fantastic head coach to boot.
I am not a huge believer in the whole "running backs with lots of carries in college not translating to the pros" mentality that a lot people have. Look at Derrick Henry.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chase Young
Other Candidates: Jeff Okudah, Zach Baun
When someone is called a generational talent, it is a little difficult to not pick them.
He along with Jeff Okudah are the two defensive players in this draft class that will have next to no transition time and will contribute right away. I definitely believe Okudah is someone who will shutdown half the field for the Lions, but Young's talent is undeniable.