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The NFL is the most unpredictable of the major sports. It’s a big part of what makes it so fun. Even the greatest of prognosticators have a hard time each August guessing which 12 teams will be playing for Lombardi Trophy come January.
However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to try. With that spirit in mind, here’s your too early playoff predictions.
#1 Seed, AFC East Champions: New England Patriots- Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and Tom Brady in January. Despite drawing the tough AFC West and NFC South this year, the Patriots still get their yearly cannon-fodder of the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. With Rob Gronkowski returning from injury and the addition of Brandin Cooks, New England should coast to a first-round bye.
#2 Seed, AFC North Champions: Pittsburgh Steelers- The modern Steelers making the playoffs is almost as reliable as the aforementioned Patriots. As always, they basically get two free wins by playing the Cleveland Browns. Being matched up against the weak AFC South is a gift. The three-headed monster of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown should lead this team to a week off during the Wild-Card round.
#3 Seed, AFC South Champions: Tennessee Titans- Marcus Mariota looked every bit the part of the franchise quarterback last season. With new weapons on offense, he should only improve. A weak division (helped by Andrew Luck’s injury) and drawing the NFC West is a bonus. Tennessee should easily take this division.
#4 Seed, AFC West Champions: Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs are above-average to great in just about every aspect of the game except their passing offense. Their defense should make up for that and Tyreek Hill is a game changer. Only their tough division prevents them from ranking higher. However, with rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes waiting in the wings, a quarterback controversy could be brewing.
#5 Seed, Wild Card: Oakland Raiders- The Raider’ leap to 12-4 last season and took the league by surprise. With Derek Carr leading the offense and reigning Defensive Player of The Year Khalil Mack anchoring the defense, they should make it back to the postseason. A tough division and daunting out of division schedule keeps them in the back half of the playoff picture.
#6 Seed, Wild Card: Miami Dolphins- Despite the Ryan Tannehill injury, the Dolphins should be able to put together a winning season. If the defense remains stout and Jay Ajayi can follow up last year’s breakout season, the Dolphins are capable of navigating a tough schedule to the postseason. Coach Adam Gase has the makings of a great coach and this season is his chance to prove it.
#1 Seed, NFC South Champions: Atlanta Falcons- After their epic Super Bowl collapse, many believe the Falcons will suffer the dreaded Super Bowl hangover. This team should be able to avoid it. They haven’t suffered any major roster turnover and remain one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Their division shouldn’t challenge them much as Tampa Bay is at least one more year away from making serious noise. Watch for Matt Ryan to have another monster season.
#2 Seed, NFC North Champions: Green Bay Packers- The Packers had flaws on defense last year and it showed. There are still concerns but they also have Aaron Rodgers. Having the most talented signal caller in the game goes a long way. With the addition of Martellus Bennett at tight end, Rodgers should be able to outscore most opponents on Green Bay’s relatively easy schedule. Get ready for Lambeau in January.
#3 Seed, NFC West Champions: Seattle Seahawks- No surprises here. Outside of Seattle, the NFC West simply isn’t very good and Seattle should be able to get at least five wins just in their division. Their out of division schedule includes the Jaguars, Eagles and Colts which should be another three wins. Even if they go .500 on the rest of their schedule, Russell Wilson should have no problem leading Seattle to a sixth consecutive playoff berth.
#4 Seed, NFC East Champions: New York Giants- The Giants had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season and there’s no reason that should change. With game changers at all three defensive levels, the Giants should be able to lock down opponents again. Last year the offense was terrible outside of Odell Beckham Jr. Additions Brandon Marshall and rookie Evan Engram should help OBJ out. The Giants’ fate will rest on how much time a suspect offensive line can give Eli Manning.
#5 Seed, Wild Card: Dallas Cowboys- The Cowboys went 13-3 last year with the league’s best offensive line and rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas should still be good this year but a regression seems likely. The offensive line has had some shake-ups, Jason Witten is a year older and Elliott just received a six game suspension. It’s also unlikely Prescott only throws four interceptions like he did last year. Despite a regression, they should be playoff bound once again.
#6 Seed, Wild Card: Carolina Panthers- Last season, the Super Bowl hangover hit the Panthers hard. This year they should bounce back. Cam Newton was the MVP two seasons ago and he should get closer to that form again this season. Luke Kuechly is one of the absolute best defensive players in the game. Rookie Christian McCaffrey has been turning heads in camp on a daily basis. All the pieces are there. The question is, can coach Ron Rivera recapture the magic from two years ago?