Predicting the 2020 NFL Season - NFC East Edition By Billy Schick

 

  1. Dallas Cowboys

(Picture Credit: Blogging The Boys)

$45 million a year.  Dak Prescott is looking to become the league’s highest paid quarterback, and social media is absolutely bashing him for it.  2020 is going to decide Dak’s future with the Cowboys.  If he has a great year and takes Dallas on a playoff run, Dak Prescott will get his money to become the face of the franchise for America’s team.  If he has another mediocre season, a change will likely be made at the quarterback position in Dallas.  I predict Dak to have a monster year in 2020.  The Cowboys offense is loaded with playmakers.  Despite Travis Frederick’s retirement, the Cowboys still have an elite offensive line with all-pro veterans Zack Martin and Tyron Smith leading the charge up front.  Ezekiel Elliot is only entering his prime at 25, but has already had three 1,300 yard rushing seasons.  Second-year back Tony Pollard will see more carries in 2020, and showed signs of promise in his rookie season.  With their first round pick, the Cowboys added Oklahoma star CeeDee Lamb to their already stacked receiving core.  Four time pro-bowler Amari Cooper signed a five year, $100 million contract last March and like Zeke, is only just entering his prime at 26.  I predict third year receiver Michael Gallup to have a breakout season in 2020.  Very quietly, Gallup posted 1,107 yards on only 66 catches in 2019.  With Cooper and Lamb lining up alongside him to draw coverage, Gallup will have more one on one opportunities and will blossom into one of the league’s star receivers.  On defense, the Cowboys had an incredible free agency.  America’s team will feature a revamped defensive line in 2020 after signing former Panthers’ teammates Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy.  The two former all-pros will compliment Demarcus Lawerence and Tyrone Crawford to form one of the NFL's best defensive fronts.  With Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys boast the league’s best linebacking crew.  Dallas also added Ha Ha Clinton Dix to form a nice combination at safety with Jeff Heath.  Needless to say, the Cowboys are loaded on both sides of the ball.  With a manageable schedule, expect the Cowboys to have a great year and reclaim their throne on top of the NFC East.

Record Prediction: 11-5

2. Philadelphia Eagles 



(Picture Credit: PennLive.com)

It’s safe to say that nobody got hit harder with the injury bug than the Eagles did in 2019.  Despite injuries to basically their entire receiving core, offensive line, defensive line, and secondary, Carson Wentz caught fire in December and got the Eagles to the playoffs at 9-7.  After a phenomenal free agency and draft for the Cowboys, the Eagles will need to stay healthy in order to keep pace with Big D.  When healthy, Carson Wentz is easily a top 10 quarterback in the league.  However, with Wentz missing time due to injury each of the past three seasons, the Eagles went out and took Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round.  The pick shocked many, as Hurts was projected to go later in the draft anyway.  While the Eagles need a solid backup quarterback, they should have filled other holes instead of selecting Hurts as their second round pick. Over the last two seasons, Alshon Jeffery has struggled to stay healthy and posted his worst statistical season in 2019 since his rookie year.  Like Jeffery, Eagles’ legend Desean Jackson was also banged up in 2019, and only suited up for three games.  Philadelphia finally got rid of receiver Nelson Agholor, who had costly drops on the last drive in three fourth quarter losses in 2019. To replace him, they traded for speedster Marquise Goodwin.  Like Jeffery and Jackson, Goodwin has struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons, so this is another risky option at receiver.  In another questionable draft decision, Philly selected Jalen Reagor out of TCU with their first round pick despite Justin Jefferson still being on the board.  Jefferson was definitely the safer pick, as he put up 18 touchdowns at LSU in 2019.  If Jeffery, Jackson, and Goodwin struggle to stay healthy, Reagor could see a huge role in his rookie season.  While the situation at receiver is quite risky in Philadelphia, the one at tight end is quite more comfortable.  The Eagles boast the league’s best tight end tandem in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, who combined for over 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019.  At running back, expect second year stud Miles Sanders to get more carries after the departure of Jordan Howard.  In 2019, Sanders rushed for 818 yards on 179 attempts, good for 4.6 yards per carry.  If the Eagles elite offensive line can stay healthy, expect these numbers to go up as Sanders could be competing for a rushing title.  Perhaps Philly’s biggest move of the offseason was trading for all-pro cornerback Darius Slay.  The secondary will definitely be better with Slay as their number one corner, and also got a bit of an upgrade in signing Nickell Robey-Coleman.  With the new additions in free agency, along with the unlikeliness of Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, and Sidney Jones being as banged up as they were last year, the Eagles will have a solid secondary in 2020.  The success of the Philadelphia Eagles is going to come down to Wentz’s ability to stay healthy along with the production from the receiving core.  Since these two things haven’t gone well for the Eagles in the past, I see the bad luck carrying into 2020.  Expect a mediocre season in the City of Brotherly Love.

Record Prediction: 8-8

3. Washington Redskins

 

(Picture Credit: NBC Sports)

After a dismal 3-13 campaign in 2019, the Redskins made some big changes in the offseason.  In my opinion, Washington hired the hottest coach on the market in Ron Rivera.  The former Panthers coach won three south division titles in his nine year tenure and led his team to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance back in 2015.  Even though Rivera had several losing seasons down south, his team was always known for having a vaunted defense.  The Redskins’ defense was terrible in 2019, ranking among the league’s lows in almost every category.  The one area in which the Redskins stood out on defense in 2019 was their defensive line, which is young and loaded with playmakers.  With former Alabama stars Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen entering their third and fourth years, along with Montez Sweat entering his second, expect the Skins’ defensive line to blossom into some of the league’s most feared pass rushers.   Throw in Hesiman trophy finalist and my defensive rookie of the year prediction Chase, who the Skins drafted with the second pick out of Ohio State, and Washington could potentially have one of the league’s best defensive lines for the next decade.  In the secondary, the Redskins signed two solid corners in Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, and in addition brought in former Steelers’ free safety Sean Davis.  Perhaps Washington’s biggest addition outside of Chase Young was strong safety Landon Collins, who went to three straight pro bowls from 2016-2018 with the New York Giants.  With a great defensive-minded head coach, a revamped secondary, and a young defensive line loaded with playmakers, expect the Redskins to have a top ten defense in 2020.  At quarterback, the Redskins are hoping for Dwyane Haskins to make big strides in year two.  Haskins struggled in 2019, completing only 58.6% of his passes for 1,365 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 7 picks in 9 games.  Haskins will need to triple his yardage and touchdown totals from 2019 for the Redskins to have a legit shot at making the playoffs.  At the running back position, the Skins are riding with 7 time all-pro and former MVP Adrian Peterson as the lead horse.  In 15 games, Peterson put up 898 yards in a solid 2019 campaign where he split carries with Chris Thompson and Derrius Guice.  While the Skins may have Guice as their projected number one starter for 2020, I expect Peterson to be their go-to option because Guice was very banged up in his first two seasons in Washington - he missed the whole 2018 campaign with a torn ACL and only suited up for 5 games in 2019.  With Guice’s health concerns, the Skins’ drafted Memphis back Antonio Gibson in the third round and also added veterans J.D. McKissic and Petyon Barber in free agency, creating a pretty deep core at the running back position.  On the offensive line, the Skins lost solid veterans in Trent Williams, Donald Penn, and Ereck Flowers, so it will be an entirely new left side up front for the Skins in 2020.  Receiver Terry McLaurin had a monster rookie season with 919 yards and 7 touchdowns, so he will be Haskins’ go-to target again in 2020.  Outside McLaurin, Washington did not see much production at the receiver position in 2019, and it is very unclear who their number two option will be in 2020.  Although the Redskins defense will be much improved, they are hard to predict because of their offense.  Will Haskins show signs of promise as a franchise quarterback in 2020?  Which receiver will step up outside McLaurin?  Does Adrian Peterson still have enough gas in the tank to carry the Skins’ offense down the stretch?  The Redskins will be better than they were last year, but are still far from a playoff team.

Record Prediction: 6-10

4.New York Giants

(Picture Credit: NFL Spin Zone)

Things will look very different in the Big Apple this year, as longtime quarterback Eli Manning announced his retirement last January.  The two time Super Bowl MVP spent his entire 16 year career with the G Men, and started 210 consecutive games at quarterback from 2004-2017.  Although Manning will be very difficult to replace, Big Blue believes to have found their new face of the franchise in Daniel Jones.  Jones quietly had a solid rookie campaign, throwing for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.  In three straight years, quarterbacks who had promising rookie seasons made the big jump in year two and won MVP.  In 2017 it was Carson Wentz (Wentz would have won MVP if he didn’t get hurt); 2018 it was Patrick Mahomes; 2019 it was Lamar Jackson.  Could this guy be Daniel Jones in 2020?  Is Jones my 2020 MVP prediction?  No, but I do see him improving and having a pro bowl season.  At running back, the Giants have their other face of the franchise in Saquon Barkley, who had his second straight 1000 yard rushing season in 2019.  Barkley is only 23, but has already shown signs that he is the league’s next Adrian Peterson.  I expect Barkley to have his best season yet in year three, partly because the Giants completely revamped their offensive line in the offseason.  The Giants have their future of the tackle position figured out after taking Georgia stud right tackle Andrew Thomas.  Thomas will compliment veteran Nate Solder on the left side to form a nice tandem on the outside.  At receiver, the Giants have a potential top receiving trio in the league in Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard.  I predict Darius Slayton to have a breakout year in 2020.  Very quietly, Slayton caught 48 passes for 740 yards and 8 touchdowns in a sneaky good rookie year.  With Tate and Shephard lining up alongside him on the outside, expect Slayton to take advantage of one on one opportunities and blossom into a 1000 yard receiver in 2020.  Entering his fourth year, Evan Engram has the potential to become one of the league’s best tight ends.  In each of his first three seasons, Engram has struggled to stay healthy.  If Engram can avoid the injury bug, I expect him to put up 800 yards and 10 touchdowns as Daniel Jones’s go-to red zone target.  While the Giants have a legit offense, they are a little shaky on defense.  The defensive line has potential, boasting a solid core in Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams.  With Tomlinson leading the charge, Lawrence coming off an impressive rookie season, and Williams entering a contract year, I expect big things from this defensive line in 2020.  Big Blue’s biggest move in free agency was signing former Packers’ linebacker Blake Martinez to a 3 year, $30 million deal.  The veteran linebacker is only entering his prime, so expect him to take leadership over the young linebacker core.  The secondary is the G-Men’s biggest weakness, and with the recent arrest of 2019 first round pick Deandre Baker and loss of pro bowl safety Landon Collins, this is the area that is going to kill the Giants this year.  If 36th overall pick Xavier Mckinney (safety from Alabama) cannot take control of this secondary, which is a lot to ask for for a rookie, things are going to unravel for the Giants on defense. With a tough schedule featuring several games against teams with talented receiving cores (Cowboys twice, Steelers, Cardinals, Bengals, Bucs, Seahakws, Browns, and Ravens), the Giants’ pass rush will need to get tons of pressure on opposing quarterbacks to save their weak secondary.  While I expect a great season from their offense, the Giants’ weak defense will cost them many games, and a last place finish.

Predicted Record: 5-11

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