Way to early NFL playoff predictions 2020-2021 By Joseph Riedl-Cooper
Way to early NFL playoff predictions 2020-2021
By: Joseph Riedl-Cooper
The 2020-2021 NFL season will be something we have never seen before in NFL history. This year there will be a seventh seed in the playoffs. Only the first seed in each conference will earn a by week. The new playoff setup will change the dynamic of the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs as a whole. We will see the second and third best team in each conference having their best players on the field all game until the final whistle of week seventeen, fighting for home field advantage in the wildcard round. In addition we will get an extra wildcard game.
1st seed: Baltimore Ravens 13-3
Lamar Jackson coming off an MVP season will have a lot to prove. There will also be a lot of additional pressure after losing in the divisional round 28-12 against the Titans. They will repeat their 13-3 record of last year from a softer schedule in 2020. If Lamar Jackson improves his accuracy and decision making while becoming more of a pocket passer they will have much more success come playoff time. The Ravens will also need other offensive weapons such as Seth Roberts, Willie Snead, and Mark Andrews to step up. J.K. Dobbins should also produce a decent amount of yards out of the back field. Their defense will only get better with two time all pro Calais Campbell and rookie linebacker Patrick Queen out of LSU.
2nd Seed: Kansas City Chiefs 12-4
The Super Bowl 54 Champion Kansas City Chiefs won’t be a typical Super Bowl team coming off a championship. The Chiefs plan on using that winning feeling to try and fuel another Super Bowl run. After losing Kendall Fuller in free agency to the Washington Redskins, there was a bit of a surprise with their first pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire a running back out of LSU, but to no one's doubt offensive mastermind Andy Reid will find a way to utilize him and make him look like a number one back from week 1. Kansas City will ride Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce all season. They won’t win twelve games because of a lockdown and dominant defense, it will because they will simply outscore most of their opponents. Come playoff time there is a high chance the Chiefs could struggle on the defensive side of the ball. The points will also come at more of a premium as they see better defenses in the playoffs.
3rd Seed: Houston Texans 10-6
After making possibly the most controversial trade in NFL history, Bill O’Brien and Deshaun Watson look to redeem themselves after giving up a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs in the 2nd rounds of the playoffs. The Texans should be one of the fastest teams in the NFL with Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, and Will Fuller at receiver. They also have one of the best mobile quarterbacks in the NFL with Deshaun Watson. The Texans have some weak spots in the secondary and are weak in the trenches. Using some of their running back and receiver depth could allow them to trade for a corner, linemen, and possibly a tight end. Laremy Tunsil at tackle and he would be a good cornerstone to build an offensive line around for Deshaun Watson for the next decade. If you trade Deandre Hopkins arguably the best receiver in the NFL you should look for more value than David Johnson and two fourth round picks. It doesn't take a GM to make sense of that. Trading up and drafting a tackle or a corner would have been a smarter move by Bill O’brien. Lack of protection and a weak secondary could be the downfall of the Texans come playoff time.
4th Seed: Buffalo Bills 9-7
In football, a player's ability or legacy should never be defined by one game. Teams that win SuperBowls and make playoff runs always have quarterbacks that make good decisions. When Josh Allen comes to mind, you get inaccurate passes and bad decisions. Trying a lateral late in the wildcard round game. Taking a 10 yard sack pushing your team out of field goal range. Trying to hurdle defenders in overtime. The Bills are just one or two offensive weapons short of being a Super Bowl contender. If Josh Allen is more accurate and smarter with his throws, he could make up for those playmakers missing. Stefon Diggs is a great receiver, but a smart defensive coordinator can take Diggs out of the game. A team like the Titans and Ravens can run a man to man defense and let a high safety sit on his routes all game and completely neutralize him. Super Bowl winning quarterbacks do more with less and Josh Allen doesn't have it right now to be great. He has the tools around to develop but 2020-2021 could end with an early exit from the playoffs.
5th Seed: Denver Broncos 11-5
Like the Memphis Grizzlies are the best up and coming team in the NBA The Denver Broncos are the best up and coming team in the NFL. Jerry Juedy, Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler, Noah Fant, Phillip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon, and Drew Lock, What more needs to be said about this offense. These are all young and talented players and will all be very good for a very long time. The speed of Hamler, the route running of Jeudy, the size of Sutton, the vertical threat that comes with Noah Fant, and the one-two punch of Lindsay and Gordon. It doesn't seem like there is any slowing down this offense. On paper this looks like one of the best offenses in the NFL. Their defense looks very promising as well with Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Jurrell Casey, and A.J. Bouye. There is no big hole in this team, Drew Lock could be a dark horse MVP candidate. With the presence of the Broncos the AFC west could be wide open this upcoming season.
6th Seed: Tennessee Titans 10-6 (HOU wins tie breaker)
After giving Ryan Tannehill a hefty four year extension and placing star running back Derrick Henry on the franchise tag Mike Vrabel and the Titans seemed to have secured their stars for the foreseeable future. With young receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown the Titans look like they could have a scary offense. There seems like there is still some donut about Ryan Tannehill, but like any NFL team when they think they have found their quarterback they pay them. The Titans defense is the reason why they found a lot of success last season. The Titans have a very strong secondary with Kenny Vaccaro, Addore’ Jackson, Malcolm Butler, and Kenneth Durden. With very good depth in the secondary they could trade for a linebacker or another piece to the lineup opposite of free agent signing Vic Beasley. If Ryan Tannehill pans out for the Titans there's no reason why they cannot make a playoff run next season.
7th Seed: Cleveland Browns 9-7
Finally since 2002 the Browns have made the playoffs. But don’t get too excited Browns fans because you barely beat out the 8-8 Colts and 8-8 Patriots. The season also ends with a first round exit against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming off a season where Baker Mayfield had more interceptions than touchdowns there's going to be a lot of pressure this season. Baker Mayfield will not put up top quarterback numbers, but will put up good enough numbers to make the playoffs. With weapons like Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Austin Hooper, it would be very disappointing if the Browns did not make the playoffs. Jimmy Haslam might want to consider changing management again if there is no playoff action for the Browns this year. With possibly the most talented roster in the NFL the Cleveland Browns just have not been able to put it together for some reason. The defense should be solid this year with the likely return of Myles Garret and corner Denzel Ward. Also rookie safety Grant Delpit and 2nd year corner Greedy Williams should be promising up and coming players as well.
1st Seed: San Francisco 49ers 13-3
Having a ten point lead in Super Bowl 54 looked like a splash in the water for the 49ers to be crowned Super Bowl Champions. It also looked like that when the Falcons had a 25 point lead in Super Bowl 51 with two and a half minutes left in the third quarter. However it seemed like Deja Vu for Kyle Shanahan as that lead was taken away and gave up twenty one fourth quarter points to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. He went away from running the ball which was working well and overwhelmed the Chiefs defense, just like how he went away from the pass in Super Bowl 51. Shanahan being only 40 years old and among the youngest head coaches in the NFL he will learn from his mistakes just like any good NFL coach would. The 49ers will be motivated after blowing the game and will come out blazing hot and they will be tough to stop. Their offensive line is almost identical except for now they have Trent Willams instead of Joe Staley. They have two very fast running backs in Raheem Moster and Tevin Coleman who are both very good downhill runners. Let’s not forget that the 49ers also have the best Tight End in the league with George Kittle. Also second year wide receiver Deebo Samuel is expected to have a great year. The 49ers last year had a ton of weight carried by their defense. The defense ranked 8th in the league for points allowed giving up 310 points during the regular season. Led by rookie Nick Bosa who recorded nine sacks last year. By trading defensive tackle Deforest Buckner to the Colts they freed up cap space and obtained a first round pick in this year's draft. Many draft experts speculated that they would draft a receiver, but instead drafted defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina to line up inside with Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, and Arik Armstead. They have a great linebacking core with Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander. The 49ers have a great secondary with shutdown corner Richard Sherman, alongside Sherman they have Jimmie Ward at safety. There are really no holes in this team, the only thing they could use is a true 2nd receiver and more depth in the secondary. There is no reason why the 49ers can’t repeat their run from last year and find their way back into the Super Bowl. They have all the pieces they need, and Jimmy Garoppolo is more than a capable quarterback to take them there.
2nd Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-3
The 2020 NFL free agency period was one of the craziest we have seen in league history. If no other player signed with a new team it would still be one of the craziest for the simple fact the greatest football player of all time Tom Brady is no longer a New England Patriot. Tom Brady will be suiting up with the Buccaneers this year, and he brought all pro tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement with him. Some would say this was planned. Tom Brady will have a huge arsenal of weapons to throw to this year with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and O.J. Howard. They also improved their offensive line by drafting Tristan Wirfs in the first round from Iowa. The Buccaneers also have a solid front seven with players like Vita Vea, Devin White, Shaquil Barret, Jason Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David, and Ndamukong Suh. They also added Antoine Winfield Jr. a strong safety out of Minnesota in the second round of the draft. He will play alongside Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead. This team should come out of the gates hot with momentum after the signing of Tom Brady.
3rd Seed: Philadelphia Eagles 12-4
The Eagles had a sneaky good offseason on the offensive side of the ball by adding to fast receivers Marquise Goodwin and Jalen Reagor. These two should be the perfect compliment to deep threat Alshon Jeffery. They also have up and coming running back Miles Sanders. The Eagles also have the offensive line with Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, they also drafted guard Jack Driscoll out of Auburn. Carson Wentz who is a top 7 to top 5 quarterback when healthy can lead a roster to a deep playoff run. Jalen Hurts should be a good backup for Wentz if he does suffer an injury during the season. The Eagles also plan to use him in wildcat packages. The defense made a great move by trading for outside corner Darius Slay who is looking to revamp his career with the Eagles. Safety Jalen Mills and Rodney Mcleod should have a big season with the departure of Malcom Jenkins.They have a great defensive line with Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Derek Barnett. With some more depth in the offensive line and the secondary this team is a Super Bowl contender.
4th Seed: Minnesota Vikings 11-5
The Vikings are one of the most up and down teams in the NFL. This year will be interesting for them for the simple fact that they don’t do anything great. Kirk Cousins is inconsistent at times and they don’t have a great offensive line. They lost a great pass rusher in Everson Griffen, who is still a free agent. They replaced a top 10 receiver in Stefon Diggs with rookie Justin Jerfferson. Also Dalvin Cook is starting a hold out, and he struggles with injury. A division with the Bears and Lions will help the Vikings. Green Bay having a lack of weapons will make it easier on the Vikings Secondary. The front seven should be able to provide some pressure and stop the run. Adam Thielen will have one of the best years of his career by picking up production that Stefon Diggs took to Buffalo. Dalvin Cook should have a career year if he signs and stays healthy. He will also take some pressure off Kirk Cousins. The vikings will struggle to stop the pass and against offenses like Seattle, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay that will cause problems come January.
5th Seed: New Orleans Saints 12-4
After another heartbreaking loss in the playoffs for the Saints, they plan to make another run at a Superbowl this year. With a loaded offense consisting of Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and legendary quarterback Drew Brees. Alongside two great tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, and rookie center Ceaser Ruiz there will be no issue protecting the 41 year old quarterback. For the past 3 years they have been one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and there are no signs of them slowing down. The all time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns plans to add to his impressive resume by adding a second ring. The defense is also solid with Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, and Marshon Lattimore. The addition of Malcom Jenkins will also add a much needed addition to the team, and could be the final piece needed for a Superbowl run.
6th Seed: Seattle Seahawks 11-5
The Seattle Seahawks have a solid roster all around and have a top 3 quarterback in Russell Wilson. Russell Wilson has been to two Super Bowls and knows what it takes to get there. The Seawhawks are in their best position to win it this year in recent memory. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are one of the best receiver duos in the NFl. Chris Carson is a more than serviceable running back who gets the job done. He is coming off a 1000 yard rushing season and plans to repeat those numbers. Will Dissly and Greg Olsen also make for a great blocking tight end duo. Bobby Wagner will be the anchor for this defense and will have a good year with a strong Seattle Secondary. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks know what it takes to get to the superbowl. Don’t let their wild card standing fool you because they are coming for a ring this year.
7th Seed: Carolina Panthers 9-7 ( Wins tie breaker versus Dallas, Los Angeles Rams, and Green Bay Packers)
After losing Cam Newton the Panthers got a very good quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. He proved himself in New Orleans that he can be a top 10 quarterback. With Weapons like DJ Moore, Robbery Anderson, and MVP candidate Christian McCafferey there will be no problem getting production out of the offense. The defense did lose corner James Bradberry but they still have Donte Jackson. They added to their already impressive front seven by drafting Defensive Tackle Derrick Brown. He will be great with Brian Burns and Shaq Thompson. This year will be a good first step to a good future for the Carolina Panthers.