You could play the lottery with the birth dates of your deceased ancestors to predict the NFL. What I mean to say, albeit flippantly, is that I don’t really believe it’s possible to have supreme confidence that your football opinions will be proven correct in near future.
This business is full of calculated risks. Teams hope their free agent and draft pick gambles pay off. But, this trickling down to me, your humble, portly journalist. We all know that hot takes can pay the bills. Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless are remembered for their brazen, powerful proclamations. We’re all banking on one of two things:
A. You won’t call us out for our mistakes.
B. We have an employer who doesn’t care how much we screw up, as long as it makes money.
Now look, I don’t hate the players dabbling in this game. It’s a hell of a racket to say something like “THE DENVER BRONCOS WILL NEVER MAKE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE REST OF MY NATURAL LIFE!” knowing full well people either won’t remember it, or won’t care enough to follow through. The point I’m getting at is this: We’re all just guessing here, folks. Some of us are far more gifted than others, but no matter how much film, or deep into DVOA you dive, at the end of the day we’re all just hoping we can get a few things right. So, in honor of this proud tradition, I’m going to do the same. These are my predictions for this season.
Bills will move back
I know making a proclamation like this will anger upstate New Yorkers to the point of wanting to put my husky ass through a table, but honestly — it’s kind of a mark of respect.
I’m not saying that Buffalo won’t make the playoffs or anything dumb like that, it’s more that I just don’t see any way a 13-3 record holds in 2021. This is due to a few things. First, the AFC East has improved significantly from a year ago. Secondly, the Bills remain good, but didn’t didn’t do a ton to get much better. Thirdly and most importantly, no one is going to overlook them in 2021.
This is the price that you have to pay in order to make the transition. “very good”To “elite.” No longer are you a tough game on the schedule, you’re one that’s circled. Every team has you as their statement game. The Bills, like Kansas City and Baltimore before them, will soon learn that maintaining success in the NFL can be far more difficult than winning it.
I believe Buffalo will make a comeback to the post-season, and maybe even run. I just don’t think it will be as dramatic as a year ago.
Matthew Stafford will surprise many people
It was a seemingly lateral deal between Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff that was one of most notable NFL deals. You just don’t see two teams with franchise quarterbacks decide they don’t like them anymore and look for greener grass in a new pasture.
Looking back over the past few years, I believe Detroit will have made the most of this deal. However, the Rams are currently in win-now mode (at least relative to the rest). Stafford was almost anonymous since Calvin Johnson left the NFL. Stafford was no longer associated with the Lions’ elite passing offenses. He became an odd shrug. What I mean by this is that you’d look at end of season passing records and be like “Huh, I had no idea Matthew Stafford passed for 4,000 yards this year,” because he did, last year in Detroit — it’s just that nobody cares about the Lions outside of Michigan.
Los Angeles has an elite defense and a number of solid receivers. I believe we could see Matthew Stafford’s bog-standard season get treated like a transcendental, because he has a better team around him. The Rams are a surprise to many people and, while they’re tough, the NFC West is still up for grabs.
The Chargers will finally be free from the shackles imposed by mediocrity
Los Angeles has the Chargers, which are the Jan Brady of the NFL. Overlooked, forgotten, occasionally with an episode centering on her — and normally because she broke her sister’s nose. It’s been such a long time since the Chargers were relevant it harkens back to Philip Rivers and LaDanian Tomlinson, but I’m such a believer in Justin Herbert’s boyish good looks and arm that appears it was granted by Zeus himself that I think it’s time.
The Chargers appear to have all the ingredients necessary for a playoff run. They performed far better than the 7-9 record they had a year ago. Naturally it’s going to be tough in a division where you have to play the Chiefs twice a year, but I honestly think this could be the season they finally put it all together.
If they don’t, well, i’ll just make this prediction again next year.
Mac Jones will upset everyone outside New England
I said before the draft that Mac Jones wasn’t the best QB in the 2021 NFL Draft, far from it, but he was the ideal Patriots QB. Obviously Bill Belichick feels the same way, otherwise he wouldn’t have cut Cam Newton to clear the way for his rookie.
I don’t think Jones will have a remarkable statistical year, but I think it’s going to be good enough that New England is a threat, and by Week 6 we’re going to hear about Belichick’s genius at finding the next Tom Brady. Although I don’t think Mac Jones will be Tom Brady, I believe he will succeed in a system that minimizes his mistakes.
It’s going to piss off everyone.
It’s going to be impossible to defend the Titans
This isn’t so much a prediction, as an honest to God question. How can a defensive coordinator cover A.J. Brown and Julio Jones will be on the outside. Derrick Henry will remain inside.
It’s a simple numbers game, and I still don’t have the answer to it. Far smarter people than I are making a small fortune to decode this enigma, but I do know defensive minds around the NFL are beyond glad they’re not in the AFC South and have to find an answer twice a season.
The NFC East will be decided once more by who wants the least
It’ll probably be the Cowboys, because that’s the way things go, but I fully expect whoever comes out of the East will just delay the inevitable until they’re swallowed in the playoffs by a far better team.
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