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NFL Predictions 2020: Division Winners & Playoff Outcomes

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NFL Predictions 2020: Division Winners & Playoff Outcomes

We’re going to jump right into part two of my five part 2020 NFL Predictions series. In this edition I’m going to focus on division standings and playoff outcomes. Here’s my take on the 2020 season.

Division Standings

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: 12-4
Pittsburgh Steelers: 10-6
Cleveland Browns: 9-7
Cincinnati Bengals: 3-13

Lamar Jackson won the NFL MVP award in his second season and he’s going to be even better in year three. Lamar will take a big step forward as a passer in 2020. Baltimore upgraded their rushing attack by drafting Ohio State running-back JK Dobbins. Mark Ingram and Dobbins will be a dangerous RB tandem. Baltimore will repeat as division champs. The Steelers get a healthy Ben Roethlisberger back this season with a talented receiving corps. Pittsburgh will also have one of, if not the best defense in the NFL with TJ Watt leading the way. Big Ben is healthy but he’s 38 years old going on 39, I’m still skeptical on how he’ll perform this season but the Steelers will make the playoffs.

Call me crazy but with the talent on this Cleveland Browns roster, I have them penciled in for a nine win season. Kevin Stefanski will prove to be the right coach for Baker Mayfield and they’ll ride Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to a 9 win season. Joe Burrow will show promise for Cincinnati even in a three win season. His talent will be on full display with the talent Cincy has at WR but a bad offensive line will lead to him taking a lot of hits. A three win season means that Cincinnati will be able to address their offensive line with a top three draft pick in 2021.

AFC East

New England Patriots: 10-6
Buffalo Bills: 10-6
Miami Dolphins: 6-10
New York Jets: 3-13

It’s hard to bet against former NFL MVP Cam Newton teaming up with Bill Belichick. The Pats lack receiving threats but Newton’s no stranger to that. Josh McDaniels will most likely go with a more ball control offense this season with Newton. The Bills will once again have a strong defense and I expect Josh Allen to improve as a passer in 2020. The addition of Stefon Diggs was big but I’m still not ready to give Buffalo the nod over the Pats.

The Dolphins signed CB Byron Jones in the off-season giving them one of the NFL’s top CB tandems with Jones and Xavien Howard. The offense will struggle but once Tua Tagovailoa takes over at QB, he’ll give the fans something to be excited for in the future. The Jets will be one of the worst teams in the NFL at 3-13. Sam Darnold is a talented but he’ll struggle with the supporting cast the Jets have surrounded him with. Adam Gase will be on the hot seat at season’s end.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs: 12-4
Denver Broncos: 8-8
Las Vegas Raiders: 5-11
Los Angeles Chargers: 4-12

The Chiefs are by far the most talented team in the division. Adding stud LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the draft will make their offense even more lethal. KC will coast to their third consecutive division title. Drew Lock will have a productive season and show that he’s the QB of the future for Denver. Von Miller suffered a season ending injury during training camp so they’ll be without their best player. The Broncos are one year away.

The Raiders will be forced to rethink the QB position after a 5-11 season in 2020. Derek Carr isn’t a bad QB but he may not be the QB for Gruden. A four win season is on the horizon for the Los Angeles Chargers. Derwin James’s season ending injury is devastating. Tyrod Taylor will relinquish his starting QB duties by week 6 and it’ll be the Justin Herbert show giving fans a glimpse of the future.

AFC South

Tennessee Titans: 11-5
Houston Texans: 9-7 
Indianapolis Colts: 7-9
Jacksonville Jaguars: 4-12

Tennessee will take another step forward with Ryan Tannehill under center. Of course Derrick Henry is the focal point of the offense but having a QB that can make plays is pivotal in today’s NFL. Deshaun Watson will lead Houston to a winning season even without star WR DeAndre Hopkins. If Houston finds a way to win the division then Watson will be in the MVP discussion.

The Colts signed aging QB Philip Rivers hoping that he would lead them to a playoff berth in 2020. I don’t think he will. He’s not much better than Jacoby Brissett at this point in his career. An average defense with a turnover prone QB doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. Gardner Minshew and the Jags will finish in fourth place but Minshew’s performance will give the team a tough decision to make in the 2021 NFL Draft.

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers: 12-4
Minnesota Vikings: 9-7
Detroit Lions: 7-9
Chicago Bears: 5-11

Green Bay didn’t do much to improve their roster but they still have Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after the Packers selected a QB in the first round of the 2020 draft. Green Bay will run away with the division this season. The Vikings had some key losses in the off-season that will be hard to overcome. But with Zimmer coaching the squad, they’ll find their way to 9 wins a playoff berth.

Matt Patricia will have a third consecutive losing season as the Detroit Lions head coach. He’s another coach that could be on the hot seat at seasons end. Mitch Trubisky won the Bears starting QB job so he’ll get one last shot at proving he can be the team’s franchise QB. Unfortunately for Trubisky, I have the Bears finishing with a 5-11 record. Chicago could look to move on from Trubisky after 2020.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: 10-6
Dallas Cowboys: 9-7

Washington Football Team: 6-10
New York Giants: 5-11

Dallas is a little more talented than the Eagles but Philly has the better Coach and QB. This will be a tight division race just as it was last season for these two teams. Carson Wentz will work his heroics and lead Philly to a second consecutive division title. Dallas on the other hand will be left wondering just how much of an upgrade is Mike McCarthy over Jason Garrett. Dak will play at a high level but a shaky secondary will hinder the Cowboys this season.

Ron Rivera is in for a solid start as the head coach of the Washington Football Team. A 6 win season may not seem like much but most have Washington finishing with a bottom two record. I think they’ll surprise everyone with a better than expected 2020 season. The New York Giants offensive line is unproven. That will hold them back in 2020. I still think Daniel Jones produces behind that line though and he’ll show flashes of what’s to come in the future for the New York fanbase.

 

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks: 12-4
San Francisco 49ers: 10-6
Los Angeles Rams: 8-8
Arizona Cardinals: 7-9

Seattle will reclaim the NFC West title after a three year hiatus. With the defense taking a slight step back, the Seahawks have to lean on QB Russell Wilson more in 2020. He’ll deliver as he’ll bring home the 2020 NFL MVP. The 49ers won’t experience the infamous Super Bowl hangover as they’ll be right back in the mix this season. I expect Jimmy Garoppolo to look more comfortable in the offense with a full season under his belt.

The Rams may have the NFL’s best player with Aaron Donald but there’s still glaring holes on their roster. Their offensive line isn’t good and they lack quality LB’s. Rams will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Kyler Murray and has been the talk of the off-season after Arizona traded for star WR DeAndre Hopkins. Murray is worth all the hype but the Cardinals still have work to do with the rest of this roster. A 7-9 season is on the horizon but look for Arizona to crash the playoffs in 2021.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-5
New Orleans Saints: 11-5

Atlanta Falcons: 7-9
Carolina Panthers: 6-10

I’m buying the Buccaneers hype this season. The Buccaneers were a 7-9 team a year ago with Jameis recording over 30 turnovers. Tom Brady will cut that number in half. The Buccaneers also upgraded their RB room with the additions of Leonard Fournette and Lesean McCoy. With a plethora of talent at every skill position, this offense will be a lot to handle. New Orleans will finish with the same record as the Buccaneers but with a worse division record. This may be Drew Brees’ final season so the Saints want to go out with a bang.

Atlanta will have an up and down season. Todd Gurley was signed to take pressure off of Matt Ryan and bring life to the run game. I think the Falcons will have an explosive offense but their defense is where the problem lies. The secondary is filled with youth and they’ll struggle all season. A 7-9 season may land Dan Quinn on the hot seat. Carolina will win six games in Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach. Teddy Bridgewater is an upgrade over Kyle Allen but he’s not the kind of QB that can carry a team. The Panthers are a young team and this is a building block year for them.

Playoff seeding
AFC

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Tennessee Titans
4. New England Patriots
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Houston Texans

NFC

1. Seattle Seahawks
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. New Orleans Saints
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Minnesota Vikings

Wild Card
AFC

#2 Ravens over #7 Browns
#6 Steelers over #3 Titans
#4 Patriots over #5 Bills

NFC

#2 Packers over #7 Vikings
#3 Buccaneers over #6 49ers
#5 Saints over #4 Eagles

Divisional Round
AFC

#1 Chiefs over #6 Steelers
#2 Ravens over #4 Patriots

NFC

#1 Seahawks over #5 Saints
#3 Buccaneers over #2 Packers

Conference Championship
AFC

#2 Ravens over #1 Chiefs
#1 Seahawks over #3 Buccaneers

Super Bowl

Seattle Seahawks 27 Baltimore Ravens 23

The Seattle Seahawks will cap off their 2020 season with a Super Bowl victory. Russell Wilson will have a dream season as he’ll end the season with the MVP award, a Super Bowl Trophy and Super Bowl MVP. Making the Patrick Mahomes vs Russell Wilson debate even more interesting heading into the 2021 NFL season.

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