By Noah Stern
The NFL was the one league that promised there would be no missed games due to the pandemic. They delivered, and the season has kicked off. Here are predictions for the 2020 NFL season:
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have the most complete team in the NFC East. Dak Prescott may be a bit overrated, but he can still put up numbers in this league. With the addition of CeeDee Lamb in the draft, they added to a potent offense. Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliot and Michael Gallup provide lethal options for Prescott.
The Cowboys lack a solid defense, which could be their achilles heel this year, but the rest of the NFC East also lacks good defenses. The Eagles also have a good offense, but their inability to catch the football consistently will lead to many losses this year. The Giants and the Washington Football Team are still rebuilding and shouldn’t compete for a few more years.
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings
Many people have the Packers winning this division, but the addition of Yannick Ngakoue will push the Vikings to the top of this competitive division. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t provided a single competent receiver. The Bears have too many issues at the quarterback position to be legitimate contenders, and the Lions have nothing on their roster that is worthy of pursuing. Without Stefon Diggs, the Vikings’ offense could struggle to score points, but they still have Adam Thielen and newly-acquired Justin Jefferson. The Vikings should be able to pull off this division title.
NFC South: New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is back for another season with the Saints. Adding Emmanuel Sanders to an already-powerful offense will continue to make this team better. Their young defense should keep improving this year, with Marcus Davenport and Marshon Lattimore turning into budding stars. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the busiest offseason of any team in the NFL, most notably signing former Patriots legends Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. They should be competitive, but this team is extremely difficult to predict.
Leonard Fournette and Tristan Wirfs should vastly help the running game which has been an issue for many years. The Panthers are starting a new era with Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Rhule. Christian McCaffrey has a chance to win MVP as a running back, but there aren’t high expectations for this team. Matt Ryan and the Falcons, once again, enter the year with a stacked offense, but there’s not much to show on the defensive side. This division will be extremely competitive, but the Saints will have another fantastic regular season to win it.
NFC West: San Francisco 49ers
The defending NFC champions come into the season with basically the same roster as last year. They lost DeForest Buckner in a trade but drafted his replacement with Javon Kinlaw. The Seahawks will be the Niners’ biggest competitors, led by perennial MVP-candidate Russell Wilson. There isn’t much of a running game, but Wilson’s scrambling abilities give this offense plenty of versatility.
Their defense lost former number-one overall pick Jadaveon Clowney, but that shouldn’t be an issue, as they added the best safety in the league, Jamal Adams. Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals’ offense should be better this year, with the unbelievable addition of DeAndre Hopkins and the continued improvement of Kenyan Drake and Christian Kirk. The Cards’ defense is still shaky, but they could surprise some people this season. The Rams have extensively fallen off since their 2018 Super Bowl appearance.
Aaron Donald is still the best defensive player in the league, and Jalen Ramsey remains a top-tier cornerback. Otherwise, there isn’t much to like about this Rams team. The 49ers should win the NFC West fairly easily.
AFC East: Buffalo Bills
The Patriots’ division title streak will come to a close this season after losing Tom Brady. Bill Belichick remains, and adding Cam Newton could be enough to continue the streak. It seems like it’s finally the Bills’ year. The Bills have a top-three defense in the NFL.
Josh Allen will take another step of improvement this year, with the addition of top-tier wideout Stefon Diggs. Sean McDermott has led the Bills to the playoffs in two of his three years as head coach, and this year’s team is by far the best he’s had. The Dolphins made some improvements during the offseason, but they still need a few years to develop. The Jets’ roster looked better before the Jamal Adams trade. Now, they’re back to being the Jets and disappointing their fans. Bills Mafia will finally get their first division title since 1995.
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens went 13-3 last season but got walloped in the playoffs. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger coming off of a significant injury and have no idea how he’s going to play. The Browns had high expectations last year but largely disappointed. The Bengals are starting a new era of Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor. The Ravens seem to have the most talent on their roster, especially with the offseason acquisition of 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell, adding to their already-scary defense.
Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers also have a great defense, but they have an unpredictable offense with the inconsistency of James Connor and JuJu Smith-Schuster. They are probably the Ravens’ top competitors. The Bengals have their franchise quarterback for years to come, but it’s going to take a while for them to be competitive again. John Harbaugh and the Ravens will win this division once again.
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts
The Jacksonville Jaguars may not win a single game this year, but the Colts, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans all have legitimate shots to win this division. The Texans’ Bill O’Brien made a bad decision to trade the best wide receiver in the league, DeAndre Hopkins. Deshaun Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but without a receiving core, this offense could be lackluster. The Titans made it to the AFC championship last season and seem poised to be a competitive team again. They re-signed Ryan Tannehill and franchise tagging Derrick Henry.
Losing Jack Conklin could hurt them in the running game, but Henry can carry a team on his own; he showed that in last season’s playoffs. The Colts are the underdog pick of these three teams, but with a stout defense that added Xavier Rhodes and DeForest Buckner, it could lead them to a big year. They also signed veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers to lead the offense that already consisted of Marlon Mack and T.Y. Hilton. This will be an extremely tight division race, but as long as the Colts can stay healthy, they should be able to come out on top.
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have basically the same roster that won them the Super Bowl last season, except for rookie running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. They don’t have a great defense, but that doesn’t matter when Patrick Mahomes is on the roster. The Denver Broncos will most likely be their biggest competitor with Courtland Sutton, Drew Lock and Bradley Chubb, all young and improving. The team still has Justin Simmons and added Jurrell Casey during the offseason. The Las Vegas Raiders could be an interesting team to watch, but they have no resemblance of a defense. The Los Angeles Chargers are adequate on both sides of the ball, but they’re not great at any certain position. The AFC West will belong to the Chiefs again.