Guys, I don't want to jinx anything, but I think the 2020 NFL season is actually going to happen.
The first game of the year is now just one day away, and unless this country comes under attack by fire-breathing hornets between now and Thursday -- which does seem at least somewhat plausible based on how the year has gone so far -- I'm thinking we're going to get football.
With the start of the NFL season now here, that means it's time for everyone's favorite thing: PREDICTIONS.
I'll be honest, I have high expectations for my predictions this year and that's mainly because I've been locked in my house for the past five months quarantined with a baby. During that period, the only two things I've done are: 1. Change diapers and 2. Try to figure out who's going to win this year's Super Bowl. Although I'd like to think I'll hit the nail on the head with all of my predictions this year, the fact of the matter is that this could end up being one of the most unpredictable years in NFL history. Not only was the preseason eliminated, but NFL teams did their best to shut down the flow of information coming out of their training camps, which means I have no idea which rookies have looked good or if any aging veterans look like they should be thinking about retirement.
I mean, one team has a 41-year-old player on its practice squad in case you're wondering how bizarre things have gotten this year.
Before we get to my predictions, let me explain how things are going to work here: I'm going to go through each division and predict each team's final record. After that, I'll be making a bold prediction for each division. Once you roll through the divisional portion of these predictions, you'll see my playoff picks and eventually, my Super Bowl champion. In two of the past five years, my preseason Super Bowl pick has ended up winning it all, so you might want to scroll down and check out that prediction first to see if I'm picking your favorite team.
Also, since we all know that making fun of someone's predictions is half the fun of reading predictions, you can send all your hate tweets to me on Twitter by clicking here, and just so you know, Broncos fans, I'm already mentally preparing for your hate tweets.
You can also listen to Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and myself go over my bold predictions on the Pick Six Podcast (hit the subscribe button here).
Finally, if you're wondering how I did last season, I predicted the exact win total of five different teams. I also correctly predicted that the Packers would make it to the NFC title game and that the Chiefs would win the Super Bowl. On the other hand, I completely whiffed on San Francisco. I had the 49ers going 6-10 last season, and they responded to that prediction by laughing in my face all the way to the Super Bowl. Niners fans also laughed in my face.
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Alright, that's enough jibber-jabber about last year, let's get to the 2020 predictions.
AFC East bold prediction: Cam Newton leads the NFL in total touchdowns
No one knows if the Patriots are going to be any good this year and that's mainly because no one knows if Cam Newton is going to be any good. The former Panthers quarterback hasn't been able to stay healthy over the past few seasons, so there's no guarantee he's going to be able stay healthy in New England. That being said, I actually think Newton is going to have a monstrous year. For one, the Patriots are going to have the element of surprise on their side in 2020. For the past two decades, every opponent knew what the Patriots offense was going to do (even if they couldn't stop it). This year, no one has any idea what the Patriots are going to do on offense, and because of that, it could be tough to stop. Also, Newton gives the Patriots something they never had with Tom Brady: A quarterback who is a threat to run the ball. If Newton can throw 30 touchdown passes this year and rush for 10 more, that will likely be enough to lead the NFL in total touchdowns, and that's exactly what I'm predicting.
AFC North bold prediction: Joe Burrow sets NFL record for most TD passes by a rookie
This record is currently held by an AFC North rival (Baker Mayfield), which means it will probably feel especially gratifying for Burrow if he's able to knock the Browns quarterback out of the record book. Back in 2018, Mayfield threw 27 touchdown passes, which broke Peyton Manning's record of 26 that had stood since 1997. Burrow is going to have a huge advantage over Mayfield, and that's because the Bengals quarterback is going to be the starter from Day 1, which means he'll definitely be starting 16 games this season (Mayfield only started 13 games for the Browns in 2018).
The other upside for Burrow is that he's going to have a lot of receiving talent to work with in Cincinnati with guys like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, Alex Erickson and John Ross, plus running backs Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard. Also, there's a good chance we'll see Burrow put up big numbers this year no matter how the Bengals play. On one hand, if the Bengals are good, it will likely be because Burrow is having a phenomenal rookie season. On the other hand, if the Bengals are bad, we could see Burrow put up some huge numbers in garbage time, which could help his touchdown total.
AFC South bold prediction: Doug Marrone is the first coach fired during the 2020 season
In most cases, when a team makes it to the AFC Championship game, they try to build on that success, but for some reason the Jaguars decided to do the opposite. Since making it to the AFC title game in 2017, all the Jaguars have done is completely dismantle their entire roster. The final two nails in the coffin came last week when the team dumped both Yannick Ngakoue (in a trade) and Leonard Fournette. After two straight last-place finishes over the past two seasons, Marrone is definitely on the hot seat this year and if the Jaguars get off to a slow start, he might not last long in Jacksonville. The Jags have a bye in Week 7 this season and if the team shoots off to a 1-6 or 0-7 start, it won't be surprising if owner Shad Khan finally pulls the plug on the Marrone era in Jacksonville.
AFC West bold prediction: The Broncos are worse than they were in 2019
The Broncos have been a trendy pick this year as a dark horse playoff team and a big reason for that is because of the way they finished the season. Over the final five weeks of 2019, Drew Lock led them to a 4-1 record, which allowed Denver to finish the season 7-9. One of the biggest question marks in Denver is the offensive line, which is a problem, because that's not an issue you want to be worrying about when you have a second-year quarterback under center. The Broncos might have quite a few weapons, but those weapons don't really mean anything if Lock never has time to get them the ball.
NFC East bold prediction: Dak Prescott wins MVP
I'm starting to think that Jerry Jones actually had a diabolical plan going into 2020 that involved not giving Dak a long-term deal so that he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder the entire season, and I'm also starting to think that this plan might work. Last year, Dak finished with the second-most passing yards in the NFL and the fourth-most touchdown passes, despite playing in a run-friendly offense. With a more pass-happy coach and even more offensive weapons, we'll likely see some even bigger numbers from Prescott. Oh, and let's not forget that he plays for America's team, which basically means that you're automatically in the MVP conversation as long as you finish above .500 and I absolutely think the Cowboys are going to finish above .500.
NFC North bold prediction: No team in the division will hit double-digit wins
If there's one division where it feels like every team took at least a small step back this year, it's the NFC North. The Packers added zero receiving weapons for Aaron Rodgers, the Vikings lost half their starters on defense, Bears coach Matt Nagy is being forced to start a quarterback he doesn't have any confidence in and the Lions are the Lions. Basically, it's a recipe for disaster and disaster in this case will be a season where none of the teams in the division hit the 10-win mark. This qualifies as bold, because it's only happened one time in the 18-year history of the NFC North. Since the division's first year in 2002, the only time none of the teams hit the double-digit mark came in 2013 when the Packers won the NFC North with just eight wins.
1. *Buccaneers: 11-5
2. *Saints: 10-6
3. Falcons: 8-8
4. Panthers: 4-12
NFC South bold prediction: Buccaneers win the division for the first time in 13 years
With Tom Brady now in Tampa, this might not seem like a bold prediction, but according to our friends at William Hill Sportsbook, it definitely qualifies as bold, and that's because the Saints are the overwhelming favorite to win the division this year. With just days to go until the start of the season, the Saints' odds of winning the division are sitting at -120 (bet $100 to win $83.30) while the Bucs have much worse odds at +160 (bet $100, win $160). Not only will I be riding the Brady train this year, but I'll be riding it all the way to the NFC title game. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers though, I don't have Tampa Bay winning that game. To find out who I have beating them, you'll have to keep reading.
1. *Seahawks: 11-5
2. *49ers: 10-6
3. *Rams: 9-7
4. Cardinals: 8-8
NFC West bold prediction: All four teams finish at .500 or above
Most people seem to agree this year that the NFC West is the most stacked division in the NFL, so you might be wondering why this prediction qualifies as a bold prediction and the reason for that is because it's never happened before. The NFC West has existed since 1970, and in the 50 years since then, there's never been a single season where every team in the division finished at .500 or above. If it's ever going to happen, this feels like the year the four teams could get it done.
(2) Seahawks 20-16 over (7) Rams
(3) Buccaneers 30-27 over (6) Saints
(5) 49ers 34-20 over (4) Packers
(1) Cowboys 27-23 over (5) 49ers
(3) Buccaneers 31-24 over (2) Seahawks
(1) Cowboys 34-30 over (3) Buccaneers
(2) Steelers 23-20 over (7) Bills
(3) Colts 27-24 over (6) Titans
(5) Ravens 31-23 over (4) Patriots
(1) Chiefs 33-30 over (5) Ravens
(3) Colts 34-27 over (2) Steelers
(1) Chiefs 31-24 over (3) Colts
Super Bowl LV in Tampa (CBS)
Cowboys 34-31 over Chiefs
Playoffs bold prediction: Cowboys end 25-year Super Bowl drought
If you know any Cowboys fans, then you're probably well aware that at the start of every NFL season, there's nothing they like to talk about more than why this will finally be the year the Cowboys win the Super Bowl. It's pretty much happened every year for the past 25 seasons. Although I usually laugh in their face after they make the prediction, this year I won't be doing that, and that's because I ACTUALLY AGREE WITH THEM. I think Jerry Jones might have brainwashed me because I think THE DALLAS COWBOYS ARE GOING TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL, and they're going to do it by knocking off the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Basically, not only am I predicting that Dak Prescott will win the MVP this year (as you read about earlier), but I'm also predicting that he'll lead the Cowboys to the Lombardi Trophy. I think what I'm trying to say here is that Jerry Jones better get his check book ready because Dak's asking price is going to triple if all of this happens.
The biggest reason I like the Cowboys this year is because they won't be held back by coaching. Although Mike McCarthy isn't a Hall of Fame coach by any means, he certainly feels like a step up from Jason Garrett, and let's not forget, he also has Super Bowl coaching experience because he won a Lombardi Trophy during his time in Green Bay.
Also, I'm not sure if fans will be allowed to attend, but if they are, this Super Bowl would probably give us some amazing tailgating and that's because the parking lot at Raymond James would be filled with both Kansas City and Texas barbecue, which is important to note, because we could finally decide which one is actually better.
Finally, if my predictions all pan out -- and I'm sure they will -- here's what the top of the NFL Draft order will look like next April, and based on those first three picks, maybe they should move the event back to New York for the year.
Order of first five picks for 2021 NFL Draft