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Are you ready for some football? A 2020 NFL preview

September 9, 2020
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It’s hard to believe, considering the current state of things, but the 2020 NFL season is ready to kick off. In fact, by the time you read this, the first game – the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans on Sept. 10 – may have already taken place.

There’s no way of knowing how this season is going to play out. With the shadow of the coronavirus likely to loom large over the entire year, making predictions about outcomes is even more of a fool’s errand than usual.

Lucky for you, I am that fool.

I will make my usual predictions with regard to how I believe the season will play out. And as usual, I anticipate being wildly off-base with a significant percentage of these predictions. I have a long and storied history of middling picks, after all – why expect anything different this time around?

And so, here you have it – my monkey-dart-throwing attempt at prognostication. Ladies and gentlemen, your sure-to-be-inaccurate 2020 Maine Edge NFL Season Preview.

(y = division winner; x = wild card)

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AFC

AFC East

New England Patriots – 11-5 (y)

Buffalo Bills – 10-6 (x)

Miami Dolphins – 7-9

New York Jets – 6-10

I know, I know – homer pick. But I really don’t see anyone else in this division catching up to the Pats this year, even with the departure of Tom Brady. Look for new QB Cam Newton to thrive in New England throwing to the likes of Julian Edelman and James White, while the Gilmore-and-McCourtys-led defense will likely continue to handle its business. They won’t dominate, but they’ll win. I like the Bills to make a bit of a leap this year. Josh Allen has shown flashes of potential as someone who can control a game and he finally has some solid receiving weapons, as well as a stellar defense. If Allen can use his legs (and his head) effectively, Buffalo will make noise. I’m a little higher on Miami than some, but I think that coach Ron Flores has a chance to make this team into a legitimate spoiler. They’ve got talent – I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what QB Tua Taogovailoa can do in the league. Finally, the Jets. Sam Darnold needs to improve, but if he can make things happen with guys like Robby Anderson and Chris Herndon catching passes, they could be a team no one wants to play.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – 11-5 (y)

Cleveland Browns – 9-7 (x)

Pittsburgh Steelers – 9-7

Cincinnati Bengals – 3-13

There’s not a more electrifying player in the NFL than Lamar Jackson right now. He is lightning in a bottle, a generational talent who is redefining the position. If he stays healthy – and if wideout Marquise Brown makes the leap – Baltimore will romp through the regular season and avenge last year’s early playoff exit. You’d think I’d learn, but I just can’t quit the Browns – Cleveland just has too much talent to keep falling flat. I like Baker Mayfield to keep progressing as a passer, with Odell Beckham Jr. bouncing back from a down year in a big way. And don’t forget the Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt backfield tag team. They might hit double-digit wins. Meanwhile, I may be underselling Pittsburgh here. Their defense features studs like T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, while Ben Roethlisberger just keeps on putting up numbers. If he can stay healthy, the Steelers are dangerous. On the other hand, three wins might be optimistic for the Bengals. They’ve got newly-minted QB Joe Burrow under center, but can the number one pick live up to the hype? Eventually perhaps … but not this year. They just don’t have the horses.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts – 10-6 (y)

Tennessee Titans – 10-6 (x)

Houston Texans – 6-10

Jacksonville Jaguars – 2-14

I’m not sold on the Colts, but the combination of the veteran leadership of newly-arrived QB Philip Rivers and a wealth of young offensive talent is tough to pass up. The key will be youngsters like pass like Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor; if they come through, expect big things in Indy. Tennessee is the playoff pick in which I’m least confident. Derrick Henry was a monster last year; if keeps it up, the Titans will control the ground, but can he? If Ryan Tannehill is what we saw last year and if WR A.J. Brown can take another step forward – maybe. I’m not at all sure what Houston is trying to do. Trading away all-world wideout DeAndre Hopkins for the corpse of RB David Johnson is a head-scratcher; it’d be a tough one even if Johnson was at his four-years-ago peak. Still, there’s some receiving talent and Deshaun Watson is a hell of a passer, so who knows? The Jaguars are going to be terrible this year and are likely to remain so in years to come. The players they draft are A) bad and/or broken, B) uninterested in playing there, or C) both. Not a recipe for success.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs – 13-3 (y)

Las Vegas Raiders – 9-7

Los Angeles Chargers – 8-8

Denver Broncos – 5-11

Back-to-back titles don’t really happen in today’s NFL, but it’s awfully tough to bet against the Chiefs. With Patrick Mahomes throwing the ball and dudes like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce catching it, they’re going to score a ton – particularly if preseason darling Clyde Edwards-Helaire proves as good on the ground as anticipated. They’re going to win. A lot. The Raiders are going to be sneaky good in their first season in the desert, assuming that QB Derek Carr can build a connection with rookie wideout Henry Ruggs and maintain one with TE Darren Waller. Expect a second-year bump for RB Josh Jacobs as well. They’ll be scary to play. I know next to nothing about the Chargers, but 8-8 feels right. I like QB Tyrod Taylor more than most, but he’s just keeping the seat warm. Austin Ekeler’s got the lead back job, but he may not be able to handle the load. Keenan Allen just scored an extension and the team still has all-everything pass rusher Joey Bosa anchoring the defense. Finally, we have the Broncos, whose combo of young QB (Drew Lock) and young receivers will likely prove troublesome, particularly as defenders like Von Miller start showing their age.

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NFC

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys – 11-5 (y)

Philadelphia Eagles – 10-6 (x)

New York Giants – 4-12

Washington Football Team – 3-13

I’m going with the Cowboys here (sorry, boss). With Dak Prescott throwing to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie stud CeeDee Lamb or handing off to Ezekiel Elliott – all behind an O-line that’s among the league’s best – it’s tough to pick against them, though they’ll probably struggle to get stops. On the other hand, the Eagles also have plenty of reason for optimism. QB Carson Wentz has a bunch of new speedsters at receiver, plus a healthy DeSean Jackson. Philly has done well in shoring up their secondary, bringing in Darius Slay. If the pass rush holds steady – and it should – the Eagles are officially a tough out. The Giants have Saquon Barkley and … that’s about it. Even if QB Daniel Jones improves in his second year, New York still looks rough; the defense in particular is in a bad way. Throw in a rookie head coach in Joe Judge and four wins might be high. The only thing keeping the G-Men out of the basement is the abysmal state of the Washington Football Team. They finally bid farewell to their atrocious, racist nickname and mascot this offseason; unfortunately, that will be by far their biggest win of the season.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – 9-7 (y)

Minnesota Vikings – 8-8

Detroit Lions – 8-8

Chicago Bears – 5-11

It’s so boring to pick the Packers, but I honestly don’t know what else to do. Even with a turbulent offseason, they’re the class of the North. An irritated Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, and with guys like Davante Adams and Aaron Jones on offense, Green Bay will score. Their defense looks to have some horses as well. They could easily hit 10 wins. Minnesota had a TON of offseason turnover, losing a bunch of pieces; their defense was particularly hard hit. Kirk Cousins is more game manager than elite passer, but there are some high-end offensive talents like Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen. They’re going to be asking a lot from young players; expect inconsistency. The Lions have Matthew Stafford, who continues to be one of the NFL’s most prolific passers. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to be, because this defense, largely ineffective last season, hasn’t improved nearly enough. A few bad bounces and coach Matt Patricia winds up fired by Thanksgiving. The Bears – ugh. They’re still throwing bad money after good with QB Mitchell Trubisky. They have a decent backfield, some solid receiving talent and one of the league’s best defenders in Khalil Mack. Doesn’t matter. They’re in the basement.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints – 11-5 (y)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 10-6 (x)

Atlanta Falcons – 9-7

Carolina Panthers – 3-13

Yeah, it’s the Saints. One of these years, Drew Brees is going to get old … but not yet. He’s got the league’s best pass catcher in Michael Thomas, one of its most electric runners in Alvin Kamara and an improved defense. Coach Sean Payton’s also got Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill in his back pocket. Tough to pick against a team this stacked. Speaking of elderly QBs – I hear this guy the Buccaneers have under center used to be pretty good. Tom Brady takes the field for Tampa Bay with some of the most talented receivers he’s had in a decade or more – Michael Evans and Chris Godwin are both top-tier talents. Plus, his old buddy Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to join the party. If the offensive line keeps Brady upright, the Bucs may surprise. Atlanta might well be better than nine wins – Matt Ryan remains capable, while the Julio Jones-led receiving corps should be great. The addition of RB Todd Gurley certainly doesn’t hurt. If last year’s defensive surge is for real, the Falcons could fly. The Panthers still have RB Christian McCaffery, but he can’t possibly maintain the load from last year – he was almost 44% of his team’s offense and now he’s out there without Cam Newton. I like Teddy Bridgewater, but come on. Expect a long season in Carolina.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers – 11-5 (y)

Los Angeles Rams – 10-6 (x)

Seattle Seahawks – 8-8

Arizona Cardinals – 7-9

Much like the East, you could switch the top two here. I like the Niners, thanks largely to coach Kyle Shanahan. They’ve got one of the best offenses in the game, though we’ll see what we get from QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Having TE George Kittle certainly helps. And the defense – led by Nick Bosa – is just littered with studs. They’ll be tough to beat. The Rams might manage it, though. If Jared Goff can maintain last year’s late gains throwing the ball, the defense – led by all-time great DT Aaron Donald and the excellent CB Jalen Ramsay – will do their part. The Seahawks probably win half the divisions in the NFL, but they’re stuck. They have Russell Wilson under center, though, so they’ve always got a shot. Chris Carson’s work on the ground helps as well. Plus they have the somehow-still-underrated Bobby Wagner at linebacker, leading the still-strong defense and Pete Carroll knows how to win. Alas, .500 is probably it. Arizona has some great pieces – the newly-acquired DeAndre Hopkins practically guarantees a big step forward for second-year QB Kyler Murray – but the team doesn’t quite have everything it needs. They’ll be fun to watch, but they’re a year or two away.

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2020 08:51

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