NFL preview: 2020

Despite Covid-19, the NFL is back for the 2020 season.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

The 2020 NFL season might be the most interesting since Brett Favre was a New York Jet.

With the new guidelines, rules, protocols, and anxiety, it will most definitely be labeled as an “asterisk” season. However, there are plenty of storylines to follow: Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will try to repeat as champions, Lamar Jackson will try to get Harbaugh and his team over the hump, and the 49ers will have to prove if they can step up their passing game and return to the Super Bowl.

There are plenty of question marks this season.  First, the Buccaneers will not be as good predicted. The notion that a 43-year-old can still throw bombs and produce like he did when he was in his prime, and that Rob Gronkowski, who just came out of a one year retirement, can play like he did seven years ago is absurd. The secondary is mediocre at best, the run game will never flourish under pass-heavy coach Bruce Arians, and even though I like Shaquil Barrett, he won’t get better than he was during his rookie season.

I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of Bruce Arians, mainly because he throws quarterbacks arms out and ruined Jameis Winston’s career by throwing the ball so much that Winston threw 30 interceptions. I predict that (product of the system) Tom Brady will regress even though he has weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Gronk hurts his ankle again by week 4, and the defense is average.

Houston Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson could have become the new Manning-Harrison, but Head Coach/General Manager Bill O’Brien traded DeAndre Hopkins away for a washed up running back with a big contract and trivial draft picks. O’Brien explained the trade by saying they needed salary cap space, but then he gave 20 million dollars to both Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks along with David Johnson’s 20+ million dollar contract that adds up to over 60 million dollars.

The Cardinals, who now have DeAndre Hopkins, signed him for only 55 million dollars.  The Texans also gave out a 130 million dollar extension to Deshaun Watson.

The Chiefs also spent big, giving Patrick Mahomes 450 million dollars. This deal might leave some thinking that the Chiefs are saying “who” cares about all the other talent, we only need a quarterback, so get ready Chief fans. Five years from now, Patrick Mahomes will be the only good player on the team because for a long time the Chiefs will be stuck in Salary Cap Purgatory.

The Dallas Cowboys are an absolute mess. Dak Prescott seems content with the money he’s earning and Ezekiel Elliot is focusing on himself instead of his team. The receiving core, made up of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, are the perfect definition of average. Cooper is a great route runner, but can’t catch in traffic. Gallup can run and catch pretty well, however he will never be a “superstar.” CeeDee Lamb has a lot of potential, and he has the making of a star, but under quarterback Dak Prescott and play-caller/coach Mike McCarthy, that is unlikely. The Cowboys will probably go 9-7 and win the division.

As for the Eagles, Carson Wentz has few reliable players to throw to, except for Zach Ertz, the defense lost a key veteran in Malcom Jenkins. It is also surprising to some that Doug Peterson is still the coach. The team’s receivers are prone to dropping the ball, and Carson Wentz has a history of injury. The Eagles will probably go 8-8, and some believe that Doug Peterson will be fired if that happens.

Staying in the NFC East, the New York Giants will also struggle.  Daniel “Danny Dimes” Jones has all the making of a franchise quarterback. Jones needs to find a mentor, however, like two-time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning, to teach him how to read defenses. Eli Manning beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl twice, after all. RB Saquon Barkley is “Adrian Peterson 2.0.” He is a great running back and can catch like a receiver, which is good because The Giants don’t have strong receivers this year. Unfortunately, Barkley tore his ACL and will be out for the year, so many fans fear that the Giants season is over before it began. The Giants’ record will likely be 4-12.

However, there is plenty to be excited about this season, though. Drew Brees shows no signs of slowing down, Michael Thomas is the new Marvin Harrison, and Run CMC (Christian McCaffrey) is running all over the place.

The reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson, who got beat by the Titans in the playoffs will try to be the new Patrick Mahomes and win a Super Bowl in his third year. The Ravens offense is pretty good. The receiving core is decent and the run game is very good, but how long can Lamar run before he goes down with an injury. The defense, like any other defense under John Harbaugh, is good but not great. The Ravens will most likely improve, but I can’t imagine seeing Lamar Jackson leading his team to a Super Bowl without a top-tier wide receiver.

The New Orleans Saints are my favorite to win the Super Bowl, I know it’s early, but they have the experience and depth to make it all the way. Michael Thomas is unbelievable, Emmanuel Sanders is a good veteran, and Jared Cook is one of the greatest tight ends of the last fifteen years. The defense is better, the secondary is improved, and the defensive line is anchored by future Hall of Famer Cameron Jordan. Drew Brees can read defenses like it’s a second language, Alvin Kamara is good running back, but not great; however, he is an elite receiving back. Drew Brees ranked first in passing yards and touchdown passes. Brees has always been held down by the fact that the team built around him is always meh. It’s not until these past couple of years that Brees has had a good team around him, and I predict the Saints go 13-3 and win the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks are also shaping up pretty well this year. Not that they haven’t good the last eight years, having won a Super Bowl in two attempts; however, these last two years they’ve been good but not great. The Seahawks are a run heavy team until late in the fourth quarter when Coach Carroll let Wilson take over and lead his team to the win. Wilson is no doubt a Hall of Famer. He has a bazooka for an arm, he can run better than Cam Newton in his prime and he is a clutch player. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are looking good this year, but not great. Metcalf can easily be a star, a superstar even, but not the next Calvin Johnson. Pete Carroll can make any running back a star, which he has consistently done, and the defense isn’t at the Legion of Boom’s level, but it’s still very good. I’m going to make a bold prediction and say the Seahawks go 12-4, but just fall short to the Saints in the NFC Conference Championship.

Back in the AFC, what’s the deal with the Patriots? Are they good, are they bad, or are they mediocre. To be honest, the Patriots v. Dolphins game was hard to watch. Even though the Pats won, they only won by 10. On the good side, it looks like Cam Newton has his accuracy back, but the bad side is that he only threw for 155 yards and no passing touchdowns. Bill Belichick, being the “evil genius” he is, realized Newton isn’t the same Cam from 2015, gave his arm a break and let Newton run 15 times for a respectable 75 yards and two rushing touchdowns. That’s about it for the Pats’ strengths. Their defense is depleted because of opt outs and the receiving core is okay at best, but Belichick is at the helm so never count the Pats out. I predict the Patriots go 10-6 and Newton wins Comeback Player of the Year.

Although I did skip over some teams like the Packers, 49ers, Cardinals, Bears, Rams, Vikings, etc, here are more predictions: the Packers make the playoffs, the 49ers don’t, the Cardinals get better, Da Bears won’t, the Rams will be mediocre, and same is true of the Vikings.

Enjoy the season, especially because there was a time when everybody thought the season would be canceled or delayed. This season will be unlike anything else. There will be battles where David beats Goliath, and Goliath beats David. Final prediction: the Saints vs. Chiefs in the Super Bowl, and the Saints get Drew Brees one more ring before he retires.