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2021 NFL Season Predictions


(Image By: cbssports.com)


Written By: Matt Di Domenico

Twitter: @didomenicomatt5


The 2021 NFL season is right around the corner. Teams will begin training camp in no time to get their players ready for the upcoming season. In this article, there will be record predictions for every NFL team and a prediction on who will be winning Super Bowl LVI. Additionally, there are the best moves that these NFL teams made in the offseason and positions that they should look to improve upon before the season actually kicks off on September 9th.

AFC NORTH:

1. Cleveland Browns (12-5), DIV (5-1)

Ls- @KC, @LAC, @NE, @BAL, @GB

After making the playoffs last year and being able to knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round, the Browns finally have confidence. The Cleveland Browns have an incredible roster full of talent on both sides of the football. One of the best offensive lines in the NFL is present in Cleveland. With a scary two headed backfield with Nick Chub and Kareem Hunt, this offense could take an even bigger leap in Kevin Stefanski’s second season as head coach. Baker Mayfield played with a lot of confidence under Stefanski in 2020 and they both are getting their #1 wide receiver back in Odell Beckham Jr. Andrew Berry and the rest of the front office for the Browns did an outstanding job in free agency with bringing in the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, John Johnson III, Troy Hill, and Malik Jackson. In the draft, the Browns were able to improve their defense even more with the additions of Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. This team is a threat to win a lot of games in the AFC North because they can run the ball effectively and have improved the pass rush even more with the likes of Myles Garrett.

Best Move: Signing John Johnson III (3-year, $33,750,000)

Worst Move: Signing Takkarist McKinley (1-year, $4,250,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: MLB, SLB & DT


2. Baltimore Ravens (10-7), DIV (4-2)

Ls- vs. KC, vs. CIN, @MIA, @CHI, @CLE, vs. GB, vs. LAR

The Baltimore Ravens were able to finish the 2020 season with a record of 11-5 but fell short in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens certainly had an up and down offseason. For starters, the Ravens had to part ways with Orlando Brown Jr. and traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a first-round selection. Additionally, the Ravens lost their star outside linebacker Matt Judon in free agency and had to replace him in the draft with the raw Jayson Oweh out of Penn State. The Ravens also knew that they had to improve their offensive weapons drastically which led them into signing Sammy Watkins. The talented Rashod Bateman out of Minnesota was drafted by the Ravens at pick twenty-seven to help out the receiving core as well. Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh certainly will be looking to compete for the AFC North crown again. Winning the AFC North will be a huge task of course because of how much the Browns and Bengals improved their rosters. Lamar Jackson and the rest of this Ravens roster have a lot of talent but will be looking to improve off last season's results.

Best Move: Drafting Rashod Bateman (27th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Letting Matt Judon walk.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LOLB, ILB, LG & FS

3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-10) DIV (2-4)

Ls- @CHI, @PIT, vs. GB, @NYJ, vs. CLE, vs. SF, @DEN, vs. BAL, vs. KC, @CLE

The 2020 season for the Cincinnati Bengals was a rough one to say the least. The Bengals lost their franchise quarterback to a torn ACL in week 11 and finished with a record of 4-11-1. This offseason, it was important for the Bengals to upgrade their offensive line and the overall talent of the team. Free agents such as Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie, and Mike Hilton were brought in to improve the Bengals defense. Veteran offensive tackle Riley Reiff was signed in free agency as well to fill in at a starting tackle spot. In the draft, there was much debate of if the Bengals should select an offensive line prospect or a receiving prospect at selection five. The Bengals went receiver and selected Burrow’s former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Taking a wide receiver in the first round of the draft did not stop the Bengals from drafting line help however because they took Jackson Carman in the second round. The Bengals did improve in the offseason, but this is a young team that will be going against some tough competition in the AFC. Burrow is coming off that ACL tear and he will need to bounce back with complete strength to allow the Bengals to make a huge jump in 2021.

Best Move: Drafting Ja’Marr Chase (5th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Signing Trey Hendrickson (4-year, $60,000,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, C, MLB, & LE

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-12) DIV (1-5)

Ls- @BUF, @GB, @CLE, vs CHI, @LAC, @CIN, vs. BAL, @MIN, vs. TEN, @KC, vs. CLE, @BAL

Not a huge fan of what the Pittsburgh Steelers have done this offseason. The Steelers offensive line is a complete mess outside of the guard positions. It is going to be a challenge for the Steelers to protect Ben Roethlisberger with this offensive line. The losses of Maurkice Pouncey, James Conner, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, Steven Nelson, Alejandro Villanueva, and Bud Dupree certainly are going to hurt this football team. The Steelers do have a talented defense, but it will not be enough in the 2021 season. Pittsburgh was not able to do much in free agency because of a low cap number. What the Steelers were able to do was bring back JuJu Smith-Schuster but even some thought of that as an unwise move because of the attention Smith-Schuster brings on social media outlets. A move that will help the Steelers was drafting Najee Harris in the first round. The selection of Kendrick Green in the third round of the draft will help the offensive line as well. Overall, there are too many holes on this roster to allow the Steelers to win the AFC North and they will drop from 1st to 4th in the 2021 season.

Best Move: Drafting Najee Harris (24th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Failure to improve the offensive line.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LT, C, RT, NT, CB, & ROLB

AFC SOUTH:

1. Tennessee Titans (11-6) DIV (4-2)

Ls- vs. ARI, @JAX, vs. KC, @IND, @LAR, vs. MIA

Julio Jones certainly was the biggest offseason acquisition that was made by the Tennessee Titans. The Titans gave up a 2022 second round pick in addition with a 2023 fourth round pick for Jones and a 2023 sixth round pick. After losing wide receiver Corey Davis to the N.Y. Jets and tight end Jonnu Smith to the New England Patriots, there needed to be a new weapon brought in for Ryan Tannehill. To add, Jon Robinson and the rest of the Titans front office were also able to make the additions of Bud Dupree, Denico Autry, and Janoris Jenkins in free agency to help improve this Tennessee defense. After losing Adoree’ Jackson and Dennis Kelly, the Titans were able to find replacements for them in the draft. Tennessee selected Caleb Farley and Dillon Radunz to be those replacements for the future. The Titans are going to be a team that runs Derrick Henry heavily and utilizes play-action by large amounts to hit big plays down the field with this talented receiving core. This defense has to improve for the Titans if they want to make a run in the AFC. Being able to build chemistry early on with dominant success will be critical for the Titans to defend their AFC South crown.

Best Move: Trading for Julio Jones and 2023 sixth round pick (2022 second round pick & 2023 fourth round pick)

Worst Move: Signing Janoris Jenkins (2-year, 15,000,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: CB, TE, SS, & RG

2. Indianapolis Colts (10-7) DIV (5-1)

Ls- @TEN, @MIA, @BAL, @SF, @BUF, vs. NE, vs. LV

Leaving the 2020 season with a first-round exit lost by the Buffalo Bills and losing Phillip Rivers to retirement had the Indianapolis Colts in a difficult situation this offseason. The Colts had to find a new franchise QB and did so in trading for Carson Wentz. The Colts gave up a 2021 third round pick and a conditional 2022 second round pick for the services of Wentz. There were many other positions that had to be filled on the Colts roster as well after losing Anthony Walker Jr., Denico Autry, and Anthony Castonzo. There was not much movement from Indianapolis in free agency, but they were able to add Eric Fisher to help replace Castonzo at the left tackle position. The Colts already had a dominant defense coming into the 2021 season, but they improved on it even more with the selections of Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo in the draft. The real question for this team is how much success can Carson Wentz have. I do think Wentz will have a decent amount of success but giving Wentz a dominant wide receiver would help out even more. However, this roster has a lot of talent with the likes of Quenton Nelson, Jonathan Taylor, T.Y. Hilton, Darius Leonard, DeForest Buckner, Kenny Moore II, and more will be enough to get this team in the playoffs again.

Best Move: Trading for Carson Wentz (2021 third round pick & conditional 2022 second round pick)

Worst Move: Not getting a dominant WR1.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: FS, RE, MLB, & WR

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-11) DIV (3-3)

Ls- vs. DEN, vs. ARI, @CIN, vs. MIA, @SEA, vs. BUF, @IND, @LAR, @TEN, @NE, vs IND

Trevor Lawrence is the big story coming into the 2021 season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. After selecting Lawrence #1 overall and pairing him up with newly acquired head coach Urban Meyer, the Jaguars are looking to build this team from the ground up. Jacksonville made a lot of interesting moves in free agency like signing former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow to play as a tight end. Alongside Tebow, the Jaguars brought in Marvin Jones, Malcolm Brown, Shaquil Griffin, and Damien Wilson to help improve this roster. The best work that was done by the Jaguars was in the draft where on top of Lawrence, Jacksonville was able to select Travis Etienne Jr., Tyson Campbell, and Walker Little. This certainly is a team that is rebuilding and must be given time. The highest expectation has to be at least 6 wins in 2021. Jacksonville does have a roster full of talented players like DJ Chark Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., Josh Allen, and Myles Jack. It will be interesting to see how much success Jacksonville can have but I think a playoff spot is too high to reach for in Lawrence’s rookie year.

Best Move: Drafting Trevor Lawrence (1st Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Signing Tim Tebow (1-year, $920,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: SS, FS, TE, & LE

4. Houston Texans (1-16) DIV (0-6)

Ls- vs. JAX, @CLE, vs. CAR, @BUF, vs. NE, @IND, @ARI, vs. LAR, @MIA, @TEN, vs. IND, vs. SEA, @JAX, vs. LAC, @SF, vs. TEN

Very close in saying that the Houston Texans would lose to the bye week as well but of course they have the N.Y. Jets on their schedule so I could not say they will go 0-17. This Texans team is just a mess right now. If Deshaun Watson is not playing quarterback for the Texans, then it is going to be a challenging uphill climb for this team. What made matters worse was Houston had to say goodbye to their best player in franchise history in J.J. Watt. Watt was able to land with his second team when he signed with the Arizona Cardinals. The Texans also saw wide receiver Will Fuller sign with the Miami Dolphins in the offseason as well. The Texans brought in a few players in free agency like Tyrod Taylor, Christian Kirksey, Shaq Lawson, Marcus Cannon, and Terrance Mitchell. In addition to these players, most of the moves made by the Texans were on players that really are only going to be on the team for a few seasons. Houston did not have a pick until the third round where they selected David Mills from Stanford. This will be the worst team in the NFL in 2021 and may even be the worst team in NFL history if they do not win a game.

Best Move: Drafting Brevin Jordan (147th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Not dealing off Deshaun Watson before April 24th.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: QB, LG, C, RT, RE, LE, & SS

AFC EAST:

1. Buffalo Bills (13-4) DIV (5-1)

Ls- @MIA, @KC, @TEN, @TB

What a 2020 season it was for the Buffalo Bills and their star quarterback Josh Allen. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have developed a culture in Buffalo that plays winning football. The Bills did fall in the AFC championship game and are looking to bounce back in a huge way in 2021. This offseason was very interesting for the Bills because they did lose and re-sign some free agent players that were on the team in the past season. In the draft, the Bills were able to select two defensive linemen in Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. to help improve their defensive pass rush. The Bills defense has lots of talented players like Tre’Davious White, Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde. The real question is will the other defensive players step up? When facing powerhouse teams like the Kansas Chiefs and Tennessee Titans, the Bills defense would fold. We all know that Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Josh Allen will show up, but an evident run game needs to be produced in this offense as well. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss need to produce more in this offense. It was interesting that the Bills did not try to bring in a dominant back in the draft or free agency. The AFC East improved a lot in this offseason, but I do have the Bills defending their crown in a big way.

Best Move: Drafting Carlos Basham Jr. (61st Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Not improving the CB & RB spots.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: CB, RB, TE, & DT

2. Miami Dolphins (11-6) DIV (4-2)

Ls- @LV, @TB, @BUF, vs. NYG, @NO, vs. NE

Tua Tagovailoa had a very up and down rookie season with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins and Brian Flores have shown that they are invested in Tagovailoa being their quarterback in 2021. In the offseason, Miami traded defensive end Shaq Lawson to the Houston Texans for linebacker Benardrick McKinney and a swap of late round 2021 draft picks. The Dolphins also released Kyle Van Noy who was signed in the 2020 offseason to help improve the pass rush. To replace Lawson and Van Noy, Miami invested in the draft by selecting Jaelan Phillips at the eighteenth overall pick. A few picks prior, the speedy Jaylen Waddle was also selected by the Dolphins to give Tagovailoa a familiar face to throw to. In the second round, Miami was also able to grab the talented Javon Holland who some viewed as a first round prospect. This is a very underrated team that has playmakers on both sides of the football. The likes of Will Fuller V, Mike Gesicki, Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, and Christian Wilkins make the Dolphins a competitive team that will look to sneak into the playoffs to have a chance to make some noise.

Best Move: Drafting Jevon Holland (36th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Not improving the LG & OLB spots.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, ROLB, & DE

3. New England Patriots (10-7) DIV (3-3)

Ls- vs. MIA, vs. NO, vs. TB, @LAC, vs. TEN, @BUF, vs. BUF

If you think the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick are just going to go away without some kind of a fight, then you are mistaking yourself. After losing their franchise quarterback/player in Tom Brady, the Patriots had a mediocre season. Dave Ziegler and Bill Belichick both knew that they had to improve this roster in the 2021 offseason. The Patriots broke the bank in the offseason signing Jonnu Smith, Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, and Jalen Mills. The Patriots were also able to trade for veteran tackle Trent Brown and a future seventh round pick. There are a lot of good quality players on this roster, but the real problem is at the quarterback position. There will have to be a decision made if Cam Newton or newly acquired draft choice Mac Jones will be the starting quarterback week 1. Newton should get the crack at starter in the beginning of the season, but if he struggles early on, Jones should take over. The AFC East certainly is one of the toughest divisions and I do think both the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins will be too much for the Patriots in their effort to retake the 1st place spot.

Best Move: Trading for Trent Brown & 2022 seventh round Pick (2022 fifth round pick)

Worst Move: Signing Jalen Mills (4-years, $24,000,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: WR, ILB, RE & LG

4. N.Y. Jets (3-14) DIV (0-6)

Ls- @CAR, vs. NE, vs. TEN, @ALT, @NE, @IND, vs. BUF, vs. MIA, @HOU, vs. NO, @MIA, vs. JAX, vs. TB, @BUF

Looking at the N.Y. Jets, they have made the right moves to lead this franchise back on their feet. The hire of Robert Saleh as head coach was the correct one to make. In the draft, the Jets were able to select a new franchise quarterback in Zach Wilson out of BYU at the second overall selection. The selection of Alijah Vera-Tucker was also a good selection at the fourteenth overall pick. In free agency, the Jets were able to bring in Lamarcus Joyner, Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Tevin Coleman, Sheldon Rankins, and Carl Lawson. This is a young team that is rebuilding in the right way but must be patient because there are going to be a lot of growing pains. The AFC East is too tough right now for the Jets. The most important objective is to make sure Zach Wilson develops in the right way and to protect him at all costs. There are still a decent number of holes on this roster, but the Jets have time if Wilson finally is the franchise quarterback that they have been looking for. The last thing the Jets need is to have Wilson get hurt and take a minor step back.

Best Move: Hiring Robert Saleh.

Worst Move: Upgrading the secondary (CB & SS)

Positions in need of an upgrade: RG, RT, RB, TE, RE, SS, & CB

AFC WEST:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3), DIV (4-2)

Ls- @WAS, @LV, @LAC

Since losing Super Bowl LV to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Kansas City Chiefs approached the 2021 offseason very aggressively and loudly. The Chiefs offensive line needed to be revamped after quarterback Patrick Mahomes was sacked all day long in the Super Bowl. The offensive line was fixed by first signing Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, and Kyle Long. Then Kansas City traded for the 2x all-pro tackle in Orlando Brown Jr. from the Ravens for the thirty-first overall selection. In addition to these moves, the Chiefs are getting Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back after he opted out in 2020. The Chiefs did lose Bashaud Breeland, Sammy Watkins, and Damien Wilson in free agency so their draft replacements will need to step up. Even though Kansas City traded away their first round pick, they found good value with Nick Bolton and Creed Humphrey in the draft. I do think Andy Reid, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Tyrann Mathieu, and Patrick Mahomes will bounce back from the Super Bowl loss in a huge way with the rest of the Chiefs roster.

Best Moves: Trading for Orlando Brown Jr. (31st Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Not upgrading the CB spot.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: CB, RT, LE, & MLB

2. Los Angeles Chargers (11-6) (4-2)

Ls- vs. DAL, @KC, @BAL, vs. MIN, @CIN, @LV

Justin Herbert was able to shine in year one with the Los Angeles Chargers. Herbert ended the 2020 season with the NFL Rookie of the Year Award. The Chargers organization and the Chargers fans have a new franchise quarterback to get excited over. Unfortunately, the Chargers did not have much success in 2020 and had to hire a new head coach which is Brandon Staley. In the offseason, Los Angeles did unfortunately lose some top players from past seasons that includes Hunter Henry, Casey Hayward, Denzel Perryman, Mike Pouncey, and Melvin Ingram. Some additions that the Chargers general manager Tom Telesco made were Corey Linsley, Jared Cook, Kyler Fackrell, and Matt Feiler. One of the main goals was to get Herbert more protection and that was clear when in the draft the Chargers selected offensive tackle Rashawn Slater with the thirteenth pick. A very underrated selection was made in the second round by the Chargers as well when they took Asante Samuel Jr. with the forty-seventh overall pick. For Los Angeles to have a chance in taking down Kansas City for the AFC West crown, this Chargers defense has to play better in 2021. There are playmakers on this Chargers defense like Derwin James, Joey Bosa, and Chris Harris Jr. but they need their teammates to step up around them because the Chiefs will simply walk away with this division title again.

Best Move: Drafting Rashawn Slater (13th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Signing Corey Linsley (5-year, $62,500,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: ROLB, RE, ILB, & RG

3. Las Vegas Raiders (7-10) DIV (3-3)

Ls- vs. BAL, @LAC, vs. CHI, @NYG, @DAL, vs. WAS, @KC, vs. CIN, @CLE, vs. DEN

Being able to pound the ball with Josh Jacobs and to hit big plays deep down the field with Henry Ruggs III, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and newly acquired receiver John Brown is what the Las Vegas Raiders want to do this season. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden did make a lot of interesting moves this offseason. In free agency the Raiders brought in Yannick Ngakoue, Casey Hayward, and Quinton Jefferson to help shore up this defense. Selecting Trevon Moehrig with the forty-third overall pick in the second round was a good move for this Las Vegas defense as well. There were some head scratching moves however like trading Trent Brown and a 2022 seventh round pick to the New England Patriots for just a 2022 fifth round pick. Another questionable move was taking offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood at the seventeenth overall selection where many people saw it as a reach with better offensive tackle prospects still on the board. This Raiders offensive line has to improve and there are just too many holes all over it. Some players like Leatherwood have little professional playing time and others like Richie Incognito are coming to some of their last snaps as NFL players. There is too much for quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of the Raiders to handle in the AFC West.

Best Move: Trevon Moehrig (43rd Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Trading Trent Brown & 2022 seventh round Pick (2022 fifth round pick)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, C, RG, & DT

4. Denver Broncos (5-12) DIV (1-5)

Ls- @NYG, vs. NYJ, vs. BAL, @PIT, vs. LV, @CLE, vs. WAS, vs PHI, vs. LAC, @KC, @LAC, vs. KC

For the Denver Broncos it is simple, if you do not have an established quarterback then it is very difficult to win games. Denver does not have an established quarterback which results in a below .500 season. Drew Lock is going into his make-or-break season and will have competition for the starting quarterback spot with newly acquired Teddy Bridgewater from Carolina. The Broncos traded a 2021 sixth round selection to receive Bridgewater and hopes he can bring some kind of promise. The biggest names that the Broncos lost in free agency were Phillip Lindsay and A.J. Bouye. Denver was able to replace Bouye by signing Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby in free agency. Coming into the draft, the idea of drafting a quarterback with the ninth overall pick seemed logical for Denver but they decided to pass on both Justin Fields and Mac Jones. Instead, the Broncos selected Patrick Surtain II with the ninth pick. Time will tell if Denver made the right decision, but the quarterback position is going to hold this team back from taking the AFC West and making the playoffs. Rough year for Denver again.

Best Move: Kyle Fuller (1-year, $9,500,000)

Worst Move: Not bringing in a franchise quarterback.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: QB, RG, RT, NT, & ILB

NFC NORTH:

1. Green Bay Packers (13-4) DIV (5-1)

Ls- vs. WAS, @ARI, @KC, @MIN

The biggest storyline of the entire offseason is the relationship between the Green Bay Packers and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers and the Packers are in a dispute, but I do think Rodgers will return for week one because of his teammates. The Packers fell a game away from the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year. If Rodgers does come back, then this is one of the best rosters in the NFL. During the offseason Green Bay did lose Corey Linsley and Jamaal Williams but they have replacements for those two players in 2021 second rounder Josh Myers and 2020 second rounder in AJ Dillon. The Packers were able to re-sign their top running back in Aaron Jones to a 4-year, $48,000,000 contract to make a scary one-two punch with Dillon. In the draft, general manager Brian Gutekunst selected cornerback Eric Stokes with the twenty-ninth selection. Stokes has the talent to develop into a solid cornerback next to Jaire Alexander. Of course, none of these moves will matter if Rodgers does not return. If the Packers do move on from Rodgers or if Rodgers decides to hold out the entire 2021 NFL season, then 2020 first round pick Jordan Love will get his crack as a starting quarterback in the NFL. If Love is the starter, realistically this team can only be expected to win at least six games. If Rodgers is the starter, then this is the NFC team that has the best chance of taking down Tampa Bay.

Best Move: Re-sign Aaron Jones (4-year, $48,000,000)

Worst Move: Not solving the Aaron Rodgers issue.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: RT, LE, RE, & ILB

2. Minnesota Vikings (9-8) DIV (4-2)

Ls- @CIN, @ARI, vs. CLE, @BAL, @SF, @CHI, vs. LAR, @GB

Going 7-9 in 2020 showed that this Mike Zimmer team that has usually produced some strong play in past years needs to be rebuilt and recharged. There were some bright points for the Vikings after the season was over like Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook. Two Minnesota players that missed a decent amount of time in 2020 were Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr. This defense was getting outsmarted and outplayed throughout the entire season. The cornerback spot certainly needed an upgrade or two this offseason which led the Vikings into signing Patrick Peterson to a 1-year, $8,000,000 deal. This secondary did however lose safety Anthony Harris to the Philadelphia Eagles. Inconsistent play by the Vikings offense also held Minnesota back from winning. Dalvin Cook certainly is a top back in the NFL but the offensive line for Minnesota is one of the worst groups. This offensive line still has holes to be filled but the Vikings managed to land tackle Christian Darrisaw with the twenty-third pick after trading down with the N.Y. Jets to receive their two third round picks. A storyline if Kirk Cousins is not able to lead this Vikings team to solid success is rookie third round pick Kellen Mond getting a start over Cousins. Cousins will be a free agent after the 2022 season, so his window is starting to close if he does not produce more success in Minnesota.

Best Move: Trading down and selecting Christian Darrisaw (23rd Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Signing Xavier Woods (1-year, $1,750,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, RG, RT, RE, SS, & CB

3. Chicago Bears (7-10) DIV (2-4)

Ls- @LAR, @CLE, vs. GB, @TB, vs. SF, @DET, vs. ARI, @GB, @SEA, @MIN

The Mitchell Trubisky experiment did not turn out well for general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. Nagy and Pace had to go in a different direction this offseason to save their jobs with the Chicago Bears. That direction was trading up with the N.Y. Giants to select Justin Fields with the eleventh overall pick. Fields will battle with Andy Dalton for the starting quarterback role of this football team. This Bears franchise has struggled to find a quality starting quarterback for years now and they hope Fields is that guy they have been looking for. This team still has a long road ahead of them if they want to make the playoffs in 2021. Some notable players that were lost in free agency were Kyle Fuller, Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Roy Robertson-Harris. The Bears were able to bring in Desmond Trufant, Damien Williams, Marquise Goodwin, and Elijah Wilkinson but most of these players are short term answers or depth signings. The offensive line is a huge concern for this football team as well. Teven Jenkins was selected in the second round and will be the starting left tackle for the Bears. Jenkins is arguably the best offensive linemen on the team and has zero NFL playing experience. That just shows how much improvement this offensive line needs. The NFC North runs through Green Bay and if Aaron Rodgers is playing quarterback for that team, then the Bears have to bring their A game.

Best Move- Trading up and drafting Justin Fields (11th Overall Pick)

Worst Move- Releasing Kyle Fuller

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, C, RG, RT, RE, & CB

4. Detroit Lions (2-15) DIV

Ls- vs. SF, @GB, vs. BAL, @CHI, @MIN, vs. CIN, @LAR, @PIT, @CLE, vs. MIN, @DEN, vs. ARI, @ALT, @SEA, vs. GB

Look away Detroit Lions fans because this team will not be biting off any knee caps this season. After an awful 5-11 season in 2020, this team got arguably worse in the offseason. For starters, the Lions traded their franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford away to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for the Rams first round selections in 2022 and 2023. The Lions were also able to add quarterback Jared Goff and a 2021 third round pick which they used to select cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu from Syracuse. The Lions used selection seven in the first round to select the versatile Penei Sewell out of Oregon. Sewell is a muller that will be a nice piece to rebuild this team around. In free agency, the Lions lost some quality players like Justin Coleman, Marvin Jones, Kerryon Johnson, and Kenny Golladay. The most notable additions that Detroit made in free agency were signing veteran players like Quinton Dunbar, Jamaal Williams, Tyrell Williams, and Breshad Perriman. Newly acquired head coach Dan Campbell has to know that this team has a long way to go in the NFC North and must continue to rebuild down the road if there is any kind of chance to turn this franchise around.

Best Move: Drafting Penei Sewell (7th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Not re-signing either Marvin Jones or Kenny Golladay.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: WR, LG, RG, NT, QB, LOLB, & SS


NFC SOUTH:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15-2) DIV (6-0)

Ls- @LAR, @IND

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions come into the 2021 season with all of their starters from the previous season still on the roster. General manager Jason Licht and the rest of the Buccaneers front office did an amazing job at re-signing all the players that made a tremendous impact in leading this football team into lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy this past season. Some of those players that were re-signed are the likes of Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukung Suh, and Chris Godwin. Under Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians, this team is going to be the top dog to beat in the NFC. The defense is loaded with talent and looks to improve even more with the addition of defensive end Joe Tryon at selection thirty-second in the first round. This should be a landslide in the NFC South for the Buccaneers to win the division in 2021. Going back-to-back this season will be a tough task with a target on their back now.

Best Move: Re-signing Shaquil Barrett (4-year, $68,000,000)

Worst Move: Drafting Kyle Trask (64th Overall Pick)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: RE & CB


2. New Orleans Saints (9-8) DIV (3-3)

Ls- vs. GB, @CAR, @SEA, vs. TB, @TEN, @PHI, vs. BUF, @TB

Coming into the 2021 season, the New Orleans Saints will be playing with a new starting quarterback under center with their franchise quarterback Drew Brees retiring after the 2020 season. Either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill will be the new starting quarterback for the Saints. Whoever it is at the quarterback spot, they will have the luxury of having Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas to utilize in the offense. The Saints barely did anything in free agency because they did not have a large amount of cap space to work with. New Orleans lost players such as Emmanuel Sanders, Janoris Jenkins, Sheldon Rankins, Malcolm Brown, and Jared Cook. In the draft, the Saints made a shocking pick in selecting Payton Turner with the twenty-eighth overall selection. Turner was a reach in many people’s eyes so it will be important that he produces for this team to have success. Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem like too much to handle for this Saints team which will result in them finishing second in the NFC South this season.

Best Move: Restructuring Marshon Lattimore’s contract (Freed Up $7,400,000)

Worst Move: Drafting Payton Turner (28th Overall Pick)

Positions in need of an upgrade: SLB, WR, TE, CB & DT

3. Carolina Panthers (6-11) DIV (3-3)

Ls- @DAL, vs. PHI, vs. MIN, @NYG, vs. NE, @ARI, @MIA, @BUF, vs. TB, @NO, vs. TB

Sam Darnold is now a Carolina Panther, and he was traded to his second NFL team for a sixth round pick in 2021, a second round pick and a fourth round pick in 2022. Carolina decided to move on from Teddy Bridgewater after one season and will hope Darnold is the franchise quarterback that many thought he was when the N.Y. Jets selected him in 2018. Other players that are no longer Panthers anymore are Kawann Short, Tre Boston, Mike Davis, Curtis Samuel, Rasul Douglas, and Efe Obada. The Panthers were able to bring in players such as Denzel Perryman, A.J. Bouye, Haason Reddick, David Moore, and Dan Arnold. Good news for the Panthers is they will be getting back star running back Christian McCaffrey after he battled through injuries this past season. Carolina was also able to add Jaycee Horn with the eighth overall pick to improve their secondary with Jeremy Chinn. There are some question marks about this Carolina offensive line and if they can protect Darnold enough to win games. Second year head coach Matt Rhule will need to coach up this team in preparation to win the NFC South for the first time since 2015.

Best Move: Drafting Jaycee Horn (8th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Not improving the offensive line.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LT, LG, RG, SLB, FS, & DT

4. Atlanta Falcons (3-14)

Ls- @TB, @NYG, vs. WAS, @MIA, vs. CAR, @NO, @DAL, vs. NE, @JAX, vs. TB, @CAR, @SF, @BUF, vs. NO

For the second year in a row, the Atlanta Falcons only managed to win 4 games. Times are changing with the Falcons as they traded away their star wide receiver in Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans for a 2022 second round pick in addition with a 2023 fourth round pick. The Falcons even had to give up a sixth-round pick with Jones for the deal to get done. Matt Ryan seems to be entering his final year with the Falcons if they do not start winning games in 2021. With the Falcons first round selection, they were able to take the versatile Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall selection. For Atlanta, they lack talent outside the likes of Calvin Ridley, Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Matt Ryan and of course Kyle Pitts. Talented players walked out the door to new teams such as Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Ricardo Allen, and Alex Mack all left in free agency. There are too many holes on this roster, and it is hard to see this ball club winning a decent amount of football games in 2021. Too many steps to take and this team will need to be patient in the following seasons.

Best Move: Selecting Kyle Pitts (4th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Trading Julio Jones & 2023 sixth round pick (2022 second-round pick & 2023 fourth-round pick)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: RB, LG, C, RT, LE, WLB, SLB, CB, & SS

NFC EAST:

1. N.Y. Giants (10-7) DIV (4-2)

Ls- @WAS, @NO, @KC, @TB, @LAC, vs. DAL, @CHI

Saquon Barkley will be returning after tearing his ACL in the beginning of the 2020 NFL season. Barkley will be a major piece that will help the N.Y. Giants in regaining the NFC East title. Under second year head coach Joe Judge, the Giants were able to have some decent success; especially on the defensive side of the ball. In the offseason the Giants were able to make some power additions to their football team. In free agency the Giants were able to add Kenny Golladay, John Ross, Reggie Ragland, Adoree` Jackson, Danny Shelton, and Zach Fulton. One defensive player that was added to improve the Giants pass rush was Azeez Ojulari who was taken with the fiftieth overall selection. Ojulari looks to be the Giants dominant pass rusher. This is a team with passing weapons all over the place with Evan Engram, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and Kadarius Toney. Toney, who is a very twitchy receiver, was taken with the twentieth selection in the first round. This Giants offensive line needs to pass protect and create better running lanes in 2021 if the Giants are ready to win the NFC East. Upgrades on the offensive line would have gone a long way for this team. Daniel Jones will need to take a major leap this season and can with the weapons that are around him.

Best Move: Drafting Azeez Ojulari (50th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Not upgrading the offensive line.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, C, RT, & ILB

2. Washington Football Team (10-7) DIV (3-3)

Ls- vs. LAC, @BUF, vs. NO, vs. TB, @CAR, vs. DAL @NYG

Fitzmagic is now with his ninth NFL team and looks to compete to be the new starting quarterback with the Washington Football Team. Washington will use either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Taylor Heinicke as their starting quarterback in 2021. Whoever the quarterback is, they will have new weapons to throw to and better protection. With the additions of Ereck Flowers, Charles Leno Jr., Adam Humphries, Curtis Samuel, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Samuel Cosmi who was selected with the fifty-first selection; this team looks to take off to new heights. The dominant Chase Young on the defensive side of the ball received help as well with the addition of William Jackson III, David Mayo, Darryl Roberts, and first round selection Jamin Davis with the nineteenth overall selection. Even though Washington has a very solid roster, not having a set quarterback that can take this team to the next level will hold them back. This is a team that will win 10 games however because of the talent that is presented all over the roster. Players such as Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Montez Sweat, and Brandon Scherff will contribute greatly to getting this team above .500.

Best Move: Signing Curtis Samuel (3-year, $34,500,000)

Worst Move: Not getting a franchise quarterback.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: C, FS, RT, & QB

3. Dallas Cowboys (7-10) DIV (3-3)

Ls- @TB, vs. NYG, @NE, @MIN, vs. DEN, @KC, @NO, vs. WAS, vs. ARI, @PHI

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys are coming into the 2021 season after a 5-7 campaign in 2020. In that campaign, the Cowboys franchise quarterback had a gruesome ankle injury that held him out of the majority of the 2020 season. Even with the injury, Jones and the Cowboys proved that they are committed to Dak Prescott beyond 2021 when giving him a 6-year, $240,000,000 deal. There are no questions that this Cowboys offense has the potential to make big plays with the talents of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. The real question mark is if Ezekiel Elliot and this Dallas offensive line can play consistent football. The Cowboys defense also needed some huge upgrades on the defensive side after having one of the worst defenses in 2020. To help fix the defense, head coach Mike McCarthy brought in a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn. Dallas was also able to sign Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, and drafted Micah Parsons with the twelfth overall selection. Overall, this is the Dallas Cowboys and there always seems to be some kind of drama involved with this team. There are still some holes all over the roster that need upgrades before Dallas can be put back on the top spot in the NFC East.

Best Move: Drafting Micah Parsons (12th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Signing Damontae Kazee (1-year, $1,127,500)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: C, RE, DT, SS, & FS

4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-13) DIV (1-5)

Ls- @ALT, vs. SF, @DAL, vs. KC, vs. TB, @LV, @DET, vs. LAC, @NYG, @NYJ, vs. WAS, vs. NYG, @WAS

A new head coach in Nick Sirianni will now be taking over the Philadelphia Eagles. Sirianni comes from the Indianapolis Colts where the Eagles traded quarterback Carson Wentz to for a 2021 third round pick and a conditional 2022 second round pick. The new quarterback will be either Jalen Hurts or long-time veteran Joe Flacco. In free agency, additions such as Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony Harris, and Kerryon Johnson were made to bring in more talent to help this struggling ball club. Speaking of talent, the Eagles were able to draft the 2020 Heisman winner in DeVonta Smith with the tenth overall selection. Smith lit the NCAA on fire last year and will look to make even more electric plays in Philadelphia. The Eagles had a lot of offensive line issues last year and the year prior. Those issues lead to center Landon Dickerson being drafted with the thirty-seventh overall pick in the second round. Making more additional depth signings on the offensive line would have gone a long way for the Eagles however. Younger players will have to step up for this football team to gain success in the NFC East. Expect a season with a low win total for the Eagles as well if Hurts or Flacco do not produce above-average quarterback play.

Best Move: Drafting DeVonte Smith (10th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Signing Ryan Kerrigan (1-year, $2,500,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, DT, MLB, SLB, CB, & SS

NFC WEST:

1. Arizona Cardinals (12-5) DIV (3-3)

Ls- @LAR, @CLE, @SF, vs. IND, vs. SEA

Missing the playoffs after a very up and down season in 2020 showed that the Arizona Cardinals are not far off in making a huge leap in 2021. Steve Keim and the rest of the Cardinals front office were very aggressive in the offseason. Arizona was able to bring in J.J. Watt, A.J. Green, Darqueze Dennard, James Conner, Malcolm Butler, Rodney Hudson, and Matt Prater. These are some veteran players that can bring in a different attitude to this football team. One of the best additions for the Cardinals came in the draft where they were able to select the multi-talented Zaven Collins with the sixteenth selection. Collins will be matched-up with fellow linebacker Isaiah Simmons to create a dominant young duo. With Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury having a ton of weapons to utilize in this offense, they should be one of the best scoring offenses in 2021. The defense has improved greatly with overall talent as well to give Arizona a huge leap of success. Chandler Jones will be making his return after being out with a bicep tear. The NFC West certainly will be the toughest division to win but the Cardinals seem ready to compete for the title.

Best Move: Drafting Zaven Collins (16th Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Signing A.J. Green (1-year, 8,000,000)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, RG, RT, & SS


2. San Francisco 49ers (11-6) DIV (4-2)

Ls- vs. GB, @ARI, @CHI, vs. LAR, @JAX, @TEN

Crazy turn of events happened for the San Francisco 49ers in 2020 after coming off of the NFC title and Super Bowl loss in 2019. The 49ers were bitten by a huge injury bug that took out some of their best players for periods of times or even the entire season. One of the biggest losses was defensive end Nick Bosa when he tore his ACL in week 2. Bosa will be looking to regain back to form in 2021 and lead this 49ers defense to greater success. Some of the injuries even cost/threatened some players their jobs like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco drafted a new quarterback in April's draft when they took Trey Lance with the third-overall selection. Garoppolo now will be fighting for the starting quarterback spot with Lance. The 49ers were also able to improve their roster depth in free agency when they brought in Alex Mack, Tavon Wilson, Arden Key, Wayne Gallman, and Mohamed Sanu. There is a bundle of talented players on this team like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Trent Williams, and Fred Warner. Head coach Kyle Shanahan will have this football team ready to bounce back in a huge way in 2021.

Best Move: Drafting Trey Lance (3rd Overall Pick)

Worst Move: Starting a QB controversy.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: RG, DT, CB, & SS


3. Los Angeles Rams (11-6) DIV (3-3)

Ls- @IND, @SEA, @NYG, @GB, @ARI, vs. SF

Matthew Stafford is now the Los Angeles Rams new starting quarterback after trading both their first round selections in 2022 and 2023. Quarterback Jared Goff and a 2021 third round pick was also sent to the Detroit Lions in part of the deal for Stafford. This trade will either make or break the Rams in 2021 or even beyond. Stafford is a very talented quarterback that was able to produce at a high level in Detroit when he was healthy. If Stafford does not stay healthy then the Rams will be in for a rude awakening. The Rams also lost some good quality players like John Johnson III, Austin Blythe, Troy Hill, Malcolm Brown, and Gerald Everett. Los Angeles was not even able to make a selection in the draft until the second-round when they took wide receiver Tutu Atwell. Of course, the Rams will be a very hard team to beat because they have Aaron Donald on their side. This is a boom or bust team in 2021 and will be must watch tv when playing in their new stadium with full stands of people screaming and cheering the Rams on.

Best Move: Trading Michael Brockers (2023 7th Round Pick: Saved $6.17 Million)

Worst Move: Trading that much draft capital for Matthew Stafford (2022 First Round Pick, 2023 First Round Pick, 2021 Third Round Pick, Jared Goff)

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LG, C, RT, LE, ILB, & FS


4. Seattle Seahawks (7-10) DIV (2-4)

Ls- @IND, vs. TEN, @MIN, @SF, @PIT, @GB, vs. ARI, @WAS, vs. SF, @LAR

Even though Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll have made it clear that both enjoy working together, this Seattle Seahawks team seems to be the one that will be coming in 4th place in the NFC West this season. No question that DK Metcalf, Jamal Adams, Tyler Lockett, and Bobby Wagner will perform at high levels for this football team. The problem is Seattle does not currently have a lot of those quality players listed above on their roster. Players like Jarran Reed, Quinton Dunbar, Carlos Hyde, Shaquill Griffin, and Linden Stephens were lost in free agency. The Seahawks also only had three picks in the entire draft. Seattle's first selection was not until the second round where they took receiver D’Wayne Eskridge out of Michigan. This could be Russell Wilson’s last year in Seattle if he does commit to leaving following the 2021 season. Wilson has gotten beat up with the lack of talent on the offensive line and the line still has not drastically improved. A difficult NFC West just seems to be too much for the hawks to deal with and will cost them games in 2021.

Best Move: Signing Gabe Jackson (3-year, $22,575,000)

Worst Move: Not improving the offensive line.

Position(s) in need of an upgrade: LT, C, RT, DT, RE, WLB, SLB, & CB


Playoffs:

AFC Wild Card:

Indianapolis Colts (7) vs. Buffalo Bills (2)- Buffalo Bills

Los Angeles Chargers (6) vs. Cleveland Browns (3)- Cleveland Browns

Miami Dolphins (5) vs. Tennessee Titans (4)- Tennessee Titans


NFC Wild Card:

Washington Football Team (7) vs. Green Bay Packers (2)- Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Rams (6) vs. Arizona Cardinals (3)- Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers (5) vs. New York Giants (4)- San Francisco


AFC Divisional:

Tennessee Titans (4) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1)- Kansas City Chiefs

Cleveland Browns (3) vs. Buffalo Bills (2)- Cleveland Browns

NFC Divisional:

Los Angeles Rams (6) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers(1)- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

San Francisco 49ers (5) vs. Green Bay Packers (2)- Green Bay Packers


AFC Championship:

Cleveland Browns (3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1)- Cleveland Browns


NFC Championship:

Green Bay Packers (2) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1)- Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Super Bowl LVI:

Cleveland Browns (3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1)- Cleveland Browns

The way to beat Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is to have amazing clock management, rush the passer, run the ball effectively, and have the defensive backs that can match up on all of the weapons that Tampa presents. Cleveland is a football team that has all of those qualities listed above. Head coach Kevin Stefanski had this Browns team playing together and general manager Andrew Berry has done an amazing job at bringing in quality talent this off-season. If Baker Mayfield keeps improving and plays safe effective football, then the Browns can make a run for their first Super Bowl. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are all world running backs that can take over a game and even the entire NFL playoffs. Cleveland's offense has worlds of talent with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant, Rashard Higgins, and arguably the best offensive line in the league. On defense, Myles Garrett keeps looking like he could be a defensive player of the year candidate and the players around him are solid defensive players. If this team plays smart football together in crunch time, then they could be hosting that Vince Lombardi trophy at the end of Super Bowl LVI.


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