2020 Staff Predictions
Compiled by Vincent Verhei
This is one of our favorite features to write every year. It is also one of our most hated features to write every year.
Every group of football fans -- be they fantasy leaguers, officemates, drinking buddies, television crews, or in our case, a loose-knit collection of laptop warriors enslaved to our Internet connections -- loves to debate and discuss which teams will excel in the ensuing season, and which will suck. For our crew, it's an especially sweet time. After months of squinting at spreadsheets preparing our annual Football Outsiders Almanac (still available!), we get to put the data aside and put our knowledge to the test. It's a chance to find out if we're as smart as we think we are. The downside, though, is that our picks are on the record. Here's what we thought would happen in past seasons:
So here's your standard warning: predictions are probably wrong. It is the intrinsic nature of the NFL. There are so many variables and so much luck involved in a 16-game season that teams will make the playoffs or bomb for totally unexpected and sometimes baffling reasons. We can only guess.
Let's say we think the Kansas City Chiefs have the best chance of any team in the NFL to play in the Super Bowl. Let's say we think they'll get there 25% of the time, which are roughly the odds based on our most recent simulation (The exact odds are 24.6%, a few decimal points ahead of New Orleans for best in the league.) Imagine then that 15 other teams in the AFC each have about a 5% chance to reach the Super Bowl.
OK, so we pick Kansas City to win the AFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is three-out-of-four chance the pick will be incorrect. So all preseason predictions are going to be mostly wrong. It is unavoidable.
As we note every year, we're going to make picks anyway, because that's part of running a football site: you make picks.
Then again, if we each picked our 14 playoff teams, there would be a lot of overlap and you wouldn't learn a lot. Instead, we're showing our individuality by each arguing with our own statistical forecast, giving answers to questions such as "which team is most likely to beat its projection?" and "who will go first in the 2021 NFL draft?" However, the official FO predictions are based on the statistical projection system, even when the output looks a little strange. You can find those projections here, and as a reminder, the updated playoff forecast is:
AFC divisions: Kansas City, Baltimore, Indianapolis, New England
AFC wild cards: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Buffalo
NFC divisions: New Orleans, Seattle, Dallas, Detroit
NFC wild cards: Tampa Bay, L.A. Rams, Philadelphia
Super Bowl: New Orleans over Kansas City
First Pick in the Draft: Washington Football Team
"Officially," we are projecting Houston to be the lone AFC playoff team from 2019 to miss the postseason this year, with Indianapolis and Pittsburgh qualifying instead. (Remember, each conference is adding a wild-card team this year.) There's a lot more turnover in the NFC, where last year's finalists -- San Francisco and Green Bay -- are expected to be home in January, along with the Minnesota Vikings; their playoff berths will be taken by the Cowboys, Lions, Buccaneers, and Rams.
We often say -- even though some people don't seem to ever hear it -- that we do not believe that our statistical methods are perfect. Our subjective views are informed by our objective numbers, but not dictated by them. However, we want to make this clear: EACH OF THE OPINIONS LISTED BELOW IS THE OPINION OF THAT WRITER AND THAT WRITER ONLY. These are not "Football Outsiders predicts."
And now: here are your 2020 staff predictions.
Note: Listed ranks for the DVOA projections may be slightly off if they are based on the projections in the book instead of the updated projections published on Wednesday.
TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT ITS FOA PROJECTION
Thomas Bassinger: Dallas Cowboys. In the book, we have the Cowboys at 8.8 projected wins. I think they'll clear that easily. I'm betting that their record in one-score games will improve (1-6 last season) and that the pass offense, stacked with playmakers, again will be among the league's five most efficient. They also have an easy schedule.
Dave Bernreuther: Seattle Seahawks. This is a really tough one this year. I've answered "New England" by default every season, and their total dropping this year helps with that, but the uncertainty and the schedule make that less than a sure thing. So I'll go all in on the team I expect, without any justification whatsoever, to emerge from the crowded NFC. The Seahawks won't get the one seed, but they'll win double digits again and take the West, which I don't think will be anywhere near as good as many pundits seem to think.
Derrik Klassen: Las Vegas Raiders. I enjoy joking about Derek Carr as much as anyone, but I think the Raiders offense has some real potential. The wide receiver room is still terribly inexperienced and could be somewhat of a hindrance, especially if Henry Ruggs struggles out of the gate, but Jon Gruden proved last season that he is excellent at crafting an offense with heavier personnel packages. If tight end Foster Moreau takes a second-year leap, those packages should be even more advantageous for them. The defense being projected 21st in DVOA is pretty fair and about where I would have them, but like I said, this offense has the tools to outplay their projection and carry this team into an AFC wild-card bid.
Bryan Knowles: San Francisco 49ers. Second year in a row I've picked the 49ers, so I'm in danger of wearing my gold-colored glasses here, but still. A big chunk of our relatively low projection for San Francisco is plexiglass-based; that they improved so much between 2018 and 2019 that some regression is inevitable. I do suspect, however, that the upgrade at quarterback played a significant part there, and the switch to a wide-9 defense which allowed the plethora of pass rushers to excel might mean the 49ers' improvements are stickier than they would be for the average team. 13-3 may not be in the cards again, but I'll be at least mildly surprised if they fall out of the top 10 in DVOA.
Rivers McCown: Houston Texans. I don't think a team quarterbacked by Deshaun Watson is going to win fewer than nine games unless he gets hurt or the defense is the absolute worst in the NFL. I don't see either of those things happening, and I don't think there's an easy pop-up target lower than them on our chart. I think the AFC South is going to have three competitive teams and I expect all three of them to finish at or over .500.
Andrew Potter: Houston Texans. I'm not really sure why the system is so down on a Texans team that has the best quarterback in the division, the best defensive player in the division (when healthy, admittedly a large qualifier recently), and the core of last season's division champion roster. Sure, they have the worst general manager in the division, and yes, that GM traded away their best receiver for peanuts, but they still have four NFL-caliber receivers, potentially the best line their quarterback has played behind as a professional, and they hardly face a murderer's row of a schedule. I expect the Texans to finish in the general vicinity of 10-6, like usual, and well clear of the bottom third of the league.
Aaron Schatz: Cleveland Browns. I think the Browns have solved their biggest problems from last year in ways that our projection system won't pick up: upgrades at offensive tackle and head coach. I think Kevin Stefanski's Kubiak-influenced play-action system will be good for Baker Mayfield. I do worry about the defense, which is dealing with a lot of injuries.
Scott Spratt: Washington Football Team. This pick likely hinges on quarterback play, and I think Dwayne Haskins' positive weekly trends in rookie passing DVOA offer hope that his full-season rate of -42.0% obscures, and Alex Smith's remarkable comeback raises the team's floor. Meanwhile, I'm bullish on a lot of the team's other offensive and defensive talent, in particular wide receiver Steven Sims and pretty much everyone on their defensive line. Defensively, this team could take a 49ers kind of step forward this year if the offense doesn't sabotage them.
Vince Verhei: Minnesota Vikings. This is cheating a little bit, because Minnesota's FOA projection came out before they traded for Yannick Ngakoue, but the Vikings also have Mike Zimmer, who I'm pretty confident is the best coach in the NFC North. We projected them to finish last in the division, but within a half-game of first place; I think they'll win the division, but maybe within a half-game of last place, and likely lose in the wild-card round. Still counts as beating their projection, right?
Rob Weintraub: Cleveland Browns. Addition by subtraction in the coaching staff, a seemingly coherent approach to offensive scheme and personnel, and a full season from Myles "Headbangers Ball" Garrett would seem to be enough to at least scrape to .500, and the talent is there for better than that. An early skein of injuries may anchor them from achieving those heights, but a playoff run seems likely.
Carl Yedor: Cincinnati Bengals. 2020 may not be an ideal year to have a rookie quarterback under center, but with the return of 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams, the offense should have enough pieces to make some strides. The Bengals were also a bit unlucky last year, and even with the injuries they suffered, they weren't truly a two-win team and should be poised for improvement.
TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF ITS FOA PROJECTION
Thomas Bassinger: Philadelphia Eagles. In recent years, the Eagles have struggled to find talent with what little draft capital they've had. When will it catch up to them? Last week, they released Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, cornerbacks they picked in the second and third rounds, respectively, in the 2017 draft. And they're still waiting for their first-rounder from that draft -- defensive end Derek Barnett -- to break out. I'm most concerned, though, about their offensive line. Once the strongest unit on the team, it seems to be crumbling. Already, they've suffered season-ending injuries to two of their five projected starters -- left tackle Andre Dillard (biceps) and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks (Achilles tendon). Right tackle Lane Johnson missed significant time during training camp because of the coronavirus and an undisclosed lower body issue. The Eagles persevered through injuries to win their final four regular-season games of 2019 and sneak into the playoffs. As tough as that road was, the road in 2020 might be even tougher.
Dave Bernreuther: Chicago Bears. There's really nothing good to say about the offseason that this team had, and almost no reason to hope that they'll be well-quarterbacked. That defense isn't so dominant that it can carry them to the playoff hunt, and the schedule is no cakewalk. It's very easy to find nine losses on that slate, and not at all a stretch to come up with 12.
Derrik Klassen: Philadelphia Eagles. As for the offense, average or slightly-above (projected 15th in DVOA) sounds about right. It won't be the 2017 offense, but Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz are a solid foundation, and they seem to have made some degree of upgrades at wide receiver. The defense, however, has too many question marks to get to their sixth-place projection. The linebackers are a pack of unprovens or no-names, while the secondary feels incomplete despite star talent such as Darius Slay. Of course, the defensive line still rocks, but I have a hard time looking at that back seven and seeing the fourth overall defense. I'd guess the defense doesn't place that high, pulling the team as a whole under their FOA projection.
Bryan Knowles: Pittsburgh Steelers. I'm not saying the return of Ben Roethlisberger won't help boost Pittsburgh's fortunes after suffering through Mason Rudolph a year ago, but a 38-year-old quarterback coming off of major elbow surgery is far from a sure thing. Even a mostly healthy Roethlisberger is a boon … but to fifth in DVOA, fourth in average wins? I realize there's a bit drop-off after the Kansas City/New Orleans/Baltimore trifecta, but Pittsburgh being atop the "best of the rest" pile doesn't sit well with me. I think more defensive regression is coming than we're projecting, and age and injuries dull Roethlisberger's effectiveness enough that they're more wild-card contender than AFC North threat this year.
Rivers McCown: Detroit Lions. I don't believe in Matt Patricia's ability to create a defense that isn't terrible at this point. I do believe the NFC North is wide open. But I just can't get over a team that invested humongous cash in Justin Coleman and Trey Flowers but still didn't even crack an average defensive DVOA in their head coach's second season. Maybe letting Cory Undlin call the plays will help, maybe it won't. I don't trust this team to win eight games without a different defensive approach.
Andrew Potter: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This season could either go very, very well for the Bucs or very, very badly. The former outcome requires a 43-year-old quarterback to outperform not only every other 43-year-old passer in the history of the game combined, but also his own age-42 season. The latter just requires him to look like a 43-year-old quarterback who had his worst season in a long time at age 42 and is still declining. I know where I would be placing my money. The defense was much improved under Todd Bowles, and Tom Brady doesn't exactly lack targets like he did last year, but even a fast start could taper off very quickly, and I just don't see the Bucs as one of the best six teams in football. Or the best eight. Maybe the top 12. I said maybe.
Aaron Schatz: Jacksonville Jaguars. This is a hard pick for me, I really don't think any team stands out as being clearly worse than its projection. I'll go with Jacksonville, because the projection system considers three years of DVOA and that teams tend to follow certain patterns of performance, including that units that decline significantly will rebound. But the Jaguars have gotten rid of so much defensive talent, so much more than the average team that declines on defense from seventh to 29th in one year. However, I still agree with what the system says about the offense. It was 24th last year and I don't see why we're supposed to expect it to be so much worse this year.
Scott Spratt: Indianapolis Colts. I do like the Philip Rivers fit, but beyond quarterback, the Colts lack quality depth at receiver, tight end, and the defensive line. Darius Leonard and Justin Houston are stars, but their defense finished 19th in DVOA against both the run and the pass with them last year, and 18th in pressure rate. Their projected win total seems to rely on the easiest projected schedule in football, but I think several of their opponents -- including the Vikings, Bears, Browns, Bengals, Packers, and Titans -- could all be better than we are projecting right now.
Vince Verhei: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Scramble crew mentioned this in their NFC South overview, but there's no team with a wider range of outcomes than the Bucs. I can see them winning games in the playoffs. I can also see the whole ship falling apart and finishing around 6-10. The schedule is a doozy. The defense is basically relying on Shaquill Barrett to lead the league in sacks again when he never had a half-dozen in any of his first five seasons. I'll address the offense later, but I'm not confident there either.
Rob Weintraub: Detroit Lions. I get all the arguments made in their favor in the Almanac, but this is still the Lions we are talking about here. This franchise and high (or even medium) expectations ... kinda clash. Especially with a coaching staff that hasn't exactly proven itself to be worthy of such expectations (If Wayne Fontes was still in charge, however...). I hope they break through at last, but I have to see it first.
Carl Yedor: Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars don't have much to write home about on offense, and after trading away Yannick Ngakoue, their defense is now a shell of the dominant 2017 unit that nearly earned them a Super Bowl berth. Things could get ugly quickly.
PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT HIS KUBIAK PROJECTION
Thomas Bassinger: Matthew Stafford, QB, DET. Before fractured bones in his back cut short his 2019 season, Stafford was on pace to throw for about 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. Through nine weeks, his average depth of target of 11.3 yards led the NFL and his 8.6 yards per pass ranked fourth. As long as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell keeps letting him sling the rock, the pieces -- Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola at receiver and T.J. Hockenson at tight end -- are in place for Stafford to beat his KUBIAK projection of QB13.
Dave Bernreuther: Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS. Am I allowed to say Marcus Mariota (Projection: 0)? No? Too easy? OK... I'll jump on my DFS industry train and go with Antonio Gibson. Post-Adrian Peterson maybe that's a little too much of a gimme too. But he'll get touches and that team isn't going to have a great passing offense. If he stays on the field, he should easily beat his projection.
Derrik Klassen: Philip Rivers, QB, IND. I'm not buying the idea that Philip Rivers is washed. No, he isn't 100% the player he was a few years ago, but he's a lot closer than he has been getting credit for this offseason. The most likely culprit for the "washed" designation is the Chargers just having a bad season while Rivers was 37 years old, even if the Chargers being bad had little to do with Rivers' individual play. On film, I still see a sharp, exceptionally accurate quarterback with rare pocket movement. Now he's getting put behind an elite offensive line and reuniting with one of the best offensive minds in the league in Frank Reich? Yeah, sign me up. Rivers will be better than the 19th-ranked quarterback he is projected as right now.
Bryan Knowles: Scott Miller, WR, TB. As I write this, our current projections have Miller 10th on the Buccaneers in targets behind Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tyler Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Ronald Jones, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, and Dare Ogunbowale -- and this is as the Leonard Fournette news breaks. But as it stands now, Miller looks like he'll be the third receiver in three-wide sets, with both Bruce Arians and Tom Brady singling him out for praise. We're not talking WR1 territory here or anything, but I would not be at all surprised if Miller ends up being a solid bench receiver in fantasy, able to fill in on bye weeks, as an injury replacement, or in the flex slot in PPR leagues. At the very least, I'll take the over on his 7.5 projected receptions. A nice, deep sleeper.
Rivers McCown: Michael Gallup, WR, DAL. The Cowboys lost 166 targets from last year with Randall Cobb and Jason Witten leaving. Gallup had 1,107 yards in 12 starts. And I'm supposed to believe he does worse this year? No way. I think he's going to explode and at least be Amari Cooper's equal if not give you fringe-WR1 production.
Andrew Potter: Chris Herndon, TE, NYJ. Tight end is my least favorite position in fantasy football, even though I have three of KUBIAK's top 12 rostered in my main league. Once you get past the top handful of players, value drops off precipitously, and very few teams have any prospect of injury cover as a receiving tight end. Meaning if your starting tight end goes down, unless you've gone mad hogging value at the spot, you're stumped. In that fantasy graveyard outside the top dozen, though, we find Chris Herndon, a popular sleeper pick who snagged 500 yards and four scores as a rookie in 2018 before missing almost the entire 2019 season. KUBIAK has Herndon as TE25, behind the likes of Irv Smith, Kyle Rudolph, and Jace Sternberger. On the premise that somebody has to catch (some of) Sam Darnold's passes, and Herndon posted a very impressive rookie year, I like Herndon to push closer to the top half of starters. That would make him a worthwhile pickup as cover or a spot starter for somebody who missed out on the Big Four. He's not going to be Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but he could be Jared Cook. That's very valuable in a position group this shallow.
Aaron Schatz: Tyler Boyd, WR, CIN. I know that we've got injury possibility cooked into KUBIAK this year in a way we never had before, but still, we've got Boyd dropping from two straight years of 1,000 receiving yards to under 800 yards. Even with A.J. Green and Tee Higgins around, that seems like a steep fall.
Scott Spratt: Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND. I'm the most scared of being radically wrong on rookie running back Jonathan Taylor. Our projection for him is modest based in large part on his very low college receiving ratio (4.3%), but a handful of players such as Melvin Gordon (3.4%) and James Conner (4.3%) have dramatically increased their pass-catching once they reached the NFL. We're pretty confident that Taylor will be a great runner -- he had a Saquon Barkley type of BackCAST score. If Taylor catches passes this season, he could be a top-10 fantasy player.
Vince Verhei: Will Dissly, TE, SEA. This is an either/or question with high stakes on either side. Dissly's current projection is 34/363/3.2. His career numbers are 31/418/6 … in only 10 games! I'm not concerned about the arrival of Greg Olsen; I think he'll take time away from the Phillip Dorsetts and David Moores of the world, not Dissly. A healthy Dissly blows his projection out of the water. Now, the downside of this is that Dissly once again fails to make it through the season unscathed, in which case it's fair to assume his body just isn't designed for a lengthy NFL career.
Rob Weintraub: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT. Roethlisberger was virtually a non-entity in the build-up to the season, seemingly forgotten after missing almost all of last year, even though he claims to be feeling healthy and has thrown it well in training camp. That feels like a recipe for him to regain his 2017-2018 form (62 touchdowns, 2,474 DYAR) and sign a contract extension that will further hinder his perennially cap-strapped franchise.
Carl Yedor: Chris Herndon, TE, NYJ. Sam Darnold has to throw to somebody, and the Jets receivers leave a lot to be desired. Herndon seemed like a breakout candidate last season before losing his entire year to injury and suspension and has drawn positive reviews this August. He has a pretty low projection, so it should not be difficult for him to outperform it.
PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF HIS KUBIAK PROJECTION
Thomas Bassinger: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR. If McCaffrey gains another 1,800 yards from scrimmage, as KUBIAK projects, he'll become the ninth player in NFL history to do so in three straight seasons. Six of those players -- Walter Payton, Thurman Thomas, Emmitt Smith, Terrell Davis, Marshall Faulk, and LaDainian Tomlinson -- are Hall of Famers. I have no questions about McCaffrey's talent, but I wonder how much longer he can hold up. Since joining the NFL in 2017, he has been remarkably healthy. He has played in all 48 possible games (plus a playoff game) and almost never comes off the field. Over the past three seasons, he has recorded 926 touches (second to only Ezekiel Elliott), including a league-high 403 last season, which were 48 more than anyone else.
Dave Bernreuther: Michael Thomas, WR, NO. When I started looking for receivers that looked underrated, the first one that jumped out at me was Emmanuel Sanders. So it's only natural, then, that his presence might ding Thomas' numbers a bit. Thomas is a star, of course, and will still catch everything thrown at him, but I could see him losing a pair of targets a game. And if the Saints put Drew Brees on a pitch count (as they should), we might end up seeing that team's targets down all the way across the board.
Derrik Klassen: Melvin Gordon, RB, DEN. Gordon is a high-floor, low-ceiling runner. For years, Gordon has maintained good-to-great success rates despite often struggling to crack 4.0 yards per carry in a given season. Phillip Lindsay, on the other hand, only lags slightly behind Gordon in annual success rates, while offering infinitely more by way of explosive plays. Giving up those potentially explosive touches just doesn't seem like something the Broncos offense is going to want to do. Even with the Broncos paying Gordon the way they did, I think the carries/stats split between these two players will end up closer than we have it right now, which would mean Gordon's totals come down a bit.
Bryan Knowles: Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, TB. Sticking with Tampa Bay, Vaughn was listed as the second most valuable back for the Buccaneers before the Leonard Fournette signing, but even then, I would have been wary. The LeSean McCoy addition had already probably bumped the third-round pick from "interesting prospect" to "kick returns, maybe?" With Fournette in the fold, Vaughn has no offensive role, much less the top-30 running back he was listed as before Fournette joined the team.
Rivers McCown: Tom Brady, QB, TB. He's learning a new system for the first time in his career, he's another year older, and the Patriots didn't keep him after their offense floundered down the stretch. I don't think Brady is going to be a mega-bust because he has a ton of weapons, but I would be stunned if he passed for as many yards and threw as many touchdowns as KUBIAK is in for. I think there are a lot of lower-risk quarterbacks available after him in the KUBIAK rankings.
Andrew Potter: Todd Gurley, RB, ATL. If recent history is any indication, Atlanta is going to discover quite quickly that the Gurley they thought they were getting isn't the Gurley they actually got. He might still have value as a player, but he won't be nearly the same workhorse, or if he is, he won't last the season. My suspicion is that RB16 is an absolute best-case for Gurley, and one he'll cede too many snaps, one way or another, to reach.
Aaron Schatz: Tyler Higbee, TE, LAR. I know the Rams are going to use more two-tight end sets this season and they need to make up for Brandin Cooks' targets a little bit, but I look at last year's game log and the fact that Higbee didn't have more than 50 yards in a game until the last five games of the season and I just think we ended up projecting him with too much of a target share.
Scott Spratt: David Johnson, RB, HOU. It's difficult to come up with alternatives for the Texans for Johnson's projected carries and targets, but that doesn't change the fact that he has been inefficient as a runner since his amazing 2016 season (-12.6% DVOA in 2018, -10.8% in 2019). At this time last year, Houston traded for Carlos Hyde and made him their starter. If Johnson falters, it wouldn't be difficult for the team to replace him, especially with general manager Bill O'Brien's willingness to trade future draft picks.
Vince Verhei: Tom Brady, QB, TB. I will try to keep this brief. This is the fifth year in a row I have picked Brady for this spot, so I went back over the last four seasons to check my track record. Turns out, based on his projections in Football Outsiders Almanac (which are not always identical to his final projections in KUBIAK, and which includes his 12-game projection in 2016), Brady has thrown for fewer yardage than projected for four years in a row, and fewer touchdowns three years in a row. To be fair, the yardage differences have been tiny -- about 130 yards a season, on average -- but since 2017 he has been projected to throw 97 touchdown passes and has delivered only 85. So Brady has a history of underperforming KUBIAK, and now he is 43 years old. In NFL/AFL history, there have been a total of 22 touchdown passes by players in their age-43 seasons or older. The single-season record is six by George Blanda with the Raiders in 1970. Brady will certainly break that record, and quickly, but can he really top two dozen? He will throw fewer interceptions than Jameis Winston did last season, but I am unconvinced he'll be an upgrade. I just think we'll see a lot fewer turnovers, a lot fewer touchdowns, and a lot more punts.
Rob Weintraub: Joe Burrow, QB, CIN. The full reverse-jinx! It's not as though KUBIAK projects JB to be Pat Mahomes (-8.3% DVOA, 14 INTs, 11 fumbles) but it isn't hard for this forever-pessimistic Bengals fan to watch the way the Cincy pass rush demolished the offensive line in training camp and project that forward to the likes of the Steelers and Ravens defenses tap-dancing on Burrow's skull during his inaugural campaign. Jonah Williams can't block everybody.
Carl Yedor: Devin Singletary, RB, BUF. Buffalo drafted Zack Moss in the third round this year (same as Singletary in 2019), and Moss has drawn serious praise during training camp. We currently have Singletary projected well ahead of Moss in total fantasy points, but this could end up as a timeshare with Moss getting the goal-line work.
SUPER BOWL LV WINNER AND LOSER
Thomas Bassinger: Dallas Cowboys over Indianapolis Colts. A veteran quarterback in the twilight of his career changes uniforms and leads his new team to the Super Bowl in Tampa. It's just not the one everyone has been talking about. Philip Rivers and the Colts, though, don't have the firepower to match the Cowboys, who win their first Super Bowl since (roughly) the advent of color television.
Dave Bernreuther: Seattle Seahawks over Baltimore Ravens. This is a tough one for me to say, because I am not a Seattle fan and not as much of a Russell Wilson fan as most others. They play in a good division in the better conference, will lose some of that home field advantage, still have plenty of flaws, got really lucky last year, and one of those random games where things don't click for Wilson and they find ways to lose 9-6 can really hurt them in a stacked field. Still, this just feels like the year they make the leap back to the big game, and I have a hunch that maybe after years of stubbornness and Schottenheimer-ing on offense, this will be the season where they finally Let Russ Cook. I'm calling a Wilson MVP and a very good game against the well-rounded Ravens for the title.
Derrik Klassen: Baltimore Ravens over the Seattle Seahawks. This isn't scientific in any way, but how Seahawks would it be to get to the Super Bowl for the first time in over five years in the season in which everyone believes the NFC West is the toughest division in football, while having a defense that might be a bit of a disaster? Being an unpredictable meme team aside, this Seahawks offense does seem primed to be excellent and I fully trust Russell Wilson to deliver. As for the Ravens, I think a lot of what they did on both sides of the ball last year was quite sustainable, especially on offense, and that the loss to Tennessee was more of a fluke than anything. Lamar Jackson is here to stay and he is going to prove it.
Bryan Knowles: New Orleans Saints over the Kansas City Chiefs in an offensive thriller, with the Saints pulling out a 30-29 victory at the gun. Drew Brees picks up his second Super Bowl MVP and retires, well on his way to Canton.
Rivers McCown: Baltimore Ravens over Dallas Cowboys. Thanks, brain, I hate it.
Andrew Potter: The Baltimore Ravens beat the Seattle Seahawks in a slugfest.
Aaron Schatz: New Orleans Saints over Kansas City Chiefs. Sorry to go chalk, but these two teams are too far ahead in our projections to go elsewhere.
Scott Spratt: Baltimore Ravens over Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Titans' upset of the Ravens last January made sense given their skew toward rushing and the Ravens' defensive DVOA splits -- they were fourth against the pass (-16.5%) and 20th against the run (-7.0%). But it's really hard for a team such as the Titans to advance to the divisional round. In the regular season, the Ravens smashed teams with the typical playoff skew toward passing such as the Seahawks, Patriots, Texans, and Rams. And while the Bucs may not have offensive depth, their No. 5 DVOA defense (-11.5%) should play up without Jameis Winston throwing interceptions that back them up against their own end zone. If they can keep Tom Brady upright, they should have tremendous success.
Vince Verhei: Kansas City Chiefs over New Orleans Saints. If you're not picking the Chiefs or Ravens in the AFC you're just being contrarian, and the same kinda goes for the Saints on their side. Believe me, I tried to find another contender in the NFC -- I have lost faith in the postseason capabilities of Sean Payton and Drew Brees -- but I just see too many red flags elsewhere: the quarterbacks in L.A. and San Francisco, the pass rush in Seattle, the entire offseason in Green Bay. I already expressed my doubt about Tampa Bay, and I don't believe Mike McCarthy will fix all the problems in Dallas. So New Orleans it is.
Rob Weintraub: Kansas City Chiefs over Seattle Seahawks. For at least the last decade I've been picking the Patriots over the Packers in this space. Still seems incredible that we never got a Brady-Rodgers Super Bowl. Alas. On to the next generation! Not sure I'll go with this every season, but it seems like a good bet for the near future. Of course, so did Pats-Pack...
Carl Yedor: Kansas City Chiefs over New Orleans Saints. The Saints finally break through after year after year after year of NFC playoff disappointment to square off against the new face of the league. Unfortunately, they run up against Kansas City's offensive juggernaut and can't finish the job.
WITH THE NO. 1 PICK IN THE DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]
Thomas Bassinger: The Washington Football Team selects Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson.
Dave Bernreuther: The Jacksonville Jaguars select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. Last year I went with a long shot (and was right), but this year I'll do no such thing. There's plenty of talk that the Jets are angling for this, but they're the Jets. They'll find a way to screw it up. While I agree with Mike Tanier that the Jags are the kind of team that could easily screw up a tank, there's just nothing in the cupboard at all there. I love me some Gardner Minshew, but he's not ready to be the best player on his team and carry them to victory. This could be a two-win team. (Now watch as one of these wins comes in Week 1 against the Colts...) Dark horse candidate: Chicago Bears.
Derrik Klassen: The Jacksonville Jaguars select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. Barring something outlandish -- which this college football season may very well bring -- Lawrence should be the top pick. Only the first half of this team/player equation is worth sorting out. By all accounts, it seems the Jaguars have put forth the most "effort" to tank this offseason, especially as of late with the send-offs of Leonard Fournette, Yannick Ngakoue, and Ronnie Harrison. Even before those cuts/trades, the Jags were projected in the bottom five in DVOA this year. The saving grace would have to be a stellar year from Gardner Minshew and I just don't see that.
Bryan Knowles: Although the Washington Football Team ends up with the No. 1 pick, they do not use it. Instead, they auction the rights to Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson to the highest bidder, which ends up being the Carolina Panthers.
Rivers McCown: The New York Jets select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson.
Andrew Potter: Carolina Panthers select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. I don't expect the Panthers to be the worst team in the league, but man is that schedule horrific.
Aaron Schatz: The Carolina Panthers select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. Usually I would say "some quarterback nobody is even thinking about right now," but I think the COVID-19 cancellations will make it a lot harder for a quarterback to appear out of nowhere with a huge year such as the one Joe Burrow had in 2019. And not playing is going to make it tough for Justin Fields or Trey Lance to climb past Lawrence on draft boards.
Scott Spratt: The New York Jets select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson.
Vince Verhei: The Carolina Panthers select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson.
Rob Weintraub: Jacksonville Jaguars select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. Incredibly/sadly, I nailed my Bengals in this spot last year, though I got the SEC quarterback they'd take wrong (even I, the great NostraTraubo, did not see Joe Burrow coming...). No way we repeat that, right? Jax appears all in on picking first, even more than the Dolphins did a year ago. The only question is if Trey Lance comes from left field to take the top spot from Lawrence or Justin "Hey let the kids play!" Fields.
Carl Yedor: Carolina Panthers select Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. Teddy Bridgewater signed a decent contract in free agency, but it would be difficult for the Panthers to pass on Lawrence if they have the opportunity. The Panthers should have a tough schedule and a dreadful defense, which seems like a recipe for a top pick.
12 comments, Last at 16 Sep 2020, 6:02pm
#10 by Spanosian Magn… // Sep 13, 2020 - 1:39am
Packers over Browns!
To me, it's the Chiefs and then everybody else. I get the hype for the Ravens and the Saints, but both are dependent on QB's who I can't see holding up over the whole season. Maybe that's not fair to Jackson, but I can't shake the feeling that I've seen that story before, and the big year based around incredible running talent gets followed by injuries and frustration. Here's hoping he escapes that fate, but I wouldn't bet on it - and without him, I don't see that team doing much. The Steelers can probably weather a Brees injury better than that, but I'm increasingly convinced that playing in a dome is a huge disadvantage come playoff time. Of course, the Saints are one of the two dome teams that won it all this century, so it's obviously not impossible, but again, I'm not going to bet on it. Chiefs over Seahawks, trendy pick it seems, but it feels right to me.
The Packers I do think will actually be a better team than last year, but if they win 13 again I'll eat . . . I don't have a hat, but somebody's hat. You can send me the hat. But to me they look solid top to bottom except the interior linebacker positions - and on paper, at least, they have better depth than last year. Which is good, because they were insanely lucky on the injury front last year. Their early schedule is brutal - I could easily see them 1-5 heading into Houston - but it looks like pretty smooth sailing thereafter, trip to San Francisco aside. A 10-6 record and a Wild Card, onward to the Super Bowl? It's happened before...
The Browns look to me like a post-hype sleeper. That offense is still stupid-loaded at the skill positions and their offensive line ought to be much improved (it almost literally couldn't be worse), and while I'm still a Baker Mayfield skeptic, Stefanski seems like the guy to get the talent out there, if there is any. And with that running game, he might not have to do all that much. On defense, they've got a lot of theoretically talented players, that hopefully Joe Woods can transform into a functional whole. In a division that looks a lot more wide-open to me than widely believed, I could see them on top come January - and if you're in it, you can win it.
Another team that I think is being slept on is the Chicago Bears. People talk about them like they were some kind of disaster last year. They were 8-8! Yes, their passing game looks like it will stink out loud, but it stank out loud last year and they were still 8-8. It could stay the same and the defense - still loaded - could plexiglass back up a bit and have them right back in the playoffs. And if between Foles and Trubisky they can get average-ish production out of the offense, they could be 12-4 and dangerous. And I have to say, I don't quite get the comment above - they added better players at their positions of need (whether those were the best possible players they could have gotten is another question, but they almost certainly will be improved from last year), and while the schedule might be no cakewalk, it actually looks easier to me than the Packers' or Vikings', since they get to play almost all of their most difficult opponents at home.
#6 by InTheBoilerRoom // Sep 11, 2020 - 4:16pm
Ending up with the #1 pick in the draft may be the best possible outcome for the Panthers this year. However, even with their schedule, I think they will pull off too many wins to finish in last place. Bridgewater isn't great, but he is reliable and competent enough to lead the Panthers (with their pretty solid offensive weapons) to somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-7 wins, which will be too many to be last place this season. I'm thinking either Jacksonville or a Cincinnati repeat.
For Superbowl I'd go with KC over NO. Sure it's chalk, which is why it's my prediction.
#8 by DIVISION // Sep 11, 2020 - 7:37pm
The Cowboys aren't going anywhere with Prescott at QB. I actually think they'd have better leadership under Andy Dalton.
What has Prescott ever done to make anyone think they'd make the SB out of the NFC?
I would take anyone out of the NFC West over the Cowboys in any playoff game this post-season.
#1 by Cythammer // Sep 10, 2020 - 3:34pm
I'll go with the Chiefs over Seattle in the Super Bowl. KC seems like an obvious pick and I'd rather go with a team with a young QB than the Bucs or the Saints. I have much more faith in Drew Brees than Brady, but I still don't think he's a great bet to avoid a drop off in play or a significant injury at age 41.
#7 by DIVISION // Sep 11, 2020 - 7:35pm
Seattle lost their best interior lineman to FA, haven't replaced that production and weren't good at all to begin with in terms of pass rush.
I don't even see them getting out of the NFC West.
I have the 49ers and Cards making the playoffs out of the West.
Hawks in third and the Rams with a horrible years in the basement.