The draft is now weeks behind us and the schedule has lastly been launched. That may solely imply one factor: Prediction time!
Yup! Time to make some completely too-soon calls on every of the division races, a very good 4 months earlier than the season even begins. As a result of, nicely, soccer! And since, nicely, Might! Contemplate it my try and get in on sweeps months and attain for scores.
However in all honesty, as a observe matter, most of those rosters are about what they are going to be. A number of road free brokers will not drastically change the steadiness of energy irrespective of the place they land, the depth charts will shuffle however not change enormously. Positive, a blockbuster commerce or two might enormously alter the steadiness of energy (Aaron Rodgers, anybody?), there will likely be accidents that swing issues somehow, and rookies and different gamers will come out of nowhere to grow to be big-time producers, however most of those divisions I really feel pretty sturdy about.
To that finish, I’ve included a confidence ballot together with every choice (scale of 1-10 on stage of confidence within the prediction), however in any other case that is pretty typical of how I’ve approached this job in springs previous. With win totals being posted in Vegas and all, and futures betting selecting up, appeared like the fitting time to share what I believe, FWIW (and it may not be a lot).
Confidence stage: 9.0
I simply cannot make a cogent case in opposition to the Payments repeating. It is a issue of the sensible, strong roster they’ve constructed, the emergence of Josh Allen, a draft class that certain addressed weaknesses, cash nicely spent, consistency of message and management, and distinctive playmakers on each side of the ball. I am calling a monster 12 months for Tremaine Edmunds, one other All Professional 12 months from Stefon Diggs, extra sacks from this workforce and a extra balanced working assault. The Jets are deep in a rebuild, the Patriots spent a ton of cash however lack the elite expertise the Payments boast and Miami continues to be fairly middling to me. Unsure how a lot the coach believes within the QB, not fairly shopping for the protection and somewhat greatly surprised by how rapidly Miami retains jettisoning dear expertise it simply introduced in. One thing smells fishy there to me (slap me on the wrist). The Payments are the workforce the Chiefs would least prefer to face in an AFC Championship Sport, I reckon, which is sweet sufficient for me.
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AFC West – Kansas Metropolis Chiefs
Confidence stage: 9.5
Something apart from a Patrick Mahomes damage and it’s tough to not fancy them the category of the NFL. They quadrupled down on their greatest want – offensive line – by means of the offseason through all three layers (free company, trades and the draft), and Mahomes will likely be uber motivated to surpass even his personal greatness coming off that Tremendous Bowl loss. The final time he misplaced in January he got here again and received all of it the next 12 months. If he had one other 50-TD season would anybody flinch? The Chargers lastly have the fitting individuals there to teach the entire defensive expertise they’ve harnessed, and who would not love Justin Herbert? They’ll emerge as a real challenger (not like latest years when the AFC West race was over in October), however I simply do not see them getting over the hump but, and so they face some powerful highway video games and numerous cross-country journey (at Washington, at Baltimore, at Eagles, all inside the first 9 weeks, with a visit to Arrowhead tucked in there as nicely). Denver will problem for the ultimate wild-card spot with that protection, however not the division crown, with the Raiders nonetheless having a ton of labor to do on that protection.
Confidence stage: 7.0
This has one thing to do with the stable roster GM Chris Ballard has assembled … however much more to do with the state of the remainder of the division. If Carson Wentz can keep away from being a turnover machine (a giant if, for certain), they need to win this comfortably. Greater than sufficient velocity and athletes on protection, a robust dashing assault (if Eric Fisher will get wholesome and performs nicely at LT), and a latest playoff pedigree all work of their favor. I do not just like the Titans offseason in any respect and have points with their secondary, defensive position and offensive line, and likewise determine that workload catches as much as Derrick Henry this 12 months. They misplaced numerous expertise and have had poor drafts. The Texans are a prepare wreck and could be my early favorites to land the first-overall decide (Invoice O’Brien did not commerce that one away, too, did he?). The Jaguars will likely be higher with Trevor Lawrence on the helm, however it’ll be a steep studying curve for that head coach and coloration me a skeptic about how all of this performs within the NFL. Then once more, Tim Tebow needs to be good for 2-3 wins alone, proper?
Confidence stage: 6.0
The Browns have the perfect roster on this division. They’ve the perfect OL, the perfect RB room, the perfect WR room and a really sturdy TE group. Kevin Stefanski was simply what Baker Mayfield wanted. They usually spent your complete offseason throwing belongings at their protection. Myles Garrett was enjoying like an MVP earlier than he bought COVID-19. The secondary needs to be higher. May they use one other succesful move rusher within the entrance seven? Yeah, however I wager they do one thing by the commerce deadline. The Ravens will likely be proper there with them, and for all of the speak about Baltimore having the second-toughest schedule within the NFL, it units up fairly nicely for them. That is principally a coin toss for me, with the Browns getting the nod as a result of the Ravens haven’t any confirmed move rusher on the roster proper now. The Steelers are headed to Mike Tomlin’s first dropping season and Massive Ben is on the finish, and the Bengals ought to deal with getting and retaining Joe Burrow wholesome for a full season earlier than anybody begins enthusiastic about division titles there. I believe the Cincy roster on paper was truly higher a 12 months in the past (by some means).
NFC East – Washington Soccer Workforce
Confidence stage: 6.5
The NFC Least is at all times quirky. However for me, WFT has far and away the perfect protection on this division (and perhaps the NFL), Chase Younger goes to blow stuff up each week and Fitzmagic has sufficient within the tank to navigate 9-10 wins. And that also might be all it is going to take, even in an 18-week season. Love the additions of offensive weapons and the OL will likely be higher. Dallas nonetheless would not have sufficient on protection and Dak Prescott might have time to get absolutely again into prime type. The Eagles are my darkish horse – they go two months with out having to get on a aircraft, ridding themselves of the Wentz sideshow will likely be addition by subtraction and they’ll run the ball with gusto. The Giants have spent some huge cash up to now with out getting all that a lot bang for his or her buck; generally historical past repeats.
Confidence stage: 5.0000001
This might go 4 alternative ways. However I assume I’ll say I lean barely to the Rams. I imagine Matthew Stafford will likely be particular there and so they have loads of instruments on offense. I fear some concerning the departure of defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and defections from the secondary, and the shortage of draft picks to replenish, however am enjoying a hunch right here. Russell Wilson retains Seattle within the dialog yearly, although I nonetheless surprise concerning the OL and components of the protection. If the 49ers keep wholesome, they’re a playoff workforce, although I do surprise how rapidly the QB carousel spins there ought to they get off to a sluggish begin. The Cardinals have added expertise, however have not performed constant soccer underneath Kliff Kingsbury. I ponder about their defensive workers, and their capability to complete video games.
Confidence stage: 9.75
The one workforce not mired in a rebuild or retool or rethink of some type within the NFC South could have Tom Brady keen them to the primary back-to-back Lombardis since his golden days in New England. He will not let anybody let up, the band is again collectively and the remainder of the division faces main questions. The Saints QB state of affairs post-Drew Brees ain’t nice. Sam Darnold in Carolina won’t be practically sufficient, and that protection nonetheless wants numerous work even after the final two drafts. The Falcons refuse to actually embrace a rebuild regardless of all empirical proof, that protection stays a giant drawback, and whereas they may sniff wild-card territory there is not a workforce on this division near being as balanced and proficient because the Bucs. So long as Brady avoids Father Time’s reaper, financial institution on the Bucs.
Confidence stage: 1.2
I am being somewhat cheeky right here, nevertheless it actually does all come all the way down to No. 12. Does he play there in any respect? What number of video games? How ugly does it get? Even with him, given the backdrop of this circus offseason and with Rodgers’ finish in Inexperienced Bay possible coming in 2022 it doesn’t matter what, all of it might get somewhat a lot for Matt LaFleur and Co. The Vikings could be my subsequent greatest shot at a division winner, although the opposite three groups within the division all have main flaws. Kirk Cousins I determine responds to the problem and so they have nice items on offense at the least. Jobs on the road in Chicago and the Lions have simply begun what I think will likely be a prolonged rebuild post-Stafford.