The 2021 NFL season kicks off tonight as the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers go head-to-head against the Dallas Cowboys. That means that it’s that time of the year where I, once again, attempt to predict how the upcoming NFL season will play out.
Let’s be honest here: no one truly knows what’s going to happen heading into any season, but that’s part of what makes predictions fun. Injuries, player progression, player regression, and lucky bounces are all things that contribute to the drama and storyline of the NFL.
So, without further ado, here are my 2021 NFL Season Predictions!
1. Washington Football Team
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. New York Giants
I’m aware that no NFC East division winner has repeated as champions the following season since the Philadelphia Eagles did in 2004. Therefore, history isn’t really on Washington’s side here. However, trends end at some point, so I’m not going to be afraid to pick a repeat winner if that’s how I truly see it playing out. The Washington Football Team is the most complete team in the NFC East. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the long-term answer at quarterback for them, and I fully expect him to have his highs and lows as he always does. But he’s good enough to at least lead them to a division title in this weak division.
The Dallas Cowboys have so much offensive talent, but I can’t overlook their defense. Yes, they acquired an absolute stud in Micah Parsons who will probably end up being a nominee for Defensive Rookie of the Year. However, their main issue last season was their secondary, and I don’t see how it improved. I’m not a huge fan of Trevon Diggs.
The Philadelphia Eagles are the biggest wild card in this division. I can see them being one of the worst teams in the league. I can also see them pulling off around 10 or 11 wins. I don’t’ know what to expect from them, but as an Eagles fan, that might be the best way to approach this season. I do expect monster seasons from Miles Sanders and DeVonta Smith though.
2 years later and I’m still pounding the table for the Eagles to use more 2-back sets.
— Charles “Chux” Maranan (@ChuxMaranan) August 23, 2021
This is a make-or-break year for Daniel Jones. He finally has the receiving weapons to succeed. Also, their defense was good last year and should be good again this year. However, I was never a believer in Jones, that offensive line is still bad, and Joe Judge doesn’t impress me as a Head Coach. The one big plus for them, though, is the return of Saquon Barkley. I expect a big bounce-back season for him as he re-establishes himself as one of the best running backs in the league.
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Chicago Bears
3. Minnesota Vikings
4. Detroit Lions
This legitimately looks like the last hoorah for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, and I expect them to end things on a high note. Spoiler alert: they’re my pick to win the Super Bowl this season.
I’m not sure what Matt Nagy is doing considering he’s on the hot seat, but he better start Justin Fields sooner rather than later. Stop with this nonsense about Andy Dalton needing to be the starter. If they start Fields early in the season, I expect them to finish a game or two ahead of the Vikings for second place in this division.
I don’t have much to say about the Minnesota Vikings. They finished 7-9 this season and I don’t have reason to believe they’ll be any better or any worse.
Nothing against Jared Goff, whom I believe is an adequate/solid QB in this league, but I think him no longer playing under Sean McVay this season is going to expose him.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. New Orleans Saints
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to finish with the best record in the league this season. How can anyone not predict that when they’re returning with essentially the same roster from the previous season? Oh, and don’t overlook the acquisition of Gio Bernard. He adds an element that was missing in that offense last year: a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
Why are so many people sleeping on the Carolina Panthers? Am I crazy for believing they can win around 10 games? I’ve been a fan of the direction they’ve taken ever since they hired Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. Sam Darnold is going to be an upgrade from Teddy Bridgewater, and with the return of Christian McCaffrey that offense is going to be explosive. Don’t sleep on their defense though! They have the potential to be a very dangerous unit.
The Panthers’ offense is usually what gets talked about first, and understandably so. But let’s not ignore the mix of young and veteran talent they have on defense too:
EDGE Brian Burns
IDL Derrick Brown
OLB Haason Reddick
CB Donte Jackson
CB Jaycee Horn
SAF Jeremy Chinn https://t.co/1nsbZ4jPzb
— Charles “Chux” Maranan (@ChuxMaranan) September 8, 2021
I still believe the Atlanta Falcons should have taken Justin Fields in this past draft, but that doesn’t take away the excitement I have for seeing Kyle Pitts play. I’m also rooting for Mike Davis, who finally gets an opportunity to be the lead running back in an offense. He’s been underrated for so long.
Me having the New Orleans Saints coming in last place is probably going to surprise people, but I honestly believe they’re in for a significant downfall. They may finish in third place ahead of the Falcons, but when I look at this roster compared to the Panthers’ I don’t see how you can make a case that it’s better.
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Arizona Cardinals
This has to be the best division in the league.
The idea of running a “2 QB system” is scoffed at, and for good reason. It’s never worked before, so why would it work now? However, if any coach is going to make it work, it’s Kyle Shanahan. I have such high expectations for Trey Lance and Trey Sermon. Both were tremendous draft picks for them. Furthermore, the disrespect to Shanahan needs to stop. Some people really believe he’s barely a top 10 head coach in the NFL. That’s utterly silly.
The Los Angeles Rams are going to be right behind the 49ers for the division title. They’re a great team with a great head coach and a quarterback who can finally open things up for the offense. Of course, having two players in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey who are the best at their respective positions helps a lot too.
I don’t want to overlook the Seattle Seahawks, who are also going to be a great team. I could see a scenario where they end up winning the division. Their offense got too predictable in the second half of last season, and that was ultimately their downfall. Hopefully new Offensive Coordinator Shane Waldron will help fix that.
Kyler Murray struggled for a good portion of last season as a pocket passer throwing to the intermediate and middle levels of the field. He needs to correct and improve that part of his game, and I believe he will.
NFC Playoff Seeding
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Green Bay Packers
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Washington Football Team
5. Los Angeles Rams
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. Carolina Panthers
1. Buffalo Bills
2. New England Patriots
3. Miami Dolphins
4. New York Jets
I was one of Josh Allen’s biggest critics before the 2020 season, and I stick by my criticisms. However, he improved greatly as a quarterback and decision-maker last season, which I was very happy to see. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a tiny bit of a regression in 2021 in terms of production, but that’s just because his season in 2020 was that special. I don’t believe last year was a fluke. All he needs to do to prove himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in this league is consistency from year to year, and I fully expect him to do so.
Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the New England Patriots missed the playoffs was proof for a lot of people that Brady was the one solely responsible for the Patriots’ dynasty while Belichick is just overrated. I don’t think that’s very fair considering each team’s roster. The Patriots now get a bunch of their core players back after a year sitting out, and they potentially have their next franchise quarterback in Mac Jones. I expect to see them in the playoffs once again.
I still love the direction that the Miami Dolphins are headed. The only uncertainty I have is their quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. I’m not saying I don’t think he can be a good quarterback, and I’m not saying he will. I honestly don’t know. And that’s why I have them in third place.
Like the Dolphins, I believe the New York Jets have finally laid a good foundation for a bright future. This is the first year of their rebuild, so I don’t expect much from them.
1. Cleveland Browns
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cincinnati Bengals
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m so glad that I can: The Cleveland Browns are going to be Super Bowl Contenders. That is a talented roster led by a good head coach. Also, stop trying to make the case that the offense is better without Odell Beckham Jr.
The Baltimore Ravens have been riddled with injuries already, and that’s usually not a good sign for a team’s chances of success. Believe me, as an Eagles fan, I know all too well. They’re still a good enough team to make the playoffs, but for them to get over the hump and beat a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Jackson must show he can beat teams consistently from the pocket.
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have much left in the tank last year, and the same remains this year. They’re not good enough to compete with the likes of the Browns and Ravens. I did love their selection of Najee Harris, though.
I completely understand how appealing it is to pair Joe Burrow with his college teammate Ja’Marr Chase. However, I still think it was a mistake to not take Penei Sewell. Your rookie franchise quarterback tore his ACL last year because of a lack of protection, and you’re telling me that improving that offensive line wasn’t a top priority?
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Houston Texans
I know that Carson Wentz is a divisive topic amongst Eagles fans right now, and it’s hard not to be skeptical of his durability. The guy just can’t stay healthy. At the same time, if he somehow can, I do believe Frank Reich will get him back to his old form. Maybe not MVP level form like he was in 2017, but possibly top 10 level.
I know the Tennessee Titans added Julio Jones, which was a good move. I just worry about the impact that the departure of Arthur Smith is going to have on the offense.
Trevor Lawrence is going to be great. James Robinson is a very good running back. Laviska Shenault has a ton of potential. I like several players on this roster. I’m just not sure what to make of Urban Meyer.
“With the 1st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select…”
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Los Angeles Chargers
3. Denver Broncos
4. Las Vegas Raiders
The Kansas City Chiefs lost the Super Bowl because their offensive line couldn’t protect Patrick Mahomes. Therefore, they went out this offseason and upgraded it. If that line holds up, I’m not sure how anyone can stop this offense.
I was wrong about Justin Herbert. He’s a special talent and it’s a ton of fun watching him play. It’s a shame they’re in the same division as the Chiefs because I can see them being better than several other division winners.
Remind me again why the Denver Broncos passed up on Justin Fields.
Remind me again why the Las Vegas Raiders moved from Oakland to Las Vegas.
AFC Playoff Seeding
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Buffalo Bills
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Baltimore Ravens
7. New England Patriots
MVP: Tom Brady
Offensive Player of the Year: Patrick Mahomes
Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Garrett
Offensive Rookie of the Year: DeVonta Smith
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Comeback Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley
Coach of the Year: Matt Rhule