2022 NFL Playoff Predictions and Season Recap
The largest regular season the NFL has ever had is finally over. It felt long, didn’t it? 18 weeks, 272 games. It definitely feels strange that it’s mid-January and we haven’t even started the playoffs yet. We’ve come so far from the Super Bowl occurring at this time of year to now, when we won’t get a champion until mid-February.
But this means that football will continue until then, which is clearly part of the NFL’s master plan to consume the entire calendar year with action. I’m not mad about it.
In any case, now that the regular season is over, it’s time to take a look back at the season that was, and forward at the five weeks of playoffs that we have remaining.
We begin, as we always do, in New England, where, just a few days before the start of the regular season, the Patriots parted ways with Cam Newton in favor of rookie QB Mac Jones. Despite a 1-4 start, the Patriots eventually righted the ship and won seven in a row, including statement wins over Tennessee and Buffalo, the latter coming in a game in which Jones attempted just three passes. Jones is clearly still a rookie and has some growing to do, but the team’s outstanding defensive effort has seen them return to the postseason after a year away. I mentioned at the start of the season that Bill Belichick had better learn to draft, and boy, did he listen. In addition to the number of excellent free agents the team has brought in (Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, Matt Judon, Jalen Mills, Davon Godchaux, etc), stellar rookie play from names like Rhamondre Stevenson, Christian Barmore, Kristian Wilkerson and others have been a highlight this season. Not a bad turnaround in just their second year without Tom Brady.
Speaking of Tom Brady, the defending champions improved on their record from last year thanks to a) an extra number of games (they went 13-4 this season compared to 11-5 last year), and b) an MVP-caliber season from a 44 year old man. Brady threw for over 5300 yards and 45 touchdowns, leading the NFL in both categories. And although the Buccaneers started the season by returning all 22 of their starters from the Super Bowl a year ago, it hasn’t been easy, particularly as of late. Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette all succumbed to injury on a Sunday night game against the Saints in which the defending champs were shut out (Godwin has since been lost for the season). Antonio Brown missed half the season with injury, suspension, and subsequent release after he stormed off the field during a game against the New York Jets- a scene you would have had to see to believe. The team’s typically stout defense went through a cavalcade of injuries this year as well. Hard to believe this team still only lost four games and will go into the playoffs as the #2 seed in the NFC. Can their heroic quarterback lead them to a second straight Super Bowl win, and his eighth overall? Will we get another episode of Man in the Arena? Time will tell.
Our defending AFC champions did not look like themselves at all to start the year. Despite a hot start in week 1, the Chiefs, particularly Patrick Mahomes, struggled greatly, stumbling to a 3-4 start after 7 weeks, with Mahomes either in the lead or tied for the lead in interceptions thrown. After improving to 5-4 after two unimpressive wins against the Giants and the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, they dominated the Raiders, winning their third out of what would be an eight game winning streak, and seemingly returned to form from what they were a year ago. Sure, Tyreek Hill hasn’t been that big of a factor like he was last year, but Mahomes’ ability to spread the ball around has made us all petrified again of what could be coming in these playoffs.
Having played a lot of fantasy football this year, this year seemed to be a slow year for running backs, especially the big-name backs. But a slow year for those players meant the doors opened for other, new faces to come through.
The two biggest names coming into this year, Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey, missed large portions of the season due to injury. After an eight game stretch in which he nearly amassed 1,000 rushing yards, Henry broke a bone in his foot, and missed the rest of the regular season. Yet he still managed to finish in the top ten for rushing yards- just goes to show you how slow this year was for RBs. And after missing some games due to a hamstring injury, McCaffrey re-injured his leg again in his first game back against the Falcons. The Panthers would deactivate him for the rest of the year at that point. But for every game that Dalvin Cook or Alvin Kamara disappointed, there were some new faces to dazzle us this season.
Jonathan Taylor was your leading rusher this season, putting together a fantastic 2021 campaign in which he rushed for over 1800 yards, racking up over 100 in ten of those games.
Austin Ekeler took the next step into the fold of top-tier running backs, as he finished tied for the league lead in touchdowns along with Taylor, with 20. It’s just a shame that we won’t get to see he or his Chargers in the playoffs, thanks to some wackiness that went down in the final game of the regular season.
This year was also the year of the RB/WR combo, as Deebo Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson made themselves household names due to their ability to do it all on the ground and through the air this season.
On defense, we saw some of the league’s biggest stars establish themselves in NFL lore.
TJ Watt tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record, earning 22.5 sacks. Not bad for doing it despite missing a few games in the middle of the season.
The Dallas Cowboys had a pair of rookies step up, as Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs dominate opposing passing attacks. Diggs started the season with seven interceptions in as his first games, and led the league with 11.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, though, was Rams WR Cooper Kupp, who won the Triple Crown of receiving (tops in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns), one year removed from an ACL tear. With new QB Matthew Stafford at the help, Kupp turned from a good receiver into a great one, and put together one of the best offensive seasons we’ve seen in a long time.
And, of course, what kind of NFL season would it be if it didn’t border on the absurd?
There was the Odell Beckham saga, who was traded mid-season to the LA Rams after his father posted a video to YouTube about how the Browns were under-utilizing him.
As I mentioned, Antonio Brown… exited a game in a most unusual way.
Cam Newton returned to Carolina…
… where the Panthers went 0-6 with him as a starter.
After three months with no major Covid outbreaks, the first week of December brought the dawn of Omicron, which saw a week 15 wracked with missing players and rescheduled games. And we had done so well to this point, too.
Lastly, with the extended regular season, we saw an especially wacky final week, which determined the fates of numerous teams vying for a spot in the playoffs this year. It began in Jacksonville, where the Colts needed a win to get into the playoffs. Having not won in Jacksonville in seven years (and despite the Jaguars putting up some abysmal teams in that time), the Colts were looking to reverse their fortunes. They got stomped, 26-11, in front of a crowd of thousands wearing literal clown suits.
Ben Roethlisberger’s final regular season game came down to the wire in Baltimore, where the Steelers kicked a game-winning field goal to finish the season at 9-7-1. All they needed was for the Colts to lose (check), and for the Raiders-Chargers game to NOT end in a tie. Easy enough, right?
Well, in a game fraught with conspiracy theories and what-ifs, the Raiders and Chargers almost did end in a tie, and finished the game in the most dramatic of fashions. Down by 15, Justin Herbert led his team to two scores on their final two possessions, converting something like five fourth-down conversions in the process. Their last drive of regulation went nearly 75 yards in 19 plays, ending in a touchdown as Herbert hit Mike Williams as the clock hit triple zeroes to send it to overtime.
After the teams traded field goals, the Raiders got the ball back with just over three minutes to go, and proceeded to play fairly conservatively, especially as the clock ran inside two minutes. But on a third down and three from the Charger 35, LA coach Brandon Staley called a timeout in order to sub in his run defense. This stoppage in play allowed the Radiers to re-evaluate their strategy. Josh Jacobs picked up the first down after the stoppage, and Daniel Carlson’s field goal sent the Raiders to the playoffs and the Chargers home. In a game where a tie would have sent both teams to the playoffs, Staley’s decision to call time out will be a mark on his legacy that will not soon be forgotten. Still, sometimes the best games of the year have a little bit of controversy to them. And this one brought us an ending that we won’t forget any time soon.
At the start of this season, I made ten bold predictions for the 2021 NFL Season, and predicted records and playoff seedings as well. Before we move on and take a gander at the 2022 playoff field, let’s see how I fared in my outlandish predictions.
2021 Predictions Recap
1. Justin Fields will take over for Andy Dalton within four weeks.
Bears coach Matt Nagy named Justin Fields the permanent starter for the Bears on October 6th, just days after the team’s week 4 win against the Detroit Lions, so I’m calling this a correct pick.
Sure, technically Fields played like crap and got hurt, allowing both Andy Dalton and Nick Foles to take snaps down the stretch, but Fields was named the starter within four weeks. I see this as an absolute win.
2. Sam Darnold will be a revelation in Carolina.
The first few weeks of the season, Darnold was fantastic in his new home in Charlotte. He defeated his former team, the Jets, in week one, and followed it up with over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns against the Saints. But inconsistent play and subsequent injury confined Darnold to the bench, where he watched PJ Walker and Cam Newton dabble in mediocrity in his stead. Even when he returned, Darnold wasn’t fantastic.
3. The defense will lead Indianapolis to a winning record.
Well, technically the Colts had a winning record. And yes, Darius Leonard was a defensive player of the year candidate. And, yes, the Colts had a top-ten defense this year. But I’m going to chalk this one up as a loss for me. With Jonathan Taylor really assuming the starring role of the show in Indy, paired with timely losses to the Raiders and Jaguars in which they needed defense to step up to give their offense some help, the Colts’ defense was not what it could have been this year. I wouldn’t say their defense necessarily led them to this winning record.
4. The Patriots will defeat the Buccaneers in Tom Brady’s return to Foxboro.
Okay, so no, this didn’t happen. But it almost did. The Bucs defeated the Patriots in Brady’s return to Gillette, 19-17, where Nick Folk missed a 52-yard field goal in the rain that would have given the Patriots the lead with about a minute to go. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Patriots played in that game. They held the lead at halftime, and were in control for most of the contest. The defense was fantastic, throwing all kinds of different packages at Brady and his potent offensive attack. Of course, there’s no telling what would have happened if Folk had made the field goal and if there were enough time for Brady to lead a game-winning drive. There’s also no telling if the Pats and Bucs will meet once again in the Super Bowl. But as far as this prediction goes, I’m happy to take this L, because I was way closer than I ever thought I’d be on it.
5. Julio Jones will overtake AJ Brown in both receiving yards and touchdowns.
Both players missed considerable time with injury, but AJ Brown was the first one back, and he delivered when he played. Brown led the Titans in both receiving yards and touchdowns. Jones, clearly a shell of himself, waited until week 18 to get his first touchdown as a member of the Titans.
6. Derrick Henry will NOT break the single-season rushing record.
Hard to do that when you break a bone in your foot and miss half the season. Still, playing eight games and finishing in the top ten in rushing yards is… impressive.
7. The Arizona Cardinals will have the NFL’s highest scoring offense.
For a while, this looked to be the case. The Cardinals were cruising along with the league’s best record before an unfortunate loss to the Packers, in which Kyler Murray threw an interception on the goal line. From there, the team has had some questionable losses. They lost to the Lions, the first time a team with two or fewer wins had ever beaten a team with ten or more wins; they lost to the Colts, who had basically no players; and they lost to the Seahawks in a game they needed in order to win the NFC West. The team finished 11th in points scored.
8. Josh Allen will win NFL MVP.
I hate making MVP prediction at season’s start, because the award always takes into account any playoff performances, and this is a list of predictions that is usually decided by season’s end. In any case, while Allen was good, leading the Bills to a second straight AFC East title, there were other players who were just better. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, the two titans of the position for the better half of the last 15-20 years, clearly have more left in the tank. Allen will get his, but he’ll have to wait his turn. It won’t be this season.
PREDICTION- LIKELY INCORRECT
9. The Cincinnati Bengals will win more games than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals were a revelation this season, thanks to a potent offensive attack that featured a three-headed monster at the receiver position. Ja’Marr Chase is likely on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are excellent complimentary options. Joe Mixon was also great this year, rushing for over 1200 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns in a great bounceback year from his injury-plagued 2020. The Bengals won 10 games and the AFC north. The Steelers came on at the end of this year after a rather mediocre 2021 campaign in which they were swept by Cincinnati. But two wins against the Browns and Ravens allowed them to make the playoffs at 9-7-1. Still, by a half a game, this prediction is correct.
10. Jameis Winston will break the single-season passing record.
The first few weeks gave me the inclination that I might be onto something with this prediction. The Saints blew out the Packers at home in week one, 38-3, in which Winston threw for five touchdowns in the victory. Despite a stretch of games where he threw for over 200 yards, Winston got hurt in week 8, tearing both his ACL and MCL. He did not start another game and finished with just 1170 passing yards, well short of Peyton Manning’s 5,477 yards.
An abysmal 3-for-10. Yeesh.
However, I did slightly better than last year on my seeding and team-by-team record predictions.
I correctly predicted 9 of the 14 playoff teams, though the placement of the teams is always hit or miss for me:
I also corrected predicted the records of these seven teams (2 better than last year!):
And finally, here are my updated playoff predictions for the 2022 NFL Postseason.
2022 Playoff Predictions
#5 Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) at #4 Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
Saturday, January 15th, 4:30pm (NBC)
Line: Bengals -6
There’s a lot at stake here for both these teams. For the Raiders, it’s a chance for Derek Carr and his team to earn their first playoff win since 2002, which will be enormous considering the tumultuous season they’ve been though to this point. Interim HC Rich Bisaccia will have his hands full the NFC North Champion Bengals, who are looking for their first playoff win since 1991. I personally don’t think the Raiders deserve to be here, considering how they looked at some points during the season. Hopefully this young Bengals team can keep its composure on a big stage, and move into the divisional round.
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Las Vegas 14
#6 New England Patriots (10-7) at #3 Buffalo Bills (11-6)
Saturday, January 15th, 8:15pm (CBS)
Line: Bills -4
As a Patriots fan, this was the last team I wanted to face. I think Buffalo has both the momentum and the skill to take down New England for a second time in four weeks. The last time these two teams played in Orchard Park, Mac Jones attempted just three passes and New England’s defense escaped with a gritty 14-10 win in a game where wind was an enormous factor. Since that win against the Bills, the Patriots are 1-3 with the lone win came against the Jaguars. Since that game, the Bills have won four in a row, including an 11-point win against New England in Foxboro. They’ve learned how to run the ball as well, with Devin Singletary proving crucially complementary to an already lethal passing attack. If the Patriots are the same inconsistent, hesitant, mistake-prone team that they’ve been the last four weeks, and Buffalo plays aggressively as they have been, this one won’t be close. New England, in any scenario, will need another magic Belichick game plan to pull the upset. That said, with below-freezing temperatures in the forecast, I expect a closer game. I still think Buffalo is the better team, though.
Prediction: Buffalo 30, New England 21
#7 Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
Sunday, January 16th, 1pm (FOX)
Line: Buccaneers -8.5
I think this game will be a lot closer than most believe it will be. Despite some of the sheer ineptitude that the Eagles have exhibited on offense this season, when they stick to running the ball, they can be frustratingly efficient, keeping possession in their favor and controlling the pace of the game. When they don’t stick to that plan… it’s hard to watch. And although the Buccaneers pose a huge threat with Thanos at quarterback and an array of impressive offensive weapons (which will be playing against a horrendous secondary), their defense has shown its vulnerability. Neither team is perfect. The Bucs will still win, but I think this game remains close until at least the fourth quarter when Jalen Hurts starts making some mistakes… or starts throwing the football.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, Philadelphia 18
#6 San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at #3 Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
Sunday, January 16th, 4:30pm (CBS)
Line: Cowboys -3
This year’s Nickelodeon game brings with it much more promise than last year’s. This long-storied rivalry game makes for great TV, and features a great casual fan-friendly team like the Cowboys, and a 49ers team that is playing with a chip on their shoulders, having edged out the Rams for a huge win last week to make it here. If the Niners can play as aggressively against the Cowboys as they have against the 49ers, they’ll make a game out of it. However, Dallas’ defense has stepped up when they’ve needed to, putting up 50 points in their last two wins. If Dak Prescott doesn’t play well, they should be able to rely on the defense to give Jimmy Garoppolo fits. For San Francisco, they’ll need a game like they played last week, where Elijah Mitchell, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle got the ball as frequently as possible. If they’re able to move the ball, the defense should be able to take care of the Cowboys’ offense. I think this one has the potential to be the best game of the Wild Card slate, with a major upset to boot. Nickelodeon knows its comedy, but does it know drama too?
Prediction: San Francisco 27, Dallas 24
#7 Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at #2 Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
Sunday, January 16th, 8:15pm (NBC)
Line: Chiefs -12.5
There’s a lot of argument about whether the Steelers deserve to be here, considering they needed some incredibly unlikely things to go right in order for them to make the playoffs. In any case, they’re here, and Ben Roethlisberger’s career will continue one for at least one more game. That game happens to be against the Kansas City Chiefs, who roar into the playoffs poised to prove wrong everyone who doubted them after an inauspicious start to this season. Pittsburgh may have the league’s sack leader, but Kansas City’s offense is just too good. They also beat them 36-10 earlier this season a game in which the Chiefs took their foot off the pedal after halftime. Kansas City will roll into the next round easily.
Prediction: Kansas City 41, Pittsburgh 11
#5 Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at #4 Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
Monday, January 17th, 8:15pm (ABC/ESPN)
Line: Rams -4
I pegged both of these teams as one-and-done, but it’s just like the NFL to make sure one of them is going to win a game this weekend. So, thank goodness they saved a great game for Monday night. The Cardinals and Rams have split their season series, with the Cardinals taking the first game at SoFi Stadium back in early October. Since then, both teams have been shells of their former selves. The Cardinals, once the class of the NFL since starting 7-0, are coming into the playoffs having lost four of their last five. The Rams continuously lose games they should win, but have won five of their last six, including a 7-point win over the Cardinals in Glendale. For this game, it all depends which team wants to show up. The Cardinals will get Deandre Hopkins back from injury, while the Rams will look to have their offense firing on all cylinders thanks to the reemergence of Cam Akers, who missed most of this year with an achilles injury. Arizona’s only loss on the road this year came at the hands of the Lions, so I’m going to pick them to get revenge on their NFC West rivals and win this game.
Prediction: Arizona 34, Los Angeles 28
Divisional Playoffs (January 22 & 23)
#4 Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) at #1 Tennessee Titans (12-5)
This will be the first time the king returns to claim his crown. Derrick Henry is expected back in this game, and the Titans have to be thankful that they have this weekend off to let their star RB rest up even more. As such, I don’t know how much of a factor Henry could be in this game. The Bengals allow the fifth fewest rushing yards in football, and have grinded out wins against teams like the Ravens, Steelers, Broncos and Chiefs, all of whom have great rushing attacks. Sure, they were shredded by Nick Chubb in early November, but they’ve righted the ship and proved they can stick it out against tough teams. Now I’m not saying this is the end all, be all for Tennessee. The Bengals haven’t faced Derrick Henry yet this season. But if he’s not able to take control of the game- and I don’t think he will, considering the Titans’ track record during the playoffs- Tennessee’s offense is not good enough to out duel Cincy’s. Here’s your big upset- Joe Burrow and the Bengals move to the AFC Championship game.
Prediction: Cincinnati 34, Tennessee 17
#6 San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at #1 Green Bay Packers (13-4)
The Niners, fresh off a win over the Cowboys, get to travel to the frozen tundra of Lambeau field, where they will get thoroughly squashed by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Niners may have the numbers of teams like the Rams, but Aaron Rodgers is a far more consistent quarterback than Kyler Murray. Plus, it’s gonna be freezing, probably. This is an easy win, Packers by a bunch.
Prediction: Green Bay 43, San Francisco 25
#3 Buffalo Bills (11-6) at #2 Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
This is what we wanted- an AFC championship rematch. The last time these two played, the Bills won at Arrowhead, in a game that was delayed by nearly an hour after halftime by lightning. If that was the game the Bills are using as their metaphorical “Super Bowl” or revenge game, they stand no chance in this one. The only way to win is to pressure Patrick Mahomes, and I don’t see that happening in this one. I think the Chiefs will prove they’re the big brother once again, and do it by allowing the score to equal itself from last year’s AFC title game.
Prediction: Kansas City 38, Buffalo 24
#5 Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
Now this is a matchup I can get behind. Tom Brady has never played against Kyler Murray, and this potential playoff matchup should live up to the enormous amount of hype it should get. I’ll actually lean toward the Cardinals pulling the upset in this one, as hard as it is to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs. If Arizona can stabilize things on offense, they can take advantage of a depleted Tampa defense. Murray’s quickness adds a third dimension to a team that can be really good if they get rolling. At that point, it’s up to the defense to put a stop to Tom Brady and the Bucs offense. That defensive line is good enough to put pressure on the Tampa QB, and the secondary, led by Budda Baker, can force Brady to beat them with receivers that aren’t Mike Evans or Rob Gronkowski. This is crazy, but I’m picking Arizona.
Prediction: Arizona 28, Tampa Bay 27
Conference Championships (January 30)
AFC Championship- #4 Cincinnati Bengals at #2 Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 30th, 3:05pm (CBS)
You need to count on Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase to have the same game they had last time these two played for Cincinnati to advance to its first Super Bowl since 1988. When the chips are down, the Chiefs are the better team. Also, the game’s at Arrowhead (where it has been for the last four years), and that crowd noise will definitely be a factor. If the Bengals play perfect offensive football, they could win this game. But I don’t count on it, especially considering they’re a young team with a lot of playoff inexperience. Kansas City’s been here before, and they’ll be there again this time, advancing to their third straight Super Bowl.
Prediction: Kansas City 38, Cincinnati 24
NFC Championship- #5 Arizona Cardinals at #1 Green Bay Packers
Sunday, January 30th, 6:40pm (FOX)
The last time these two teams played was in week eight, when Kyler Murray threw a fluke interception in the end zone to a receiver who wasn’t even looking for the ball.
Surely this time, the Cardinals get their revenge, right?
Well, considering the game would be in Green Bay, I can’t believe that Murray wouldn’t be affected by the cold. The Cardinals’ success on the road stops in Wisconsin, and the Packers move on to the Super Bowl behind an angry Aaron Rodgers.
Prediction: Green Bay 28, Arizona 13
Super Bowl LVI
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, February 13th, 6:40pm (NBC)
SoFi Stadium- Inglewood, CA
Yep. There’s no version of these playoffs where we get anything we actually want. We do finally get our State Farm Bowl (a rematch of Super Bowl I), refereed by Jake from State Farm himself.
God I hate everything about what this game could be. My prediction is that I’ll have turned the TV off by the third quarter, either because it’s too boring or too insufferable. Mr. Obnoxious (Mahomes) vs. Mr. Immune (Rodgers).
I’ll go with this: Green Bay wins this one and Aaron Rodgers announces on the podium that he’s leaving the Packers AND how he hates the “woke mob” and spews some anti-vax rhetoric on national television. And then a giant meteor strikes SoFi Stadium and we don’t have to see either of these teams play football ever again. THAT is my prediction.
Why can’t we get a wholesome matchup like Bills-Rams? Ugh.
This game is the Drink Bleach Bowl Sponsored by Tide.
Prediction: Green Bay 35, Kansas City 27, (Giant Meteor 1,000,000)
What are your predictions for this year’s playoffs? Leave a comment down below.
10 Bold Predictions for the 2021 NFL Season
It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiiime of the year!!!!
Man, there is literally no joy in this world during the dark times. And by dark times, I mean the six months between March and September where there’s no football.
The 2021 NFL season is finally upon us, and we have a lot to cover. Fans are back in the stands, there’s an extra game added to the schedule this season, and so much more!
That “so much more” is mostly predictions, but there’s a lot to cover in those predictions, so.
Let’s just hop right in. Here are my ten bold predictions for the 2021 NFL season, followed by a crude projection of the standings and an even more crude prediction about the 2022 playoffs.
Happy football, everyone. Enjoy!
10 Bold Predictions for the 2021 NFL Season
1. Justin Fields takes over for Andy Dalton within four weeks.
Of all my predictions, I think this one is probably the one most likely to occur. Andy Dalton came to Chicago with the intention (nay, the promise) of being QB1 when the season opened. Enter- Justin Fields, who has shown flashes of brilliance during the preseason, albeit in short spurts. Fields has the typical rookie growing pains to get through- and I don’t believe this first season for him will be easy by any stretch of the imagination- but being a better quarterback than Andy Dalton is not that hard. And Fields gives the Bears stability under center, and a young football mind that can be molded and grow into the player Chicago hopes he’ll be. Because when Fields is on, he’s fantastic. I think another loss to the hapless Lions will force Matt Nagy to make the switch to the OSU product. Where it goes from there for Fields- I don’t know. But I do know they’ll be better off with him than with Andy Dalton.
2. Sam Darnold will be a revelation in Carolina.
Ya know, I’m happy for Sam, I really am. Going from an organization doomed to run quarterbacks’ potentials into the ground in the New York Jets (good luck Zach Wilson) to a high-powered, pass-happy offense in Carolina? Thank GOODNESS.
He’s got a buddy already in Robby Anderson from his time in New York, the best pass-catching running back in football in CMC, and a young, exciting offensive scheme thanks to OC Joe Brady (fostering good quarterbacks and honing their talent without destroying them, what a concept!). Darnold’s gonna do very well this season. It makes it all the more exciting that the Panthers get the Jets in week one. My guess is the former USC Trojan tops 25 touchdown passes this year.
3. The defense leads Indianapolis to a winning record.
No Carson Wentz, and likely no Quentin Nelson for the Colts. It’s almost like all is lost.
Fortunately, the Colts have a GREAT defense, which- at least for me- was a thorn in my side as I watched them destroy my fantasy team’s players week in and week out. DeForest Buckner could very well lead the league in sacks, and Xavier Rhodes might be the NFL’s best shadow corner.
The Colts might look to be a middle-of-the-road defense, but they stifled opposing RBs- holding them to 90.5 yards a game in 2020, good for second in the league last year. If the offensive isn’t a complete train wreck (keep in mind their starter is Carson Wentz- so the bar is LOW), I think this defense can help them squeak out 10 or 11 wins this season.
4. The Patriots defeat the Buccaneers in Tom Brady's return to Foxboro.
Ah yes, the old homer take. Is this one farfetched? Yes. But I’m gonna hit you with a big curveball later in the article, so this one won’t seem as crazy compared to that one in a little bit.
So the Buccaneers are the defending Super Bowl champions and are returning all 22 starters, and Tom Brady is poised to become only the fourth QB to beat all 32 NFL teams when the Bucs visit Brady’s old team, the Patriots, up in Foxboro in week 4. Brady, at 44 years old, has shown literally zero signs of slowing down, and is arguably playing better at 44 than he did at 24. The Buccaneers have a high powered offense, and probably the league’s best defense. Typical Tom-Brady-being-the-best shit. We know all this.
But hear me out. The Patriots have gotten better on defense. And they’ve spent over $160 million on offense and have an exciting rookie QB that taught Cam Newton the playbook. They’ve also got Bill Belichick. I’m convinced that by now, Belichick goes out and loses on purpose to his protogés, only to turn around and embarrass them when it matters most by pulling out a trick he’s been holding out on them throughout their careers in New England. It’s like Belichick teaches them everything they know, but not everything he knows. Having coached Brady for 20 years, he knows what has to be done to slow his former golden boy down. I think he plays that card and we see things we’ve NEVER seen from a Belichick-coached team.
I think the new-and-improved defense gives Brady fits in the pocket, stifles the run game, and is able to keep some of his receivers in check. Mac Jones and the offense will need to do their jobs and play an incredibly clean game without turning the ball over and making the most of every single drive. Can they do it? Well, let’s get there first.
I feel it in my bones, you guys. Patriots by a million. Brady doesn’t take his helmet off when he and Bill hug at the end of the game.
5. Julio Jones will overtake A.J. Brown in both receiving yards and touchdowns.
Say what you want about the Titans and their two-headed monster at receiver- this is still the Derrick Henry show. But Julio Jones left Atlanta for a reason, and this new start in Tennessee will show that he’s got plenty left in the tank. I mean, he put up over 1,000 receiving yards in 7 of the last ten seasons, and one down year in Atlanta’s terrible offense doesn’t mean we’re taking him out to pasture. People are so quick to forget that Jones was and still is one of the best, most reliable receivers in the league.
If AJ Brown’s knee injury keeps him out of week one, we could see a big debut for Jones against the Cardinals.
Still, I think this season proves that Jones is the better receiver, and a new start will put him right back into the upper echelon of wide receivers in the league. This Titans offense is on the precipice of something great. You watch.
6. To that point, Derrick Henry will NOT break the single-season rushing record.
With an 17th regular season game, there are a lot of records in play that weren’t so easily attainable in a 16-game regular season. That means Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards could certainly be in sight, especially for the defending rushing champion, who notched 2,000 yards of his own last season.
But here’s the thing- there are some STIFF rush defenses the Titans have to go through this season. There’s the Colts (twice). Kansas City. The Rams. The Patriots. The Bills. The 49ers. The Steelers. Hell, I feel like even the Jets could put up a fight up front. And even if King Henry manages to go through ALL that, there’s still the reality of inevitable regression after a monster season- and the fact that he might have to share the spotlight with the Titans’ new weapon, Julio Jones.
Henry came up 78 yards short of Dickerson’s record last year. He’s definitely capable of reaching 2,105 yards. But it ain’t happening this year.
7. The Arizona Cardinals will have the NFL's highest-scoring offense.
Kliff Kingsbury is on the hot seat this year for Arizona, there’s no doubt about that. Bringing in DeAndre Hopkins in 2020 and missing out on the playoffs, nearly injuring Kyler Murray in the process? Yikes.
But this season brings new hope for the Red Sea and Kingsbury’s air-raid offense: the arrival of AJ Green, who could have a second birth in Arizona- there’s a reason people like to finish out their careers in Arizona: look at the old dogs like Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner, and Larry Fitzgerald, who all had stellar careers in their later years in the desert.
Green and his health will be the x-factor this year. If he’s able to keep his body together, the combination of he, Hopkins, and Murray could be lethal. Kyler Murray will also need to learn how to stay in the pocket and run a tad more conservatively if the Cardinals are to make the playoffs this season. If all goes well, the Cardinals could easily have one of the best offenses in football- we might even see a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Hopkins and Green.
8. Josh Allen will win NFL MVP.
Five reasons why Josh Allen will win MVP:
9. The Cincinnati Bengals will win more games than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bengals are on the upswing, thanks to a returning Joe Burrow and a young and talented (although unproven) group of receivers including Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. If all goes well and everyone stays healthy, the Bengals are gonna win more than a few games this season.
The Steelers are trending downwards, bringing back Big Ben for one more tragic season, and relying on a rookie RB, and a WR group that rivals the Three Stooges in terms of physical comedy. From Juju’s TikTok dancing to Chase Claypool’s complaining to Diontae’s drops- there’s not a lot to like about the gold and black.
Calling it right now- the Steelers’ loss to the Bengals last season started the spiral. Their impending loss to the Bengals this season cements their place at the bottom of the AFC North.
10. Finally, Jameis Winston- yes, that Jameis Winston- will break the NFL's single-season passing record.
Hear me out. The single-season passing record is currently held by Peyton Manning, sits at 5,477 yards. Jameis Winston threw for 5,109 in his final year in Tampa. I’m just saying, Jameis likes to throw the ball. A lot.
Now, Did he throw 30 interceptions in 2019? Yes. Did he have better talent in Tampa than he does in New Orleans? Yes. But I think Jameis can still have his cake and eat it too- that is, throw for 5,500 yards and throw 40 interceptions.
First step is establishing the relationship between he and his mediocre wide receivers. Marquez Callaway and Winston had some great connections during the preseason, and Callaway figures to be the WR1 until Michael Thomas returns in week 7. Winston will need help from names like Tre’Quan Smith, Diontae Harris and Chris Hogan. He’ll need to have a good rapport with TE Adam Trautman, who is now the TE1 after Jared Cook left for Los Angeles.
The other factor is Thomas and his injury history. If Thomas returns to MVP form after taking time to heal, he becomes a huge asset to Winston and his quest to break Manning’s record. That’s certainly a big if.
The other big factor here is Alvin Kamara, who is a dangerous pass-catching RB, who had 24 touchdowns in 2020, and 756 receiving yards to go with it. If anyone's gonna help the cause, it's Kamara.
I think Jameis can do it. He’ll need just about everything to fall his way, but he’s certainly got the arm and the motivation to do it.
There’s a reason these prediction were bold. Fight me.
Now, here are my standings predictions for the 2021 NFL season, followed by some way-too-early playoff predictions.
New England 10-7
NY Jets 6-11
As mentioned, Buffalo has the best record in football. The Patriots take one season to recover from Brady being gone. Miami still has another year/needs one more player to do some real damage (not to mention I’m not fully confident in Tua for a whole season… maybe a trade for Deshaun Watson?), and the Jets will Jets.
Baltimore has no offense, and is relying on the talents of one Lamar Jackson and that defense to get literally anything done. This is Cleveland’s year. Man, the NFC North has changed so much, man.
Trevor Lawrence is in for a rude awakening when he realizes that the Jaguars went out and got him and no help as his offensive line folds like a cheap card table on the way to 10 losses. At least they’re not as bad as Houston’s going to be, though.
Kansas City 13-4
LA Chargers 11-6
Las Vegas 9-8
I should mention that the Chiefs are still loaded and will take your children if you’re not careful. Although Justin Herbert is gonna give them a run for their money- he and Mahomes are gonna have great duels and I’m excited to see them play each other for real this season. Las Vegas and Denver are still mediocre with mediocre QBs.
NY Giants 5-12
Dallas is relying on a big step forward from their abysmal defense of 2020 and from CeeDee Lamb, who had a breakout campaign last year and is looking to add to it this year. If that happens and Dak plays healthy coming off an injury, this division belongs to the Cowboys this year. Washington’s record will rely on the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was brilliant for a half season with the Dolphins, but we know that Fitz can be erratic at times. Remind me why Eagles and Giants fans talk so much shit when they’re constantly the two worst teams in the division?
Green Bay 12-5
I haven’t even talked about Aaron Rodgers yet! Well, he’s back in Green Bay, and probably wants to win a Super Bowl on what is likely his last go-around in Wisconsin before he takes over the full-time Jeopardy! host job. The Packers are still stellar, hence the record. Minnesota still has Kirk Cousins for a quarterback- hence the record. The Bears I mentioned above- hence the record. And the Lions? Well. The record.
Tampa Bay 13-4
New Orleans 8-9
No surprises here. Sam Darnold flourishes in Carolina, and the Saints falter without Drew Brees. The beat goes on.
LA Rams 10-7
San Francisco 10-7
Man, I love the NFC West. Maybe they’ll fulfill my prediction of being the division where every team has a winning record this year (looking at you, 49ers!). If Trey Lance is who he says he is, this division has the potential to house four top-10 QBs this season, between Murray, Russell Wilson, and Matthew Stafford, who is playing on a team with some talent this year in Los Angeles.
And, of course, your way-too-early playoff predictions for this year:
(2) Kansas City over (7) New England
(3) Cleveland over (6) Indianpolis
(5) LA Chargers over (4) Tennessee
(1) Buffalo over (5) LA Chargers
(3) Cleveland over (2) Kansas City
(1) Buffalo over (3) Cleveland
(2) Green Bay over (7) Washington
(3) Arizona over (6) LA Rams
(5) Seattle over (4) Dallas
(5) Seattle over (1) Tampa Bay
(2) Green Bay over (3) Arizona
(2) Green Bay over (5) Seattle
Super Bowl LVI:
Buffalo over Green Bay
Bills Mafia. Fight me.
I’m so happy football is back, you guys.
The NFL season starts tonight with the Dallas Cowboys taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 8pm on NBC.
March Madness 2021: The Great Mascot Death Bracket III
For the first time in two years, March Madness has returned to us.
Last year’s cancellation of the tournament due to the pandemic left me without an opportunity to do a death bracket, but now that the field of 68 has officially been unveiled, we can officially commence with the festivities!
And so, welcome all, to the third incarnation of the Great Mascot Death Bracket!
Since we have a lot to get to, here’s a quick overview of the rules:
Isn’t filling out a bracket normally just boring? Picking the 1 seeds to go all the way to the championship? Having just one or two upsets in your bracket? Lame.
The purpose of the Death Bracket is to spice things up. The premise is simple: instead of two teams playing basketball, what if we pit each mascot against each other in a no holds barred fight to the death? No rules, just answering the question: who would win in a fight?
The winner, obviously gets eternal glory and the title of Death Bracket Champion.
Got it? Pretty simple right?
Feel free to fill out your brackets this way to impress your friends or co-workers. Just don’t blame me if you don’t break 10 points total.
Also, fair warning- if you’re not a fan of animals being “eliminated”, this is probably not the article for you.
But now that the long wait is over…
Let the battle BEGIN!
Round of 64
ENTRY BATTLE ROYALE: (1) Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. (16) Appalachian State Mountaineers vs. (16) Norfolk State Spartans
As is tradition, all First Four games will evolve into a three-way battle royal. And thus, our first matchup pits the Bulldogs of Gonzaga against a Mountaineer from Appalachian State and a Spartan from Norfolk State.
A bulldog is a breed of dog, known for being a good boy with floppy cheeks. A mountaineer is someone who lives in a mountainous area or partakes in sports like climbing. A Spartan is a fierce warrior, part of one of the most feared militaries in ancient history. I think it’s pretty clear who the winner is. The spartan has a sword, for god sake.
Winner: Norfolk State Spartans
(8) Oklahoma Sooners vs. (9) Missouri Tigers
Sooners were settlers of Oklahoma during the late 19th century. A tiger is a ferocious beast with stripes and teeth. I understand the pioneers of the day were tough, traveled folk, but they had other issues like cholera, typhoid, drowning, angry Native Americans, and other causes for death like in the game Oregon Trail. Adding a Tiger to the mix is not only going to mess with them psychologically, it’s likely also going to result in their death. The tiger eats the sooner. Next.
Winner: Missouri Tigers
(5) Creighton Blue Jays vs. (12) UCSB Gauchos
Making its first appearance in the bracket, the Gaucho is “a skilled horseman, reputed to be brave and unruly.” A blue jay is a wild bird common to eastern North America. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the dude who looks like he’s going to cut you open can probably take a blue jay. Beware the gaucho.
Winner: USCB Gauchos
(4) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (13) Ohio Bobcats
The Cavalier (a supporter of the king in 17th century England) is a worthy contender, having been in the death bracket each of the last two times out. He does have a sword, after all. However, he faces a worthy opponent, a bobcat, who is likely hungry considering he just saw a tiger chow down on some poor middle-American settlers. Bobcat eats cavalier. On to the next!
Winner: Ohio Bobcats
ENTRY BATTLE ROYALE: (6) USC Trojans vs. (11) Drake Bulldogs vs. (11) Wichita State Shockers
For those of you unfamiliar: a Trojan is a native of Troy, another of the fiercest warriors in history. A bulldog is a bulldog, of course, and a shocker, according to Wichita State’s definition, is “someone who earns money by shocking, or harvesting wheat”. I’m going to say the shocker, or Wheat Man, has a scythe. He’s not going to harvest all that wheat by hand!
Off with their heads! Sorry, doggo.
Winner: Wichita State Shockers
(3) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (14) Eastern Washington Eagles
Finally! Our first all-air battle pits the Jayhawks against the Eagles. Originally known as a Jay-Hawker, or someone from 1850s Kansas who fought against pro-slavery folks from Missouri, it is unclear how the ornithological meaning of “Jayhawk” came into play. Somehow we ended up with this dumb bird with pilgrim shoes instead. I think the Eagle is the more battle-ready participant here, and can easily outduel the Jayhawk.
Winner: Eastern Washington Eagles
(7) Oregon Ducks vs. (10) VCU Rams
Who would win in a fight? A duck or a ram? I’ll give you a hint: let’s hope that duck has Aflac life insurance.
Winner: VCU Rams
(2) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (15) Grand Canyon Antelopes
Two years ago, the unlikely duo of Alan Alda and Jeremy Renner teamed up to take out most of the rest of the field. This year, they’re back to take on an Antelope, a fauna resident of the African Savannah. Antelopes are quick and fleet-footed, but there’s no stopping one of Hawkeye’s arrows once he has you in his sites.
Winner: Iowa Hawkeyes
Round of 32
(16) Norfolk State Spartans vs. (9) Missouri Tigers
Don’t they fight some sort of Tiger in 300? If this particular spartan is anything like Gerard Butler, it is the tiger who is dining in hell.
Winner: Norfolk State Spartans
(12) USCB Gauchos vs. (13) Ohio Bobcats
I think the gaucho is pretty resourceful here. As cattle herders, they can use that to their advantage by sacrificing the cows to the hungry bobcat, then taking it out from being while it’s distracted.
Winner: USCB Gauchos
(11) Wichita State Shockers vs. (14) Eastern Washington Eagles
Wheat man vs. pesky eagle. While on paper the Eagle looks as if it might easily pluck off the pieces of wheat from the wheat man’s body, we know that the wheat man takes many forms, including that of a scarecrow. And that is to his advantage, because when the eagle is not looking…
Winner: Wichita State Shockers
(2) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (10) VCU Rams
A charging ram is no match for a certain Hawkeye firing like five arrows at you at once. Sleep tight, VCU.
Winner: Iowa Hawkeyes
(16) Norfolk State Spartans vs. (12) UCSB Gauchos
I think the Gaucho has finally met his match here. The Spartan has armor, and since he’s warded off a tiger already, I don’t think a man herding cattle is going to be much of a problem. The Spartan also has a sword. Don’t bring a cow to a sword fight.
Winner: Norfolk State Spartans
(11) Wichita State Shockers vs. (2) Iowa Hawkeyes
Hawkeye hasn’t had his own movie yet. And if he did, I think the wheat man serves as an excellent potential villain. And because Hawkeye is my least favorite avenger, we’ll go ahead and call this one in favor of the wheat man, as not even Alan Alda can figure out the mystery of why the wheat man can keep sneaking up on you and scything his opponents from out of nowhere. Shockers move to the Elite 8.
Winner: Wichita State Shockers
(16) Norfolk State Spartans vs. (11) Wichita State Shockers
Like something out of a horror video game, the spartan enters the quiet wheat field, and begins to hack away at the grain with all his might. It is only then that he realizes that with each hack of the sword, he is not only doing the Shocker’s bidding of collecting wheat, but that the wheat man has twisted space and time, trapping the spartan in an endless spree of chopping wheat until he falls over and dies.
Winner: Wichita State Shockers
Wichita State Advances to Final Four
Round of 64
ENTRY BATTLE ROYALE: (1) Michigan Wolverines vs. (16) Texas Southern Tigers vs. (16) Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers
A pretty straightforward matchup here- a wolverine is small but feisty, but the tiger is larger and can move around pretty well for a big fella. The mountaineer might stand a chance against the wolverine, or just against the tiger, but not both, as we see the wolverine and the tiger team up to kill the mountaineer. As cool as it would be to see a wolverine take down a tiger, I don’t think Darwin’s rules of natural selection would allow that to happen.
Winner: Texas Southern Tigers
(8) LSU Tigers vs. (9) St. Bonaventure Bonnies
The Bonnie is short for the Bona Wolf, and a tiger is, once again, a tiger. It’s also unfortunate for the Bona Wolf, as St. Bonaventure is also the patron saint of bowel disorders. So not only is it going to have some sort of IBS or other intestinal disease, it’s also small enough that it is going to get eaten by a tiger.
Winner: LSU Tigers
(5) Colorado Buffaloes vs. (12) Georgetown Hoyas
So no one really knows where the term “Hoya” came from. Hoya Saxa is the “college yell” of Georgetown, which means “What Rocks!” So I’m not sure if Georgetown has come to educate the buffalo in Greek or what. So instead of some sort of philosophical mascot, let’s put in the Hoyas’ real-life mascot, which is…
Winner: Colorado Buffaloes
(4) Florida State Seminoles vs. (13) UNC-Greensboro Spartans
The Seminole, a fierce Native American warrior from the Southeastern US, matches up against another spartan. I really admire the fighting spirit of the Seminoles, but that tomahawk chop isn’t going to do a whole lot against that Spartan’s armor. The sword is still mightier in this instance.
Winner: UNC-Greensboro Spartans
ENTRY BATTLE ROYALE: (6) BYU Cougars vs. (11) Michigan State Spartans vs. (11) UCLA Bruins
This intriguing matchup pits a ruthless cougar against a bruin (or bear) against another dude from Ancient Greece. Again, two angry, sharp-toothed animals could easily double team a guy wearing armor and rip him to shreds. And I think that while the bear is a worthy opponent, the cougar is faster. After a brutal fight, the cougar is the winner, and he celebrates with his victory dance.
Winner: BYU Cougars
(3) Texas Longhorns vs. (14) Abilene Christian Wildcats
You don’t want to piss off a longhorn. You probably don’t even want to get near it, considering what happened when Bevo and Uga met a few years ago at the Sugar Bowl.
I think the wildcat stands more of a chance to fight back, but if the longhorn shows his wild side, one of those horns will go right through you.
Winner: Texas Longhorns
(7) Connecticut Huskies vs. (10) Maryland Terrapins
The husky has a tricky challenge ahead of him in the Terrapin, a diamondback turtle native to North America. The terrapin certain provides a strong defense thanks to the shell, but I don’t think he can do a whole lot more than that. If he pokes his head out of that shell once, the husky’s going to make him pay for it.
Winner: Connecticut Huskies
(2) Alabama Crimson Tide vs. (15) Iona Gaels
You could approach Alabama’s name literally, but an ocean of red water isn’t going to be very threatening, least of all to a Gael, a native of Scotland. But when you bring in Big Al, Alabama’s (adorable) elephant mascot, things change. The Gaels probably could get a flew blows on on the elephant, but one false move, and that elephant would crush that Scotsman.
Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide
Round of 32
(16) Texas Southern Tigers vs. (8) LSU Tigers
A few years ago, the combined team of Auburn and Clemson’s Tigers (the ClemsBurn SuperTigers) destroyed everyone en route to a championship win. You might anticipate that the same thing would happen here in another tiger vs. tiger matchup. But remember how I said that St. Bonaventure was the patron saint of bowel diseases? Well guess which tiger contracted a bowel disease from its first round game? That’s right. The LSU Tiger dies on the WAY to the fight, leaving the Texas Southern Tiger to win by default.
Winner: Texas Southern Tigers
(5) Colorado Buffaloes vs. (13) UNC-Greensboro Spartans
A spartan against a charging buffalo. Hm.
I keep envisioning a man dressed in armor being absolutely shelled by a large charging animal, so that’s exactly what’s going to happen here.
Winner: Colorado Buffaloes
(6) BYU Cougars vs. (3) Texas Longhorns
Does the cougar have enough strength to take down a longhorn? Maybe. But does the longhorn have enough height and strength (and physical attributes, i.e. the horns) to lift that cougar up in the air?
You betcha. Cougar kebabs all around.
Winner: Texas Longhorns
(7) Connecticut Huskies vs. (2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Sigh. Let’s get this over with. I’m going to save this puppy and usher him out of the fight. We all know the elephant would win, so why do we have to kill a dog over it? I’m rescuing the doggo and he shall be my friend forever. Crimson Tide wins by default. Besides, I wanna see an elephant take on a longhorn anyways.
Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide
(16) Texas Southern Tigers vs. (5) Colorado Buffaloes
I hear buffalo burgers are pretty good. Damn, nature, you scary!
Winner: Texas Southern Tigers
(3) Texas Longhorns vs. (2) Alabama Crimson Tide
The battle of the tusks culminates here in this battle between Texas and Alabama. While the longhorn’s weapons may be sharper than the elephant’s tusks, the elephant has some tough skin, which can protect it from damage at the outset of the fight. In addition, the elephant can use its trunk to keep the longhorn from doing real damage, and bend it into submission as it takes over the fight.
Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide
(16) Texas Southern Tigers vs. (2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Tigers are strong, fast, and deadly. But if you get an elephant mad, it’ll run you over in a hurry. I think the size advantage poses a challenge for the tiger, and while I couldn’t find any good videos pitting a tiger and an elephant against each other in nature, just look at the size disparity:
In addition, the elephant usually travels in packs (we can employ the “tide” part here), and I don’t think that tiger stands a chance against a pack of elephants. Elephants are underrated as animals that will destroy everything in their path, and this tiger is no different.
Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama Advances to Final Four
Round of 64
(1) Baylor Bears vs. (16) Hartford Hawks
I WENT TO SCHOOL AT HARTFORD AND THEY’RE IN THE TOURNAMENT FOR THE FIRST TIME. AND WHILE THEY’LL GET SQUASHED BY BAYLOR I’M GOING TO PUT THEM OVER IN THIS BRACKET BECAUSE THIS IS MY SHOW, DAMMIT.
The pesky hawk plucks out the eyes of the bear. The bear, blinded, hurtles off the side of a cliff.
Winner: Hartford Hawks
(8) North Carolina Tarheels vs. (9) Wisconsin Badgers
The Tarheel of North Carolina is typically tasked with producing tar and pitch from the pine trees of the state and patching the hulls of ships. I imagine tar is very sticky, and having it on your heels is probably both painful and annoying, considering you’d be immobile. That said, the Tarheel is easy pickings for the badger.
Winner: Wisconsin Badgers
(5) Villanova Wildcats vs. (12) Winthrop Eagles
This is about as generic as you can get with the wildcats and eagles, two of the most common names in amateur sports. The eagle has to land sometime, and when it does, you can bet the wildcat is going to be there to eat it for lunch.
Winner: Villanova Wildcats
(4) Purdue Boilermakers vs. (13) North Texas Mean Green
The Boilermakers, whose mascot is the Boiler Express, an actual locomotive train, demolished most of the competition in last year’s bracket. This year they square off against the North Texas Mean Green, whose name is more symbolic of spirit than anything else. Is this Mean Green more of a fighting machine or just an angry version of Face from Nick Jr.? (Those of you that understand that deep-cut reference, I SO appreciate it). After further investigation, it's an.... Eagle. Right. Either way, the express keeps on rolling. All aboard!
Winner: Purdue Boilermakers
(6) Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (11) Utah State Aggies
Ahh the age old question: just what the hell is an Aggie anyway? In the most base terms, an Aggie is a farmer (short for Agriculture), not a bull as seen in the picture above. So it’s… that farmer guy against a pirate dressed in red. All I can say is: don’t bring a hoe to a gun fight.
Winner: Texas Tech Red Raiders
(3) Arkansas Razorbacks vs. (14) Colgate Raiders
Pirate versus Piggy. Sorry, piggy.
Winner: Colgate Raiders
(7) Florida Gators vs. (10) Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokie is the turkey-like mascot at Virgina Tech, and since turkey is delicious, you can bet that it’s going to be swallowed up by a very hungry Gator.
Winner: Florida Gators
(2) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (15) Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
You could make the case for using Brutus Buckeye for Ohio State, instead of the actual buckeye nut. But given I’ve got another golden opportunity to make this ongoing bit a reality, we’re sticking with the nut.
The Golden Eagle eats the nut. Unfortunately for the golden eagle, the Buckeye nut is poisonous. The Golden Eagle dies. The Buckeye is victorious.
Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes
Round of 32
(9) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (16) Hartford Hawks
Badger eats Hawk. Also, UHart can only go SO far before I have to bring it back down to earth. It wasn’t that great, after all.
Winner: Wisconsin Badgers
(4) Purdue Boilermakers vs. (5) Villanova Wildcats
*Cues “Dumb Ways to Die” as the Wildcat doesn’t follow proper train safety protocols and gets hit by the oncoming train*
Winner: Purdue Boilermakers
(6) Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (14) Colgate Raiders
This is one of those instances where you see a graph and the options are: A) Yes; B) Yes, but in Red. You ALWAYS choose the “But in red” option.
Winner: Texas Tech Red Raiders
(7) Florida Gators vs. (2) Ohio State Buckeyes
MORE STUPID BUCKEYE NONSENSE!
Gator eats Buckeye. Buckeye poisons Gator. Buckeye is victorious as Gator dies. It's beautiful.
Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes
(9 Wisconsin Badgers vs. (4) Purdue Boilermakers
So not only would a train absolutely DESTROY a badger physically, I’m going to say that the train’s loud volume and ability to make the ground shake will actually evict the badger and his family. So the Boilermakers move on not through nomination, but through the fact that the badger’s home’s property value has gone down and he has to move his family somewhere quieter.
Winner: Purdue Boilermakers
(6) Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (2) Ohio State Buckeyes
Do we think the Pirate knows enough to not eat suspicious tree nuts?
No. He doesn’t. Most pirates only know the sea, and are unfamiliar with the fruits of the land. 15 Buckeyes on a dead man’s chest.
Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes
(4) Purdue Boilermakers vs. (2) Ohio State Buckeyes
You’re probably thinking I’m going to get ridiculous with this, like the Buckeye is going to sit on the railroad tracks and try to derail the train, similar to the way the myth goes where you can derail a train with a penny on the track.
That’s exactly what he’s going to try to do.
And he’s going to turn into some variation of Buckeye-nut Butter doing it. Boilers are on to the Final Four.
Winner: Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue Advances to Final Four
Round of 64
(1) Illinois Fighting Illini vs. (16) Drexel Dragons
An actual man from Illinois thinks he has a prayer against a DRAGON. Man, if teams really were based on the strength of their mascots, Drexel would have a seriously good chance to win. In this case, the Dragon torches the man for thinking deep dish pizza is actual pizza. Because it’s not. It’s casserole.
Winner: Drexel Dragons
(8) Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs. (9) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Rambler in this case is a wolf, the LU Wolf. It could also be just a human rambling from place to place. It doesn’t matter, because both are allergic to bee stings.
Winner: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
(5) Tennessee Volunteers vs. (12) Oregon State Beavers
This is a rare instance where a Volunteer can actually get something done in a fight to the death. I imagine someone in Tennessee has some pesky Beavers he needs to get rid of, and the Volunteers says “hey, I’ll do it!” and easily eradicates the Beavers from the man’s land. Good going, Volunteers! You’re not so useless after all! Sometimes a perfectly menial task like pest control can get you somewhere in a Mascot Death Bracket.
Winner: Tennessee Volunteers
(4) Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. (13) Liberty Flames
Cowboys are used to sitting out under the stars beside a fire, which they are in complete control of the whole time, making sure to put it out before they go to sleep. The Cowboy snuffs out the flame and then uses it again to make himself breakfast the next morning. The act of defeating your opponent, only to revive it so it can make your breakfast is ICE. COLD.
Winner: Oklahoma State Cowboys
(6) San Diego State Aztecs vs. (11) Syracuse Orange
Mexico is fourth in the world in the production of oranges, and the Aztecs inhabited Mexico. I’ll assume the Aztec has eaten quite a few oranges in his time. The warrior makes use of an orange wedge to give himself orange teeth before finishing off his daily dose of Vitamin C. Also, I know Syracuse's logo is just the Orange "S", but I had to include Otto. You can't NOT include Otto.
Winner: San Diego State Aztecs
(3) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (14) Morehead State Eagles
The mountaineer has experience being up really high, so he’s right at home when he challenges the Eagle to a fight and kills it.
Winner: West Virginia Mountaineers
(7) Clemson Tigers vs. (10) Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Scarlet Knight is gonna wear that tiger as a prize when he skins it and moves to the next round.
Winner: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
(2) Houston Cougars vs. (15) Cleveland State Vikings
A cougar is a cooler version of a mountain lion, but let’s be real, the Viking is absolutely going to win this fight. No giant feline’s sending him to Valhalla.
Winner: Cleveland State Vikings
Round of 32
(16) Drexel Dragons vs. (9) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
I’ve never seen what happens when you light a bee on fire, but I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t be able to find its molecules with the naked eye if it got torched by a DRAGON.
Winner: Drexel Dragons
(5) Tennessee Volunteers vs. (4) Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboy hires the Volunteer as a ranch hand. The Volunteer has a heart attack from an undiagnosed condition while working with the cows one day. A bit sat but ultimately unperturbed, the Cowboy moves on to the next round.
Winner: Oklahoma State Cowboys
(6) San Diego State Aztecs vs. (3) West Virginia Mountaineers
The Aztecs had razor sharp obsidian weapons, some of which had the power to “decapitate a horse,” according to a Wikipedia article I read. That, and the Aztecs are just plain scary, so I think the Mountaineer just takes his ball and goes home out of sheer fright. Aztecs to the Sweet 16.
Winner: San Diego State Aztecs
(10) Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. (15) Cleveland State Vikings
For the sake of argument, let’s say we’re fighting in a large field. I think the open terrain suits the Knight better, but the openness of the terrain opens it up for close-quarters melee combat between the two warriors. Both are equipped with armor, and the Viking certainly has more raw power and can decapitate you with his battle ax. But I think in this fight, the knight has better training, and is able to get the Viking to use his only fury against him, where he takes advantage and stabs him as he catches his opponent off guard. An upset, but an earned one nonetheless.
Winner: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
(16) Drexel Dragons vs. (4) Oklahoma State Cowboys
Cowboy versus Dragon? That Cowboy is TOAST.
Winner: Drexel Dragons
(6) San Diego State Aztecs vs. (10) Rutgers Scarlet Knights
This is another instance of warrior versus warrior, which I believe again plays out in the knight’s favor, simply because of the advanced weaponry and armor he has access too. The Aztec is a worthy opponent, but when his opponent can kill him with a single blow, there’s not much he can do about it.
Winner: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
(16) Drexel Dragons vs. (10) Rutgers Scarlet Knights
This is what we wanted. Dragon versus Knight. There’s no damsel at play here (except for maybe a date with the Final Four), but the Knight is able to get to the top of the volcano to the dragon’s lair, scaling dangerous cliffs and braving fire and brimstone in the process.
And the dragon absolutely ROASTS his ass.
Winner: Drexel Dragons
Drexel Advances to Final Four
(16) Drexel Dragons vs. (4) Purdue Boilermakers
Just like any normal day riding the MTA, the dragon derails the Boiler Express and tosses it into the volcano. Dragons move to the finals.
Winner: Drexel Dragons
(11) Wichita State Shockers vs. (2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Surely something as large as an elephant can halt the unstoppable mythical force known as the Shocker-
Nope. The Wheat Man lulls the elephant into a false sense of security by allowing him to enter the wheat field, where the elephant decides to take a nap. It is there that the Wheat Man steals the elephant’s soul. Elephants never forget. Wheat Men never forgive.
Winner: Wichita State Shockers
(16) Drexel Dragons vs. (11) Wichita State Shockers
The dragon can torch the wheat fields all he wants. The Wheat Man, throughout this bracket has become so powerful that he now embodies all forms, both living and non-living, seen and unseen. He will outlive the dragon long after his death (the Dragon has celiac and is actually allergic to gluten which is present in wheat, funnily enough. So that snack the dragon wants to have actually kills him), as he will outlive all things long after this world meets its end by absorption into the sun.
In the end, there is no peace. There is no God. There is only the Wheat Man.
Winner: Wichita State Shockers
And with that dark, dark ending to the Death Bracket, tell me which mascots you think would win in a fight to the death in the comments down below!
The First Round of the NCAA Tournament kicks off on Friday, March 19th, on the networks of CBS.
2021 NFL Playoff Predictions and Season Recap
We actually completed the NFL season, you guys. We actually did it.
32 teams started, and now only 14 remain. January is the start of playoff football, which everyone knows is the most wonderful time of the year.
This season was unlike any other, with many stadiums empty because of COVID concerns and restrictions. Still, we saw record breaking performances, a varied MVP race, and some long-standing streaks finally snapped.
I for one, watched more football this year than I ever have, having often two or more screens playing different games at the same time: One on the TV, and two more on laptops that back channeled out-of-market games, all playing simultaneously. It’s the poor man’s Red Zone.
Here’s what I saw this season.
Firstly, we begin with my Patriots in New England. Man, those 20 years with Tom Brady were a trip, weren’t they? We got a season full of ups and downs (mostly downs) with Cam Newton at the helm. I like Cam, but nothing was working for him this season. The Patriots did this ingenious tactic where they would just give Cam the ball and he would run up into the line with the ball for no yards. They also did this brilliant thing where they left him with N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd to throw to. Fun fun fun! While it was fun having no pressure to succeed but also getting great games out of it (week two against Seattle, for example), it quickly got frustrating. A four game losing streak, multiple mistakes at the end of games by Newton to lose games, and a lack of talent on offense made this a season to forget. I’m not sure what the future holds- but coach Bill Belichick better learn how to draft, and quickly.
My football Sunday group became big Los Angeles Chargers fans this season, due in no small part to the play of Justin Herbert, who emerged in week two to replace Tyrod Taylor, who, oh yeah had his lung accidentally punctured while team medical staff was trying to give him a shot for his injured ribs. Herbert was brilliant this season, breaking the rookie touchdown pass record (sorry, Joe Burrow- prayers up for your knee). Unfortunately, the Chargers defense was terrible this season, losing a number of one score games, even having games where they blew enormous leads in the process. The Chargers finished 7-9, which is a huge accomplishment for a rookie QB. They also fired head coach Anthony Lynn, opening the door for another coach to enter and take over a team with a very attractive offense with tremendous upside.
I was also today years old when I discovered that the Patriots and Chargers finished with the exact same record this year. Football stats are weird.
Speaking of stats- Aaron Rodgers had more touchdown passes than the Packers did punts this season.
Derrick Henry became only the 8th player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season.
My fantasy football opponent in the championship game had both Stefon Diggs AND Deandre Hopkins- both of whom led the league in receptions at one points this season (and I mean literally 1st and 2nd)- and Stefon Diggs ended up winning the receiving title. Also the pass seen in this photo was the greatest thing to ever happen.
The Browns made the playoffs!
The Bills won the AFC East!
And most of all- COVID didn’t kill the season. While there were certainly some frustrating schedule changes, the season got all 256 games off between weeks 1 and 17. Not bad. Good for players (mostly) following protocol and the league for insisting these games be played.
Every year, I like to take a look at my predictions I made at the start of this season. This year, they were BOLD. Sometimes, I’m right!
This year, I was wrong.
I was so very wrong.
Have a look.
2020 Predictions Recap
1. The Patriots will once again win the AFC East.
Well, that very much didn’t happen. Chalk it up to the lack of defensive players, or the play of Cam Newton, or Bill Belichick’s inability to help the young wide receivers grow, but the Patriots finished at 7-9 this season. This is their first losing season since 2000. It goes without saying that they also missed out on the AFC East title, which went to the Buffalo Bills, their first division title since 1995.
2. Joe Burrow will break the rooking passing touchdown record.
Joe Burrow tore his ACL during a week 11 game against Washington, ending his rookie season prematurely. He finishes his campaign with 13 touchdown passes in 10 games, putting him on pace for 21 touchdown passes, which would not have been enough to catch Baker Mayfield’s 27 passes a few years ago. However, out of Burrow’s injury, we got Justin Herbert, who did in fact break Mayfield’s touchdown pass record, throwing for 31 in his rookie season.
3. No team in the NFC West will finish below .500.
And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those 49ers and all their injuries! While the Rams, Seahawks cruised to double-digit wins this season, and Arizona looked poised to join that group as well before falling off a cliff in the last few weeks of the season (they finished 8-8), the injuries for the 49ers just kept piling up. First, it was Joey Bosa. Then it was Solomon Thomas. Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle followed shortly after. The 49ers finished 6-10, a season after a Super Bowl appearance.
4. The Packers will miss the playoffs (in Aaron Rodgers’ final season in Green Bay).
If this season has taught us anything, it’s that hell hath no fury like an Aaron Rodgers scorned. I hope Jordan Love learned a lot watching his starting QB work this year. The Packers finished 13-3 in 2020, locked up the top seed in the NFC, and Rodgers is likely on his way to winning MVP. The connection between Rodgers and Adams was lethal this season; Rodgers passed for 48 touchdown passes, and Adams was on the receiving end of 18 of them. I’m not sure what the future holds for Rodgers and the Packers, but if I were the team, I would apologize immediately for drafting a quarterback in the first round and get your MVP starter some more weapons immediately.
5. … and so will the 49ers.
… Through no fault of their own. You can only do so much when you lose half your roster to injury. Names like Bosa, Thomas, Garoppolo, Kittle, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford, Raheem Mostert- not to mention having to flip-flop between Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard- if those are the cards you’re dealt, it quickly becomes very hard to win football games. The Niners finished 6-10, although they probably could have made a run at the division title had everyone been healthy. One bright spot this season was the play of Brandon Aiyuk, as the rookie receiver had 468 yards and 4 touchdowns in his final six games of the season. The Niners will be back. Hopefully.
6. Drew Brees will win MVP.
It doesn’t help my case that Brees missed four games due to a rib injury that left him with a collapsed lung. It also doesn’t help that Alvin Kamara was the MVP of the Saints this year, as he rushed for 932 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Brees passed for exactly HALF the number of touchdowns that Aaron Rodgers did this year- I just don’t see Brees winning MVP this year. It’s a shame, since reports are surfacing that this will likely be Brees’ final year in the league. Unless the league wants to give him the merit based solely as a lifetime achievement award (of course, that’s what the Hall of Fame is for), it just isn’t going to happen for the Saints QB this year.
Prediction: LIKELY INCORRECT
7. Tampa Bay won’t win the NFC South.
It’s always nice to see your ex not doing well. Tom Brady and the Bucs just couldn’t beat the Saints this season, losing to them twice as part of an 11-5 record. Pair it with losses to the Rams, Bears, and Chiefs, and Tampa will finish in second in the division, behind the Saints, who finished 12-4. On the bright side, the Bucs, by virtue of their playoff seeding, might actually have the… easiest path to the Super Bowl? A playoff game against the NFC East champion, followed by what could be a cold weather game if the Saints and Seahawks get their jobs done this weekend, setting up a win-or-go-home game against the Saints or Seahawks. They won’t get to host a playoff game, but this isn’t unfamiliar territory for Tom Brady.
8. Adam Gase will be fired before Doug Marrone.
I can’t believe I didn’t get this one right. I was SURE of this one. The Jaguars even WON their first game of the season! Given, yes, they dropped their next 15, but even four straight losses was enough for the Jaguars to give Marrone the boot in early October. The Jets held onto Gase for the ENTIRE SEASON. They finished 2-14 after starting the season 0-13. They fired Gregg Williams, their defensive coordinator, who gave up a desperation bomb from Derek Carr and the Raiders (intentionally?), before they fired Gase following week 17. The level of ineptitude from New York sports franchises is always entertaining, but the Jets are on another level.
9. Daniel Jones will finish as a top-five passer.
Welp. Jones missed a few games this season due to injury, which hurt his chances of accomplishing this goal. His team also finished 6-10, which doesn’t help. I had really thought that Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard were really going to come alive this season. I was wrong. Jones finished with 2943 yards, good for 19th. Better than people like Drew Brees, Drew Lock and Lamar Jackson, though! Better luck next year, Danny Dimes.
10. ZERO games will be cancelled to to COVID concerns.
This is a tough one to judge, because while no games were actually missed due to COVID concerns, a number of games were drastically rescheduled and moved from their scheduled dates. There was that debacle in New England, where the league made the Patriots fly to Kansas City on a Tuesday and play a game that night without their starting quarterback. In addition, the Titans had players show up to their closed facility (against league protocol) and practice, leading to another COVID breakout among the team. This forced multiple game changes that effected a number of teams- the Pittsburgh Steelers included, who had their bye week thrust upon them unceremoniously in week 4. Then there was the Steelers and Ravens, originally scheduled for Thanksgiving, which was moved to the following Wednesday, almost a week later, where the Ravens had to play without Lamar Jackson. And who could forget the Denver Broncos, who had to bring in an emergency wide receiver to play quarterback after all FOUR of their quarterbacks were deemed COVID close contacts and could not play in their game against the Saints. Again, while there were no actual game cancellations due to COVID, there was certainly enough mixing of the schedule and confusion surrounding it to give me a headache.
Prediction: CORRECT (I guess)
Total predictions correct: 3/10.
I also like to take a look at the playoff teams I predicted and compare them to the actual results from this season.
I correctly predicted 8 of the 12 playoff teams, with 5 out of 7 correct in the AFC. The placement, as usual, did not go the way I had predicted:
I also correctly predicted the records of the following teams:
And finally, here are my updated playoff predictions for the 2021 NFL Postseason.
2021 Playoff Predictions
Super Wild Card Weekend (Jan. 9 & 10)
#7 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at #2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Saturday, January 9th, 1:05pm (CBS)
Vegas: Bills -6.5
We’ll get our first look at Josh Allen and the second-seeded Bills early, as they take on the Indianapolis Colts up in Buffalo on Saturday. The Bills are seeking their first playoff win since 1995 (you’ll remember they blew a lead to Houston in last year’s wild card contest). However, I believe that Allen has taken the next steps toward being an elite quarterback and will improve on his result from last year. The Bills are perhaps the most dangerous team in the AFC, with a stout defense, and an improved offense from last year- need I remind you they have the NFL’s receiving leader, Stefon Diggs, on their team this year? Indianapolis’ defense has the potential to give them troubles, and the offense- in particular, the ground game- has really made strides late in the season, but I think Buffalo pulls it out in an instant classic.
Prediction: Buffalo 34, Indianapolis 31 (OT)
#6 Los Angeles Rams (10-6) at #3 Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
Saturday January 9th, 4:40pm (FOX)
Vegas: Seattle -3.5
Recent history has shown us that the Rams have the Seahawks’ number. They’ve been able to use pressure up front, relying heavily on Aaron Donald to keep Russell Wilson under wraps. However, with Jared Goff’s status up in the air (a broken bone in his hand kept him out of action this weekend), I don’t see John Wolford stepping up and being the hero for the Rams. On top of that, the Seahawks defense is much improved from earlier this season, and they’re on a four-game winning streak because of it. 12th Man not required, Seattle has this game in hand.
Prediction: Seattle 24, Los Angeles 10
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) at #4 Washington Football Team (7-9)
Saturday, January 9th, 8:15pm (NBC)
Vegas: Tampa Bay -8.5
“We’re not playing a 7-9 team,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told the media this week, “we’re playing a 4-1 team. We’re playing Alex Smith... we’re not playing Dwayne Haskins.” Arians makes a good point about Washington being a noticeably better team when they start Alex Smith and not that schmuck Haskins from Ohio State. Now that Haskins is officially off the team, Alex Smith will be the starter this weekend for Washington as they host Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Even without Mike Evans though, I don’t see Tampa losing this game. Tom Brady is, of course, the most successful quarterback in history, and though he’s been abysmal in prime time games this year, I think this wild card game against a team with a losing record will be just another stepping stone. I can see Chase Young potentially giving Brady a little bit of trouble by delivering some pressure on the six-time Super Bowl champion, but the Bucs are just a better team than Washington. They should win this one no problem.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 36, Washington 17
#5 Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at #4 Tennessee Titans (11-5)
Sunday, January 10th, 1:05pm (ABC/ESPN/Freeform)
Vegas: Baltimore -3.5
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Derrick Henry ran through the top-ranked Baltimore Ravens defense as a 10-point underdog. During the regular season this year, Henry ran through them again as he scored an electrifying overtime touchdown on a run from about 30 or so yards out. The Titans will host the playoff game this time around, but the Ravens have been playing really, really good football lately. If the defense can contain Henry, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens can take control of the game and potentially steal one. I’m taking the Ravens in this one, as Lamar extends his winning streak to six games since returning from COVID. Remember when the Ravens were dead earlier this season when they got embarrassed by the Chiefs?
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Tennessee 21
#7 Chicago Bears (8-8) at #2 New Orleans Saints (12-4)
Sunday, January 10th, 4:40pm (CBS/Nickelodeon/Prime Video)
Vegas: New Orleans -10
Let’s call the Saints “unlucky.” Their last three playoff losses have been: An overtime loss against the Vikings in which they blew a lead and Brees through an interception in overtime, a loss against the Rams in the NFC championship game on a blown no-call- although Brees threw an interception at the end of THAT game too, and a walk-off touchdown in a game now known as the Minneapolis Miracle. They have a golden opportunity to right the ship against the 8-8 Chicago Bears, who squeaked into the playoffs thanks to the Cardinals bottoming out. Bears RB David Montgomery has been on a tear in December, rushing for nearly 450 yards and 5 touchdowns in his last four games, but aside from that, I don’t trust Mitchell Trubisky to get the job done against the Saints and their solid defensive unit. Partner in the fact that Alvin Kamara will be making a return from COVID to play in this game, and that spells disaster for Chicago. I think the game will be close enough for the Saints not to cover the spread, but I don’t think the game will be as close as the score indicates. Also, VERY excited to watch this game on Nickelodeon.
Prediction: New Orleans 23, Chicago 17
#6 Cleveland Browns (11-5) at #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Sunday, January 10th, 8:15pm (NBC/Peacock)
Vegas: Pittsburgh -6
There’s a lot to unpack here. For one, the Browns just beat the Steelers last weekend, clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2000- it just so happens the Steelers were resting their starters… and they won by just two points despite being 10-point favorites. Remember how they got blown out by 31 points in week 6? For another, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski will not be coaching the team this weekend, as he’s out with COVID- special teams coach Mike Priefer will serve as acting head coach for the game this weekend. Stefanski is one of a number of Browns personnel, players included, to have COVID concerns heading into Sunday. So the Browns have that going for them. On the other side, Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster said on Friday that “the Browns are still the Browns”- as if the star WR hasn’t given enough teams bulletin board material this season. Now, will the Browns be able to rally the troops in time to prepare for this game? I hope so. I like watching the Browns play, and their rivalry with the Steelers is one of the more entertaining matchups in football. But do I think the Steelers just have things going for them because of all the player/personnel issues in Cleveland? I do. Browns gonna Browns, I guess.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 36, Cleveland 20
Divisional Playoffs (Jan 16 & 17)
#3 Pittsburgh Steelers at #2 Buffalo Bills
This is the rematch we wanted. Steelers-Bills, round 2. The last time these two played, the Bills defeated the Steelers, 26-15 in a cold, rainy night in Buffalo. Call the Steelers what you want- legitimate Super Bowl contenders is not one of them. They couldn’t stop Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs the first time, so what makes you think they’ll be able to stop them this time around? If Cleveland has anything to say about their wild card game, they won’t let Ben Roethlisberger out of there without banging him up a little bit. I think the Bills have the defense to stop a feast-or-famine Steelers offense, and their offense is too good. Bills win again and move onto the AFC Championship game, a game everyone wanted to see them in.
Prediction: Buffalo 27, Pittsburgh 21
#3 Seattle Seahawks at #2 New Orleans Saints
What an intriguing pair we have here! Two should-be MVPs facing off in a divisional playoff game. Despite the Saints defense’s high level of play, I still think Russell Wilson can maneuver the Seahawks through it. Likewise for Drew Brees and the Saints, despite the Seahawks defense also having played better over the last month. I like New Orleans at home (although, is home field advantage even a thing in this wild season we’re having?) in a close one, maybe Brees leads a game winning drive in the fourth to find a returning Michael Thomas, who puts the Saints in the NFC title game.
Prediction: New Orleans 28, Seattle 27
#5 Baltimore Ravens vs. #1 Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes vs. Lamar, round three: playoff edition. This was the AFC Championship game I envisioned last year, with the year’s two previous MVPs duking it out for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. This time around it’ll likely be in an AFC Divisional playoff. The Ravens got shelled by the Chiefs earlier this season, and while the Ravens have learned how to run the ball finally, I still think Kansas City has the advantage based on skill level alone. This one will be closer than 34-20, but Mahomes and the Chiefs won’t deviate from their game plan they employed to beat Baltimore the first time.
Prediction: Kansas City 35, Baltimore 31
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. #1 Green Bay Packers
It was a dream start-turned-nightmare for Aaron Rodgers the last time these two squads met in the first week of November, as Tom Brady and the Bucs squashed Green Bay, 38-10, scoring 38 unanswered points. Brady threw for a pair of touchdown passes in that game, but Ronald Jones was the star, rushing for over 100 yards and a pair of scores of his own. The Packers have been excellent down the stretch, though. Rodgers will likely be the MVP, and the Packers will be entering this game off their bye week by virtue of winning the NFC. Tampa also hasn’t been great against playoff teams this year (1-5… though their lone win came against these same Packers, and 10-0 against non-playoff teams), and they’ll probably still be bruised from the hits taken from the Washington defensive front. I think Tampa gives Green Bay a game, but the Packers will pull it out in the fourth quarter and win. The Packers prevent Tampa from becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Prediction: Green Bay 30, Tampa Bay 27
NFC Championship: #2 New Orleans Saints vs. #1 Green Bay Packers
Sunday, January 24th, 3:05pm (FOX)
Green Bay got embarrassed in last year’s NFC Championship game by San Francisco, a 34-20 game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. They’ll run into Drew Brees and the Saints here, this time at Lambeau Field (the Packers won in New Orleans back in September). The last time these two played, Rodgers didn’t even need Davante Adams, as it was the Allen Lazard show (146 yards, one touchdown). Aside from that, it appears that all the Packers need to do is stop Alvin Kamara, since he is the sole reason the Saints continue to win games. If Brees has to try to beat the Packers through the air, I think he’ll fail. Packers avenge their NFC Championship loss and go back to the Super Bowl.
Prediction: Green Bay 38, New Orleans 28
AFC Championship: #2 Buffalo Bills at #1 Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 24th, 6:40pm (CBS)
This was the game we all wanted to see. Many people believe that Buffalo has what it takes to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs from repeating as Super Bowl Champions. The Bills have a great defensive front, which can get past the Chiefs’ offensive line and take down Patrick Mahomes on his super deep drops he uses to chuck the ball down the field. They’re effective against the run- not that the Chiefs can run the ball anyways. They have the speed to match up with quick receivers like Tyreek Hill. Their offense is, as you know, stellar, against a Chiefs defense that isn’t that great. They can force the Chiefs to play a methodical game of football, something they do not excel at- since they LOVE to take home run shots all the time. If they Bills aren’t in this game, Kansas City is going to cruise to another Super Bowl. That said- I think something’s gotta give. The Bills will need a perfect football game on defense to win. If there’s one slip up (and I think there will be)- Mahomes will take advantage. If they Chiefs can wear down the Bills, either by playing effective, drawn out, slow paced, methodical football, or by hitting multiple home runs on deep touchdown passes- they can pull it out. This game will be close. But I think Bills fans will need to wait another year. Mahomes hits the dagger on a long bomb late in the fourth quarter to sink the Bills.
Prediction: Kansas City 31, Buffalo 20
Super Bowl LV
#1 Kansas City Chiefs vs. #1 Green Bay Packers
Sunday, February 7th, 6:30pm (CBS)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Two great head coaches. Two explosive offenses. Two suspect, but suffocating defenses. Two elite quarterbacks. A rematch of Super Bowl I. Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay should live up to the hype. Expect tons of things to be written about the new playoff format, as both of these teams were the only ones to earn bye weeks in their respective conferences. However, these are still the two best teams in football, and they should be the two teams playing for the Lombardi Trophy. Both teams defenses will need to contain the others’ quarterbacks- as both Rodgers and Mahomes can extend plays and accomplish the seemingly impossible. Whichever defense keeps their opponent’s QB in check will have the advantage. On top of this, if this game isn’t an offensive shootout, I don’t know what I’m even watching football for. The Packers have the ability to pick you apart both on the ground and through the air- the Chiefs have the ability to make you play out of position on defense and take advantage. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is going to be very successful as a head coach, but I think his team comes up a little bit short. The Chiefs are the most complete team in football, and they look very ready to repeat as champions.
Prediction: Kansas City 41, Green Bay 35
What are your thoughts on how these playoffs will shake out? Leave a comment down below.
I wasn’t sure we’d make it to this point. The NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball have all resumed their seasons amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hockey and basketball went smoothly, playing in a bubble. Baseball, struggled for a while, but has managed to keep itself afloat.
And, despite everything, we have football to look forward to this season.
This is my first article in months. A lot has happened.
You may notice Tom Brady is playing for a different team now. Cam Newton is also playing for a different team now. DeAndre Hopkins is an Arizona Cardinal, Brandin Cooks and David Johnson are Houston Texans. Adrian Peterson moved to Detroit, Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. Things are weird, but we must move on.
We’re coming off a Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl win. Patrick Mahomes is now the proud new recipient of sports’ first $500 million contract. I swear, we’re going to see the first billion-dollar athlete in just a few years. We’re also poised to see a duel between Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, last season’s MVP. Jackson has yet to win a playoff game of his own, but we seem to have the next big quarterback rivalry in this great league.
And of course, things are all kinds of bizarre because of the pandemic. Teams announced that, for at least the first month, fans would not be allowed to attend games (though there were some teams who opened at limited capacity). I’ll talk about that a little bit later, but things are going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
Still though, we have a season to discuss. Here are my 10 bold predictions for this year’s unique NFL season.
1. The New England Patriots will still win the AFC East.
At the beginning of this summer, it was hard to imagine anything was going to be certain for the Patriots moving forward. Tom Brady moved to Tampa Bay and convinced management to let him take Rob Gronkowski with him. The defense, the league’s best in 2019, faces some personnel concerns after leaders Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung both opted out of this season. I thought the Patriots would be relying on an untested second year quarterback in Jarrett Stidham, and that the defense, particularly the front seven, would be a train wreck. But then Cam Newton came to town… and then I became excited for this upcoming season in New England. While the Bills assumed the de facto “Kings of the AFC East” crown with the departure of Brady, the arrival of Newton (and, from what we’ve seen in camp, his work ethic since arriving) has put that seriously in doubt. Sure, Newton doesn’t have the weapons Brady has now, but he has the ability to make plays on offense. If he can return to his MVP form, I’d say there’s a strong possibility of good things happening in Foxborough. Pair that with a defense that still brings the best defensive back group in football- anchored by reigning DPOY Stephon Gilmore- to the fold, and have a little optimism in some untested talent, and you could argue that not only will the Patriots make the playoffs, Bill Belichick will have his finest coaching season yet. All they have to do is beat their divisional opponents to win the division, right?
2. Joe Burrow will break the rookie touchdown pass record.
Maybe I was a little salty that LSU won the National Championship. Maybe I was little over the Joe Burrow hype. But since he’s come into the NFL riding what just might be the greatest season for a quarterback in the history of college football, his hard-nosed, matter-of-fact, “just win” attitude has garnered me a little more respect for him. Make no mistake, the Bengals are still the Bengals. They have some major improvement to do, but improving from having the league’s worst record last season is a very easy baby step. I think Burrow will make an instant impact in Cincinnati. Think about it. He has receivers like Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate, not to mention A.J. Green, the once-great/still-great veteran receiver who is returning from injury. Joe Mixon is a great young running back who will have at least 300 touches this season. Also, the rookie touchdown pass record is only 27. Cincinnati might not break out of a loaded AFC North, but for Joe Burrow I consider 27 passing touchdowns to be chump change. Let’s see 30, I say.
3. No team in the NFC West will finish below .500.
We begin with the Arizona Cardinals, who have had one of the league’s best offseason, since unloading David Johnson and acquiring DeAndre Hopkins from Houston. Kenyan Drake, who albeit has an 8-game sample size of being a stud, was a stud nonetheless for Arizona and the spark they needed on the ground. And, of course, there’s Kyler Murray. Many are projecting him to make the Lamar Jackson jump from hyped rookie to second-year superstar. I’d say the weapons are there for him to do it. Seattle, their long time division rival, seems to only improve and stick around every year. It’s a wonder Russell Wilson hasn’t won MVP yet. DK Metcalf will return from his rookie year with a lot of upside, not to mention they re-signed Josh Gordon. Oh, and for those of you with question marks about the defense… they did just get Josh Adams from the New York Jets, and they have a young pair of pass rushers in L.J. Collier and Darrell Taylor to help replace Jadeveon Clowney. The Los Angeles Rams are headed for a downturn. But 8-8 is still .500, so I’m going with it! Aaron Donald is still a freak of nature, with Jalen Ramsey poised to take his game to another level after a huge contract extension. And while Jared Goff might not have Todd Gurley to hand the ball off to, his receivers (Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and TE Tyler Higbee) are all still very good at their jobs and can move the ball effectively. I don’t expect RBs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. to be fantastic, but if the Rams can be even slightly above average, they’ll help at least this prediction come to fruition. Lastly, we have the defending NFC Champions, the 49ers. Their defense was fantastic last year, not to mention the run game. I think there’s a strong possibility they’ll finish toward the top of the division. But let’s take a second and talk about them…
4. However, last year's NFC Champions, the San Francisco 49ers, will miss the playoffs.
When it comes to the NFC West, the Super Bowl hangover is real. It happened to Seattle back in 2015. It happened to the Rams two years ago. It’s going to happen to the 49ers too. I think Nick Bosa is a revelation at defensive end and their mostly-injured defense from 2019 will return to both health and form this season. But it’s their offense I’m worried about. The run game seemed to lose its glimmer by the time the team turned to its third RB to lead the charge. Raheem Mostert is great and Tevin Coleman likewise, but I’m unsure they can repeat their success this season, especially in such a tough division. Mostly though, I worry for Jimmy Garoppolo and the passing game. Emmanuel Sanders was a great pickup at the trade deadline, but he’s off to New Orleans, leaving Jimmy G to throw to Deebo Samuel, Tayvon Austin, Dante Pettis and rookie Brandon Aiyuk as his primary targts. Sure, he can dump the ball to George Kittle all day, but eventually that strategy is going to run cold. To top it all off, the Niners, in each week of their schedule, play a team (with some exceptions, sorry Washington and the Jets) that could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender, with games against the Patriots, Saints, and Cowboys, to name just a few. Pair it with a division on the rise and the fact that 6 out of the last 10 Super Bowl losers failed to make the playoffs the next season, and you’re in for a bad time.
5. ... and so will the team they faced in that game, the Green Bay Packers (in Aaron Rodgers' final season in Green Bay).
The Packers suffer a similar fate to the 49ers in that they also face an uphill climb against a division that appears ready to get back on its feet. The Minnesota Vikings just bolstered their defense by acquiring Yannick Ngakoue and Ronnie Harrison, and even though they lost Stefon Diggs, I still think the Vikings can get it done even ith only Adam Thielen. Dalvin Cook also is one of the league’s best playmakers, assuming he stays healthy. Expect the Bears defense to bounce back also, as Robert Quinn joins an already lethal defensive line featuring Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. While it’s not very exciting to see Mitchell Trubisky back under center, we may see the emergence of another great receiving threat in Anthony Miller, who may emerge in the same way Allen Robinson did last year. The Lions, I’ll admit, have no shot. They just traded away Darius Slay, and Matt Patricia’s team is relying on an aging Matthew Stafford and untested rookie RB D’Andre Swift (and, yes, Adrian Peterson) to get the job done. Then there are the Packers. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played like an MVP since 2016, and the front office’s decision to draft Jordan Love in the first round didn’t play well with their Super Bowl-winning QB. Rodgers can’t throw the ball to Devante Adams every play, which means he’ll have to rely on his no-name receivers like Allen Lazard when he’s not being harassed in the pocket. They were also exposed badly in last year’s NFC Championship game, as their defense, which had been steady all season long, surrendered 27 points in the first half and could not recover. I predict the Packers will fall to 9-7 on the year, four games worse than last year, and miss the playoffs, prompting Aaron Rodgers to leave the team next offseason.
6. Drew Brees will (finally) win MVP.
It’s just about time for the guy, isn’t it? It’s a shame they don’t award MVP awards for lifetime achievement awards. I guess that’s what the Hall of Fame is for, but I digress. Give the man his MVP. The 41-year old Brees is in the twilight of his career, but is still playing at an elite level on a team that hasn’t quite gotten over the hump in the last five years or so. The Saints will have some competition this fall with Tom Brady leading the new and improved Buccaneers, Matt Ryan’s Falcons looking to improve since they acquired Todd Gurley, and the Panthers using new quarterback (former undefeated Saint) Teddy Bridgewater, to helm their squad. But Brees and the Saints still boast a lethal passing attack, as Michael Thomas continues to dominate opposing defenses, and the addition of Emmanuel Sanders only makes things more difficult for secondaries. Brees is both the career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, but the man hasn’t won an MVP. He’s still good enough to play like one. Give the man his damn trophy, and he can finally call it a career.
7. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't win the NFC South.
You’ll notice a lot of these predictions relate to each other, as in each one seems to be relying on the last. As you may know, a certain 6-time Super Bowl champion found his way to Tampa to revitalize the franchise. But the Buccaneers, potent as their offense may be, suffer the same problem the Cleveland Browns do- an overhyped offseason leading to a colossal letdown this season. This is likely my boldest prediction, which is why I had to edit it- I previously pondered if Tampa Bay would even make the playoffs, before I was reminded that Tom Brady played in New England for 20 years and made do with wayyyy worse. I think based on strength of division alone, the Bucs won’t win the division. Their offense is stacked, but their offensive line leaves something to be desired. Obviously we don’t know if rookie Tristan Wirfs really is the missing piece yet, and we have no idea how running backs like LeSean McCoy, and- oh yeah- Leonard freakin’ Fournette will add to the equation, and we’ll really see if Brady was a “system quarterback” or not while in New England. As anyone who’s ever beaten the Patriots knows- if you pressure Tom Brady, he’ll have a hard time winning. While the offense might score 50 a game, you also might not be sure the defense won’t allow 60. They did blow an 18-point lead to Daniel Jones, of all people, last season. OH! Speaking of Mr. Jones…
8. Daniel Jones will be a top-5 passer.
Daniel Jones likes to throw the ball down the field. Last season, he was arguably the best deep passer in football, at least based on accuracy, with over 40% of his deep passes being accurate. However, he was at the bottom of the NFL when it came to completions of his deep passes (just over 20%). One can only wonder whether that is his fault or his receivers. I am expecting both Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard to take big steps forward this season, and for Jones’ acclimation to a redesigned Jason Garrett offense to play to those strengths, and for Jones to complete more deep passes down the field. The Giants won’t be the best team in the NFL by any stretch of the imagination this year, but I’ll be damned if Daniel Jones won’t turn in a 4000-yard season this year.
9. Adam Gase will be the first coach fired this season.
And now we get to the coach’s hot seats this year. According to CBS, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is currently the favorite for first coach to be fired this season. Gase is fifth. If I had to pick between Gardner Minshew and Sam Darnold as my quarterback, I’d pick Minshew. Even if he has no one to throw to (and believe me, he has NO ONE to throw to), Minshew has enough heart that can literally will his team to a victory. I don’t see that kind of hunger in Sam Darnold, whose primary receivers are *checks notes* Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, Chris Hogan and Chris Herndon. Yikes. There’s also the fact that his running backs are a disgruntled and aging Le’Veon Bell, who appears ready to give up his position to a man twice his age, Frank Gore. On defense it just gets worse. Jamal Adams was shipped off to Seattle, and the team has tons of new faces in the middle. Finally, the clincher: scheduling. The first nine weeks of the Jets schedule is as follows: Bills, 49ers, Colts, Broncos, Cardinals, Chargers, Bills, Chiefs, Patriots. I’ll be impressed if they win ONE of those games. Gase gets the axe after just four of them.
10. Zero games will be cancelled this season due to COVID.
I read an article on ESPN about each franchise and how they’re going to allow (or not) fans into their stadiums this fall. Since the COVID situation appears to be getting better- or at least remaining stagnant- (1 positive test out of over 2,000 players and coaches), and the NFL announcing it won’t be testing players on game days, I think, despite the lack of a bubble, and players and coaches flying from place to place, we won’t see a single game cancelled because of the virus. About half of teams won’t see fans in their stadiums, at least for the first month of the season. Some won’t at all (Washington said they won’t because of the “unpredictability of the virus”, a.k.a. management is still working on getting Dan Snyder out of Washington so they can complete their name change and move on with reality). But regardless, the machine is too complex to be stopped completely. Rain, snow, tidal wave, global pandemic, the NFL will persevere. Will we see a bunch of positive tests swept under the rug at the end of this season? Probably. But for now, we have football. Who am I to complain?
2020 NFL Season Predictions- Standings
For reasons mentioned above, Cam Newton has a great season, and Bill Belichick has an even better one. The Patriots beat the Bills in a crucial game on Monday night in December, winning them the division again.
The Steelers, that’s right, the Steelers, are my pick to with the AFC North. The defense looks ready to be one of the more dominant forces in the league. Skill players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are ready for a comeback after a dormant season. Above all, Ben Roethlisberger is back and ready to take the black and gold to the promised land. I expect Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to take a step back only in record, still landing a solid wild card spot.
Man, this division is enigmatic. Philip Rivers takes over for the Colts, and has rookie RB Jonathan Taylor behind him running the ball. The Titans made it to the AFC Championship last year, but Derrick Henry has shown me that, despite being a bowling ball at times, he has the ability to run cold. The Texans end up realizing that David Johnson is a waste of space as a player and the Jaguars are the Jaguars. The Colts, as if by default, claim the AFC South.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs look ready to be the NFL’s next dynasty, having locked up their core group of players for a considerably long time (and for considerably even more money). I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve locked up the AFC’s top seed at the start of December. While the Chargers lost safety Derwin James, they’ve still got Joey Bosa on defense, and I believe Austin Ekeler will be even better now that Melvin Gordon is gone from the team. Speaking of the Broncos, they need one more year to really get their feet under them, but they’re going to be really good, REALLY soon, just you wait. What’s there to say about the Raiders? The move does nothing for them. They’re still the same old Raiders.
The Cowboys, if not for being the Cowboys, could probably be the NFC’s best team in 2020. Dak Prescott is playing to earn his damn money, and his supporting cast could not be more stellar. Sure, they lost Jason Witten, but Blake Jarwin is a capable replacement, especially for when Dak needs to change it up from throwing to players like Amari Cooper, or Michael Gallup (who is ready for a monster season of his own). The Eagles will match their record if Carson Wentz stays healthy, although I’m not sure I trust Miles Sanders to run my backfield. The Giants may improve but still need another player from next year’s offseason for them to be good again, and Washington will be as tragic as their uninspired temporary name suggests.
I threw a tie in here because I was bored. I explained this above. The Packers fall just below the 7th spot in this year’s playoffs (remember, there are 7 spots this year), and the Vikings win the division thanks to the stellar play of their defense.
Again, mentioned above. Saints have the MVP on their team, we learn that Brady might be actually 43 years old. Both teams make the playoffs, but the Saints win the division.
Does Kyler Murray, a second year quarterback with a big ol’ question mark, lead the Cardinals from last place to a playoff spot this year, in spite of a tough division which features the previous NFC Champion? Yes, yes he does. Cardinals defeat the 49ers in week 16 to earn that tiebreaker, sealing the 49ers fates.
And finally, for the memes, here are a quick slate of playoff predictions for next January... assuming we still have a league after 5 more months.
2021 Playoff Predictions
Bills over Colts
Ravens over Patriots
Steelers over Chargers
Chiefs over Bills
Ravens over Steelers
Ravens over Chiefs
Buccaneers over Vikings
Cowboys over Eagles
Cardinals over Seahawks
Saints over Buccaneers
Cowboys over Cardinals
Saints over Cowboys
Super Bowl LV
Saints over Ravens
2020 NFL Season Playoff Predictions & Season Recap
The best part about the new year? The NFL playoffs begin very, very soon.
We only have a little bit of time before the games begin, so let’s jump right into the action and recap the season in a nutshell.
Lamar Jackson was the big story this season- the second year Baltimore quarterback led his Ravens to a 14-2 record and the overall #1 seed in the playoffs. We were all wowed when he threw 6 touchdown passes to open the season against Miami, and the rest of the team really rallied around him from there on out. Mark Ingram, who many thought was in the twilight of his career, had a solid season at the RB position, and assisted Jackson as Baltimore led the league in team rushing yards. Jackson’s ability to work the pocket as a true passer (instead of just the ground threat everyone thought he was) inspired receivers like Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to have solid seasons. Even the defense was spectacular: the Ravens ranked 3rd in yards allowed and 4th in points allowed. They ride a 12-game winning streak into these playoffs, and look like the most prepared team to take home a Super Bowl title.
The Patriots, having started the season 8-0, went 4-4 down the stretch, including two consecutive losses at Houston and against Kansas City, and an embarrassing stunner in week 17 at home against the Miami Dolphins, the last of which tossed them out of contention for a first round bye. They will play their first wild card game in 10 years against the Titans. Their defense has been stellar, though, ranking first in the league in yards and points allowed. But Tom Brady, now 42, has not had his best season, although it doesn’t help that he hasn’t had many receivers to throw to. They will need help from players like N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, and Benjamin Watson, as well as some productivity from staples like Julian Edelman, Sony Michel and James White- although they face three teams with stout defenses.
The Kansas City Chiefs finished with the same record as last season, although it was a far less productive year for defending MVP Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes threw only 26 touchdown passes this year, half of what he threw last year. They did have a great second half of the year, and players like Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins have all made names for themselves during the year thanks in part to a boost from their quarterback.
On the NFC side, no one expected the San Francisco 49ers to finish the season at 13-3 with the top seed in the NFC, but if you saw their body of work this season, they definitely earned it. Spearheaded by a fantastic defensive effort (ranked 2nd best in the league in both yards and points allowed), a young offensive group has quietly become one of the best in all of football. Jimmy Garoppolo is the quarterback we all envisioned him being, but a run game that has involved three backs, each with their own fantastic play, has been the envy of all, with Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, and Tevin Coleman all sharing the load. They will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The only downside- it appears the 49ers have been having to escape from games down the stretch. They just barely survived scares against the Saints, Rams, and Seahawks to end the season.
Green Bay is back in the playoffs behind the terrific play of Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones, who carried the Packers quietly to a 13-3 record of their own. What stands out most about this Packers team is its defense, which had a habit of bending and not breaking. This team was 6-1 in games decided by 7 points or fewer. They may not have the same firepower as the Saints or 49ers, but if they can keep the game close and keep Aaron Jones firing on all cylinders, we may see a return to glory for Rodgers and the Packers.
Back in mid-August, I made some bold predictions in regards to how I thought the 2019 NFL season might go. Some of my picks were right on, others were complete whiffs. Still, I did fare a little better than last season. In addition, I also predicted the record of every team in the league, as well as a way-too-early playoff prediction.
Let’s see how I fared with those:
1. The Cleveland Browns won’t make the playoffs.
With an offense that included the likes of Jarvis Landry, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Odell Beckham, many thought the Browns were a strong pick to make the playoffs, and perhaps even win the Super Bowl.
The Browns, however, are still the Browns. The team lacked any kind of consistency or accountability under head coach Freddie Kitchens. Beckham became an afterthought, and had possibly has worst full season as a professional. Pair it with the emergence of Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, as well as the Steelers ability to just hang around in the AFC North, the Browns found themselves at 6-10 in their 2019 campaign- more lost games than in 2018- a finish that solidified them as the only franchise without a winning record in this decade. Perhaps the firing of Freddie Kitchens will bring about some kind of new beginnings in 2020.
2. Juju Smith-Schuster will finish with more catches, receiving yards than Antonio Brown.
I wrote all this when Antonio Brown was in the midst of his infighting with the Oakland Raiders. In a wild span of 24 hours, Brown went from grabbing a coach and threatening him, to not being able to play, to being cleared to play, to wanting to be cut, to being cut, to being signed by the Patriots. So count it… that equals almost five times I thought Smith-Schuster was going to prove me right just on technicality alone. When Brown signed with the Patriots, I thought things might swing the other way. The previously undefeated Patriots looked even more unstoppable after signing one of the best receivers in football. 10 days later amid sexual assault allegations, the Patriots cut Brown, leaving Smith-Schuster as the only of the two receivers in the league. Brown finished with 4 catches for 56 yards and one touchdown in New England’s week 2 win over Miami. Smith-Schuster, on the other hand, may well have just sat out the season after his dismal campaign: He played 12 games, had 42 receptions for 552 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hampered by injury, it was a season for him to forget. I mean, hell, it was a season for BOTH these men to forget.
Prediction: Correct. But I mean by technicality?
3. The Giants will win more games this year than they did last year (5)… even though Daniel Jones won’t replace Eli Manning as starter.
There were two predictions here: that the Giants would win more games than they did last year, and the Eli Manning would not lose his job. Both of those things were proven untrue. In week 3, head coach Pat Shurmer announced that Daniel Jones would replace Manning in their game against Tampa Bay. For the then-winless Giants, perhaps it was going to be the right move, as Jones’ brilliant performance against Tampa resulted in a huge comeback win for New York. Pair it with a win the next week against Washington to even their record out at 2-2, and things looked like they were going to be okay for the Giants (and for me). All they needed to make my call a reality was for Jones to get hurt or something.
The Giants lost the next 9 in a row, officially ruling out my prediction with a loss in week 14 in overtime to the Eagles. Jones got hurt in the process, allowing Manning to come in and take over in the process, but Jones returned for the final three games of the season. The Giants finish at 4-12, two games worse than last year, and face the future with the Duke product leading the offense.
Prediction: Doubly incorrect.
4. Patrick Mahomes will not surpass 40 touchdown passes this year.
In fairness to this past season’s MVP, no quarterback passed for over 40 touchdowns this season. Even Lamar Jackson, this season’s probable MVP, led the league with only 36. Perhaps this prediction was only a softball to prove a point that even good players regress. There haven’t been many quarterbacks to pass for 40 touchdowns in consecutive seasons anyway. Drew Brees was the last one to do it, but he’s Drew Brees. Mahomes also lost a game or two to injury this season, leaving Matt Moore to take over for him. Pair it with a season of throwing to players like Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman, and you can imagine that 40 touchdown passes is a little difficult. He finishes the season with 26, essentially half of what he had in his MVP year last season.
5. Nick Foles will finish as a top-10 quarterback.
Foles broke his collarbone in week 1, ruining any chance of this prediction coming true. He did, however, give us Gardner Minshew in the process, which is like pickled root vegetables at my Thanksgiving table: wholly unexpected but delightfully thankful for. Next.
6. The Broncos and Redskins will finish with identical records this year.
The Redskins have a toxic team culture and were heralded as one of the worst teams in football out of the gate. Christ, their two quarterbacks were Case Keenum (of one-hit wonderdom in Minnesota, allowing teams to horrendously overvalue him) and Dwayne Haskins, the rookie who bitched about not being taken by the Giants, threw his first ever NFL touchdown pass TO THAT SAME GIANTS TEAM (a pick six), and then desperately pleaded to his linemen to give him direction on what to do in order to survive a collapsing pocket, only to have his linemen literally laugh in his face. The Redskins finished 3-13.
The Broncos initially looked to be right on that losing track as well, as Joe Flacco quickly proved that he was not the answer at quarterback for Denver. The team started 0-4, won two in a row, then lost 4 out of their next five, including a game in Minnesota where they blew a 23-0 lead. Enter: Drew Lock, who started the final five games for the Broncos, and led them to four wins out of their last five, getting the Broncos to 7-9 to end the year. Receiver Courtland Sutton had a breakout year, ending as one of the up-and-coming young players in the league. I guess a quarterback swap doesn’t mean the two squads are equal.
7. The Rams will miss the playoffs.
Blame it on a strong NFC West (and the NFC West was STRONG). Blame it on whatever you want. The Super Bowl hangover was real for the former NFC Champions this season. Despite early season wins against the Panthers, Saints and Browns, the team struggled, losing their next three in a row and surrendering 105 points in the process (a shootout loss to James Winston and the Buccaneers? Come on.). A 45-6 home thrashing by the Baltimore Ravens all but killed the Rams playoff hopes. Even though trading for Jalen Ramsey was a cool thing, it didn’t help that the Rams just weren’t up to snuff for this year.
8. Josh Rosen and the Dolphins will make Kyler Murray and the Cardinals look silly.
Well how was I supposed to know that the Dolphins would suck in AUGUST!? Many thought the Dolphins would even go 0-16 (although 5-11 sucks just as much). After being outscored in their first two games by a combined scored of 102-10, Josh Rosen took the reins from Ryan Fitzpatrick in week 3, but didn’t fare much better, as the Dolphins continued to lose, dropping their first 8 in a row.
Arizona’s season was streaky. After a tie against Detroit in the season’s opener, the Cardinals lost three, won three, lost 6, won two, and lost their season finale. Kyler Murray was, on the whole, not terrible, leading comebacks in games against Atlanta, the Giants, and even Detroit, even if it was a tie. Despite the teams finishing with near identical records, I’m giving the win to Kyler Murray, who showed much more promise in his rookie season than Josh Rosen did… riding the bench for his second year in a row.
9. Melvin Gordon will play this season.
Gordon ended his holdout after week 10, rejoining the Chargers for the rest of the season. Still, Austin Ekeler was able to remain efficient out of the backfield as a receiving option- which was good for my fantasy team.
10. The Patriots will finish with a top-5 defensive unit.
As anticipated, the Patriots finished the season with the best defense in the NFL. Through the first 8 weeks of the season, they allowed no more than 14 points to opposing teams, finishing with 14 average points allowed throughout the season, ranking first in that category, as well as first in yards allowed. While the offense was just average, the defense was stellar, the secondary especially. Stephon Gilmore has made a strong case for himself for defensive player of the year with 6 interceptions, two of them for touchdowns, to go along with 20 passes defended, the most in his 8 year NFL career. While we have yet to see if the defense can return to the form they assumed through the first eight weeks of the season in the playoffs, we can take comfort in the fact that they were simply outstanding this year, a rarity for New England- where the defense is the talking point over the offense.
I also predicted the standings and playoff teams early in the year, and finished a little better in 2019 than I did in 2018.
I correctly predicted 8 out of the 12 playoff teams. I had all my division winners in the AFC correct, although the placement of these teams did not go the way I planned:
As for the records, I fared about as well as I could from banking on my potential playoff teams. Here are the records I correctly predicted from the beginning of the season, all four of them:
Now, with all my guessing out of the way, let's cap this off with some predictions, now that our playoff window is narrowed to 12 teams. Here are my official playoff predictions for the postseason of the NFL's 100th season.
Wild Card Weekend (Jan 5-6)
#5 Buffalo Bills (10-6) at #4 Houston Texans (10-6)
Saturday, January 4th, 4:35pm (ESPN)
(Texans favored by 3)
Buffalo is a dangerous team to take lightly, and I think we’re all about to see their coming out party in Houston for the first Wild Card game. The Bills’ defense is excellent, and if they can keep pressure on Deshaun Watson and keep him in the pocket, they should have no problem winning. What is Watson gonna do? Throw to DeAndre Hopkins the whole game when he’s being doubled, and try to hit Will Fuller if Tre’davious White has anything to say about it? The Texans run game is also unimpressive. When was the last time Carlos Hyde had a career-defining game? Josh Allen has developed into the quarterback the team thought he’d be, and has shown that he can win in primetime against big time teams. Buffalo wins in a game that is not as close as the score indicates.
Prediction: Buffalo 23, Houston 13
#6 Tennessee Titans (9-7) at #3 New England Patriots (12-4)
Saturday, January 4th, 8:15pm (CBS)
(Patriots favored by 5)
Okay. I, again, am hereby declaring the Patriots dead in the water. A potential Tennessee-Kansas City-Baltimore Gauntlet is too much for them, considering the way they’ve looked over the last six weeks. Tennessee scratched and clawed their way into the playoffs thanks to the play of Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, who have both been brilliant down the stretch. You can run against this stout Patriots defense- and to be honest, as of late, you can pass against them too. On offense, Tom Brady has no one to throw to…. At least, no one who’s been wiling to show up and make a play. He can’t throw the ball to Edelman or the tight end he doesn’t have. The Patriots should view their week 17 home loss to Miami as a wake-up call, and I think they’ll bring a certain type of underdog energy to this game. I expect them to win, but I won’t be surprised if they lose. Remember what happened the last time these two played? That was an embarrassing loss in Tennessee to Mike Vrabel’s squad by double digits. This one will be close. At least their last win of 2019 will be at home before they get squashed by Kansas City in the divisional round.
Prediction: New England 27, Tennessee 24
#6 Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at #3 New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Sunday, January 5th, 1:05pm (FOX)
(Saints favored by 7.5)
Remember what happened the last time these two faced each other in the playoffs? It was a fun little walk-off victory for the Vikings on a play now known as the Minneapolis Miracle. These two are different in 2019. The Vikings were just north of average, with Kirk Cousins showing that he’s still got a little bit left in the tank, and the defense playing pretty well too. Dalvin Cook has been a revelation, but his injury late in the regular season has left some question marks about whether Alexander Mattison and Matt Boone can succeed against real talent going forward. Drew Brees is out for blood after the botched PI call in last year’s NFC Championship game, looking to win one last Super Bowl before his career comes to an end. The offense is rolling thanks to Brees, Alvin Kamara, and especially Michael Thomas, who would be in the conversation for MVP were it not for a certain Baltimore quarterback. The defense isn’t spectacular, but against Minnesota, I don’t think that should be a problem for New Orleans. I anticipate a big home win in the Wild Card round. The dream remains alive for Brees and the Saints.
Prediction: New Orleans 36, Minnesota 21
#5 Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at #4 Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Sunday, January 5th, 4:40pm (NBC)
(Seahawks favored by 1.5)
Both teams are battered by injury, sure. But these two are not even on the same planet when it comes to comparing talent. The Eagles have no one for Carson “I’m Made of Glass” Wentz to throw to. The Seahawks lost all their running backs, and have now attempted to revive the corpse of Beast Mode to recapture that glory from the Legion of Boom days. Still, the Seahawks are the better team because Russell Wilson is the better quarterback of the two. There is no one better in the league right now that scrambling to make something out of nothing, finding receivers in traffic, and truly putting the team on is back. Wilson throws three touchdown passes as the Seahawks roll.
Prediction: Seattle 31, Philadelphia 14
#5 Seattle Seahawks at #1 San Francisco 49ers
Saturday, January 11th, 4:35pm (NBC)
Ah yes. Seattle-San Francisco, Round 3. We were in this exact same position back around Veterans Day, where the two had that epic clash on Monday night where the Seahawks won in overtime. Now, San Francisco has just been escaping in games since that point, a prime example being week 17 when their defense made an excellent stop on the one yard line to seal a win and lock up the #1 overall seed. The 49ers are a team that is at full strength, but do they have the experience needed to go all the way to the Super Bowl? Jimmy Garoppolo has yet to have a game placed squarely on his shoulders. I think San Francisco’s ground attack serves them well here considering they have so many options to work with. Mostert, Breida and Coleman have all had their spotlight moments this year, so maybe we’ll see all three of them? Seattle is not a walkover, though. They are able to move the ball against San Francisco’s second-ranked defense, and I believe Wilson will be able to make the same plays he’s made against them in the two prior meetings. As such, overtime will be required. I think it’s a back-and-forth affair, with San Francisco squeaking out a win in overtime to move to their first NFC Championship game appearance since 2013.
Prediction: San Francisco 35, Seattle 32 (OT)
#5 Buffalo Bills at #1 Baltimore Ravens
Saturday, January 11th, 8:15pm (CBS)
Since this is the first we’ll see Lamar Jackson in these playoffs, many are expecting this to be some kind of offensive showcase; that the Ravens will put up 55 points and move on to the AFC Championship. I don’t think this is the case- remember who they’re playing: Buffalo has a great defense and held the Ravens back from running up the score in a 24-17 loss earlier this season. This game will be a defensive showdown, with both the Bills and Ravens (whose defense has only gotten better as the year’s gone on) keeping points at a premium. I think Lamar Jackson finds a way around the Bills in the third quarter, keeping the game just out of reach for Buffalo. Expect a low-scoring affair in this one.
Prediction: Baltimore 17, Buffalo 6
#3 New England Patriots at #2 Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 12th, 3:05pm (CBS)
Christ, okay. I do this every year. I predict a Patriots loss so I can protect myself from getting too invested, therefore preventing me from feeling too bad about them losing. The Patriots SHOULD lose this game. They lost to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs at home in week 14, so what makes you think they’ll be able to win on the road? It doesn’t matter if they did it last season. This year is not last year. The Chiefs are simply a better, more well-rounded football team. They can beat you on the ground, and they can definitely beat you through the air. Tom Brady doesn’t have anyone reliable to throw to, and if Terrell Suggs (remember him?) and the Chiefs can put pressure on the New England offensive line, that’ll be all she wrote. I think Kansas City jumps out to a big lead in the first quarter, and the Patriots are unable to recover from it. The dream of a seventh Lombardi trophy is killed and buried in Kansas City.
For real, if you think the Patriots make it out alive against Kansas City, you’re delusional.
Prediction: Kansas City 34, New England 21
#3 New Orleans Saints at #2 Green Bay Packers
Sunday, January 12th, 6:40pm (FOX)
This divisional around is full of fun games, isn’t it? Packers/Saints? Drew Brees vs. Aaron Rodgers? This is what the NFL is all about. The Packers are the one team that nobody seems to be talking about. Everyone is all bogged down talking about Lamar Jackson, or Drew Brees’ touchdown record, or the Seahawks/49ers rivalry. The Packers are 13-3 and for good reason: Aaron Rodgers has been incredible this season, Aaron Jones has been a revelation at running back, and the defense is playing great football. But the Saints are hot, and I think a big win over Minnesota could really spur New Orleans onto a win at Lambeau Field. Drew Brees leads a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, aided by a huge catch and run by Michael Thomas, to steal one for the Saints.
Prediction: New Orleans 24, Green Bay 23
#2 Kansas City Chiefs vs. #1 Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, January 19th, 3:05pm (CBS)
Perhaps a Kansas City-Baltimore AFC Championship wasn’t what we were expecting to start the season, but it’s what we’ve got. Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes- two of the best young quarterbacks this league has seen in a while. Baltimore won the last time these two met, and that game was in Kansas City. With both teams at full strength, we are in the market for what could be an AFC title game for the ages. The Kansas City defense isn’t great against the run, and so we could see Mark Ingram have a big game here. And even if they don’t, they’ll have to stop Lamar Jackson, who can beat you with his feet, as well as through the air. Essentially, if the Chiefs can’t stop the run, it’s over. Patrick Mahomes throws a couple touchdown passes to keep the game close, but Baltimore is just too good. Lamar Jackson, in his second season, leads the NFL’s top team to the Super Bowl, seeing their third win.
Prediction: Baltimore 38, Kansas City 35
#3 New Orleans Saints at #1 San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, January 19th, 6:40pm (FOX)
The Saints and 49ers have also matched up before, with San Francisco earning a hard-fought victory. In this game, even though the game is in Santa Clara, I think the Saints come out swinging, catching the 49ers defense off guard with a fast and quick opening drive, forcing Jimmy G and the Niners to play from behind. With the Saints effectively able to stop the run, Garoppolo will need to win the game on his own, throwing the ball. He can’t. He throws a late-game interception, sending the Saints back to the Super Bowl, giving Drew Brees another shot at the big one. New Orleans has avenged its loss in last year’s catastrophic NFC title game loss, and San Francisco’s luck has run out.
Prediction: New Orleans 27, San Francisco 23
Super Bowl LIV
New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, February 2nd, 6:38pm (FOX)
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida
I can see it now: the Ravens open up as Super Bowl favorites by 7 points, and they jump out to a 17-6 lead by halftime, thanks to a touchdown run by Ingram, and a short Jackson pass to Hollywood Brown for 14 points in the second quarter.
But Brees and the Saints won’t go away, as their hot streak rekindles itself, and their old horse of a quarterback throws two touchdown passes in the third quarter, taking a 23-17 lead on a crazy trick play that features a pass from Taysom Hill to Jared Cook. The Ravens counter as a Jackson touchdown early in the fourth quarter puts Baltimore back up, 24-23. After a late field goal by Wil Lutz to put the Saints up 26-24 with just over 2 minutes to go, it is all on the shoulders of the MVP to lead his team to glory. But early in the drive, a Jackson fumble winds up in the arms of Marshawn Lattimore, who runs it in for a game-sealing touchdown. Drew Brees retires after the game after being named Super Bowl MVP for the second time. The all-time passing yards and touchdown leader stamps his ticket to Canton with a golden star in his final game.
Yes I know I’ve picked the Saints to win the Super Bowl for the last three playoffs in a row, shut up.
Prediction: New Orleans 33, Baltimore 24
Am I wrong? Scream at me in the comments.
The Best Sports Plays of 2019
With each passing year, the “Top Sports Plays” list seems to get more and more ambitious; I prepare myself all year for it, writing down and saving clip after clip of incredible athletic feats on each day I see them, from January 1st right on down.
After getting to today without having a list, I think I maybe went a little too hard this year. When I compiled my preliminary list, I had over 225 plays to choose from, and I was tasked with whittling it down to 100. And, honestly, I ran out of time and energy to rank 12 different diving baseball catches that all pretty much look the same.
For me, having even 115 and narrowing it down to 100 is difficult enough, so I thought I’d take a different approach for 2019’s version of the list.
So, welcome to According to Andrew’s selections for the Best Sports Plays of 2019.
Here’s how this is going to work:
I have organized the plays you’re about to read about and see into categories by sport. Baseball, Football, Hockey, Basketball, etc. Each sport will have its own subdivisions, with anywhere from 1-5 unranked entries in each subdivision. Instead of having an enormous ranked list, you’ll see each type of play grouped together and celebrated.
But here’s the kicker- I still have enough audacity in me to create a ranked list somewhere in here. At the end, you’ll see my ranked picks for the Top 10 Sports Plays of the year. As a result, those plays will not be included in the different play sections under each sport. The top 10 are simply transcendent above the rest, and can exist in a top 10 list of their own.
There. Mischief managed.
Now let’s dive in. This is the best sports had to offer over the past year.