2021 NFL Predictions

If you actually read this post, and you’re going to respond to me on Twitter about it in good faith, please use the hashtag #ReadThePiece. I know this sounds silly, but it’s an easy way for me to separate responses that I want to honor with a real answer from people who just want to be mad about everything they read online.

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The business of predictions is inherently stupid. I have a lot of skepticism of my own mind’s ability to pick anything correctly, because I know all the misses. Last season I predicted the Dallas Cowboys to be very good, and it turns out I was a year ahead of schedule on that prediction. Granted the whole “Dak Prescott being hurt” thing didn’t help.

My biggest weakness as a predictor is that I absorb a lot of common knowledge, try to fight that common knowledge with whoever I think is the best logical choice that is being “ignored” according to consensus, and go big on them. This means I either swing and miss or I hit so big that I can put it on the board. That’s what I did with the Ravens in 2019, and that’s what I did with the Cowboys this year.

Without further ado…

AFC East

Bills
Patriots*
Dolphins
Jets

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: Jets. I think they’re much more promising than they were last year and all, but a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach in a division that doesn’t look all that easy is hard for me to pick. I think you probably need nine wins to make the playoffs, the Jets have a way higher ceiling than last year but it’s still seven or eight.

AFC North

Ravens
Browns*
Steelers
Bengals

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: Cincinnati. I just don’t trust this team’s coaching staff. I think Joe Burrow is good enough to start a playoff game. I think they’ve got a promising skill receiver corps. But between Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo, I don’t see any reason to believe they’ll get easy yards or prevent easy yards.

AFC South

Titans
Colts
Jaguars
Texans

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: Texans. You know why.

AFC West

Chiefs
Chargers*
Broncos
Raiders

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: None of them. The Raiders have a decently high floor, and the reports that Jon Gruden was trying to trade for Khalil Mack make me think they will chase a playoff spot even if it’s just a seventh seed. I think they could be early buyers.

NFC East

Cowboys
Football Team
Eagles
Giants

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: Giants. Don’t believe in the coaching staff, don’t believe in Daniel Jones as a franchise quarterback. Don’t believe in the general manager’s ability to understand the passing game. I’d be surprised if Philadelphia made it as well.

NFC North

Packers
Vikings
Bears
Lions

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: Lions. I’m not necessarily in “Dan Campbell isn’t a good coach” camp, but I’m poking around the edges of it while I’m looking to see what happens here. I don’t think there’s much to salvaging Jared Goff. Penei Sewell has struggled at right tackle in the preseason and I’m worried about Andrew Thomas-itis.

NFC South

Buccaneers
Saints*
Panthers
Falcons

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: Panthers. Yes, even though I’m picking the Falcons to finish last. I think there’s more upside in the coaching of Arthur Smith and Dean Pees, to the point where my major worry with the Falcons is personnel. Matt Ryan versus Sam Darnold is an easy win for Atlanta and one that I think caps the upside of Carolina by a lot. I am putting the Panthers ahead because I think Joe Brady will work some magic with Darnold. Just, you know, not enough magic for it to matter.

NFC West

Seahawks
Rams*
Cardinals*
49ers

I will eat my metaphorical hat if (TEAM) makes the playoffs: None of them. They’re all pretty good, and I wouldn’t be stunned if the 49ers won the division. I am very curious as to how the 49ers defense moves on from Robert Saleh and Richard Sherman, and my lean is that it might not be quite as good as it was in the past. It’s pretty much neck-and-neck with Arizona, who has their own coaching issues under Kingsbury.

Wild Card Round:

Ravens over Patriots
Bills over Browns
Chargers over Titans
Buccaneers over Cardinals
Saints over Seahawks
Rams over Cowboys

Divisional Round

Ravens over Bills
Chiefs over Chargers
Packers over Saints
Rams over Buccaneers

Championships

Ravens over Chiefs
Packers over Rams
Packers over Ravens

Feel free to laugh about this post at any time, including the moment you first read it, the moment you think about it in Week 5 when one of the playoff teams I’ve projected is 1-4, the moment that that COVID makes one of these teams play a 14-game schedule, or after the season when you’ve got 20-20 hindsight and I don’t. I am not going to get Mad Online at you. As I said: Predictions are inherently stupid.


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