Predicting The 2020 NFL Season

We’re back! If you’d asked me a few weeks ago to simply predict whether or not we’d have a football season, I probably would’ve said, “Sure,” but there’s no way I could’ve been 100% unequivocal. Anyway, I say it every year and it still holds true, this is my favorite sports blog post to write, and this time we’re getting a jump on things! But first, a look back at my prior predictions:

Last year, I nailed the Eagles and Saints as division winners and whiffed on the Seahawks and Vikings (though, both made the playoffs as Wild Card teams). I had the Rams and Cowboys as Wild Card teams, but neither made the playoffs (though, they were 9-7 and 8-8 respectively). My worst calls in the NFC were the 49ers and Packers being third in their respective divisions (when they obviously won them and were the top two playoff seeds).

In the AFC, I nailed New England, Houston, and Kansas City as division winners; whiffing on the Steelers (who failed to make the playoffs) over the Ravens (who I pegged as a third place finisher, calling them a 7-win team; I was half-right, since they ended up 14-2). I had the Browns and Chargers as Wild Card teams, who won a combined 11 games (the Bills and Titans ended up making it).

As far as the playoffs go, I was WAY too high on the Eagles, who I had as a 1-seed making the Super Bowl. However, I did have Kansas City winning it all, so bully for me!

Okay, without further ado … here’s some more ado. I should point out I’ve never been so underprepared for an NFL season. So, I’m going to take a few minutes here to reacquaint myself as to what happened last year, see where some key free agents ended up, and I’ll come right back with my predictions. It’ll be so quick, you won’t even know I was gone!

And I’m back! Honestly, I don’t know how much insight I’ll have, but let’s get to it.

NFC East

  • Dallas
  • Philadelphia
  • New York
  • Washington

I think I like the Cowboys and Eagles pretty equally. Mostly, I went with Dallas over Philly to change things up. It’s hard to repeat as divisional champions, and I didn’t see anything out of the Eagles last year that impressed me to the point that they’d be drastically improved. With Dak Prescott playing for a bigtime contract extension, he’s motivated as all get-out to play well, and that could be the ultimate decider. I think the Giants have enough to improve from Bad to Mediocre, which I figure accounts for a ceiling of 7 wins. The Washington Football Team is a trainwreck in all aspects of football and life; I can’t see them winning more than 4 games.

NFC North

  • Minnesota
  • Green Bay
  • Chicago
  • Detroit

The Vikings are strong on both sides of the football, with a good coaching staff and a lot of stars. I see a big step-back out of the Packers – who did nothing last year to overwhelmingly impress me, other than taking care of business during an incredibly easy schedule – with the Vikings maybe even contending for the top seed if everything breaks right. The Packers, of course, will be in line for a Wild Card if their quarterback stays healthy. The Bears and Lions both strike me as bad teams heading in the wrong direction.

NFC South

  • Atlanta
  • Tampa Bay
  • New Orleans
  • Carolina

I’m taking a HUGE swing here! I don’t have a good reason to like the Falcons, but I just do. The sensible pick is to repeat with the Saints, but they (and by “they” I mean Drew Brees) are getting old and I could see a few injuries really derailing things for them. If you were wondering who 2020’s All Overhyped Team is going to be (recall last year, that title went to the Cleveland Browns), it’s Tampa! I think they could get off to a hot start offensively, but I think their defense is a year or two away (famous last words, every time I write them), and I’m not buying Tom Brady’s noodle arm. There’s a lot of turnover on offense, and that can be a lot to square away in one offseason during a pandemic with no pre-season games. Carolina will not be much better with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm; he seems like he’s earning A LOT of money for someone who hasn’t accomplished much in his career.

NFC West

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Arizona

I’m getting a whiff of a Super Bowl Hangover season out of the 49ers. That should open the door for a Rams team that was snakebitten a little bit last year. It’s not often that a 9-7 team fails to make the playoffs; of course, had they made that last-second field goal against the Seahawks, it would’ve been them advancing instead of us. Color me as drinking the Seahawks Regression Kool Aid, because I have a BAD feeling about this season. It’s a lot to ask to put everything on one man’s shoulders, even if he’s as great as Russell Wilson; ultimately I just can’t see this team being so good in one-score games as they were last year. Arizona should be a lot of fun to watch, but I don’t know if they have anything even remotely resembling a defense.

AFC East

  • Buffalo
  • New England
  • Miami
  • New York

The Bills have steadily built up that team to be rock solid in most aspects. I think they’ll win a lot of games in spite of their quarterback play; if he can just avoid a lot of turnovers, they’ll probably win around 12 games with relative ease. The Patriots won’t totally fall off the map with Cam Newton in for Brady, but I don’t think he’s winning a division in his first year there. Miami looked to be on the upswing late last year; they’re still young, but I think they too can improve from Bad to Mediocre. The Jets were going the opposite direction, and they could be one of the worst teams in the league as well.

AFC North

  • Baltimore
  • Pittsburgh
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati

The Ravens and Chiefs look to be the class of the AFC, so they should continue to dominate as long as they can stay relatively healthy. The Steelers were snakebitten by injuries last year, but otherwise were pretty strong across the board. I think the Browns might be a little underrated and could jump to 9 wins this year. The Bungles are who we thought they were.

AFC South

  • Indianapolis
  • Houston
  • Tennessee
  • Jacksonville

The Colts were a healthy, quality quarterback away from being a playoff team last year. They have Philip Rivers now, and I think he’ll make all the difference for a team that’s pretty good everywhere else. The Texans are slowly being eaten alive by their so-so head coach who is also the league’s dumbest general manager; I think this year was one inept move too many. They won’t win a division without DeAndre Hopkins, and likely won’t even return to the playoffs. I think the Titans were a flash in the pan and I’m not buying Ryan Tannehill. The Jags will be terrible and will contend for a #1 draft pick.

AFC West

  • Kansas City
  • Las Vegas
  • Denver
  • Los Angeles

The Chiefs are the best team in football, period. The Raiders and Broncos are just okay; they could flip-flop spots here and it wouldn’t shock me (but I don’t think either are playoff-calibre). The Chargers are bad. I don’t think Tyrod Taylor will be starting games long, and I don’t think Justin Herbert will be their Quarterback of the Future.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Minnesota
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Dallas
  4. Atlanta
  5. San Francisco
  6. Green Bay
  7. Seattle

AFC Playoffs

  1. Kansas City
  2. Baltimore
  3. Buffalo
  4. Indianapolis
  5. New England
  6. Pittsburgh
  7. Cleveland

Sign the Seahawks up as one of the first teams to take advantage of the seventh playoff spot! If that isn’t the Seahawkiest thing that’s ever happened, I don’t know what is.

Wild Card Round

  • Seahawks over Rams
  • Cowboys over Packers
  • 49ers over Falcons
  • Ravens over Browns
  • Steelers over Bills
  • Colts over Patriots

Divisional Round

  • Vikings over Seahawks
  • Cowboys over 49ers
  • Chiefs over Steelers
  • Ravens over Colts

Championship Round

  • Vikings over Cowboys
  • Ravens over Chiefs

Super Bowl

  • Vikings over Ravens

My backup guess is Vikings over Chiefs, but I guess I’m pretty committed to the Vikings winning it all here. Boy won’t they be partying in Minnesota if I’m right!

What The Hell Were The Huskies Doing?

4th & 3 at the Oregon 33 yard line, tie game, with 71 seconds left:  the Huskies went for it, throwing to Sean McGrew for 4 yards and a first down.  Absolutely the right call!  And, from then onward, the Husky coaching staff lost their FUCKING MINDS.

1st & 10 at the Oregon 29 yard line, tie game, now with 50 seconds left (for some reason, we opted to let 21 seconds go before running another play, even though the previous play netted all of 4 yards):  the Huskies ran the ball for 8 yards.  Not playing hurry-up is idiotic.  Running the ball is semi-idiotic, but it gained a big chunk of ground, and we called a time out, so I can somewhat forgive it.

2nd & 2 at the Oregon 21 yard line, tie game, with 40 seconds left:  the Huskies ran the ball for 1 yard.  Okay, so this is getting REALLY stupid now.  For some reason, we’re just setting it up for a field goal.  Not only that, but WE’RE LETTING THE CLOCK RUN ALL THE WAY DOWN.

I can somewhat understand the line of thinking if this were an NFL game.  You expect a professional kicker to make a 37-yard field goal.  That’s just a shade longer than an extra point in the League.  But, when you sit there and type it out – 37-yard field goal – doesn’t that sound like it’s a little long?  It’s nearly 40 yards, and what percentage of those do you think the pros make?  It’s not automatic, is what I’m saying.  A 37-yard field goal is NOT automatic, not even for the very best kickers in the world.

But, this wasn’t the NFL.  This was college.  This was a Redshirt Freshman walk-on in his first season as this team’s kicker.  And you’re asking HIM to make a 37-yard field goal, on the road, in the biggest game we’ve played all year, against our most hated and feared rival?

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, we still had a time out remaining!  This is still the college game!  You get a stoppage of the clock with every first down!  You have a senior quarterback who was NAILS in this game!  You have stud receivers all over the field to throw to!  YOU HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO KEEP DRIVING CLOSER TO THE ENDZONE, AND YOU JUST FUCKING GAVE UP!

You put it in the hands of a Redshirt Freshman kicker.  Hell, he could’ve been a 7th-year senior kicker and I still wouldn’t trust him!  The best college kicker of all time was drafted insanely high by the Tampa Bay Bucs and I don’t think he’s even in the League anymore!  And you’re putting this team’s season in the hands (or on the foot) of a fucking REDSHIRT FRESHMAN?!

Also, on a side note, why does the college game allow you to burn through all of your timeouts right in a row?  Do we really want to be icing these kickers multiple times on the same attempt?  Does that seem at all sporting?  I’m not saying that’s why we lost, but I’m just saying it’s cheap and tacky.

Anyway, I don’t know what’s dumber, the decision to play for the LONG field goal, or the decision by our supposed hotshot defensive coordinator to REPEATEDLY rush only 3 and drop 8 into coverage.  The Husky pass rush in this game was a fucking trash pile all day, yet Jimmy Lake kept sending only 3 rushers, allowing that Herbert guy to stand in the pocket all fucking day to shred our secondary.  I mean, what were YOU thinking?  Fucking put some pressure on the guy!  Instead of forcing our secondary to cover for 10 seconds a pop, force the QB to make a quick decision and let our guys react accordingly!  If I’m gonna get beat, I’d rather the opposing QB make some miracle throws against intense blitzing pressure, than watch him stand there like a statue all fucking day.

God damn this coaching staff is great, but they ROYALLY shit the bed in this one.  It’s unforgivable.  We’re so fucked now I can’t even see straight.  Now, by the grace of God, we need the Ducks to lose again to get back in the Rose Bowl race.  Obviously, the playoffs are out of the question.  We’re relying on the Cougs to not Cuog the shit out of this thing this weekend as they host Gameday and Oregon at the same time.

As you can see, three days later, I’m still far from over this.  Just, fuck off, everyone.

Washington Huskies Football Preview 2018 Extravaganza Bonanza Tony Danza!

Big year for the Huskies.  That’s an understatement to say the least, but even that doesn’t cover the sheer magnitude of the 2018 season for this team.

Two years ago, the Huskies were up 7-0 in a playoff game down in Atlanta against Alabama, 3 and a half quarters away from one of the biggest upsets of the century.  Last year, with most guys back, the expectations were just as high, and it was undeniably a disappointment.  A late season loss down in Stanford cost us a shot at the Pac-12 championship, but the real culprit was a mind-boggling 13-7 loss to Arizona State (who ended their season losing in the Sun Bowl and firing their coaching staff).  The Huskies were still granted a slot in the Fiesta Bowl, but weren’t all that competitive against a really good Penn State team, ultimately losing by 7 as their late comeback attempt fell short.

This year, somehow, some way, most guys are back again!  We’ve got a 4th-year starter at both QB and RB.  Our defense is loaded (particularly in the secondary), our offensive line projects to be one of the best in the conference, and while this is the second year in a row we have to replace our #1 receiver, the room as a whole looks improved over what it was a season ago.  The Pac-12 overall doesn’t look too strong, our non-conference schedule has some non-cupcakes in it; it’s all laid out there for the taking.

Can the Huskies get back to the playoffs?

More importantly, can the Huskies really contend for a national championship?

Simply being able to ask these questions – and not have it sound ridiculous – makes me so overjoyed I can hardly contain myself.  The Washington Huskies are a powerhouse in the NCAA.  They’re almost certainly the best team in the Pac-12 and probably a Top 10 team in all of college football (currently ranked 6th in both polls).  This is fun.  It’s so much more fun than the alternative (though, at least when the Huskies are terrible, it’s easier to get tickets to games).

So, let’s take a look at the schedule, and try to predict all the games.

  • @ Auburn

It’s a neutral site game, but that site is down in Atlanta, so yeah, this is a road game for the Huskies and a home game for the Tigers.

I’ll say this:  I’m coming around to the idea of having this game played week 1.  I feel like the Huskies need every advantage they can get to steal this game, and having all off-season to prepare is a great start.  Also, wonky things can happen, as there’s no real tape on either of these teams.  That can go both ways though, as you figure this year’s Washington team will resemble last year’s team quite a bit, as far as schemes go.  We can use that to our advantage by pulling out all the stops, and I really hope we do.  Gadget plays, fake punts, you name it!

That having been said, I’m having a hard time seeing the Huskies pull this one out.  Unless Auburn is really overrated, it just feels like too much to go on the road and beat one of the best SEC teams of the season.  I think we can hang with them, I think we can make a good showing for our school and the Pac-12, but in the end I feel like the Huskies will need to run the ball tremendously to win this game, and I can’t envision a scenario where we blast it down their throats.  I think Same Ol’ Jake Browning shows up (you know, the one who’s incapable of winning a big game on his own, without the help of an insane rushing attack), and I think we start out a disappointing 0-1.

  • North Dakota

Easy bounce-back game against a creampuff.  This should be a 38-0 type of game.

  • @ Utah

Woof.  Pretty difficult early schedule for the Dawgs.  I’m hearing nothing but positive things for the Utes this year, so to also play this one on the road – just two weeks after that showdown in Atlanta – is doing us no favors.

I can promise you this:  the Huskies will NOT be 1-2 after three games.  I’m very confident we’ll be 2-1 (with an outside chance at 3-0), so either we lose to Auburn or Utah, but not both.  Given those odds, I’ll mark this down as a win, but I think it’ll be a very close game.

  • Arizona State

Revenge game, against a pushover opponent.  I don’t know WHAT they were thinking hiring Herm Edwards, but that looks like a Hindenburg Disaster waiting to happen.  This should be another home blowout.

  • BYU

Isn’t this fun?  Isn’t it fun to play some quality non-conference opponents?

I don’t have a good handle on what BYU is supposed to be this year, but I always peg them as a pretty big challenge regardless of who they’ve got on roster, since they usually have a pretty veteran group.  As such, I don’t expect this to be a walk-over by any stretch, but I think UW will win comfortably (maybe up over 2 scores by the end).

  • @ UCLA

If you had to ask me who the most over-rated college football programs are in the country, I’d put the Bruins pretty high on that list.  How many times are they rated super high – because they’re an L.A. school – only to greatly disappoint?  I guess you could say the downside here is that Jim Mora is gone, because PEE YOU does that guy suck at coaching.  Not only that, but Chip Kelly is back?!

That actually brought a shiver to my spine a little bit.

While I think it’s great for the conference (if terrible for the Huskies) to have a head coach like Chip Kelly back in the fold, I do think this will be a transition year for the Bruins.  As such, I would expect the Huskies to prevail in this one.  Mark us down for a record of 5-1 at the midway point in the season.

  • @ Oregon

We go from one Chip Kelly school to another.  Oregon is sans Kelly, but otherwise running his program, so I guess if you have to play both of these teams on the road, playing them back-to-back at least affords us the luxury of game-planning for two similar offenses.

The Huskies ended up missing both USC and Arizona, who I believe will be two of the better schools in the conference.  While I like Utah an awful lot, I don’t think they’ll ever get the national respect they’re due.  As such, I could see Washington’s schedule looking A LOT easier in retrospect, if some of these teams don’t pan out.

Oregon is supposed to be good this year.  Quarterback Justin Herbert is supposed to be a stud, and a potential first round NFL draft pick in 2019.  As such, I believe this game will be one of the most important of the season (and not just because Fuck Oregon).  I think this could be a lot like last year’s road game against Stanford, where the winner decides who is going to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

My concern lies not with our secondary – though I don’t think they’ll be perfect – but in our defensive line.  If Herbert has clean pockets, he could potentially pick us apart.  If they’re able to run for a good average, then he’s not going to need to beat us deep.  It’s the same strategy teams have used to move the ball on the Seahawks for so many years:  long sustained drives of dinking and dunking.  In the end, I think the Huskies slip up here; I just hope Oregon has enough losses on their record to let this not be the disaster I’m worried it’ll be.

  • Colorado

After Oregon, the schedule opens up and is a lot easier.  3 of our final 5 are at home, with the road games not looking too dire.  I think Colorado will be bad this year and we’ll take out our frustration on them.

  • @ California

I’m hearing good things out of the Bears, but I think they’re a year or two away from being good again.  While they might put up a fight, I think the Huskies take this one as well.

  • Stanford

They’re ranked #13 in both polls right now, but I don’t think Stanford will be ranked by the time we play them in November.  I think they’re set for a VERY disappointing season and I don’t think this game will be very competitive at all.  Huskies roll.

  • Oregon State

Save our two worst games for last, as the Beavs look like one of the worst teams in the conference.  Easy win for the Dawgs.

  • @ Washington State

If the Beavs aren’t the worst, the Cougs will be.  The Apple Cup is in Pullman this year, but we’ll be bringing it back home to Seattle without any trouble.

***

So, I’ve got the Huskies as a 10-2 team, 8-1 in the Pac-12.  Is 8-1 good enough to win the Pac-12 North?  Well, the way I see it, our only competition is Oregon.  The Ducks miss USC and Colorado.  They host Stanford at the end of September for their first conference matchup; I’ll be rooting HARD for the Cardinal in that one.  They also obviously host the Huskies, which sucks.

The toughest stretch of games for the Ducks (outside of [email protected] Cal-BYE-Washington) will be @ [email protected] Utah (they close out with creampuffs against ASU and OSU).  If the Huskies end up losing to Oregon like I predict, then we’re going to need them to lose at least 2 games against those three teams if we want to represent the Pac-12 North.  I dunno, I have my doubts.  I hope I’m wrong.

If 8-1 is good enough to win the Pac-12 North, I’m going out on a limb to say that Arizona wins the Pac-12 South.  It’s one of those things where you probably would rather see USC – as it looks better beating them, from a national perspective – but I just believe the Wildcats are the better team.  I think we CAN beat them (we certainly SHOULD beat them) so I’ll predict that as a win now.

The question boils down to:  is 11-2, a conference title, a tough-looking non-conference schedule, and wins over Utah, Arizona, Stanford, and BYU enough to get us into a 4-team playoff?

Probably not.  It obviously gets us into a major bowl, but if things go the way I think they’ll go, we won’t be playing for a National Championship in 2018.

So, since the season hasn’t started yet, exactly how huge is this Auburn game?  Are we playing for our playoff lives right out of the gate?

In a way, yes!  I think, from a national perspective, everyone is super down on the Pac-12.  Teams have new coaching staffs in place, the L.A. schools are breaking in new QBs.  There’s a lot of transition right now.  I think the Huskies are deemed to be the best team by far in the Pac-12, and everyone else is at least a tier or two below us.  We’re the great hope!  We’re the ONLY hope!  Outside of someone running the table out of nowhere, the only team that figures to have a shot at the playoffs resides in Seattle.

That having been said, I just can’t EVER see a 2-loss Pac-12 team making the NCAA playoffs (probably not until we expand to 8 teams, anyway).  So, either the Huskies win this game on Saturday – and put ourselves squarely in the driver’s seat for that spot – or we lose that game and have to run the table to get back into the top 4.

If we run the table and go into the post-season with only 1 loss to a quality SEC team on the road, that’s a no-brainer playoff bid.  If we end up with 2 losses, a number of things have to happen.

For starters, we need to beat Stanford AND Oregon.  An ideal scenario where the Huskies have 2 losses and still make the playoffs features us probably losing on the road to a very good Utah team.  Starting 1-2 is never good, but it’s probably something we can overcome if we win out.  Even then, we probably need USC to be the champs in the Pac-12 South and have to beat them in the championship game.  That’s asking a lot.

I’d much rather the Huskies just beat Auburn now, and have a loss they can save for later in the season.  Any way you slice it, I think a 1-loss Husky team that also beats Auburn makes it into the playoffs (even if we somehow get locked out of the Pac-12 championship).

***

This has the feel of a grim assessment of the 2018 Huskies; like I’m writing them off before the season even starts.  I’d just like to say that I STILL think this is an elite college football team.  I’m trying to be realistic is all.

It’s so hard to run the table in college football.  Hell, even teams like Alabama slip up here and there!  Some weeks, things just aren’t going to go your way.  You make too many mistakes on offense, another team’s defense gets lucky with turnovers, the refs call some crazy penalties; you just never know what’s going to happen.

I feel like 10-2 is the sensible prediction for this Husky team.  It’s safe.  Barring a ton of unforeseen injuries to key players, it’s probably unrealistic to expect anything LESS than 10 wins this regular season.  If I’m setting the bar low, just know that this “low” bar is still double-digit wins, which is amazing.

I also feel like the sky is the limit for this team.  Beating Auburn FEELS like a longshot, but isn’t impossible.  We’ll have to execute.  Guys will have to step up and make plays.  But, we’re as healthy as we’re ever going to be, so it’s our best shot against theirs, and I have no problem recognizing this team’s potential.  Jake Browning COULD shock me.  Our running backs are pretty elite; it’s not insane to think they’d be able to run at will.  I fully expect one or two of these receivers to come out of nowhere to blow my mind!  And we’re so fast and strong across the board on defense that there’s no reason to expect we’ll be pushed around in this or any game, SEC or no SEC.

If I had to put a percentage on the Auburn game, I’d say it’s 55% Auburn, 45% Washington.  So, you know, close.  Almost a coin flip.

And, of course, if we win that game, the complexion of this season shifts in an instant.  We have to be seen as the favorites in every other game we’re involved in through the regular season.  While I have to believe we still lose one of these Pac-12 games, I won’t entirely rule out a 12-0 season.  Not entirely.  Some flukey shit will have to happen, but everything about this program is special.  The coaches, the players, everything.

I can’t wait.