The 2021 NFL season is upon us. Rejoice football fans. And what better way to kick things off than trying to predict the entire season. Listen, I realize that a good portion of these predictions are going to be flat out wrong. Like really, Kirk Cousins in the NFC Championship game 😲 (this is a joke, please don’t click away). But predictions are a ton of fun. So after reading through mine, if you have your own, feel free to send it to me on Twitter @MattD366 or send it to @366Sports. If you’re coming from Facebook, leave a comment and let us know what you think.
Let’s jump into the 2021 NFL Season. Sorry for the spoilers.
No shock here as the Kansas City Chiefs win the AFC West and top the AFC. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid will continue to dominate the division in 2021. Are the Los Angeles Chargers all hype? Maybe. Or maybe not. Justin Herbert was fantastic as a rookie and Brandon Staley is one of the best defensive coaches in the game. I like to bet on good QBs and good head coaches. The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders prove that it’s about time to blow it up. Denver is still a quality QB away from competing for the playoffs. For Vegas, 5 wins feels low, I’ll admit that. I just couldn’t find a way to justify Vegas winning more game.
The AFC North is the Baltimore Raven’s division to lose. This is one of the strongest teams in football. The Cleveland Browns finish 10-7, closing the season with losses @ Green Bay and Pittsburgh before beating Cincinnati in the season closer holds Cleveland back from the playoffs. Much like how Baker Mayfield will hold the team back. Big Ben’s last hurrah in Pittsburgh isn’t a pretty one. The Steelers will be competitive but their offensive line and a declining Roethlisberger will be too much for their all-star defense to overcome. While Cincinnati bottoms out the AFC North, the future is bright with Joe Burrow. The team is still very young, and I’m not sure Zac Taylor is the answer.
The AFC South is a two team race in 2021. The Colts and the Titans will battle it out and I could see either team winning the division. The other team will likely claim one of the final wild card spots. I’m gonna give a slight edge to the Titans because I don’t see Carson Wentz making it through the full season without an injury. Meanwhile, I think Jacksonville will be the happiest 5-12 team in the league. The future is bright with Trevor Lawrence but this team needs a couple of years to build around him. There’s nothing good to say about Houston, so let’s move on.
Nobody circles the wagon like the Buffalo Bills. Don’t bet against good coaches and good QBs. The Bills will be a force this season. After a 10-6 season that resulted in missing the playoffs in 2020, the Dolphins manage to win that 17th game to grab a playoff spot in 2021. Call me a Tua believer. I think he’ll be a fine QB this season and the defense will continue to be dominant. The Patriots will be back this season but not all the way. Mac Jones will need time to develop but will be lead the Patriots to a respectable 9-8. And the Jets, the Jets are at the start of their rebuild. 2021 just won’t be their year.
The Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, and San Francisco 49ers are all top 5 teams in the NFC. If all 3 teams stay healthy, it’s going to be a close race to win the West but all 3 teams will make the playoffs (and make noise in the playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals are the best of the rest – a good team in a stacked division.
Aaron Rodgers in his last dance with the Packers will make the playoffs. This Packers team is still very good but some expected regression from Rodgers after a MVP year will result in a couple of additional losses. Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings will be in the playoffs in 2021. The defense just won’t be as bad as it was in 2020 when they finished 29th in points. The Chicago Bears have Justin Fields and they should be happy about it. Starting Andy Dalton early and the struggles of a rookie QB will keep Chicago out of contention. I’m gonna be honest, I think 1 win for Detroit isn’t enough. They’ll shock some teams and grab a few wins but it’s hard to pick them head to head over just about anyone right now.
The NFC South is going to be a really good division this season but it’s only going to have one playoff team. The Bucs are going to win this one. Lock it in and hide the key. The Saints, Falcons, and Panthers are all going to be competitive (the Falcons less so than the Saints and Panthers). Jameis Winston and Sam Darnold will have their new teams in the thick of things into December and the future is bright for both young QBs with their respective teams.
The Giants and the Cowboys are going to be a really tight race in 2021. Dak Prescott is far and away the best QB in the division but Dallas still just isn’t very good defensively. Meanwhile, the Giants defense is one of the best in the league and they just need the offense to be close to average to win 9 games. I’m betting on the Giants playmakers on offense and a some improvement from Daniel Jones over a big jump from Dallas’s defense, who will likely cause the team to lose some shoot outs. A lot of people are believers in the Ryan Fitzpatrick led Washington Football Team and to all of them I ask – why? Fitzpatrick isn’t a very good quarterback and the rest of the division, aside from the Eagles, made more improvements than Washington this offseason. The Philadelphia Eagles are a train wreck and I look forward to watching the coaching staff switch from Jalen Hurts to Gardner Minshew midseason.
AFC Playoff Picture:
NFC Playoff Picture:
AFC Wild Card Round:
Colts (7) @ Ravens (2)
Dolphins (6) @ Bills (3) –
Chargers (5) @ Titans (4)
No crazy upsets in the AFC in the wild card round. The Bills and Ravens are just on another level compared to the Colts and Miami. The Chargers will have an impressive season but the young team will get the first round bounce.
NFC Wild Card Round:
Vikings (7) @ Seahawks (2)
49ers (6) @ Packers (3)
Rams (5) @ Giants (4)
Remember when I said the entire NFC West would make some noise in the playoffs? They sweep the wild card round. Seattle doesn’t lose at home to inferior opponents, San Francisco hurts Aaron Rodgers one last time, and the Rams are just better than the Giants.
AFC Divisional Round:
Titans (4) vs Chiefs (1)
Bills (3) vs Ravens (2)
The top two seeds in the AFC take care of business and we get Patrick Mahomes vs Lamar Jackson in the AFC Championship game. Buffalo and Josh Allen aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and Tennessee will continue to put together a good team. Neither team though will be able to knock off KC and Baltimore.
NFC Divisional Round:
49ers (6) vs Buccaneers (1)
Rams (3) vs Seahawks (2)
Remember when I said Seattle doesn’t lose to inferior opponents at home? The Rams will be a better football team once January rolls around. The 49ers have a nice bounce back campaign but it won’t be enough to knock off the Super Bowl champion Bucs.
NFC and AFC Championship Game:
Ravens (2) vs Chiefs (1)
Rams (3) vs Buccaneers (1)
Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady back in their respective championship games – who would have guessed it? It may not be original but let’s be honest, it’s the most likely scenario. Lamar Jackson vs Patrick Mahomes will be a fun game but the Chiefs are a better all around football team than the Ravens. They’ve been in this spot quite a bit over the last few years, that experience matters.
In the NFC, the battle tested Rams continue play great football. Leading into this game, the Rams will have won 6 straight games vs the likes of: Seattle, @Minnesota, @Baltimore, vs San Francisco, @New York (Giants), @Seattle. And they’ll make it 7, beating the Bucs on the road. An impressive run to close the season and head into the Super Bowl.
Rams vs Chiefs
I’ve rewritten this ending 3 or 4 times now. The fun narrative is that the Rams win their first Super Bowl with Sean McVay and Matt Stafford gets his ring. But can we really see Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid losing again in the big game? I can’t. It may be boring, it may be easy, but the Chiefs hoisting the Lombardi is the most likely outcome at the end of the season.