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American Football – 2020 NFL Season Divisional Preview – The 2020 NFL Season kicks off this week with 32 teams battling it out to get their hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February’s SuperBowl in Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the crazy off-season, never fear. I’m here to give you my take and predictions on the Divisional battles in both the AFC and NFC.
The Baltimore Ravens are the heavy favourites to stay top of the AFC North and with good reason. Lamar Jackson’s game breaking ability is off the charts and he’s surrounded by a very competent supporting cast.
While the Ravens are favourites, they won’t have it all their own way. The Cleveland Browns have one of the most talented rosters in the entire league. Rookie Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has been given the task of getting all that talent on the same page which, given some of the personalities in that locker room, is far from a formality. But if they get it right, they can be a match for anyone.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are also looking to be a factor. Big Ben returns from injury and their success hinges on his ability to stay on the field. He should have enough weapons at his disposal on offense and they had one of the more dynamic defences in the league last year.
The Cincinnati Bengals will most likely be focusing on developing young talent than making a run at the division title here.
Traditionally one of the most physical and intense divisions in the league, the smart money will be on the Ravens to claim the top spot again, but I believe Cleveland are in with a great shout to pull off a shock.
The AFC North may have a clear favourite, but the battle in the South doesn’t. Even the most optimistic of Jaguars fans will give them any shot of being in contention and the rumours of “Tanking” are already surfacing, but there is a 3 way shootout predicted otherwise.
The Titans, Colts, and Texans all carry a lot of talent but also bring some question marks.
Houston did get Deshaun Watson tied down to a new contract, but I have major concerns about how much an effect the trading away of DeAndre Hopkins will have. They may have to hit the ground running or Bill O’Brien could be in danger of losing that locker room.
Tennessee made a lot of waves on their way to the AFC Championship game in 2019 but they won’t be coming out of seemingly anywhere this season. Teams will be ready for them. Can Ryan Tannehill replicate the excellent play we saw from him after he replaced Marcus Mariota? His success may be inextricably linked to Derrick Henry establishing that fearsome run game.
Indianapolis are armed with a new quarterback as they continue life after Andrew Luck. Philip Rivers has had a fantastic career but at 38 years old, how empty is the tank? Can rookie Michael Pittman or Parris Campbell offer TY Hilton the reliable running buddy he has long been needing?
My gut feeling is telling me Houston take a big step back. Bringing in Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb strike me as panic moves to be honest. That leaves Tennessee and Indy to fight it out. I think that goes right down to the wire; I give a slight edge to the Titans.
The landscape of the AFC East has changed. For the bones of 2 decades no preseason prediction was done without the New England Patriot as shoe-ins for division winners. Now they’re just one of the pack. Cam Newton has been earning rave reviews in training camp but has a big job on his hands to help revive a dormant offense. And now the probably don’t have a top tier defense to pick up the slack after free agency and Covid opt outs.
That opens the door for the Buffalo Bills to make a run at winning the division for the first time since 1995. The Bills offense will only go as far as Josh Allen will take them, but they went out an got a legit go-to receiver in Stephon Diggs to help him.
Miami are also looking to get themselves in the hunt after a busy off season. After Ryan Fitzmagic finished last season as the leading rusher in 2019, it was no surprise to see 2 veteran Running Backs acquired along with a bevy of defensive reinforcements. But the big name on everyone’s lips among Dolphins fans is new Quarterback Tua. His injury issues will mean we will likely to see little, if any, of him this season so Fitz is still the man for now.
The last team involved here are the New York Jets who have had another rocky summer. They should struggle to make an impact as Adam Gase continues to sabotage his own cause.
I see the Bills as the front runners for this division, and if it clicks with Josh Allen this year, they could be legit contenders for a deep playoff run. It may be a season too early to expect the Dolphins to mount a serious challenge leaving the Pats to take the runner up spot with the Jets just struggling to keep pace.
No shock as to who the heavy favourites are for the AFC West. While Patrick Mahomes can trot out and throw a ball, that division could be as much of a formality as the East was during the Brady era, and that’s not a knock on the other 3 teams. Mahomes himself is good enough but when he has the weapons around him that he has, it’s ridiculous.
The race for second could be very interesting, however. The Las Vegas Raiders have retooled at wide receiver adding Bryan Edwards and Alabama home run hitter Henry Ruggs. If last year’s stand out Josh Jacobs can carry his good for over into year 2, this is a dangerous offense.
If the Raiders are a dangerous offense, the Los Angeles Chargers can be considered a dangerous defense. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram provide a terrifying pass rush combination and Linval Joseph arrives from Minnesota to sure up the middle. Derwin James being ruled out for the season is a big blow, however.
Speaking of terrifying pass rush duos, the Denver Broncos have one of their own in Von Miller and the fit again Bradley Chubb. And the offense looks loaded too after adding savvy route runner Jerry Jeudy and the lightning quick KJ Hamler to compliment Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. If John Elway has finally found his Quarterback in Drew Lock, the Broncos are an emerging powerhouse.
Barring a Mahomes injury, I can’t see past the Chiefs winning out here. I’m all aboard the Broncos hype train and believe they have the potential to make some noise. The Chargers and Raiders will be competitive, but I think they come up short.
The NFC North will be very competitive again in 2020. The Packers decision to draft a quarterback instead of arming the one they have with more weapons left everyone stunned. But I don’t see anything to suggest they will take a significant step back this year.
The Minnesota Vikings did add some excellent talent to their ranks but most of them will only serve to replace the players they lost and it remains to be seen if they’ve done enough to overtake the Packers at the top of the division.
The Detroit Lions will welcome back a fit-again Matthew Stafford and they will need him to be at the top of his game to stay relevant.
And the Chicago Bears will need to find some inspiration on offense if they are to be a factor. Matt Nagy will be feeling the heat this year.
I think it’s as you were in this division, with the Packers maintaining the edge over the Vikings at the top. The Lions and Bears will make life tough.
Down South, the New Orleans Saints have usually had it their own way in recent years. Drew Brees is back for another run at a SuperBowl and they will surely be in the mix.
But the big talking point is what is going on in Tampa Bay. After winning the Tom Brady pools, the Buccs wasted no time in surrounding him with a huge array of talent. If Brady has anything left in the tank the Buccaneers should be ready to go toe to toe with New Orleans.
The Atlanta Falcons flattered to deceive again in 2019 and pressure may be mounting on Head Coach Dan Quinn. Can they show any signs of being the team that went to the SuperBowl4 seasons ago?
Carolina starts a new era after moving on from Ron Rivera and Matt Rhule has a big job on his hands to get them back into contention. In all honesty, this looks like a rebuilding year for the Panthers.
The big question here is just how good can we expect the Buccaneers to be? We know the Saints are legit and that the Falcons and Carolina are probably going to be well off the pace. I expect the Buccaneers to push New Orleans all the way, but I still have the Saint coming out on top.
It’s more than likely going to be a 2-horse race in the East. While Dallas and Philadelphia renew their rivalry the Giants and Washington will take up their usual spots as also-rans by the looks of it. The injury issues are already picking up where they left off for the Eagles, who limped home in front of the Cowboys last year but if they can get any luck staying healthy would be favourites to stay top again in 2020.
The Cowboys will be relying on Mike McCarthy providing the energy and spark they lacked all too often last year under Jason Garrett. There is plenty of talent throughout this team, but I have questions regarding their resilience.
Washington will be looking to establish a new culture after another offseason of turmoil. Hiring Ron Rivera was a good start.
And the Giants probably just lack the firepower to get themselves in the mix but could show a marked improvement on recent poor seasons.
I have the Eagles winning the division again purely because of their ability to deal with adversity which they have shown time and time again.
Our last division left to look at maybe the best. I am expecting an all-out war in the NFC West. San Francisco will look to put their SuperBowl disappointment behind them and go one step further this year. There was no major surgery done, or needed, in the offseason, and no reason to suggest they won’t be a factor in the playoffs again.
The Seahawks will be a force again this year. The trade for Safety Jamal Adams from the Jets could have swung the pendulum in their favor.
The Los Angeles Rams will be looking to put a disappointing 2019 season behind them. The big question for them is finding a way to make up for the loss of Todd Gurley who was a talisman for the 2018 SuperBowl run.
And the Arizona Cardinals are garnering a lot of hype, especially since getting DeAndre Hopkins from Houston. It got eve better for them in the draft when talented linebacker Isaiah Simmons fell into their laps.
I’m really excited for this division. Whoever makes it out of here will no doubt be well battle tested for the playoffs. I think the Seahawks may have stolen an edge on San Fran and, like the Broncos earlier, the Cardinals could be gearing up for a breakout year. The Rams are very capable of keeping pace too.
Who Makes the Playoffs?
In the AFC I have Buffalo, Kansas City, Tennessee, and Cleveland in an upset as my division winners. The Broncos, Colts, and Ravens are my wildcard picks.
The NFC shapes up with the Seahawks, Packers, Eagles, and Saints winning their respective divisions. The Vikings, 49ers, and Buccaneers make up the wildcard places narrowly squeezing out the Cowboys and Cardinals.
All in all, we seem to be set for a very interesting season, one which I can’t wait to get started!