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NFL season kicks off tonight with defending champion Tampa Bay hosting the Dallas Cowboys

Michael Zarich, Sports Writer

2021 NFL Season Preview

There is a lot of excitement in the sports world because the NFL season is kicking off tonight.

Last season took place during one of the peaks of COVID-19 when most of the stadiums were empty or very close to it. But this year the fans are back in what hopes to be a more traditional season. 

I am going to be breaking down each team in the league and giving my predictions for the season. Click the links below to find breakdowns by division. 

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Tom Brady, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Mike Evans, WR Chris Godwin, WR Antonio Brown, TE Rob Gronkowski, top 10 offensive line, *RT Tristan Wirfs 9th overall pff graded tackle 

Key points

  • With a full year together the offensive chemistry between Brady, Brown, Godwin, Evans and Gronk should be way scarier and better
  • The Bucs will carry a RB committee, riding the hot hand with either Fournette or Jones
  • Defending champs lead a top 5 offensive unit once again

Defense

DE Ndamukong Suh, WLB Jason Pierre Paul, LB Devin White, LB Lavonte David, LB Shaq Barrett, CB Carlton Davis, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, SS Antoine Winfield, FS Jordan Whitehead

Key Points

  • The entire unit returned, but this time full year of big run stopping nose tackle Vita Vea.
  • Literally the same defense if they stay healthy should provide more problems for QBs with the amazing pass rush and young turnover machine of a secondary.
  • Another top 5 defense once again.

Record prediction: 13-4

New Orleans Saints

Offense: QB Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, RB Alvin kamara, WR Marquez Callaway, WR Michael Thomas (inj), TE Adam Trautman, Offensive line ranked top 10

Key points

  • Winston will need to be the guy in New Orleans if they want any chance of the playoffs.
  • How long will Thomas be out for and how much of his loss will affect the offense.
  • Who else besides Kamara will step up and help out Winston with the loss of Thomas.
  • Offensive line will be a top 10 unit again with the tackle duo of Ramczyk and Armstead.
  • Breakout: Adam Trautman taking over the role of Jared Cook.

Defense 

DE Cameron Jordan, DE Marcus Davenport, MLB Demario Davis, CB Marshon Lattimore, 

SS Malcolm Jenkins, FS Marcus williams

Key Points

  • The front end lost DT Sheldon Rankins and Malcolm Brown so a new unit with Roach and Tuttle will need to bring the heat up the middle.
  • Davenport becoming the starter at end taking over Trey Hendrickson who led the team in sacks last year.
  • Overall solid unit again on defense with a strong base of leaders Jordan, Davis and Lattimore. The front 7 will be the biggest question whether the younger guys can step up. 

Record prediction:  9-8

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, RB Mike Davis, WR Calvin Ridley, TE Kyle Pitts, bottom 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • New head coach and former Titans Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith will implement a run first offense complementing it with a play action pass in shotgun formation.
  • Loss of Julio Jones will be replaced with a promising and dynamic top 5 pick in Pitts.
  • Look for Ridley to have another amazing year and establish himself as one of the most consistent receiver who can play both in the slot and split

Defense 

DT Grady Garrett, LB Dion Jones, CB AJ Terrell

Key Points:

  • Young team that’s still pieces away from being an above average unit
  • All around, run defense and secondary is below average
  • Defense is the weak spot of the team and will hold this team from being a playoff team
  • Overall still some talent with Jarrett, Jones and second year first round pick Terrell.

Record prediction: 6-11

Carolina Panthers

QB Sam Darnold, RB Christian McCaffrey,Wr DJ Moore,Wr Robby Anderson,Wr David Moore

bottom 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • The biggest X factor in this team is new starting QB Darnold, who is playing with an established o.c in Joe Brady and a way better lineup with Mccaffrey, Robby Anderson and DJ Moore.
  • Rookie Wr Terrance Marshall reunites with former LSU  o.c Joe Brady
  • Big bounce back season for one of the best backs in the league in Mccaffrey

Defense

DE Haason Reddick, DE Brian Burns, DT Derrick Brown, CB Jaycee Horn, SS Jeremy Chinn

Key Points

  • Defense is forsure the weak spot on this team 
  • A young defense who is a few pieces and years away  from being a top unit
  • Construction of defense has nice young players in Brown, Chinn and rookie CB Horn

Record prediction: 6-11

NFC North

Green Bay Packers

QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Aaron Jones, WR Davante Adams, TE Robert Tonyon, mid tier offensive line with the loss of Corey Linsley

Key Points

  • With what looks to be Rodgers final year the packers will try to go for it all reuniting Randall Cobb with Rodgers
  • Jones returns on a 4 year $48 million contract as the lead back
  • Drafted WR Amari Rodgers out of Clemson, possibly a bigger role later in the year
  • Overall, with Rodgers, Adams, Jones and Matt Lafleur calling plays, they should return to a top 5 offense again

Defense

DT Kenny Clark, WLB Preston Smith, SLB Za’darius Smith, CB Jaire Alexander, SS Adrian Amos

Key points

  • Lot’s of talent on the defensive side of the ball especially in the linebacker position with both Smiths, and Krys Barnes
  • Back end should get better led by top 5 corner Jaire Alexander
  • Overall a mid tier maybe top 15 unit should help this team win the division

Record prediction: 12-5

Minnesota Vikings

QB Kirk Cousins, RB Dalvin cook, WR Justin Jefferson, WR Adam Thielen, bottom 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • Run first scheme with Cook to play action into 2 star receivers in Thielen and Jefferson
  • 2nd year receiver Jefferson to be the #1 receiver as he lines up in both the slot and split
  • Feed feed feed Cook and allow star receivers to benefit off of the play action and make it easier for Kirk Cousins
  • The Vikings could be a sleeper team to make the playoffs the only thing holding them back offensively is their atrocious o-line and of course, Kirk Cousins

Defense:

DE Danielle Hunter, MLB Eric Hendricks, SLB Anthony Barr, CB Patrick Peterson, SS Harrison Smith

Key Points:

  • Completely new look defense compared to last year
  • Last year the defense was one of the worst in the NFC with a bottom 5 secondary. Peterson will bring the veteran experience along with safety Smith
  • Front 7 improved with 3 new lineman in former pro bowler Hunter, Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson
  • Overall, there’s still some talent on the defense, and they should definitely improve from last year

Record prediction: 8-9

Chicago Bears:

QB Andy Dalton, QB Justin Fields, RB David Montgomery, WR Allen Robinson,WR Darnell Mooney, TE Cole Kmet, bottom 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • With Dalton starting, the ceiling off this offense lowers a huge amount compared to if Fields was starting
  • With the terrible offensive line already, Dalton will have limited time to make decisions and with his low mobility this could be a disaster for Chicago
  • 2nd year players Mooney and Kmet are easily bright spots and good things to look forward to especially since Kmet will get more volume
  • With whoever is calling plays, the bears should try to go with a run first offense, into play action but the offensive line and low mobility of Dalton could disappoint the talent

Defense

DE Akiem Hicks, NT Eddie Goldman, WLB Khalil Mack, LB Roquan Smith, CB Jaylon Johnson, FS Eddie Jackson 

Key Points

  • Even with new D.C Sean Desai looking to bring back the Nic Fangio defense, there’s still a glaring hole at the secondary especially the corners
  • Even with a healthy Johnson, the CB room is extremely thin and with Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson both in this division, things could get ugly
  • The front 7 is still very much elite, especially with Goldman returning after missing last year due to COVID, and young playmaker Bilal Nichols.
  • Overall, this is still an above average defense with a very good scheme, the age and secondary limits this unit to an elite defense

Record prediction: 8-9

Detroit Lions

QB Jared Goff, RB D’andre Swift, TE TJ Hockenson, top 12 offensive line

Key Points

  • New head coach Dan Campbell is starting to build a nice culture and the roster construction of the Lions is looking good for the future
  • The offensive line adds one of the greatest tackle prospect in Penei Sewell
  • Hockenson has top 5 positional talent and can still have a good year with Goff under center
  • The receiver core is definitely the weak spot and is a bottom 5 in the nfl after losing Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones
  • Overall, they’ve built a solid base at the trenches but are still years away from contending

Defense

LB Trey Flowers, LB Jamie Collins, CB Jeff Okudah

Key Points

  • The defense is still a bottom 10 in the league but it should get better with a new head coach
  • Still loads of talent with CB Okudah, Flowers and Collins

Record prediction: 2-15

NFC West

LA Rams

QB Matthew Stafford, RB Darrell Henderson,Sony Michel, WR Robert Woods

WR Cooper Kupp, top 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • A Sean Mcvay led offense will be a top 10 offense and should help them compete for not only for a division title, but another super bowl appearance
  • The biggest change and the possible missing piece for a superbowl was the acquisition of Stafford who will make this offense elite once again and can bring back the high power air raid from 2018
  • The preseason loss of 2nd year RB Cam Akers hurts the running game but the rb by committee with Henderson and Michel should still be effective and will open up the passing game a lot more, especially the play action

Defense

DE Aaron Donald, LB Leonard Floyd, CB Jalen Ramsey, CB Darius Williams, FS Jordan Fuller

Key Points:

  • Last year’s Brandon Staley led defense was the #1 ranked defense in the nfl, but now with the departures of John Johnson, Troy Hill and Staley himself, the defensive unit will have to rely on it’s younger guys to fill in
  • The loss of former d.c Brandon Staley will hurt them but the ability for their core guys to be quick to the ball will still make them very scary
  • Donald taking up two lineman will again open up for more chances between Floyd, Joseph day, and the rest of the younger exciting players
  • The secondary works in zone coverage, so because of Ramsey locking up a section in the back end, the rest of the secondary between Williams, Rapp and Fuller will have plenty of chances to create havoc and turnovers.
  • Obviously the defense is due for regression, but with Donald and Ramsey leading the way, they’re still an elite defense in the NFL

Record prediction: 13-4

San Francisco 49ers

QB Jimmy Garoppolo, QB Trey Lance, RB Raheem Mostert,WR Deebo Samuel,WR Brandon Aiyuk, TE George Kittle, top tier offensive line unit, *added Alex Mack at center

Key Points

  • The 2021 offense should be back and healthy after a down year last year where their starting QB, RB, TE, Wrs and offensive line all missed significant time
  • The “yac” guys look better than ever with  Kittle, Samuel and freak athlete Aiyuk leading the way
  • While we know Kyle Shanahan likes to run the hot hand between RBs, Mostert will be the starter but don’t count out talented rookie Trey Sermon to have a few breakout games
  • The o-line looks healthy and a lot stronger with center Mack and should provide will an already elite running scheme from Shanahan
  • While Garoppolo will be the starter, the most exciting part of the offseason was 3nd overall pick Trey Lance who will at some point take over this year. that’ll change the offense completely and could open up the passing game as his mobility and arm strength could take off in a very easy scheme for QBs
  • The Niners are poised to have a bounceback year and a chance to return back to the superbowl

Defense:

DE Nick Bosa, DT Javon Kinlaw, MLB Fred Warner, CB Jason Verrett

Key Points

  • Like the offense last year, the defense suffered some major injuries but should be healthy and ready to go
  • The most interesting part of the defense is how the absence of former d.c Robert Saleh affects the scheme and quickness of the defense. with Saleh the defense always looked alert and in rhythm with each other every play
  • Most of their core pieces are still there including Bosa and all pro LB Warner
  • Javon Kinlaw, second year out of South Carolina will need to have a breakout year and be a huge factor in the success of the trenches
  • The biggest weakness and question mark are the corners for the 49ers who lost Richard Sherman. while Verrett played well last year, the rest of the CB room is very thin and one injury could be a costing factor to their success
  • Overall, the defense should still be better even with the loss of Robert Saleh, but i wouldn’t expect the same kind of success from 2019

Record prediction: 12-5

Seattle Seahawks

QB Russell Wilson, RB Chris Carson, WR Dk Metcalf, WR Tyler Lockett, average offensive line, needs to step up for Russell Wilson

Key Points

  • Quicker throws to limit sacks and hit damage for Russ
  • New o.c, Shane Waldron will try to use the tight ends much more in Everett, Dissly and Parkinson
  • Biggest change in the new scheme is how Waldron will focus more on a fast tempo offense and keeping defenses honest with more screen passes, and a better underneath passing game
  • The problem with last years offense was Wilson dropping back way too much and firing deep passes, which while may be Wilson’s strength, it allowed defenses to adjust easier and drop a safety out of the box and into deep coverage
  • Chris Carson will still be used plenty and the 1-2 combo of Metcalf and Lockett should propel this offense to a possible elite level

Defense

DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Jordyn Brooks, MLB Bobby Wagner, SS Jamal Adams

Key Points

  • Seattle’s defense has the range to be an average defense to the potential of a top 12 defense. they have lots of talent with Dunlap who’s impact was immediately felt last year in the pass rush, 2nd year Brooks, future hall of famer Bobby Wagner and top strong safety Adams.
  • The hawks have always and still will be a coverage 3 team but will definitely run up the blitz more with Adams
  • Overall the hawks pass rush needs to be a stronger force and their cornerbacks look very thin especially in the nickel.

Record prediction: 11-6

Arizona Cardinals

QB Kyler Murray, RB Chase Edmonds, RB James Conner, WR Deandre Hopkins

Top 12 offensive line unit, *added center Rodney Hudson

Key Points:

  • New additions of AJ Green and rookie Rondale Moore look to provide other options for Murray
  • Moore could have a big role in this year’s offense, as he might be used as a gadget player. his speed could open up more underneath passes for Murray and motions to get the ball out quicker and more efficient
  • Last year the running game wasn’t as effective as they wanted it to be so the split between Edmonds and Connor could help improve that and open up the play action much smoother
  • The sole reason for success for the offense in 2021 will be how head coach Kliff Kingsbury can adjust his offense from being so one dimensional with Kyler and Hopkins so defenses don’t have to just plan on stopping those two.
  • If Murray can stay healthy and take his game to the next level, they could definitely become a top team in the nfc

Defense:

DE JJ Watt, LB Chandler Jones, LB Zaven Collins, LB Isaiah Simmons, CB Byron Murphy, FS Budda Baker

Key Points:

  • The cards ceiling for 2021 is crazy high based on the talent. while their LBs haven’t proven anything yet, Simmons and Collins are rare athletes with amazing potential
  • The secondary other than Baker is underwhelming and can hold this team back
  • If Watt and Jones can stay on the field and still perform at a high level, they’ve got the talent to become a top 12 defense and a playoff team

Record prediction: 9-8

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Amari Cooper, WR Ceedee Lamb, top 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • With Prescott healthy after his season ending injury, he’ll be the primary reason this offense can get back to being elite
  • The Cowboys boast one of the best cores of receivers starting off with cooper who finished off another 1,000 yard season. 2nd year stud Lamb is in for a huge breakout as his talent is unmatchable. expect to see Lamb not only in the slot but in the split
  • Elliot will look to have a bounce back year and bring the running game back to what it used to be
  • If the offensive line is healthy they should be a top unit again
  • Expect the offense to be the bright spot on this team and to possibly carry dallas to the playoffs

Defense

DE Demarcus Lawrence, LB Leighton Vander Esch, MLB Micah Parsons

LB Jaylon Smith, CB Trevon Diggs

Key points

  • The defense was historically terrible last year but things should get better. new d.c Dan Quinn who’s had lots of success with defenses, tweaked the scheme into a more simplified scheme
  • Lots of question marks on this defense and a lot of the younger guys need to have bounce back seasons
  • Lot’s of talent still, especially with dynamic rookie micah parsons who is very good in zone because of his ability to use his speed to cover the middle of the field. on top of that he can also line up as an outside linebacker and bring the blitz.

Record prediction: 11-6

Washington Football Team

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Antonio Gibson, WR Terry Mclaurin, Wr Curtis Samuel, TE Logan Thomas, league average offensive line with good depth

Key Points

  • Fitzpatrick will be the new QB for Washington and while he’s not something to be too excited about he’s definitely an upgrade over Dwayne Haskins and Alex Smith
  • With Fitzpatrick’s league average play, the scoring will have to come with the surrounding talent including a nice duo of receivers in Mclaurin and newly acquired Curtis Samuel
  • Gipson looks to be a top 10 Rb not only in the running game but also as a pass catcher dual threat
  • Tight end Thomas who’s a great athlete with his size and speed is another weapon for Fitzpatrick
  • Overall, the surrounding weapons could definitely elevate Fitzpatrick and the offense to another level

Defense

DE Chase Young, DE Montez Sweat, DT Jonathan Allen, DT Daron Payne, LB Jamin Davis

CB Kendall Fuller, CB William Jackson, SS Landon Collins, FS Kamren Curl

Key Points

  • The reason Washington saw playoff football last year was their defense, and it looks even scarier this year. the best group of pass rushers was a nightmare for opposing qbs last year and will look to do the same. led by defensive rookie of the year Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat, this is a strong combination of youth, strength and speed
  • The backend improved with the addition of Jackson
  • Only question marks is the linebacker group which did add rookie first round pick Jamin Davis
  • Overall, top 5 defense and could help Washington see more playoff football

Record prediction: 10-7

New York Giants

QB Daniel Jones, RB Saquon Barkley, WR Kenny Golladay, TE Evan Engram, bottom 5 o-line

Key Points:

  • This is a make or break year for l Jones who’s now entering his 3rd year as the starting Qb. while he’s got arm talent, his struggles to turn the ball over has defeated any chance of success in recent years
  • General talent Barkley should be back 100% and can improve this offense enormously
  • The receiving core is solid led by newly acquired Golladay
  • While Jones struggles will go down, i don’t think he has the talent and mental preparation to help lead this offense to the next level
  • Healthy concerns and poor play from the lineman could hold this team down

Defense:

DE Dexter Lawrence, DE Leonard Williams, LB Blake Martinez, CB James Bradberry

CB Adoree Jackson, SS Jabrill Peppers, FS Logan Ryan, Xavier Mckinney

Key Points

  • The Giants hold a better defense than the credit that’s been given to them. they were a top 10 unit last year and can definitely have a chance for it again
  • The secondary remains elite, especially with Bradberry who had a career year last year, along with young studs in jackson and Peppers. Ryan provided great veteran presence as a leader
  • Main issue last year was a lack of edge rush, so drafting Azeez Ojurai has a chance to cover that
  • Overall a solid defense which should have another good year with Joe Judge as the head coach

Record prediction: 6-11

Philadelphia Eagles

QB Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew, RB Miles Sanders,WR Devonta Smith, TE Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, *if the offensive line stays healthy, should be a top 15, offensive line

Key Points:

  • Hurts will be the starter for Philly and he’s going to need to improve his completion percentage and his accuracy in the pocket as a whole. his athleticism, and leadership qualities highlight him as a Qb but now with the addition of Smith, he’ll have plenty of options to throw too
  • The Eagles plan to involve all 3 running backs, but Sanders is still the starter and will take the majority of snaps
  • Other main key to success is the health of the offensive line, which at one point rolled out all backups. if the o-line can be healthy, the protection of hurts will be much better and the running game will be more efficient
  • Overall, still a young team with talent everywhere but not exactly poised for a top offense just yet.

Defense

DE Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, DE Brandon Graham, DT Fletcher Cox, CB Darius Slay, FS, Anthony Harris

Key Points

  • Defense looks a lot better than last year, especially the secondary which acquired Anthony Harris and Steven Nelson
  • The linebacker core is where their going to need players to step up
  • Barnett, Sweat, Graham, Cox and Hargrave is a solid core in the trenches
  • Overall, lot’s of question marks on the defense which still could be a top 15 defense

Record prediction: 4-13

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce, top 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • The defending afc champs are definitely the favorites to win it again and possibly win their second super bowl in 3 years. they bring in a top 5 offense once again with elite players at their positions in Mahomes, Hill and Kelce
  • A healthy Edwards-Helaire with a full training camp and preseason should become more familiar and involved in the system, not only as a back, but as a receiving threat as well
  • The major issue last year that held them down from another super bowl win was their o-line which added pro bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr from the Ravens, and guard Joe Thuney from the Patriots

Defense:

DE Chris Jones, DE Frank Clark, SS Tyrann Mathieu

Key Points:

  • The chiefs defense has plenty of talent from star players including pro bowler end Chris Jones and all pro safety Tyrann Mathieu
  • This Chiefs defense has performed better than expected in years past because of how well coached they are and the amount of turnovers they’ve forced, especially in the clutch
  • The defense still lacks depth all across the board and is going to be the weakness on the team in 2021
  • CB L’jarius Sneed replaced Kendall Fuller last year and allowed a passer rating of 66.6 as a rookie, so look for him to become the team’s no. 1 corner

Record prediction: 14-3

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Justin Herbert, RB Austin Ekeler, WR Keenan Allen

Key Points:

  • Reigning rookie of the year, quarterback Herbert will be a massive part of the Chargers success here. while there’s reason for regression, he’s answered every question so far last year and has the talent to become a force in this league for a long time
  • Herbert has plenty of weapons including a healthy ekeler, who looks to have a career year, and star receiver Allen
  • The Chargers lost tight end Hunter Henry in free agency, but he was replaced by an older veteran in Jared Cook
  • The biggest moves for this offense was the addition of the #1 graded center, in Corey Linsley. the o-line went from being one of the worsts, to a solid unit
  • The Chargers offense makes them a scary team in the afc west

Defense:

LB Joey Bosa, LB Kenneth Murray, CB Chris Harris Jr, Asante Samuel Jr, SS, Derwin James, 

Key Points:

  • The Chargers hired new head coach Brandon Staley who was the mastermind behind the Ram’s #1 defense last year as the defensive coordinator. he’ll definitely have a huge impact on this defense 
  • Staley likes to mix and match different looks and to confuse the offense on who’s going where and who’s blitzing.  this chargers unit will need to be able to process information and line up in different sets for the scheme to work
  • Tons of talent especially with Bosa, Harris and 2nd year LB Murray
  • Deciding factor for this team is safety James who’s battled injuries in years past, but his skillset is rare in safeties.

Record prediction: 10-7

Denver Broncos

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock, Rb Melvin Gordon, RB Javonte Williams,Wr Courtland Sutton, Wr Jerry Jeudy, TE Noah Fant, average offensive line top 20

Key Points:

  • Bridgewater will be the starter in week one and he gives the Broncos a solid option at QB who can deliver the ball to their playmakers. bridgewater has a low ceiling so the question will be if and when lock becomes the starter once again
  • Either QB will have plenty of weapons to distribute the ball too. look for breakout years from Jeudy who arguably has the best route running, and tight end Fant who’s athleticism provides miss matches.

Defense:

LB Bradley Chubb, LB Von Miller, CB Kyle Fuller/ Bryce Callahan, CB Ronald Darby/ Patrick Surtain, SS Kareem Jackson, FS Justin Simmons

Key Points:

  • The Broncos defense will be a forsure top 10 unit in the league in 2021, especially with defensive mastermind Vic Fangio as the head coach once again
  • The defense is loaded with talent starting with outside linebackers, in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb
  • The secondary is arguably the best in the league which added Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and 1st round stud Patrick Surtain from Alabama. CB Bryce Callahan who was one of the highest graded corners last year will have a big role again
  • Justin Simmons, who seemed to find the ball all over the field in 2020,  will look to repeat a #1 overall graded safety year from 2020
  • The D-line position for denver don’t have a whole lot of depth so, the talented trio of Jones, Harris and Purcell needs to have a healthy 2021
  • The Broncos have one of the most complete rosters in the nfl,but the QB position definitely holds them down from being a playoff team

Record prediction 9-8

Las Vegas Raiders

QB Derek Carr, RB Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, WR Henry Ruggs, TE Darren Waller, o-line below average

Key Points:

  • While Carr has been solid there for years, he’s going to need to come up big in close games and where it matters for the raiders to win more games
  • The running back percentages should look somewhat like Jacobs 60% carries and Drake 40% carries
  • Waller’s size, hands and speed makes him a mismatch for any team trying to guard him as he’s one of the games top tight ends
  • With talent in Waller, sophomore wides Bryan Edwards and especially first round pick Ruggs, need to step it up and provide game changing plays
  • Overall, solid offense with lot’s of upside but needs improvements from younger players and the play calling

Defense

DE Maxx Crosby, DE Yannick Ngakoue, CB Casey Hayward, Damon Arnette, SS Jonathan Abram, FS Trevon Moehrig

Key Points

  • After last year’s defensive disaster, the team will use a new scheme with Gus Bradley as the new defensive coordinator
  • The pass rush was a problem last year, so the addition of Ngakoue should and needs to help
  • Time is running out for the younger guys in Clelin Ferrell and especially Damon Arnette and safety Abram who need to rebound after having a year full of problems
  • Overall the defense shouldn’t be as bad as last year, but it’s definitely not going to be a bright spot for this team once again

Record prediction: 6-11

AFC North

Cleveland Browns

QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper

Key Points

  • The time is now for the Cleveland Browns to be atop the AFC North. Talent is everywhere and QB Mayfield will only have to not turn the ball over for this offense to still be elite
  • The running game is one of the best in the league with the duo of workhorse Chubb and dynamic player in Hunt
  • The Browns hold one of, if not the best offensive line in the league especially in the run game
  • A healthy Beckham Jr. should be another weapon for Mayfield as he leads the threat from the receiving game
  • Very impressive tight end room with 2nd year Harrison Bryant who stepped up big last year

Defense

DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Myles Garrett, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, CB Denzel Ward, Troy Hill, CB Greg Newsome, FS John Johnson Jr., Grant Delpit

Key Points

  • The defense re-loaded with talent and had the best offseason out of any team in the league
  • Last year, the defense was a liability especially in the secondary which added Johnson Jr. and Hill who both had career years with the Rams last year
  • 2nd year playmaker Delpit will look to have a breakout year
  • The Browns killed the draft by adding CB Newsome and one of the most talented linebackers in the draft, in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah who was a steal in the second round
  • The Browns also added Jadeveon Clowney who if healthy, could play along side Garrett in which could be the league’s best edge rushing tandem

Record prediction: 13-4

Baltimore Ravens

QB Lamar Jackson, RB Gus Edwards,WR Marquise Brown, TE Mark Andrews, top 12 offensive line

Key Points

  • Ravens hold a very unique system in which it lives off of the freakish athlete in Jackson who people forget won MVP in 2019
  • The offense statistically, is still a top 15 in the league especially their run game which lived in the top 3 based off of yards and attempts
  • The injury loss of 2nd year JK Dobbins is a huge killer to this team who planned to incorporate Dobbins into the running game permanently.
  • No team has called more QB designed runs than the Ravens in the past 2 years so expect lots of that still. The Ravens also like package heavy personnel grouping with 2 RBs and 2 tight ends per play to pack the defense and create space outside for Lamar
  • The passing game was dead last in 2020 but should get a bit better with the additions of Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman

Defense

DE Calais Campbell, LB Patrick Queen, CB Marlon Humphrey, CB Marcus Peters, 

Key Points

  • The Ravens defense will once again be an elite force in the league. The Ravens bring back the same group on the defensive line and in the backend. The headliners are Campbell and corners Humphrey and Peters.
  • Matt Judon has been the only loss at LB, but was replaced with veteran Justin Houston and rookie Odafe Oweh who’s a freak athlete out of Penn State
  • If 2nd year LB Queen can take a step forward after his struggles in coverage last year, this defense will look outstanding on all levels
  • Lastly, the defense finds so much success in their scheme of blitzing and giving their rushers favorable matchups to attack the QB while leaving two top 10 corners one on one with receivers.

Record Prediction: 12-5

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Najee Harris, WR Diontae Johnson, WR Juju Smith-Schuster

WR Chase Claypool, TE Eric Ebron, bottom 5 offensive line

Key Points

  • There’s a glaring flaw with the Steelers and that’s the offensive line which is a bottom 5 in both the passing and the run block
  • 1st round draft pick and dynamic athlete Harris is one to look for on a breakout year especially given the fact that the Steelers plan to feed him plenty in the run game and the passing game. He’ll look to resurrect the running game which was completely gone last year
  • Roethlisberger will have plenty of options with a trio of talented receivers in Johnson, Juju and Claypool
  • With average play from Big Ben, and a terrible o-line, the offense will need to create plays with their playmakers, especially Harris

Defense

DE Stephon Tuitt, DE Cameron Heyward, LB T.J. Watt, SLB Melvin Ingram III,

LB Devin Bush, CB Joe Haden, SS Terrell Edmunds, FS Minkah Fitzpatrick

Key Points

  • A top 3 defense just a year ago, is bringing back most of the same players especially to their front 5 which was the #1 team in pressures and sacks. T.J. highlights the teams pass rush after being the #1 ranked outside linebacker and he’ll be opposite to the talented Ingram if he can stay healthy
  • The steelers still have some question marks in certain spots in coverage but arguably the best free safety in Fitzpatrick helps a team riddled with turnovers
  • Overall, the Steelers defense is loaded with top tier talent from Watt to Fitzpatrick

Record Prediction: 10-7

Cincinnati Bengals

QB Joe burrow, RB Joe Mixon, WR Ja’Marr Chase, WR Tyler Boyd, WR Tee Higgins

bottom 5 offensive line

Key Points

  • The Bengals have a young talented group of players starting off with 2020 1st overall pick Burrow. Burrow is coming off an injury in which he tore his a in week 11 of last year
  • Before his injury, he looked very promising in commanding the offense and now he’s got his college reciever and 6th overall pick, Chase. Chase could at some point become the #1 receiver for the bengals and leads a talented group with Boyd and Higgins
  • Running back Mixon is now the only back in Cincy, and will look for a real breakout consistent year
  • Biggest glaring problem is the offensive line which is a bottom 3rd unit in the league. the protection of Burrow is crucial, but not assured because of how it was not targeted as much in the offseason
  • Overall, a young team with talent at the top, but needs the play calling to be in favor of QB Burrow, especially with the atrocious offensive line

Defense

DE Sam Hubbard, DE Trey Hendrickson, FS Jesse Bates

Key points

  • The defense added some solid players in DJ Reader, Trey Hendrickson and Mike Hilton who all could prove to be upgrades
  • The linebacker room remains the biggest issue on paper as they lack depth and talent
  • In the backend, Bates is the star on this team as he was one of the highest graded safeties last year but he’ll need to show that 2020 wasn’t a fluke season
  • Overall, this defense needs to step it up and prove to be a better unit than last year

Record prediction 4-13

AFC South

Tennessee Titans

QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry,WR AJ Brown,WR Julio Jones, top 10 running o-line but needs to improve its passing protection

Key Points

  • The Titan’s hold one of the league’s best offenses with plenty of star power. QB Tannehill has quietly been one of the league’s best passers, and running back Henry has led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns the past two years
  • The biggest splash of the offseason was acquiring future hall of fame receiver Jones from the Falcons who will pair up with young star Brown
  • Even though offensive coordinator Arthur Smith became the head coach for Alanta, the scheme should still stay the same with ⅓ of the calls going to the play action and the rest to Henry. expect a bit more of the passing game especially with julio jones opening up the outside part of the field
  • Overall, the titans have plenty of playmakers to bolster one of the league’s scariest offenses

Defense

DE Jeffery Simmons, LB Rashaan Evans, LB Bud Dupree Cb Janoris Jenkins, CB Caleb Farley, FS Kevin Byard

Key Points

  • The Titan’s defense in 2020 ranked 29th overall in total yards and definitely held them down. they got better in the secondary by adding veteran cornerback Jenkins and drafted a top prospect in Farley
  • The pass rush was a huge problem last year as they were one of the worst teams in generating pressure to the qb. they added outside linebacker Dupree who’s coming off of an acl tear but should provide an obvious upgrade
  • Overall the titans defense is a work in progress but should improve a bit from last year

Record prediction: 11-6

Indianapolis Colts

QB Carson Wentz, RB Jonathan Taylor, WR Michael Pittman Jr,top 3 offensive line 

Key Points

  • The Colts added Wentz from the eagles this past offseason and will hope for him to have a healthy bounce back year from a horrible 2020
  • Head Coach Frank Reich will look to run it back with Wentz from when he was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia back in 2017
  • The offense in 2021, lacks elite talent from the receivers and only Pittman Jr.  is one to be excited for. but the surrounding cast in easily better for Wentz than what he had in Philly last year
  • The bread and butter for the Colts in 2021 will be the rpos and running game with young star Taylor who’s poised for an even better year than 2020. the colts also have plenty of depth with Hines and Mack behind Taylor
  • If Reich plans to run his offense like the Eagles in 2017, expect lots of plays in the shotgun and using Wentz’s athleticism to beat the defense
  • Overall, Wentz represents the x-factor of the offense, with the possibilities ranging from his 2020 disaster to 2017 mvp candidate.

Defense

DE Kwity Paye, DT Deforest Buckner, LB Darius Leonard, CB Kenny Moore, CB Xavier Rhodes, FS Julian Blackmon

Key Points

  • The Colts bring a top 12 defense in the league with talent all across the board. starting in the front, Buckner leads the pass with first round draft pick Paye
  • All Pro linebacker Leonard is a force to be reckoned with as he terrorizes nfl offenses with his ability to read the whole field and make tackles practically anywhere
  • The secondary looks very solid with Rhodes coming back from an elite year, and one of the most underrated slot corners in the league Kenny Moore
  • Blackmon surveys the back of the field coming off of an impressive rookie campaign
  • Overall, the Colts have a playoff type defense that has a chance to be a top unit

Record prediction: 9-8

Jacksonville Jaguars

QB Trevor Lawrence,RB James Robinson, WR DJ Chark,Wr Laviska Shenault ,bottom 10 o-line in the league

Key Points

  • The future is here for the Jaguars, now with new head coach urban meyer and 1st overall draft pick Lawrence. He was the highest graded prospect since Peyton Manning and brings NFL ready intangibles and will be exciting to watch in 2021
  • Even after losing 1st round pick running back Tavis Etienne to a season ending injury, the Jags will still have 2nd year Robinson to carry the load
  • Jacksonville has a solid trio of receivers in Chark, Shenault and Jones and look for a breakout in one of them
  • Overall, the Jaguars are still a few pieces away from this offense being in the mix of contention but having a franchise QB in Lawrence, provides a taste for what’s there to come for years in Jacksonville

Defense:

LB Josh allen, LB Myles Jack, CB CJ Henderson, CB Shaquill Griffin

Key Points

  • On the defensive side, the Jags are still ways away from being the elite group they were in 2017. they still have some young bright players in Allen and Jack
  • 2nd year CB out of Florida, Henderson will look for a bounce back year after a rough 2020 but there’s definitely lot’s of optimism because of his talent
  • The Jags added CB Griffin who’s a for sure upgrade and will partner nice with Henderson
  • Overall, the Jags will need improvement from some of their younger guys while also still being in the rebuilding faze.

Record prediction: 4-13

Houston Texans

QB Tyrod Taylor (Deshaun Watson), RB Mark Ingram, David Johnson,WR Brandin Cooks, average o-line

Key Points

  • Perhaps the worst team in the NFL, the Texans don’t have a whole lot to be excited for in 2021
  • The offense is a mixture of veterans and bridge players to what seems to be a rebuilding year
  • Taylor will be the starter for now but keep your eyes out for rookie Davis Mills to come in later in the year

Defense

DE Whitney Mericules, LB Zach Cunningham, FS Justin Reid

Key Points

  • With the loss of longtime star JJ Watt, the Texans defense looks to be among the league’s worst especially coming off a year of only forcing 9 turnovers
  • The Texans made a few signings that look to be solid, but without a terrific scheme and a lack of impact players, it’s hard to believe this defense will do a whole lot to slow anybody down

Record prediction: 1-16

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

QB Josh Allen, RB Devin Singletary, RB Zach Moss, WR Stefon Diggs, WR Cole Beasley, WR Gabriel Davis, WR Emmanuel Sanders, top 15 o-line with lots of depth

Key Points

  • The Buffalo Bills return almost the same offense as last year which boasted a top 7 ranking in every passing stat in 2020
  • MVP candidate Allen will look to have another amazing year using his athleticism and arm strength to bring back the elite passing that hasn’t been in Buffalo in so long
  • Diggs came off of a career all-pro year where he put up 1000 yards receiving in his first year in Buffalo, and he will look to take his chemistry with Allen to another level in 2021. The remaining receiving corps for Allen is also very good with slot machine Beasley, speedster Davis, and newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders
  • The running game was almost non-existent last year but it should get more looks between Singletary and Moss
  • Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll created a perfect balance passing attack for Allen to use his mobility and arm strength to flourish in. expect more deep crossing routes and deep play action calls where the receivers can run away from coverage on longer developing routes.

Defense

DE Jerry Hughes, DE Gregory Rousseau, DT Ed Oliver, LB Matt Milano, LB AJ Klein

MLB Tremaine Edmunds, CB Tre’davious White, SS Jordan Poyer, FS Micah Hyde

Key Points

  • The defense had a worse year then expected but will look to get back on track in 2021
  • A very well coached team that seemed to do well in creating turnovers and making plays when it counted the most
  • Lot’s of talent everywhere ranging from Edmunds to White
  • The Bills have a solid defense but if they reach their potential, they could become The most well rounded team in the AFC

Record prediction: 13-4

New England Patriots

QB Mac Jones, RB Damien Harris, WR Nelson Agholor ,TE Hunter Henry,TE Jonnu Smith

Top 10 offensive line

Key Points

  • The Patriots 2021 offense will look very different from last year with rookie qb mac jones getting the keys to bill belichick’s offense
  • Jones seems to be the most Nfl ready quarterback who is tremendously smart, poised and patient in the pocket, progresses through his reads, and is an elite game manager. his ability to distribute the ball to the best players on the field overmatch any worrisome of his physical abilities. he’s the perfect fit for a Bill Belichick and Josh Mcdaniels scheme.
  • Around Mac, the Patriots upgraded by adding Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to the receiving corps. but the biggest splashes were adding 2 very talented tight ends in Henry and Smith
  • Because of the additions of 2 tight ends, expect the Pats to go back to their 12 personnel two tight end sets
  • The offensive line looks healthy and to be a top 10 unit. Harris will look to be the lead back and he’ll have a chance to carry in 15+ carries a game

Defense

DT Lawrence Guy, LB Matt Judon, LB Kyle Van Noy,MLB Dont’a Hightower, CB JC Jackson

FS Devin Mccourty

Key Points

  • New England’s defense will be a lot better with the personnel adding to an already elite scheme of different disguises
  • Perhaps the best group of the defense that improved was getting Hightower back who will immediately make this defense a lot better. the Pats also added Judon in free agency who brings his ability to blitz and rush the passer
  • The secondary is still very good led by Jackson but the loss of Gilmore for at least 6 games is tough
  • Overall, expect another Bill Belichick team to be strong on it’s defense

Record prediction: 10-7

Miami Dolphins
QB Tua Tagovailoa,RB Myles Gaskin, WR Will Fuller, WR Jaylen Waddle,TE Mike Gesicki 

bottom 10 line in the league

Key points

  • Tagovailoa is the biggest X factor for the Dolphins success in 2021 after his rocky and rough rookie season. he’ll need to improve his ability to progress through different reads and not get fooled by the different disguises defenses bring. the main problem with him last year was his inability to throw the ball down the field. The dolphins had the lowest percentage of deep ball throws and that’s going to be a huge factor in this team’s success and his development
  • Tua got lots of help by the addition of speedster Fuller who thrives in the deep ball. Tua also got paired with his former college teammate in Waddle. He has a unique skill set of speed, agility, route running and jump balls. he’ll be an immediate threat anywhere on the field
  • The Dolphins will continue to run lot’s of inside runs with Gaskins and rpos to get the ball out of Tua’s hands quickly and to one of his playmakers

Defense:DE Emmanuel Ogbah,LB Jaelan Phillips,CB Xavien Howard, CB Byron Jones,FS Jason McCourty

Key Points

  • Head Coach Brian Flores who comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree designed a very impressive scheme last year living in man coverage 1. The fins have the talent in the secondary to lock up any receiver with Howard and Jones
  • TE Dolphins also blitz a lot especially on third down so the guys up front in Ogbah and Christian Wlkins will need to have big years again
  • The Dolphins also added a rookie Phillips who could be huge in 2021 with his speed as a pass rusher
  • Overall, Miami has a well coach defense that could possibility get better from 2020

Record prediction: 9-8 

New York Jets

QB Zach Wilson, RB Tevin Coleman, Michael Carter,WR Corey Davis,WR Elijah Moore

Bottom 15 line

Key Points

  • Very similar to the Jaguars, a new era in New York has begun with new head coach and former mastermind behind the 49ers defense, Robert Salah.
  • The biggest reason for excitement in New York is rookie quarterback and #2 overall draft pick Wilson. He will be the immediate starter and he brings a lot of impressive talents to New York
  • Wilson is arguably the tho most impressive arm talent out of the rookies because of his ability to create explosive plays inside and outside the pocket. He has that gunslinger mentality and isn’t afraid to let his athleticism and accuracy through. With the right development he could become a very special player in this league
  • Outside of Wilson the Jets are still a work in progress and are in a rebuild because they’ll still need to improve the offensive line, and tight end/running back position
  • New York added Davis and rookie Moore who’s a tough slot receiver and can run in the middle of the field very well
  • Overall, asking Wilson to come out and become an elite player in his rookie season is a lot to ask for in a  below average offense.

Defense

DE Carl Lawson,DT Quinnen Williams, MLB CJ Mosley, FS Marcus Maye

Key Points

  • On paper, the defense is among the league’s worst but with new head coach Robert Salah, the scheme should improve
  • Salah loves to sit in zone coverage and bring the blitz on third down
  • Talents in Mosley, Maye, and Williams but the defense is still lots of pieces away from becoming elite

Record prediction 3-14