The NFL season is finally here! With the start of the 2021-2022 season just days away, here are the Tower’s NFL pre-season predictions.
NFC Division Winners:
NFC East: Washington Football Team
NFC West: Rams
NFC North: Packers
NFC South: Buccaneers
49ers, Cardinals, Vikings
AFC Division Winners:
AFC East: Bills
AFC West: Chiefs
AFC North: Browns
AFC South: Titans
Ravens, Chargers, Patriots
In the NFC East, the Washington Football Team looks like an early frontrunner to win the division. The defense, led by Chase Young, will be one of the best defensive units in the NFL this season. Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, also known as Ryan Fitz-magic, has played for eight other NFL franchises including the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Miami Dolphins. Now the starting quarterback of the Washington Football Team, he enters a young, up-and-coming offense. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have to wow anybody, he just has to play consistent enough to lead the Washington Football Team to a winning record and that should guarantee a division title in an underwhelming NFC East.
In the NFC West, the Rams, led by new quarterback Matthew Stafford, should develop as one of the teams that push for an appearance in the NFC Conference Championship. The Los Angeles Rams had the best defense in 2020, led by Aaron Donald, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2017,2018, and 2020. LA’s defensive unit will return with a vengeance in 2021 with their sights set on being crowned the best defense in the league once again. The Rams only need to improve on the offensive side of the ball to push for the Lombardi Trophy. Jared Goff’s departure brought the necessary firepower to LA for the Rams to get a shot at the Super Bowl. Look out, LA could surprise a lot of people this season with uber imaginative Sean McVay as play caller. The Rams offense has the potential to shred opposing defenses in 2021 thanks to the switch at the quarterback position.
In the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers are the heavy favorites to win the division. Former MVP, the bad man Aaron Rodgers wants to win another Super Bowl before he retires. This year, the Packers look to get past the NFC Championship after falling to the 49ers in 2019 and the Buccaneers in 2020. After all the turmoil surrounding Aaron Rodgers potentially departed the frozen tundra this past offseason, Rodgers will play in Green Bay this season. The Aaron Rodgers era is coming to a close, and Rodgers will likely make a final run at the Lombardi Trophy as a Packer in 2021. The return of slot receiver Randall Cobb should help Rodgers tremendously. Rodgers hasn’t had a true slot receiver to feed the ball to since Cobb departed the team back in 2018. With most impact players returning on offense and on defense, the Packers should once again make a push for the Super Bowl come February.
In the NFC South, there is a similar story with the Bucs. Tom Brady won another ring in 2020. The stellar defensive unit should look the same this fall, and middle Linebacker duo Devin White and Lavonte David are two of the better MLB’s in the league. With Drew Brees out of New Orleans, there shouldn’t be much competition for Tampa Bay. Now, it is unlikely that the Bucs will win the Super Bowl in back to back years, but if there’s one player who could man a repeat, it would be Tom Brady.
In the AFC East, the Bills are one of the best teams in the AFC. Buffalo doesn’t have a whole lot of competition in the division, the Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets all have young, unproven quarterbacks. Two rookies, Zach Wilson of the Jets and Mac Jones of the Patriots, will start week one. Josh Allen should breakout as an MVP candidate and number one wide receiver Stefon Diggs will likely put up some crazy receiving numbers this season. If the defense can improve, the BIlls could dethrone the Chiefs as the best team in the AFC.
In the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs are led by Patrick Mahomes, a budding young star. I’m not sure Mahomes will perform as well as he has in years past. He may have a down year, the KC offensive line is weaker than years prior, and wide receiver depth beyond Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is limited. Opposing defenses will eventually solve the question of how to stop Patty Mahomes. Kansas City will still be one of the best teams in the AFC, but Andy Reid’s Chiefs will fall to another AFC opponent in the playoffs eventually. 2021 may be the year Mahomes takes a step backwards in his production.
In the AFC North, the Browns should be the team to rise above the rest and claim their first division title since 2002. The Steelers and Ravens, two teams that should win around ten games this season, are not far behind. Odell Beckham Jr. is returning off a season ending ACL injury in 2020 and he should have a bounce back year. The Browns’ stout defense should subdue the Steelers and Ravens offenses enough to at least make a playoff appearance this year.
In the AFC South, the Titans shouldn’t have a problem winning the division this year. Derrick Henry, the former Offensive Player of the Year, probably won’t rush for another 2,000 yards this season, but Mike Vrabel doesn’t need him to, thanks to the addition of veteran wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones’ role in Tennessee will be interesting to follow throughout the year due to the fact that Jones, now 32, has played for the Atlanta Falcons his entire career, from 2011-2020. Jones must prove to the league that he is somewhat of the same player he once was. The seven time pro-bowler and league leader in receiving yards and receptions in 2015 and 2016 should help the Titans offense put points on the scoreboard this season.
In the NFC, the 49ers are a good football team. The personnel at the quarterback position can make or break a playoff team and a transition from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to rookie Trey Lance may be the difference between missing or making the playoffs in 2021. The majority of the pieces are there, but it will be another year or two until Trey Lance is ready to lead a football team deep into the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl. The Cardinals coached by Kliff Kingsbury should take a step in the right direction this year. Kyler Murray should improve. Arizona’s defense is solid and the offense has star wideout DeAndre Hopkins. J.J. Watt may make an impact in his first season out of Houston. The Minnesota Vikings are another solid football team. Kirk Cousins is decent enough to lead the Vikings to a respectable win-loss record in a fairly weak NFC North beyond the Packers. Running back Dalvin Cook is touchdown waiting to happen. Minnesota’s defense should rebound in 2021 and give lesser offenses trouble.
In the AFC, The Baltimore Ravens will win enough games to get the chance to play in the playoffs. Lamar Jackson still looks like a work in progress, but he should take a leap in his development in 2021. Another team with solid quarterback play and an above average defense, seems like the recipe for a playoff berth to me. The Los Angeles Chargers aren’t the best team in the AFC, but boast one of the best up-and-coming quarterbacks in the league. Justin Herbert shocked NFL fans last season, emerging as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. Herbert threw a rookie record setting 31 passing touchdowns and 396 completions last season. The New England Patriots struggled last year without Tom Brady. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones may not win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he should play well enough to win around eight or nine games. Although the Patriots’ receiving room isn’t the most impressive, Bill Belichick has success with young quarterbacks. New England will have to rely on their running game for the majority of their offensive success, but the defense is good enough that Jones will not have to throw three to four touchdowns in order to have a shot at winning a ball game.
Super Bowl Prediction:
Predicting the Super Bowl LVI winner and loser is definitely a challenge. On paper, the Chiefs and Buccaneers are the favorites to return to the big dance. However, fans should not be surprised if neither team makes it back to the big game. In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers and coach Matt LeFleur may be the most unstoppable coach and player duo in the NFL. The Packers will be even better offensively with the addition of Cobb, and the new defensive coordinator should prevent any hail marys before halftime. The Buffalo Bills will be hard to beat in the AFC. Josh Allen should lead his team to the AFC Chip unless the Browns pull something out of a bag in the playoffs. Sean McVay and Matt Stafford could be an electric pairing, and the Buccaneers have all their starters returning from their Super Bowl LV victory. The Tower’s prediction? Bills and Packers in Super Bowl LVI. Aaron Rodgers will play like his usual self, and the defense should be good enough to help the Packers finally reach the dance once again. Aaron Rodgers will impersonate MJ for his last dance in Green Bay. The Bills will beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, although that is a bold statement. The Browns are not quite there yet, lacking any regular season consistency. The Rams will play Green Bay for the NFC Championship. Stafford will never beat Aaron Rodgers, and if the game is at Lambeau Field, the Packers will win. The Buccaneers are a very good football team, but the practically inmobile Thomas Brady isn’t ideal for today’s NFL. The Super Bowl LVI matchup will feature the Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers. Josh Allen will give the Packers D fits, but Stefon Diggs will be tested by young cornerback Jaire Alexander. Rodgers will win a second Lombardi Trophy in his first Super Bowl appearance since 2011, almost ten years ago.
NFL Honors Predictions:
MVP: Josh Allen will win MVP. Allen will have a terrific regular season. While Mahomes is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, losses on the Kansas City offensive line and the lack of wideout depth will hinder his stats this season.
Offensive POTY: Stefon Diggs should make his case for Offensive POTY during the regular season. Diggs is Josh Allen’s number one target, and he may post the largest number of receptions out of any other receiver in the league. If Diggs can reach 1,500 yards on the year, close to 130 receptions, and over ten touchdowns, he should win the award.
Defensive POTY: T.J. Watt put up insane statistics last year. Recording a league leading 15 sacks for the year, the only statline that hindered Watt from winning Defensive POTY last year was his lack of tackles compared to Aaron Donald. Donald, the do-it-all defensive lineman, took the award in 2020. If the youngest Watt brother can put up similar sack numbers while increasing his number of tackles, he would deserve to win the Defensive POTY in 2021.
Offensive ROTY: Which rookie quarterback will finish the season with the best stats, who knows, but the rookie quarterback that will be put into the best position to win Offensive Rookie of the Year has to be Jets QB Zach Wilson. Jets Offensive Coordinator Mike LeFleur, brother of Packers Head Coach Matt LeFleur, is a branch from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree. Wilson has a good number one receiver in Corey Davis and an overall youthful wide receiver room. He will develop alongside fellow rookie ELijah Moore and the two will likely become an inseparable pair down the road. Wilson could very well be the Justin Herbert of the 2022 NFL Draft, just wait and see.
Defensive ROTY: Cornerbacks, or defensive backs in general, rarely win Defensive Rookie of the Year. The transition from college to the NFL is one of the most difficult of any position. Edge rushers or middle linebackers have a good shot every year, due to the fact that they can make an impact on every play. Second-round steal Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fits the bill. Owusu-Koramoah is a rangy backer-safety hybrid who can cover, rush the quarterback, and fly all over the field. Other candidates such as Micah Parsons, Zaven Collins, and Jamin Davis could all have solid rookie seasons, but JOK has the most potential to be an impact player in coverage, in the run game, and as a pass rusher in the NFL.