Carolina Panthers Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: LVR, @TB, @LAC, ARI, @ATL, CHI, @NO, ATL, @KC, TB, DET, @MIN, BYE, DEN, @GB, @WAS, NO

Additions: OL Russell Okung (Trade), QB Teddy Bridgewater (FA), WR Robby Anderson (FA), EDGE Stephen Weatherly (FA), S Juston Burris (FA), OL John Miller (FA), WR Seth Roberts (FA), DL Zach Kerr (FA), LB Tahir Whitehead (FA), KR/PR Pharoh Cooper (FA), CB Eli Apple (FA), WR Keith Kirkwood (FA), DL Derrick Brown (Draft), EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos (Draft), S Jeremy Chinn (Draft), CB Troy Pride (Draft), DL Bravvion Roy (Draft)

Losses: LB Luke Kuechly (Retired), DL Wes Horton (Retired), QB Cam Newton (FA), CB James Bradberry (FA), EDGE Mario Addison (FA), DL Gerald McCoy (FA), DL Vernon Butler (FA), OL Greg Van Roten (FA), TE Greg Olsen (FA), EDGE Bruce Irvin (FA), OL Daryl Williams (FA), DL Kyle Love (FA), K Graham Gano (FA), OL Trai Turner (Trade), QB Kyle Allen (Trade), LB Andre Smith (Trade), EDGE Christian Miller (Opt-out), CB Eli Apple (Injury), WR Keith Kirkwood (Injury)

Analysis:

Sometimes, youth isn’t a good thing. Carolina may have promising young players on defense, but they’re going to get killed this year. Seriously, this could end up being the worst defense in football. That’s what happens when an already porous defense loses virtually all its veteran talent in one offseason.

Among a long list of names, none stands out more than Luke Kuechly. I don’t think we’ll truly appreciate the future Hall of Famer’s value until we see the Panthers defense without him. Famous for his defensive IQ and rigorous film study, Kuechly routinely called out plays and literally pushed his teammates to get set in the right spots. The drop off from him to Tahir Whitehead is almost unfathomable. It’s also worth monitoring whether Shaq Thompson is ready to be the top linebacker after years as a sidekick.

James Bradberry’s play wasn’t up to Kuechly’s level, but his departure could be similarly devastating. Without him, this secondary looks awful. Donte Jackson is way too inconsistent to be a CB1. Not to mention, he’s simply too small for certain matchups. That will leave the other projected starter, Troy Pride Jr., with more responsibility than the typical number two corner. Needless to say, having a fourth-round rookie guard Michael Thomas or Julio Jones is not ideal. Even when Eli Apple returns from IR, cornerback will remain a weakness. While the safeties are better, they’re still not great. Tre Boston’s tackling issues offset his coverage value and Juston Burris is unproven as a full-time starter.

From a cast of uninspiring options, the front four shines as the defensive group with the most promise. Not just by default, either; they could actually be pretty good. Derrick Brown is too big and fast to endure rookie struggles. He’ll also benefit from the return of Kawann Short. After missing almost all of last season, the two-time Pro Bowler will provide a big boost to the line.

On the edge, Brian Burns gets a lot of hype after posting 7.5 sacks in limited reps. His pass rushing was never in doubt, though. The question coming out was always whether he could develop into a three-down player. Rookie Yetur Gross-Matos and free agent signing Stephen Weatherly will rotate at the other end spot. Considering the supporting cast, this line will have to dominate for the defense to be anything other than awful. Unfortunately, I think they’re more good than great.

Unlike the defense, the offense is in good shape despite heavy turnover. Cam Newton leaving was only a formality at this point. We haven’t seen the real Super Cam is almost two years because of injuries. I’m not a big Teddy Bridgewater guy, but he’s undoubtedly a step up from last year’s quarterbacks. He also gets the benefit of some spectacular weapons around him.

Christian McCaffrey is the best running back in football. That’s right. No one else can match his dual-threat ability or production. Receivers D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson are up there for the best in football, too. I am worried about Bridgewater maximizing their skills, though. Each of those guys can fly, and the former Vikings and Saints quarterback has a bad history of conservative decision-making. Hopefully, he’ll recognize the team’s strengths and take more chances this year. In year one without Greg Olsen, the tight ends will be unspectacular, yet solid. Chris Manhertz is a supreme blocker at the position and Ian Thomas has flashed as a receiver.

Like most teams, this unit’s success will come down to the play of the offensive line. After an awful 2019, they have nowhere to go but up, right? Probably. That doesn’t mean they’ll be good, though. Guards Greg Van Roten and Trai Turner weren’t the problem last year, but they’re both gone. In return for the latter, Carolina received a solid left tackle in Russell Okung. With Taylor Moton on the right side, tackle play won’t be the issue. That would be the interior, where none of the options are inspiring. Center Matt Paradis was a tremendous disappointment in year one of a big contract. John Miller comes over from a terrible Cincinnati line to start at one guard spot while 2019 sixth-rounder Dennis Daley will take the other after a tumultuous rookie year.

Besides the lack of talent, another worry with this team is the coaching staff. Matt Rhule could end up being a great hire, but the longtime college coach will likely need time to transition to the pro game. The same could be said of the coordinators, who are just as inexperienced. I really wish Rhule would’ve hired an experienced DC instead of bringing along Phil Snow. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady is more promising. After spending years with Sean Payton and overseeing Joe Burrow’s record-breaking season at LSU, the 30-year-old could be the latest genius fast-tracked to a head coaching position. Still, there’s going to be a learning curve for him, too.

Honestly, five wins might have been a little generous. Everytime I see people call Carolina a sleeper team, I cringe. If everything goes right, maybe they can compete for a wildcard spot. I just don’t see how the defense and coaching inexperience allow that to happen, though. Throw in a tough schedule, and we have one of the favorites in the Tank for Trevor race.

What’s your record prediction for the Panthers? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Atlanta Falcons Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: SEA, @DAL, CHI, @GB, CAR, @MIN, DET, @CAR, DEN, BYE, @NO, LVR, NO, @LAC, TB, @KC, @TB

Additions: EDGE Dante Fowler (FA), RB Todd Gurley (FA), CB Darqueze Dennard (FA), TE Hayden Hurst (Trade), CB A.J. Terrell (Draft), OL Matt Hennessy (Draft)

Losses: TE Austin Hooper (FA), CB Desmond Trufant (FA), LB De’Vondre Campbell (FA), OL Wes Schweitzer (FA), EDGE Vic Beasley (FA), EDGE Adrian Clayborn (FA), DL Jack Crawford (FA)

Analysis:

After starting 1-7, the Falcons ended 2019 on a 6-2 tear. This team is a great case study for whether momentum carries over from season to season. As you can tell from the 7-9 prediction, I don’t think it does. A main reason is the coaching situation. Dan Quinn’s seat is scalding, so another slow start could be it for him. Implementing an interim coach is far more likely to lead to the team bottoming out than making a playoff push.

Last year was supposed to see the rebirth of Atlanta’s offensive line. That didn’t exactly happen, as Matt Ryan was once again left to run for his life. Jake Matthews and Alex Mack have left tackle and center, respectively, locked up. The problem lies at every other position, where the Falcons will start a rookie and two second-year players. Those young guys will have to learn fast for this line to make a drastic jump.

Heading into year 12, Ryan is still a great quarterback. He doesn’t win games single-handedly, but you could do far worse at the position. Julio Jones does win games by himself, at least as much as a receiver realistically can. He’s my top wideout in the league, and his teammate isn’t that far behind. A third-year pro, Calvin Ridley has been one of the top second options in the league from the day he entered it.

If defenses manage the unenviable task of shutting those two down, there’s no other receiver that will scare them in the slightest. Now, with Austin Hooper gone, that problem becomes even bigger. Hayden Hurst is intriguing, but he’s yet to prove he’s a TE1 in the NFL.

At running back, Todd Gurley has the opposite issue. He was a top running back in the league as recently as two years ago. A lot can change in two years, though. Crippling arthritis in his knee left Gurley virtually unrecognizable in 2019. His explosion has been completely zapped, and he’s little more than a solid back now. Unless the Falcons discover the cure to arthritis, that isn’t likely to change

Even with all those concerns, there’s no question Atlanta is a top-10 offense. The question is whether they’re good enough to make up for the defense. While the unit has stars in Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, and new signing Dante Fowler, they’re subpar as a whole.

Defending the pass was particularly challenging for the Falcons—mainly because opposing quarterbacks had all day to throw. Even with Fowler, the second-lowest sack total in 2019 isn’t likely to skyrocket. Not with Vic Beasley and his eight sacks out the door. Posting average numbers would be a win for the pass rush.

In their defense, the secondary is just as big of a problem. After a rough year, Isaiah Oliver returns at one outside corner spot while newcomer A.J. Terrell takes the other. Considering how much rookie corners usually struggle, it’s hard to see strong play from the position.

Behind them, Keanu Neal returns after playing just four games over the last two seasons. Expecting elite play from the oft-injured safety feels unrealistic. He won’t get much help from Ricardo Allen or Damontae Kazee, either, as each is coming off a forgettable season. The only bright spot in the secondary might be slot corner, where Darqueze Dennard will roam after many strong years with the Bengals. Still, between the lackluster pass rush and secondary, opponents could have a field day through the air.

After this largely negative preview, I feel the need to say Atlanta could definitely make the playoffs. Double-digit victories is doable if things go their way. However, sitting in the 6-9 range and competing for a wildcard spot feels far more likely for the Falcons.

What’s your record prediction for the Falcons? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Minnesota Vikings Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: GB, @IND, TEN, @HOU, @SEA, ATL, BYE, @GB, DET, @CHI, DAL, CAR, JAX, @TB, CHI, @NO, @DET

Additions: EDGE Yannick Ngakoue (Trade), DL Michael Pierce (FA), WR Justin Jefferson (Draft), CB Jeff Gladney (Draft), CB Cam Dantzler (Draft)

Losses: WR Stefon Diggs (Trade), DL Linval Joseph (FA), CB Trae Waynes (FA), EDGE Everson Griffen (FA), EDGE Stephen Weatherly (FA), CB Mackensie Alexander (FA), S Andrew Sendejo (FA), S Jayron Kearse (FA), CB Xavier Rhodes (Cut), DL Michael Pierce (Opt-out)

Analysis:

As you can see, Minnesota lost a lot more talent than it gained this offseason. Their big addition, nose tackle Michael Pierce, opting out didn’t help matters. Trading for Yannick Ngakoue did, though.

Finally freed from Jacksonville, Ngakoue will have to fight fellow edge rusher Danielle Hunter for sacks. With the former Jaguar replacing Everson Griffen, Minnesota will sacrifice a little run defense for a higher pass rush ceiling.

That drop off against the run could come back to bite them. Linval Joseph left in free agency and his replacement opted out, so nose tackle is a big worry for the team. Veteran Shamar Stephen is expected to take over that role despite primarily serving as a 3-tech in his career. Not only is their new 1-tech playing out of position, but they just pushed the problem down the line. Now, the issue is finding a replacement defensive tackle. Outside of Stephens, this is a really uninspiring group. And considering they were a middling unit against the run last year, opposing backs could feast against the Vikings in 2020.

Minnesota’s stacked linebackers will do their best to keep that from happening. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are a top-of-the-line duo. So are safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith. The Vikings have so much star power on defense, but the drop off from the studs to the others is huge.

Just like the run defense, cornerback play could be a major issue. After losing their top three corners this offseason, Minnesota is banking entirely on potential. The projected starters, Holton Hill and Mike Hughes, have a combined nine career starts. To make matters worse, the primary backups are rookies. Obviously, Mike Zimmer believes in these young guys or they wouldn’t be here, but there’s a strong crash-and-burn chance with this experiment.

Contrary to the gutted defense, the offense only lost one key contributor. He was pretty damn important, though. Stefon Diggs may have passively-aggressively begged to be traded, but the talented wideout will be sorely missed. Minnesota will need a return to form from Adam Thielen, who was hurt for most of 2019. Even if he does, no one on this team will come close to replicating the Diggs-Thielen duo or even the new-Bill’s connection with Kirk Cousins. The best options are 2019 seventh-rounder Bisi Johnson and rookie Justin Jefferson.

Actually, the best candidate may lie at tight end. Second-year man Irv Smith Jr. is the prototypical new-age tight end who’s almost more of a receiver. Minnesota could continue to use Kyle Rudolph as the standard in-line blocker and red-zone target while moving Smith all over the field.

Hopefully Kirk Cousins proved himself to everyone last year. He’s not elite, but, in the right offense, he can be great. Dalvin Cook, on the other hand, is elite. Few, if any, backs can hit a hole as fast and hard as he does. With a solid run-blocking unit in front of him, he’s poised for another go at the rushing crown. While the offensive line is good in space, they were downright awful at times in pass protection. If any defense bottles up Cook, the Vikings aren’t likely to walk away with a win.

Minnesota is one of the most interesting teams in the league. They have a proven coach and stars scattered all over the depth chart, but winning even nine games could prove difficult. That’s what happens when you have so many large contracts—the rest of the roster suffers. The Vikings will dominate some weeks and get dominated others. It’s a matchup league, and this team is as matchup-prone as any. I think they win just enough of those matchups to return to the playoffs.

What’s your record prediction for the Vikings? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Green Bay Packers Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: @MIN, DET, @NO, ATL, BYE, @TB, @HOU, MIN, @SF, JAX, @IND, CHI, PHI, @DET, CAR, TEN, @CHI

Additions: LB Christian Kirksey (FA), OL Ricky Wagner (FA), WR Devin Funchess (FA), TE/FB Josiah Deguara (Draft), LB Kamal Martin (Draft)

Losses: LB Blake Martinez (FA), OL Bryan Bulaga (FA), TE Jimmy Graham (FA), EDGE Kyler Fackrell (FA), LB B.J. Goodson (FA), WR Geronimo Allison (FA), WR Devin Funchess (Opt-out), LB Kamal Martin (Injury)

Analysis:

I like how we all seem to agree the Packers won’t repeat their 13-3 season. Usually, there’s a lot of push back towards predicting significant regression from one of the top reigning teams in the league, but everyone outside of Wisconsin seems to be unified.

While Green Bay won 13 games, they were only 3-2 against playoff teams—with the wins coming against the Vikings (twice) and Patrick Mahomes-less Chiefs—and often struggled against non-playoff foes. In the postseason, they squeaked past a shell of a Seattle team before getting run over by San Francisco. After overperforming so much last year, 9-11 wins feels appropriate.

Just because the Packers will be worse doesn’t mean they’re bad, though. Few triplets are as imposing as Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams. Green Bay’s draft may have sent some mixed signals, but don’t be mistaken: Rodgers is still a great quarterback and Jones is as explosive as they come. Drafting receivers is apparently illegal in Wisconsin, so Adams doesn’t face the same breathing down his neck. His concerns are all injury-related. After missing four games in 2019, the 27-year-old should have a bounce back season given better health.

What’s scary is everything behind Adams. Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown look a lot better on paper on the field. And the only reason they look good on paper is because their names are so awesome. There’s a long-standing trend of overrating Green Bay receivers because of Rodgers’ greatness and the amount of media coverage the team gets.

Tight end is just as sketchy. Third-year pro Robert Tonyan is the favorite to start. With just 177 career yards, he’s purely a projection at this point. Green Bay also invested third-round picks on the position in back-to-back years. Both Jace Sternberger and rookie Josiah Deguara should see snaps as well. Deguara, especially, will see time at a variety of positions. For as hard as Jimmy Graham has fallen off, losing him left this position barren.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari guarantees the Packers will have at least a solid offensive line every year. Few quarterbacks worry less about their blindside than Rodgers. At the other tackle spot, someone other than Bryan Bulaga will start for the first time in a decade. Who, exactly, is still unclear, with multiple candidates currently banged-up. No matter who’s at right tackle, this group’s floor is probably average play while the ceiling is top-5 status. For as frustrating as Green Bay can be with acquiring offensive weapons, they sure know how to build a line.

GM Brian Gutekunst spent a lot of money last year to improve the defense, seeing mixed results. Somehow not related, Za’Darius and Preston Smith transformed the pass rush. Stopping the run, on the other hand, was a huge problem. While the defensive line features the highest-paid nose tackle in the league, this was the team’s biggest issue. Outside of Kenny Clark, everyone gets moved off their spots way too easily.

Another contributing factor was the underwhelming linebacker play, and that’s poised to repeat as an issue. Swapping Blake Martinez for Christian Kirksey doesn’t move the needle much, if at all. Like the front seven, the secondary is also a mixed bag. They flash lockdown potential, but rarely sustain that for long.

This Packers team is very similar to the 2019 iteration. Only this year, their record should more accurately reflect their ability. Assuming a return to the playoffs, Green Bay would be just as (non?)threatening as it was last season despite the worse record. Given the favorable division and schedule, there’s a good chance they make it back.

What’s your record prediction for the Packers? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Detroit Lions Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: CHI, @GB, @ARI, NO, BYE, @JAX, @ATL, IND, @MIN, WAS, @CAR, HOU, @CHI, GB, @TEN, TB, MIN

Additions: S Duron Harmon (Trade), OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai (FA), LB Jamie Collins (FA), CB Desmond Trufant (FA), DL Nick Williams (FA), DL Danny Shelton (FA), LB Reggie Ragland (FA), WR Geronimo Allison (FA), CB Jeff Okudah (Draft), RB D’Andre Swift (Draft)

Losses: CB Darius Slay (Trade), OL Graham Glasgow (FA), EDGE Devon Kennard (FA), DL A’Shawn Robinson (FA), OL Ricky Wagner (FA), P Sam Martin (FA), TE Logan Thomas (FA), RB J.D. McKissic (FA), CB Rashaan Melvin (FA), DL Mike Daniels (FA), S Tavon Wilson (FA), DL John Atkins (Opt-out), WR Geronimo Allison (Opt-out)

Analysis:

Matt Patricia should be fired. Let me just get that out of the way. Matt Stafford is the only reason I have the Lions winning six games. I have little-to-no faith in the rest of the roster and coaching staff.

Stafford has a proven track record of putting the team on his back, though. Prior to Patricia’s tenure, the Lions had back-to-back 9-7 seasons, so 6-10 certainly isn’t out of the question. Plus, they were 3-4-1 last year before 9’s injury. Of course, they didn’t win a game without him, so this team will only go as far as its quarterback goes.

Stafford isn’t the only reason the passing game excels. Receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are a great outside duo while Danny Amendola is a solid option in the slot. Jones is good for a couple monster games a year and Golladay is good now with an even brighter future ahead. Rookie tight ends never do much, so there’s no reason to sour on T.J. Hockenson’s potential. The 23-year-old could be in for a second-year breakout. D’Andre Swift is a nice option out of the backfield as well. With the signing of Adrian Peterson, the rookie isn’t likely to get many carries, though.

Kerryon Johnson will get in the mix as well, so this is pretty much the definition of a running back by committee. The offensive line ahead of them has a good foundation, but they’re down two starters from last year. Both new guys are on the right side, too, so this unit could end up being pretty lopsided. Rookie third-rounder Jonah Jackson is the starting guard while longtime Eagles reserve Halapoulivaati Vaitai will line up at tackle. There’s both risk and potential here.

The defense features much more of the former than the latter, as Patricia and GM Bob Quinn are still devoted to acquiring every ex-Patriot possible. It hasn’t worked out great so far, but you have to respect the commitment. This year’s batch isn’t likely to flip the script. The crown jewel of the bunch, linebacker Jamie Collins, bombed the first time he left New England while Danny Shelton and Duron Harmon are hardly team-changing additions.

Besides their lingering Patriot fandom, Detroit made a concerted effort to get better across the board. They beefed up the interior defensive line, added a couple intriguing LBs, and completely overhauled the secondary.

With that being said, it’s hard to see this being a great unit. Even average might be a stretch. For as great as Trey Flowers is, you won’t get very far with him as your best defensive player. And while the defensive line looks solid, the linebackers are worrisome. The secondary could be a weakness as well, with the Lions relying on a rookie and aging veteran at corner. Jeff Okudah locking up top receivers from day one is a tough sell. Same goes for a major career revival for Desmond Trufant.

As per usual, Detroit is going to have to dominate through the air to be competitive. While he’s certainly capable of that, Stafford’s health is worth monitoring. Back injuries are no joke, and his was bad enough that he had to be placed on IR. Lingering problems are a definite possibility. If the issues persist, the Lions will bottom out again. That should mean the end of the Patricia era with an outside chance of Stafford joining him. Sometimes teams just feel they need to make a change, whether it’s warranted or not. To end on a more positive note, this team could snag a wildcard spot if everything clicks. Even a playoff win is a possibility.

What’s your record prediction for the Lions? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Chicago Bears Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: @DET, NYG, @ATL, IND, TB, @CAR, @LAR, NO, @TEN, MIN, BYE, @GB, DET, HOU, @MIN, @JAX, GB

Additions: QB Nick Foles (Trade), EDGE Robert Quinn (FA), TE Jimmy Graham (FA), OL Germain Ifedi (FA), CB Artie Burns (FA), TE Cole Kmet (Draft), CB Jaylon Johnson (Draft)

Losses: OL Kyle Long (Retired), LB Nick Kwiatkowski (FA), QB Chase Daniel (FA), EDGE Leonard Floyd (FA), DL Nick Williams (FA), OL Cornelius Lucas (FA), S HaHa Clinton-Dix (FA), DL Eddie Goldman (Opt-out), CB Artie Burns (Injury)

Analysis:

Is there a more fun quarterback situation than Chicago’s? Sure, they’re not very good, but Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky are at least going to make us laugh. You’ve got the most improbable Super Bowl winner and greatest tweeter of all time on the same team. From an entertainment standpoint, that’s tough to beat.

On the field, not so much. While Trubisky is the week one starter, expect a flip-flopping on the level of the 2018 Bucs. Unless the Bears somehow make it to January and we get to see playoff BDN, quarterback play is going to hold this team back. Well, offensive play in general, actually. Outside of Allen Robinson, the offense sucks.

You have to feel bad for Robinson. He’s gone from Blake Bortles to Trubisky/Chase Daniel to Trubisky/Foles throwing him the ball. It doesn’t get much worse than that, yet he still produces.

The rest of the receiving corps doesn’t make it look as easy. At this point in his career, Ted Ginn runs fast, and that’s about it. Anthony Miller lacks consistency. While Ryan Pace worked hard to acquire 47 tight ends, none of them are that great. Rookie Cole Kmet has a bright future ahead of him, and Jimmy Graham had a bright one behind him. Together, they should offer decent, unspectacular tight end play.

Running back David Montgomery was hyped up all offseason before flopping last season. His current groin injury doesn’t bode well for a breakout year. Neither does the poor offensive line. With Germain Ifedi the only new starter, substantial improvement from the unit is a long shot.

Luckily, Chicago has an offensive genius who can maximize the little talent they do have. Oh wait, they don’t. I didn’t think Matt Nagy deserved the COTY award in 2018 and last year showed why. That team was great because of Vic Fangio and the defense, not Nagy or his offense. While I think he’s a solid coach overall, Andy Reid’s disciple isn’t in the play-calling stratosphere of Big Red.

Offensive ineptitude sunk the Bears last year, but the defense taking a step back didn’t help, either. Was it really regression, or just the result of the offense consistently putting them in awful spots? I’d say more the former than the latter, as Chicago’s defense was unsustainably great in 2018. Along with the league-lead in takeaways (36), they scored an insane 6 touchdowns. Unsurprisingly, they came back to earth last year, finishing with just 19 takeaways and 1 touchdown. As a result, Chicago went from a +12 turnover differential to 0 in 2019. That played as big a role in the four-win drop as anything the offense did.

Besides the fluky drop off in takeaways, Chuck Pagano did an admirable job filling in for Fangio. With the talent he has, the defense could be in for a bounce back. Robert Quinn is a great complement to Khalil Mack on the edge. His arrival, along with a return to form from Mack and lineman Akiem Hicks (only healthy for five games), could vault the pass rush back to the top of league rankings. Besides those two stars, most of the key contributors from the 2018 unit remain on the team.

Outside of minor worries like a rookie possibly starting at corner, Chicago’s only weakness could be stopping the run. Eddie Goldman opting out was huge. One of the better nose tackles in the league, he’s clogged the middle of the Bears defense for years. If that doesn’t sound like a huge deal, consider this: the best way to neutralize a pass rush is to run the ball down their throats. Goldman’s loss could be felt all across the defense.

Chicago’s defense needs to be almost perfect to make up for the offense, so that could give opponents just enough of an edge. The defense being dominant all game only to have a couple plays decide a 20-17 win or 24-20 loss is a theme I expect all season.

However, if the offense can scrape together enough decent drives, Chicago could ride a pretty easy schedule to the postseason. This team finished 8-8 last year, so a return to the playoffs really isn’t that far-fetched. I just think the offense is going to be a huge burden once again, and the slight defensive weaknesses will keep them from carrying the team. If I’m right, watch out for Nagy getting canned.

What’s your record prediction for the Bears? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Washington Football Team Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: PHI, @ARI, @CLE, BAL, LAR, @NYG, DAL, BYE, NYG, @DET, CIN, @DAL, @PIT, @SF, SEA, CAR, @PHI

Additions: CB Kendall Fuller (FA), CB Ronald Darby (FA), RB Peyton Barber (FA), TE Logan Thomas (FA), RB J.D. McKissic (FA), LB Thomas Davis (FA), OL Wes Schweitzer (FA), WR Dontrelle Inman (FA), EDGE Chase Young (Draft), RB Antonio Gibson (Draft)

Losses: OL Ereck Flowers (FA), QB Case Keenum (FA), RB Chris Thompson (FA), CB Quinton Dunbar (Trade), RB Adrian Peterson (Cut), WR Kelvin Harmon (Injury), LB Reuben Foster (Injury)

Analysis:

What a stupid, stupid name. It doesn’t even feel like I’m talking about a real team. Here’s to hoping I don’t slip up and use the old name.

With that being said, there’s still a lot to like about Washington. For starters, how can you not be happy Alex Smith is back? Even if he never plays, it’s great just to see him healthy again.

As a whole, I really like this team. You don’t know how tempted I was to pick them for double-digit wins. But, just as I did last year with the 49ers, I chickened out. Yeah, the same Niners who went 13-3 and were a fourth-quarter collapse from winning the Super Bowl. After hyping them up as a sleeper all offseason, I cowardly predicted a 7-9 record.

The main reason for my belief in San Francisco was an unbelievable pass rush on paper that ended up being even better on the field. Washington’s group has that kind of special potential. Chase Young, the annual “generational” edge rusher in the draft, will headline a rotation featuring 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat and the underrated Ryan Kerrigan. On the inside, Washington is just as stacked, with Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, and Tim Settle all poised for sizable roles. If you don’t know all those names now, you will by year’s end. This front is capable of winning games single-handedly and should announce itself before long.

An elite pass rush makes life way easier for the rest of the defense. Resilient and ageless, Thomas Davis is reunited with his old Panthers coach. Along with Jon Bostic and Kevin Pierre-Louis, he should provide serviceable play for the Football Team. While the linebackers don’t have the highest ceiling, the secondary is intriguing. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Fabian Moreau have solid potential on the outside. The return of Kendall Fuller gives DC Jack Del Rio a versatile piece who can be used all over the field when he’s not manning the slot. Landon Collins disappointed in the first year of his huge contract, but he could return to form with more talent around him. Starting at the other safety spot, Troy Apke is really fast for a white guy.

The defense is brimming with potential, but the offense is what keeps me from going all-in on Washington. Most importantly, there’s no Kyle Shanahan. That guy could make anyone look like a Pro Bowler. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner might give a passable Shanahan impression, though. There was definitely some nepotism to get him there, but Turner served on some Carolina offenses full of interesting wrinkles.

His quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, didn’t have the best rookie year. On the bright side, he seemed to get better every week. He was a first-rounder for a reason, so 2020 could bring out the pinpoint passer we saw at Ohio State. If Haskins struggles again, that’ll open the door for Smith to see his first playing time in two years.

No matter who’s at quarterback, his support will be underwhelming. After releasing Adrian Peterson, Washington is putting all their eggs in receiver-turned-running back Antonio Gibson’s basket. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. Having so much faith in a third-round rookie is certainly risky, though.

At receiver, Terry McLaurin displayed the same chemistry he had with Haskins in college as a rookie. While Scary Terry has star potential, the group behind him is terrible. Haskins will have to rely a lot on Gibson and tight ends Jeremy Sprinkle and Logan Thomas. Washington seems to love the TE duo, but it’s hard to find a less inspiring group of weapons in the league.

Playing on the franchise tag, Brandon Scherff is one of the better guards in the league. With him, great play at right guard is a lock. Center and right tackle look solid as well, with returning starters at both. The left side of line is where it gets scary. Geron Christian Sr. and Wes Martin won the battles at tackle and guard, respectively. If Haskins gets dropped instantly, there’s a good chance one of those two was at fault. They do have potential, though, and Washington’s offensive line could return to being a quiet strength of the team, as it’s been for years.

As far as 6-10 teams go, this was probably the most positive breakdown you’ll see. That’s because I really believe in the potential of this team, especially with two-time Coach of the Year Ron Rivera taking over. There’s just way too much uncertainty for me to go out on a limb here. Defensive line is the only surefire unit on the team. Questions surround every other group. Even Riverboat Ron comes with risk. Besides the fact that he just got fired, his health situation could force him to step down midseason. Even having said all that, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if Washington wins its weak division.

What’s your record prediction for the Football Team? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

New York Giants Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: PIT, @CHI, SF, @LAR, @DAL, WAS, @PHI, TB, @WAS, PHI, BYE, @CIN, @SEA, ARI, CLE, @BAL, DAL

Additions: CB James Bradberry (FA), LB Blake Martinez (FA), TE Levine Toilolo (FA), DB Logan Ryan (FA), EDGE Kyler Fackrell (FA), OL Cameron Fleming (FA), (FA), DL Austin Johnson (FA), K Graham Gano (FA), LS Casey Kreiter (FA), CB Isaac Yiadom (Trade), OL Andrew Thomas (Draft), S Xavier McKinney (Draft), OL Matt Peart (Draft)

Losses: OL Nate Solder (Opt-out), CB Sam Beal (Opt-out), OL Mike Remmers (FA), S Michael Thomas (FA), S Xavier McKinney (Injury), LB David Mayo (Injury)

Analysis:

Is Joe Judge Matt Patricia 2.0? He seems to be taking the same Belichick-esque approach as his fellow disciple. Modeling your style after the leader of the greatest dynasty in pro sports history has to be smart, right? Well, not exactly. For a six-time champion, it works great. For a first-year coach, not so much. Lions players quickly grew tired of their authoritarian coach during his 6-10 debut season. Now, his job is on life support. Six wins is a good ballpark estimate for the Giants, so Judge could be headed down the same dark path.

While the head coach makes his bold transition, New York’s new offensive coordinator should have a much easier time. Leading a team proved not to be his thing, but Jason Garrett has a good track record as an OC. He deserves some credit for Dallas’ number one offense in 2019. There are some exciting pieces for him to work with, too.

After being a much-maligned pick, Daniel Jones changed a lot of opinions last year, including mine. He had the typical promising rookie season, alternating between inexcusable turnovers and huge plays. A huge year in 2020 could be in order given all the talent around him. In the backfield, Saquon Barkley is one of the best in the game. After battling injuries for most of last season, he could deliver the special season many expected last time around.

For targets, Jones has no shortage of options. There’s no Odell Beckham-level player, but the Giants are loaded with good WR2s. Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton are likely to frustrate fantasy owners with weekly rotations of top receiver performances. Evan Engram will get in the mix, too. Despite his tight end listing, the 2017 first-round pick is essentially a big receiver.

Offensive line play is the one thing holding this unit back from elite status. Opt-out Nate Solder hasn’t come close to living up to his contract, but he’ll be sorely missed nonetheless. His replacement, Andrew Thomas, was the most pro-ready tackle in the draft and should enjoy an easier transition than most of his peers. Still, putting too much faith in a rookie is a dangerous game. Outside of right guard Kevin Zeitler, the rest of the offensive line is scary. If this group is just average, New York has the firepower to make a little noise this year. Even adequate play feels ambitious, though.

Defensively, the three-man front of Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Leonard Williams should be dominant. Last year, they were merely good. For this defense to stop anyone, they’re going to have to be special in 2020. I still have faith.

They won’t get much support from an edge group led by Markus Golden. While the former Cardinal had double-digit sacks last year, he had so little free agent interest that the Giants were able to bust out a fun loophole to keep him for nothing. He must’ve done something to become such a league-wide pariah. Despite showing him no love, New York needs a repeat performance to compensate for the weak pass rush around him.

Blake Martinez is not going to fix the linebacker position. Being a “tackling machine” isn’t nearly as important as being a good coverage guy in today’s NFL. Martinez is great at first and not so much at the latter. Opposing running backs and tight ends should eat against this weak group.

The Giants’ recent flurry of moves should tell you all you need to know about the state of the secondary. With Sam Beal opting out and DeAndre Baker being a really, really sore loser, the corner spot opposite James Bradberry is a major worry. Recent signee Logan Ryan will split time between safety and corner, so Big Blue still needs an every-down option. With nothing special around them, Bradberry and Ryan aren’t enough to keep this unit afloat. I don’t think highly of the defense, and the secondary is a big reason why.

Expect a lot of shootouts for New York this year. Also, expect them to come out on the losing end most of the time. The offense will have too many sacks and turnovers while the defense is just plain bad. Throw in potential locker room issues, and you have the recipe for a poor record. The schedule isn’t doing them any favors, either.

What’s your record prediction for the Giants? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Philadelphia Eagles Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: @WAS, LAR, CIN, @SF, @PIT, BAL, NYG, DAL, BYE, @NYG, @CLE, SEA, @GB, NO, @ARI, @DAL, WAS

Additions: CB Darius Slay (Trade), WR Marquise Goodwin (Trade), DL Javon Hargrave (FA), S Will Parks (FA), CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (FA), WR Jalen Reagor (Draft), QB Jalen Hurts (Draft)

Losses: OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai (FA), S Malcolm Jenkins (FA), RB Jordan Howard (FA), CB Ronald Darby (FA), LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (FA), DL Timmy Jernigan (FA), WR Nelson Agholor (FA), WR Marquise Goodwin (Opt-out), OL Brandon Brooks (Injury), OL Andre Dillard (Injury), WR Alshon Jeffery (Injury), S Will Parks (Injury)

Analysis:

Well, this won’t be the year the Eagles break their injury curse. The season hasn’t even started yet and two starters are already out for the year. Not only were they starters, but Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard were two of the most important players on the roster. Brooks is one of the best guards in the league and Dillard was slated to replace Jason Peters at left tackle.

Well, the franchise icon is reportedly staying at guard, so the Eagles are essentially screwed. Even if they pay up and convince Peters to return to left tackle, this offensive line is still likely to be a mess. Given the injury history of a guy like Lane Johnson, there’s a good chance they’ll be starting three intended backups at some point this season. Heading into the season, this group was supposed to be elite once again. Now, it’s a major worry and could cost the team a couple wins.

Another consequence, Carson Wentz’ chance of injury probably just doubled. He’s not a guy you can risk shoddy protection with. For him to carry a group of no-name receivers like he did last year, he at least needs a little time in the pocket. Speaking of the receivers, they can’t possibly be any worse than last year, but it’s still not a good group. Rookie Jalen Reagor is already injured. Alshon Jeffery still isn’t back. Who knows how long Desean Jackson will stay healthy. Stud tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will once again have to make up for the bad receivers.

Unsurprisingly for this team, running back Miles Sanders is also banged up. Unlike some of the other guys, though, he’s expected to be ready for Week 1. He’s another player I’m really excited to watch this year. Barring an unexpected move, the Penn State product is due for a huge workload after showing promise as a rookie.

If there’s anything synonymous with the Eagles other than injuries, it’s investing in the defensive line. Every year, they seem to use their last $7 in cap space on a big name at defensive tackle or end. This time around, it was big nose tackle Javon Hargrave switching Pennsylvania teams. He’ll open up space for Fletcher Cox and last year’s surprising signing Malik Jackson. It’s another good rotation on the edge, especially if 2020 is a breakout year for Derek Barnett. I’d say there’s a decent chance, and that would bring this defensive line to the forefront of league-wide rankings.

For as good as they are, the linebackers are almost equally as bad, so as a whole, the front seven isn’t much above average. Entering year four, Nathan Gerry is fresh off his first year as a starter and the centerpiece of the unit going forward. That’s not good. Besides the inexperience, he didn’t play all that well last year. No one around him screams difference-maker, either. Philadelphia chose to bank on potential here. If it fails, that’s the type of blunder that could sink the not only the defense, but the team’s playoff chances.

For years, it was the secondary Howie Roseman refused to invest in. Matt Patricia pissing off his entire locker room changed that. Darius Slay wanted out of Detroit, and the Eagles GM pounced. This group, largely full of holdovers, looks a lot more imposing with a lockdown corner on its side. Free agent acquisition Nickell Robey-Coleman will do a great job in the slot as well. The three returning starters—with Jalen Mills now at safety (and hopefully safe from double moves)—aren’t great, but they aren’t crippling, either.

The offensive line injuries cannot be overstated. Philadelphia’s recent success was due to the offensive line as much as any other unit. Not only are they due for a major drop off, but Wentz’ already high risk of injury is now an even bigger concern. If he goes down, they’re done. Not even wannabe Taysom Hill can save them. Even if Ginger Jesus somehow stays upright, they’ll be hard pressed to win more than seven games with this brutal out-of-division schedule.

What’s your record prediction for the Eagles? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Dallas Cowboys Season Prediction

Overview:

Schedule: @LAR, ATL, @SEA, CLE, NYG, ARI, @WAS, @PHI, PIT, BYE, @MIN, WAS, @BAL, @CIN, SF, PHI, @NYG

Additions: EDGE Everson Griffen (FA), S HaHa Clinton-Dix (FA), DL Gerald McCoy (FA), DB Daryl Worley (FA), OL Cam Erving (FA), K Greg Zuerlein (FA), TE Blake Bell (FA), DL Dontari Poe (FA), WR CeeDee Lamb (Draft), CB Trevon Diggs (Draft), DL Neville Gallimore (Draft)

Losses: OL Travis Frederick (Retired), DL Michael Bennett (Retired), CB Byron Jones (FA), EDGE Robert Quinn (FA), DL Maliek Collins (FA), WR Randall Cobb (FA), OL Xavier Su’a-Filo (FA), S Jeff Heath (FA), TE Jason Witten (FA), OL Cameron Fleming (FA), EDGE Kerry Hyder (FA), FB Jamize Olawale (Opt-out), DL Gerald McCoy (Injury)

Analysis:

Maybe hiring Mike McCarthy will unlock a Super Bowl contender. Maybe Jason Garrett really was holding the Cowboys back from greatness. Maybe not, though. If Dallas flops again, they’re going to have to find a new scapegoat. For a team boasting one of the highest-paid players at seemingly every position, there will be plenty of candidates.

At the top of that list is Dak Prescott. Contrary to popular belief, I actually think he’s a good quarterback. Everyone just loves to hate the Cowboys and put all the blame on the quarterback. It really is a perfect storm of vilifying. Despite his public perception, Prescott is one of the premier playmakers at the position and far from the only on the offense.

Ezekiel Elliott just keeps feasting and begging to be fed behind one of the top offensive lines in the league. Even with Travis Frederick retiring, this is still a great line. Tony Pollard is an excellent change-of-pace back as well, so all signs point to the Cowboys’ years-long dominance on the ground continuing.

Dallas is far from a one-dimensional offense, though. The fifth-ranked rushing attack was fortified by the league’s second-best passing game. Drafting CeeDee Lamb more than makes up for the uninspiring options at tight end. Good luck finding a better receiver trio than Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup. Defenses are going to have to pick their poison once again next year.

Contrary to what their record would suggest, the Cowboys’ potent offense wasn’t paired with a porous defense. Nope. The defense wasn’t up to the offense’s level, but they more than held their own.

Linebacker is the crown jewel of a unit full of talent. Sean Lee would be start at linebacker for any team in the league. Except Dallas. Well, kind of. While Lee technically starts, playing time was hard to come by for the 11-year vet when Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were healthy. In fact, there’s even murmurs that Lee could be a surprise roster cut this Saturday.

Everson Griffen was unsigned until mid-August, but that’s no knock on his talent. Dallas was lucky to get him for just a $3 million base contract. His presence could reinvigorate DeMarcus Lawrence after the star’s down year.

Those two studs are going to have to make up for the uncertainty on the interior. Maliek Collins left for the Raiders and Gerald McCoy was lost for the season before he even played a down. That leaves the unspectacular Antwaun Woods, newcomer Dontari Poe, Tyrone Crawford (fresh off surgery on both hips), and youngsters Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore at defensive tackle. There’s teams in the league who would kill for this rotation, but for a team with hopes of a deep playoff run, it’s less than ideal.

The secondary is a similar story. Outside corner is a bit of a weakness with Byron Jones departing. Someone needs to step up opposite Chidobe Awuzie. Whether it’s Darryl Worley or rookie Trevon Diggs, they’ll have big shoes to fill. On the inside, Dallas is has two good options in Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. Some of these corners will need to take reps at safety, too. There’s likely going to be a piecemeal approach to filling the spot next to Xavier Woods.

Dallas’ mediocre record wasn’t because of the offense or defense. It can only be explained by a remarkable ability to blow games. Whether it was missed kicks, untimely turnovers, or the failure to get a stop, they just found ways to lose. That’s not a habit I see breaking in 2020. Given the tough schedule, I only have the Garrett-McCarthy swap resulting in one extra win.

What’s your record prediction for the Cowboys? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.