The 2021 NFL Season Is Here
The start of the 2021 NFL season is staring us in the face. People across America are itching with excitement at the thought of full stadiums, chicken wings, BBQ, and beer. Trust me, I am one of them!
Obviously, the fans are excited to watch their favorite teams, play fantasy football, and cash in on huge parlays. The players/coaches/team executives, on the other hand, have one goal in mind: win the Super Bowl. It is the ultimate prize and the first step is making the playoffs. You are about to learn which teams are poised to claim their respective thrones as division winners and punch their tickets to the 2021 playoffs.
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AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
The Northern division of the AFC is arguably the most stacked in the entire league, and definitely the most talented top-to-bottom division in the AFC. This division saw three teams finish with 10+ wins in 2020. It also sent those three teams to the playoffs in a 16 game season. My pick to take this division is the Baltimore Ravens.
This is going to be another tight race, and this year, it will be the Cleveland Browns battling the Ravens for the crown. Big Ben is 38, TJ Watt may not play, and the offensive line is retooled and inexperienced. As for the Bengals, Joe Burrow is entering his sophomore season (coming off of an ACL injury) and Zac Taylor may not make it to Week 8. The Ravens are going to have to rely on the legs and deep passing abilities of Lamar Jackson to overcome the Browns this year. The Ravens’ All-Pro LT is healthy, the defense is solid as ever, and the WR situation is improved. Sorry Cleveland, but Lamar and the Ravens are taking this one.
AFC East: Buffalo Bills
The Patriots spent more money in free agency than any other year of the Belichick era. However, they are rolling in with a rookie QB for the first time since Jacoby Brissett. The Jets are going to do what they do best: lose. That brings us to the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins are bringing back a sophomore QB (where slumps are known to happen), Tua Tagovailoa. They have a solid defense, but their offense is largely unproven. Gesicki still hasn’t broken out, Will Fuller is suspended and injury-prone, and the OL are underwhelming. The Bills, on the other hand, are bringing back MVP runner-up, Josh Allen, and the same cast that got them to the AFC Championship game in 2020. The East belongs to #BillsMafia.
AFC South: Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans are poised to make a strong run at a weak AFC South led by Julio Jones, Ryan Tannehill, AJ Brown, and the king himself, Derrick Henry. After a 2019 AFC Championship game appearance, and Henry’s 2,000+ yard season last year, the Titans are entering year three with their core players. The rest of the division cannot cut it.
The Texans’ best player is in limbo, we won’t even go down that rabbit hole. The Colts are dealing with injuries early on, including their QB, Carson Wentz. The Jaguars are in full-on rebuild mode starting with a rookie NFL head coach and a rookie QB. This is the Titans’ division for the foreseeable future.
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have won the AFC West for five straight seasons and that streak does not appear to be in danger. The defending AFC champions will reclaim what has been theirs since 2016. The rest of the teams in the division are not ready.
The Raiders had to release most of their top talent this offseason due to money issues. Their replacements remind me of an old Keanu Reeves movie, minus Shane Falco. The Broncos have settled with Bridgewater as their QB over the struggling Lock, but neither was going to lead the team past the Chiefs.
The Chargers are the only real threat, but this is the same song and dance we see every year. Chargers projected to win, they lose the big games in close affairs, they finish with six to eight wins; wash, rinse, repeat. Chiefs’ Kingdom gets their sixth straight.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers
If you asked me, “Dan, who will win the NFC North this year?” back in May, I would have been singing a different tune. But Aaron Rodgers is back! The Green Bay Packers are looking for their third NFC Championship game appearance in a row, but to get there, they will need to claim the division first.
The Lions are looking like the 0-16 version we saw a few years ago. The Vikings tout a solid tandem of wide receivers, but their defense will not pack enough of a punch to stop the reigning league MVP. As for Chicago, it is the offense that comes with question marks, like who will start Week 2? The Pack locks it up in the NFC North for the third straight season.
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
We made it to last year’s worst division in football, the NFC (L)East. Even Vegas has no idea how to call this one. All four teams have positive odds and range from +150 (Cowboys) to +450 (Eagles). The smallest gap between the teams with the highest and lowest odds of any respective division.
In this case, I am going with “America’s Team”, the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles are playing under a first-year head coach and have not added the talent necessary to compete for a playoff spot, let alone the division. Washington is bringing a solid defense and some Fitzmagic to the party. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick is not known for ball security and has never been the guy to lead the big comeback.
Now it is down to Prescott and Danny Dimes. If you look at both of these teams, they both have fantastic receivers, a top-tier running back, and a middle-of-the-pack defense. So the Qb is the real difference-maker for these teams. Prescott throws for 5,000yds, ad Danny Dimes trips at the end of 80-yd runs. Dak and the Cowboys will claim the East.
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NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFC South, home to the defending Super Bowl champion, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Go ahead and lock them in for a division title. The NFC South saw two teams change QBs (Panthers & Saints), and another team trade away their best player.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought back 22 out of 22 starters from last year’s championship roster. Including a top 10 defense, three former All-Pro wide receivers, and the greatest NFL player of all time, Tom Brady. Brady & Co. will take this one.
NFC West: Los Angeles Rams
Finally, the best division in all of football, the NFC West. This one has to be the toughest to call, no doubt about it. Holing down Seattle is the Seahawks with their all-star QB, Russell Wilson opposite stars Bobby Wagner & Jamal Adams. In The Bay, you have the 49ers and their stacked roster finally feeling healthy.
Just south of them, you will find the Los Angeles Rams with two of the top three defensive players from this year’s NFL Top 100. Then, in the desert, the Cardinals are waiting with Kyler Murray, Nuk, and a tandem of edge rushers sure to make any OL have nightmares.
All of that said, once the dust settles, you will see the Los Angeles Rams victorious. They do not have the best QB in the division, but he is the best QB for the job in LA to exploit the talents of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Darrell Henderson/Sony Michel.
On the other side of the field, you have to pick your poison with Aaron Donald in the run & pass game, all while Jalen Ramsey locks up your WR1. The Los Angeles Rams will win the battle for the toughest division in football.