Predictions for upcoming NFL season

UD football fans will be able to watch the first Flyer drafted since Bill Westfeld in 1977 when Adam Trautman takes the field for the Saints this year. AP Photo/David Grunfeld, Pool

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

Thursday night, Patrick Mahomes and the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs will take on Deshaun Watson’s Houston Texans in the kick-off of the 2020 NFL season.

In an off-season defined by chaos outside the football world, that continued inside the NFL when Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ending the best 20-year run in NFL history by leaving the New England Patriots, where he won six Super Bowls alongside coaching legend Bill Belichick.

However, the cupboard won’t be bare in New England, where Belichick now has superstar (when healthy) quarterback Cam Newton and still has the expertise that comes with such a lengthy coaching career.

Outside Tampa and New England, the NFC East has also taken over a large part of the off-season spotlight. While the Washington football team (formerly Redskins) dealt with the fallout from a fractured organization (15 sexual harassment charges and dropping the racist nickname), the Dallas Cowboys dominated the off-season by replacing Jason Garrett – who was treading water – with Mike McCarthy, adding some talented free agents, and picking up an excellent draft class. (The ‘Boys are my Super Bowl pick, but more on that later.)

While the Jacksonville Jaguars unloaded the rest of their Pro Bowlers from the 2017 defense that led the team to the AFC Championship Game, other teams like the Carolina Panthers and previously mentioned Washington football team have joined them on the rebuilding block.

The Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints, who combined for 27 wins last season but crashed out of the playoffs before championship weekend, both drafted well and added some free agents, but will have to get the job done when it counts to avoid major disappointment again. 

Of course, UD football fans can keep an eye fixed on the Saints, who now feature former Flyer tight end Adam Trautman, who will be wearing No. 82 after being selected by the Saints with the 105th pick in the third round of this year’s draft. 

With the stage set for what happened this off-season (the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles both had sneaky good off-season acquisitions, while the Texans made a questionable trade of Deandre Hopkins), here are my predictions for how the standings will look after Week 17 (worth noting there is an extra playoff spot in both conferences).

Conference Predictions (z – No. 1 seed, Wild card bye; y – division winner; x – wild-card)

AFC East

  1. y-New England Patriots (11-5)
  2. x- Buffalo Bills (10-6)
  3. New York Jets (6-10)
  4. Miami Dolphins (5-11)

North

  1. z-Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)
  3. Cleveland Browns (8-8)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (5-11)

South

  1. y-Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
  2. x-Tennessee Titans (10-6)
  3. Houston Texans (9-7)
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)

West

  1. y-Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
  2. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9)
  3. Los Angeles Chargers (6-10)
  4. Denver Broncos (5-11)

NFCEast

  1. y-Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
  2. x-Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
  3. New York Giants (4-12)
  4. Washington Football Team (3-13)

North

  1. y-Green Bay Packers (10-6)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
  3. Chicago Bears (8-8)
  4. Detroit Lions (5-11)

South

  1. z-New Orleans Saints (14-2)
  2. x-Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
  3. Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
  4. Carolina Panthers (3-13)

West

  1. y-San Francisco 49ers (11-5)
  2. x-Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (8-8)
  4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Now that the standings and playoff teams are listed, who will come out on top in Super Bowl LV?

Wild Card

AFC

Kansas City over Pittsburgh

New England over Tennessee

Indianapolis over Buffalo

NFC

Dallas over Seattle

Tampa Bay over San Francisco

Philadelphia over Green Bay

Divisional

AFC

Baltimore over Indianapolis

Kansas City over New England

NFC

New Orleans over Tampa Bay

Dallas over Philadelphia

Conference Championship

AFC

Baltimore over Kansas City

NFC

Dallas over New Orleans

Super Bowl LV

Dallas Cowboys over Baltimore Ravens

MVP: Dak Prescott

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally gets his fourth Super Bowl title, 25 years after the last Cowboys win, and head coach Mike McCarthy gets his second, 10 years after winning his first with the Packers. Like Patrick Mahomes’ performance in Kansas City’s championship last year, Prescott delivers excellent play to lead his team to a Super Bowl win and gets the contract to back it up in the off-season, after a tumultuous 2019-20 off-season that ended in a franchise tag.

It’s difficult to go against picking the Ravens, Saints, 49ers or the defending-champion Chiefs, but with the team the Cowboys already have and the changes they made this off-season, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and a top 10 defense to win the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl title.