Who will be the breakout team of the year?
Ross: It’s hard to call them a breakout team when they were in playoffs last year, but I think the Buffalo Bills take the next step into elite territory this season. They finished 10-6 last season with a playoff berth, and have only improved their team since that playoff loss. They added a number one receiver in Stefon Diggs and then drafted two impact rookies in DE A.J. Epenesa and RB Zack Moss to a young roster that is still developing. This isn’t even mentioning that they have one of the best defenses in the NFL, period. With Tom Brady leaving the division, the Bills look ready to overtake the Patriots as Kings of the AFC East.
John: I’m liking the Cardinals, though I think they’ll be limited by playing in the NFC West. Kyler Murray showed last season that he’s the kind of player a team can build around offensively, and Arizona went and grabbed him Deandre Hopkins in the offseason. Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk might be the best group of starting receivers in the league. Kenyan Drake also gives Arizona an exciting young running threat. The team still needs a lot of work on defense, but Patrick Peterson should be available for the whole season, and first round draft pick Isaiah Simmons should be ready to go at linebacker right away.
The_Coach: Man, I’m might really regret saying this, but I’ll go with the New York Giants. The top of their offense can be elite with running back Saquon Barkley emerging as the game-changing talent he was expected to be. Quarterback Daniel Jones should be a year improved. They worked on padding up their offensive line over the last few off-seasons. They know they have a lack of defensive play-makers and they did their best Giants-esque effort at bringing in the guys to maybe fix that. They’ll still have their usual gigantic letdown weeks, but I’m thinking Joe Judge might spark some year one excitement and make this squad a factor in the NFC East.
Travis: J-E-T-S Jets Je.... ok just kidding. The jets are bad. But I am gonna stay in division and say the Miami Dolphins. They got Tua. Tom Brady left. I liked the movie Ace Ventura. And My friend Ben is a diehard Dolphins fan (Why? I don’t know) and I hope for his sake they eventually don’t suck.
Marcus: Steelers. They went 8-8 last season without a reliable quarterback leading the way. Ben Roethlisberger is back and people aren’t expecting much from the veteran QB. I think he’ll shake off the rust and lead his team back to the playoffs.
Will we see any team go worst-to-first? First-to-worst?
Ross: I’ll be honest that when I look over the division winners last year versus the last place teams, it is reeeeaaaallllyyyyy hard for me to see any team go worst-to-first. First-to-worst however, is an easier answer for me. The Philadelphia Eagles are treading on rather thin ice, in my opinion. With an aging offensive line, their number one receiver already injured, and one Carson Wentz injury away from no offense at all, the Eagles just don’t have a ton of depth. They don’t have a lot of quality depth on their roster. If Wentz goes down, the offense could become ineffective. They’d be putting a lot of pressure on a defense that barely cracked the top 10 last season.
John: I don’t really think we’ll get a worst to first this season, but if we do I think Jacksonville is a possibility. They’re a young team that seems to be improving, and the top of the AFC South has the potential for regression. The Jaguars were 6-10 last season, and I’m not really confident in the Texans and Titans matching their 2019 seasons. If the conference ends up in a muddle of 9-7 and 8-8 teams, the Jags have a shot to steal it. In terms of worst to first, there’s always the possibility that the Pats without Brady turn out terrible, but that would also depend on the Jets and Dolphins getting out of the gutter. I agree with Ross that the Eagles are the most likely candidate.
The_Coach: No way. The top tier of the league is really strong right now and with a lot of young stars scattered around those teams, it’s going to be really tough for some of the lower groups to make headway. While it’s hard to pinpoint what division will be the most fluid, I’m thinking the NFC South could get really tight and if a team like the Carolina Panthers falls in love with not relying on their quarterback to do it all offensively and uses some of the play-makers they have efficiently, they would be one of the better bets.
Travis: Maybe not first to worst, but the Patriots will not win the AFC East and will not make the playoffs and since we know Bill Belichick lives by the Resse Bobby adage of “If you’re not first, you’re last” it’s basically the same thing. Worst to first? I’m sticking with my completely uninformed belief in the Miami Dolphins
Marcus: I think the Detroit Lions have a punchers chance of winning the NFC North. I don’t think anyone is going to go from first-to-worst in their division, but the Texans and Eagles could be vulnerable.
Which is the best division in the NFL?
Ross: I’m slightly biased here, but I’m rolling with the NFC South. We all know about the old guard with Drew Brees and the Saints who look ready for one last hurrah this season. And I think everyone has heard the hype around the Bucs with Tom Brady coming to town with a LOADED offense after adding Leonard Fournette. The Falcons, meanwhile, could be a sneaky playoff dark horse with Matt Ryan leading a solid offense. And while the Panthers are a good ways behind the other three teams, they are still talented and could realistically push for a .500 record in nearly any other division. The NFC South is loaded with talented teams
John: I’m going with the NFC West. They’ve given the NFC their last two Super Bowl teams, and while the Rams regressed last season, they look pretty capable of bouncing back, especially with Jalen Ramsey potentially playing for a new contract. The 49ers will continue to be one of the best teams in the conference, and the Seahawks will continue to be an incredibly confusing team that somehow still wins a lot of games. The Cardinals are also improving, and that offense with Kyler Murray should be very fun and very dangerous. This is a conference that could send three teams to the playoffs.
The_Coach: I don’t think you can argue with anyone choosing the NFC West for this as at the start of the 2019 season, we all believed the Los Angeles Rams would content for a Super Bowl and they ended up limping to a third place finish in the division. The 49ers, Seahawks and Rams could all legitimately beat any other NFL team on any given day and the Cardinals are like John mentioned before, a very trendy team. I wouldn’t count out the NFC North in this conversation either though.
Travis: Aside from Ross’ homerism I think it’s obviously the NFC West.
Who will be the MVP? Offensive Player of the Year? Defensive Player of the Year?
Ross: I think Patrick Mahomes will reclaim the MVP Honors this season. As for Offensive Player of the Year, I’ll go with Alvin Kamara from the Saints as I expect a big year from him. Lastly, I’m going with a long shot here but calling for Jamal Adams to become the sixth safety in NFL history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
John: Mahomes does seem likely, but if not him I think this might be Russell Wilson’s year. He’s been close the last couple seasons, but I have a feeling the Seahawks will be a bit better this year, and team improvement might push Wilson over the top. If that happens, I think Offensive Player of the Year would probably be Patrick Mahomes. He’s too good not to put up insane numbers again. Defensive Player of the Year is trickier. I kind of want to go Nick Bosa, but I’ve gone kind of heavy on the NFC West in this article allready, so I’m going to say Khalil Mack instead. I think that’ll be a good Bears team with a great defense that gets Mack a lot of attention.
The_Coach: I’m going to side with Ross here and go with Patrick Mahomes for the MVP. He’s the best player on the best team that has the biggest impact on the game. That’s MVP status so long as he plays to that level. For Offensive Player of the Year, I’m going to throw a bit of an underrated guy in the mix with Russell Wilson. I really think the Seahawks could make a solid run and Wilson has always been a very efficient talent. As he ages and believes in his passing ability more, maybe he has an electric statistical year. For Defensive Player of the Year, I think big man Aaron Donald is as disruptive as they come and could very well claim that accolade.
Travis: It’s probably Mahomes, but I will go with Lamar Jackson instead. I think Baltimore is the gonna be the AFC super bowl team, led by the arm and legs of Jackson. Defensively I’ll go with Aaron Donald. Cause he is a freak.
Marcus: Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson. Both are outstanding quarterbacks without the expectations that Mahomes and Jackson have to deal with.
How about Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Ross: I’m going with a sleeper OROY and taking D’Andre Swift on the Detroit Lions. The RB from Georgia has a clear shot to a large role on an offense where he will see a lot of touches. Meanwhile, for my DROY pick, I’m rolling with Buccaneers Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. If that name is familiar, it’s cause his father played in the league for 14 years. Winfield Jr. was named to starting safety for the Bucs, but has also spent training camp learning nickleback as well. The Bucs coaches have compared Winfield Jr. to Tyrann Mathieu 2.0 and have praised his intelligence and athleticism since drafting him. With the Bucs defense expected to take a leap this season, Winfield Jr is in line for a big role as a rookie this year.
John: I don’t think any of the young QBs are in a great position headed this season, so as interesting as it is going to be to see what affect Joe Burrow and the Bengals have on each other, I think this year Offensive Rookie of the Year is going to a Wide Receiver or Running Back. I’m leaning toward Ceedee Lamb on the Cowboys. I think he and Dak Prescott will match up incredibly well, and should at the very least make some ESPN highlight reels. I think Isaiah Simmons for Arizona has a shot at Defensive Player of the Year, but that unit should still be kind of bad so I’m not sure if writers are going to be keen to hand out much hardware to it. I’m going to go with Patrick Queen, with Baltimore. He should make an immediate impact on an already strong team.
The_Coach: Offensive Rookie of the Year can easily go to Jordan Love of the Packers. I’m kidding, of course. I actually like running back Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts for this award. I think he’ll emerge fairly quickly as the best option in the Colts backfield and more times than not, the guy who gets the chances early and often is the one who can put up the numbers to win this award. For Defensive Rookie of the Year, I like defensive back CJ Henderson from the Jacksonville Jaguars. He can be the star of the Jags secondary if given the chance, as he has elite cover corner-skills and a knack for making plays in both the run and pass game.
Travis: TUA! TUA! TUA! The Fitzmagic will last all of two weeks before Tua takes over and leads the Dolphins to a breakout season! On the defensive side? Chase Young seems like a cop out answer... but I’m ok with that.
Marcus: Jerry Jeudy WR with Denver. I thought he was the best WR in the draft and he’s going to a great situation where he will have a lot of opportunities. On the other side of the ball I’ll take Isaiah Simmons. He’s a do it all linebacker that should be all over the field.
What is your Super Bowl matchup and winner?
Ross: I got the Buccaneers versus the Ravens. With the TOMpa Bay Bucs winning it all. Who are we kidding, I’m a Bucs fan. Of course I’m swinging for the fences here.
John: As much as I think Seattle has improved, I still think San Francisco is the team to beat in the NFC, and I think this year they finally get the ring that’s been eluding them for the past decade. I’m giving them a win in a Super Bowll XLVII rematch with Baltimore, although a rematch of last year’s clash with KC also seems very possible.
The_Coach: I’m really banking on my Russell Wilson career resurgence again and I’m going with the Seattle Seahawks versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Nobody knows how to keep things going more than Andy Reid, who’s been a head coach in the NFL since 1999 and I like to Chiefs to take it all home at the end of the day. Another parade in the Paris of the Plains.
Travis: MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens over Sean Mannion’s Minnesota Vikings.
Marcus: Baltimore Ravens vs. Dallas Cowboys. I don’t like the Cowboys, but they could actually be reallyyy good this season.