49ers Super Again, Raiders on the Rise: The Complete 2020 NFL Season Preview

Gilbert Brink
Sep 9, 2020 at 6:29 AM

The NFL is about to embark upon a season like no other in history. 32 teams have compiled active 53-man rosters and 16-man practice squads during a global pandemic. For much of the offseason, it felt like we may not have any football in watch in 2020. Due to the diligent efforts of the NFL, players, coaches and trainers, the league is ready to kick off this Thursday night. Let's all pause for a second and be grateful that America's game will be played this Sunday and we all will be there tuned in for a much needed day of entertainment.

If you want to know what is going to happen this season, you've turned to the right place. This season preview will discuss division winners, wild-card teams, annual awards, and even the Super Bowl winner. Why waste anymore words? Let's get into it.

AFC Division Winners & Wild Cards

AFC East: Buffalo Bills (10-6)

The king is dead. The never-ending reign of the New England Patriots has finally come to an end. Mysticism may lead one to believe the Pats will never die, but reality tells the tale of a team that wasn't great in 2019, lost its HOF QB and is trying to integrate a broken down and inconsistent QB as its new starter. The greatest head coach of all time, Bill Belichick, will work magic on his way to a 9-7 record. Buffalo, on the other hand, fields a young team, stacked with defensive talent and hungry for more after losing a disheartening playoff game earlier in the year. Head coach Sean McDermott has this ship headed in the right direction and the consistency will carry the team over to a division championship. The Dolphins will be competitive while the Jets will falter under the misguided leadership of HC Adam Gase.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

Baltimore will continue its run at the top of the division. The offense will be slowed down in 2020, but the ever-present coaching acumen of HC John Harbaugh will keep the Ravens in the front of the pack of the AFC North. Pittsburgh will get a wake up call on QB Ben Roethlisberger, a 38-year-old player coming off a major, season ending injury. Rookie QB Joe Burrow will look lost in Cincinnati and the Browns will stabilize under new head coach Kevin Stefanski. None of these teams will present a threat to the reigning division champs.

AFC South: Tennessee Titans (9-7)

This division is a mystery year-in and year-out. The Jaguars are the only team that seems to be out of contention for the division title. Tennessee wins the crown but I could be completely off here. Houston has put too much faith in head coach Bill O'Brien and will miss WR DeAndre Hopkins badly. It still makes the playoffs due to the new NFL rules and becomes the first AFC 7 seed. The Colts will soon regret rolling the dice on a diminished Phillip Rivers and the Jags will bring up the rear as a fun team that shocks a few opponents along the way.

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl champs come back looking super again. Chiefs GM Brett Veach has this team poised to contend for a title in the near future (before all those big contracts kill the Chiefs in 2022). QB Patrick Mahomes will benefit from a fully healthy season and lead the Chiefs to the #1 seed in the AFC. Las Vegas has a winner with this Raiders squad, becoming a legit threat as a wild-card team. Denver's loss of LB Von Mller will cripple its defense, and QB Drew Lock will prove to be another failed QB selection by GM John Elway. Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor reenacts his Browns tenure, being replaced by a rookie QB a few games into the year and the Chargers fail to impress afterwards.

Wild Card #1: Las Vegas Raiders (10-5-1)

The Raiders are a well-balanced roster and HC Jon Gruden finally makes it back to the playoffs.

Wild Card #2: New England Patriots (9-7)

The greatest coach of all time will find a way to keep his team in the playoffs.

Wild Card #3: Houston Texans (8-8)

Falling just short of the division title, the Texans ride the arm of Deshaun Watson to a .500 record and the final playoff spot.

NFC Division Winners & Wild Cards

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

Dallas has the talent, now it believes it has the coach. Replacing Jason Garrett with Mike McCarthy doesn't wow anybody, but the Cowboys have a history of alternating good and bad seasons. Last year was bad, this year, they win the division. Philadelphia returns to the playoffs again, while the Giants are much improved and the WFT becomes even more embarrassing than it already is.

NFC North: Green Bay Packers (9-7)

A once proud division, the NFC North poses no threat in 2020. The Packers win this one by default. Every team in the division has gotten worse but the Packers defense will keep them competitive and they'll stack wins against division foes. Minnesota has lost too many key pieces to contend (Diggs, Griffen, Waynes) and the Bears are still fooling themselves starting Mitchell Trubisky at QB. The Lions will be selecting a new coach in 2021.

NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

Tampa Tom unseats the Saints in his first season in the South. The Bucs rally around a less than stellar Brady, while the Saints falter due to the other senior citizen QB of the South. Last season's injury helped keep Brees fresh, but this season he'll be exposed during the 16-game regular season grind. In Carolina, QB Teddy Bridgewater will remind everyone why he was a backup and Atlanta will regret not firing Dan Quinn least year.

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers (11-5)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers return to the playoffs as the #1 seed in the NFC. The 49ers defense takes a legitimate step back, while the offense takes a huge step forward. Garoppolo's improvement is undeniable and he makes stars of the young WR corps. The 49ers make a big trade mid-season to put them over the top. Seattle is perennially playoff bound. The Cardinals remain entertainingly underwhelming and the Rams fall further into obscurity.

Wild Card #1: New Orleans Saints (10-6)

The Saints turn away from Brees, relying on Winston & Hill to shoulder the load at the QB position. A surprisingly defensive Saints make the playoffs.

Wild Card #2: Seattle Seahawks (9-6-1)

The Seahawks defense will stink, but Russel Wilson will not. He drags HC Pete Carroll into the playoffs once again.

Wild Card #3: Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

The Eagles make it 4 straight seasons with a playoff appearance.

AFC Championship Game: Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs

The Bills defensive dominance will be one of the headlines of the 2020 season, taking them all the way to the AFC Championship Game to face the prolific offense of the Kansas City Chiefs. In a tight game, the Chiefs will pull out the magic as they have done in the past, repeating as AFC champions. Chiefs 23 - Bills 16

NFC Championship Game: Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers

Reigniting the greatest football rivalry of the 1990s, the Cowboys and 49ers will face off with a trip to Super Bowl 55 on the line. The Cowboys improved defense will carry them in the playoffs and the 49ers will turn to heroics from QB Jimmy Garoppolo to get them back to the NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys will get off to an early start running the ball and the 49ers will have to come from behind in the 2nd half to win this one, and they will. 49ers 31 - Cowboys 30

Super Bowl 55: San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The two best teams from 2019 will be the two best teams in 2020. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo did just enough to beat the 49ers in Super Bowl 54, but he will have a much more difficult task this time around. The 49ers won't be able to contain Mahomes for 3 1/2 quarters like they did in February. As a result, this one will be a complete barn-burner of a game. The 49ers will complete their legendary revenge tour and finally claim their sixth Lombardi trophy. 49ers 47- Chiefs 40

Biggest Disappointment of 2020: The Downfall of the Hall of Fame Quarterback

Many of the great QBs of the past two decades may play their final seasons ever. Not just one, but all of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks will have show a dramatic regression in their game. Neither Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees nor Phillip Rivers will be top 20 quarterbacks. Brady will still manage success, but the other QBs will either be replaced or fade into retirement.

Biggest Surprise of 2020: Raiders Strike Gold in Las Vegas

The Raiders will be the Cinderella story of 2020. The impact that RB Josh Jacobs will have on the Raiders offense will allow QB Derek Carr to max out his potential in this offense. They may not be ready for title contention, but this year will signal the year the Raiders return to NFL prominence.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dallas Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb

One of the top WR prospects in this year's draft will benefit from lining up on the other side of WR Amari Cooper. Dallas has a strong running game that will give Lamb the opportunities to make big plays off of play action. QB Joe Burrow will be nowhere within the discussion.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Baltimore Ravens LB Patrick Queen

The Ravens have a rich history of great linebacker play. Queen will continue this legacy and be a force in the middle of the Ravens defense for years to come.

Comeback Player of the Year: Washington QB Alex Smith

Current Washington QB Dwayne Haskins will stink and Smith will somehow get to play. Smith stepping onto the field alone is a miracle.

Coach of the Year: New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

He will have to work magic when Brees can no longer get the job done. He will.

Offensive Player of the Year: Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

After a dynamic rookie season, Jacobs becomes the focal point of the offense in his second year. He'll put up 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Year: San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa

The DROY of 2019 becomes the DPOY for 2020. An insatiable hunger for sacks and an unmatched intensity at pursuing ball carriers will elevate Bosa to the mantle of "best in the business."

NFL MVP: Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

He'll put up the numbers and his team will have the best record in football. It's a simple decision for voters. Mahomes will be a 2x NFL MVP.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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