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By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear Me Out...The most courageous 2019-20 NFL season predictions: The Playoffs teams

 

September 5, 2019



The NFL season kicks off tonight with the Packers-Bears game and with it comes the finale of The Most Courageous 2019-20 NFL season predictions.

We’ve got 12 teams and postseason predictions to cover, let’s get to it!

The over/under win totals for each team are pulled from oddsshark.com and the stats are courtesy from pro-footballreference.com.

No. 6-SEEDS

AFC

Los Angeles Chargers

2018 record: 12-4

2019 Over/Under: 10 – Push, they’ll hit right at 10 wins this year.

I really liked the Chargers coming into this season and had them in contention for the No. 1-seed of the AFC. But losing Derwin James for the season is a tough hit for them. As a rookie last year he made an immediate impact and had an Ed Reed/ Troy Polamalu feel to his game. How do the Chargers replace him? They don’t. Guys like that are rare, and the Chargers defense is going to take a hit as a result.

Another reason I knocked the Chargers to the sixth-seed is because of Melvin Gordon’s holdout. Like I talked about Ezekiel Elliott two weeks ago, it’s hard to justify paying RBs big money. 

Yet, Gordon’s absence is still going to hurt the Chargers offense because he’s such a dynamic running back. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are fine backs but they’re kind of one-dimensional. 

Ekeler is a good receiving back but doesn’t have the frame to carry the ball more than 10 times a game. Jackson can pick you up yards on the ground but doesn’t have the hands for passing downs. Gordon is both of those players in one and he keeps defenses on their toes. If Jackson or Ekeler are in the game, odds are you’ll know the upcoming play.

NFC

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2018 record: 5-11

2019 Over/Under: 6.5 – Over, even if they miss the playoffs they’ll still go over 6.5 wins.

The Bucs have terrible running backs (They should place a call to the Chargers.), Jameis Winston is still a huge question mark and their defense is iffy. But I have all the faith in coach Bruce Arians.

In his final season in Arizona, he went 8-8 with Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton at QB. Just going off talent, Winston is better than all of those dudes. So if Winston can’t get things going this year, with one of the best QB-whispers this league as ever seen, he’s never going to make it.

The schedule is tough to start but if they can go 3-3 or at least 2-4 before their Week 7 bye, the schedule lightens up after that and they can make their playoff push.

No. 5-SEEDS

AFC

Jacksonville Jaguars

2018 record: 5-11

2019 Over/Under: 7.5 – Over, EASY. MONEY.

This might seem like a homer pick and I’m letting my bias influence my predictions. I promise it isn’t, I saved my homer prediction for much later. 

2018 was a disaster for the Jags and Blake Bortles took too much heat for the failings of last season. I could go on in detail about why last year wasn’t all on Bortles but there’s no time.

The Nick Foles signing didn’t move the needle much for me. He has the playoff magic but during the regular season, he isn’t impressive. He’s also never played a full 16 games but if Fournette is going to be a beast that will help with the wear and tear on Foles.

What has me so high on this team is their defense. They had a bad midseason stretch in 2018 but they did return to form and were a top 5 defense. This season they’re getting back to Sacksonville and creating turnovers in bunches. Their 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen is going to be a monster and a Defensive Rookie of the Year contender. They also picked up another speedy linebacker in Quincy Williams, he should help with the loss of Telvin Smith, who is taking the year off from football. 

Combine those additions with an already talented unit with Jaylen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, Myles Jack and Co. are going to cause some problems for offenses this year.  

NFC

San Francisco 49ers

2018 record: 4-12

2019 Over/Under: 8.5 – Over, not panicking on Jimmy G just yet.

Just like the preseason allows for players to get back into the swing of things, it also gives those covering the game time to hone their terrible hot takes. Outside of anything Antonio Brown or Baker Mayfield related, the best of these getting-back-to-form-hot-takes centered around Jimmy Garoppolo after his game against the Broncos. 

It was a preseason game and people who follow the NFL for a living were suggesting cutting Garoppolo after being on the field for a handful of series. Sure, if he posts a 0.0 passer rating after playing a full 60 minutes in the regular season, then it is time to panic. But cutting the man after a preseason game is ridiculous.

The Niners had some bad luck last season with injuries and just an atrocious defense. I’m still in Garoppolo’s corner and a believer in Kyle Shanahan as a coach.

In fact, it’s because of Shanahan that I’m mainly in on the Niners this season. He won four games with a historically awful defense and his third-string quarterback. If the injuries and defense have some reverse regression that’s three to four more wins. Then toss in Garoppolo shaking off the rust and regaining his confidence after his ACL tear, he could be the difference that brings San Fran back to the postseason.

I expect the Niners to start slow but catch fire in the last half of the season, beating the Rams in Week 16 to secure their playoff spot. 

No. 4-SEEDS

AFC

Cleveland Browns

2018 record: 7-8-1

2019 Over/Under: 9 – Over, in Baker I Trust.

At the start of mapping out my predictions, I was wary of the Browns. I thought they’d be that typical team that gets too much smoke blown up their butts in the offseason and preseason, only to fall flat on their face once the season begins. 

So it’s surprising to see the pushback on this team, a lot of it has to do with Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. but I was half expecting an overflowing bandwagon. Leading the charge against the Browns is FS1’s Colin Cowherd and it’s mostly due of his self-created rivalry with Mayfield. (That’s how things roll at FS1, you have to pick a superstar athlete and start beefing with them.)

Cowherd has been relentless on Mayfield. One of my favorite moments from his show this summer came after Mayfield bit and chugged that beer at a Cleveland Indians game. While most thought it was all in good fun, Cowherd was having none of it. The best part of his rant on Baker was before all of it, he said he wasn’t going to give it the time of day and then proceeded to spend five minutes on Baker and the Browns. Leading Cowherd to his usual path of deploying a lame, stretch of an analogy but hey, he’s got three hours to fill on his show. You need to develop a routine. 

(For the record, I don’t hate guys like Cowherd or Stephen A. Smith. I enjoy them a lot and it’s why I watch them. They’re entertainers and have to create wild takes or far-fetched analogies for their shows. Plus, aside from anything Bulls, Jayhawks or Jags related, they’re a good reminder that I’m still level-head and not just offering knee-jerk reactions to everything.)

There are two things that have me worried about the Browns, first is their meddling owner Jimmy Haslam. He’s a nut job and a terrible football mind. Second, is the bad mojo from picking up Kareem Hunt before he even went on his atrocious apology tour. 

If those two things don’t sink the Browns, they’re due for a big season and I can’t wait to watch Cowherd try and take credit for helping Baker “mature” as they clinch the AFC North, even though Baker stayed true to who he is the entire time.

NFC

Carolina Panthers

2018 record: 7-9

2019 Over/Under: 8 – Over, love the Panthers this season.

Cam Newton’s injury has me a little nervous but I’m still confident the Panthers will win the NFC South. There’s a lot of love going toward the Saints and Falcons and I love that the Panthers are flying under the radar. They started 6-2 last year but went 1-7 as Cam battled through a shoulder injury before being shut down for the season after Game 14. Even with the injury, the Panthers offense was very good under Norv Turner’s first season. Cam put up the best numbers of his career under Turner, and I was wrong about Christian McCaffrey. He’s a stud and a perfect back for today’s NFL game.

Their defense got better with the signings of Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin and when you pair that with an offense led by Cam and McCaffrey, the Panthers are taking the NFC South.

No. 3-SEEDS

AFC

New England Patriots

2018 record: 11-5

2019 Over/Under: 11.5 – Under, schedule toughens after the bye.

It has come full circle for Tom Brady. When he first got the starting job it was all about, score when you could and let the defense win it for us. As he nears the end of his career, he’s drifted toward the same game plan. Brady isn’t going to carve teams up with his arm anymore but he’s got a strong running game and athletic defense to help him get Super Bowl No. 7.

The first seven games for the Pats are ridiculously easy. Do not be surprised if you look up, it’s the start of Week 8 and New England is 7-0. Their next six games are pretty tough with games vs. Cleveland, at Baltimore, at Philly, vs. Dallas, at Houston and vs. K.C. After that their final three games lighten up with at Cincy, vs. Buffalo and vs. Miami, although, Buffalo in could be trouble by then. 

NFC

Green Bay Packers

2018 record: 6-9-1

2019 Over/Under: 9 – Over, all-in on the Rodgers-LaFleur combo.

Be prepared to hear how Aaron Rodgers’ legacy is on the line ad nauseam during the first quarter of the season. Yes, it is true his legacy will be heavily impacted by this year but it’s still going to be annoying hearing it week after week.

The partnership between Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur is going to work out well. LaFleur has taken some heat for his uninspiring stint in Tennessee but you can’t knock the guy too hard for that, he had Marcus Mariota as a QB. Even Sean McVay would have troubles building an offense around Mariota.

Going from Mariota to Rodgers has to be heaven for LaFleur. I’m sure he’s looked at his playbook and just been moved to tears because now he has a guy that can make every throw. I fully expect Rodgers to be in the MVP mix this season and LaFleur to be in the Coach of the Year running. 

As exciting as the Rodgers-LaFleur offense is going to be, the Packers defense should be sneaky good. The Packers spent five of their eight draft picks on defensive players. Their two first-round picks should be studs, Rashan Gary might be the second-best linebacker in this 2019 class and safety Darnell Savage is going to be awesome, his name suggests as much.

No. 2-SEEDS

AFC

Houston Texans

2018 record: 11-5

2019 Over/Under: 8 – Over, Super Bowl or bust for the Texans

I don’t know if there has been a team that’s done more to erode my confidence in them this offseason than the Texans. The trade for tackle Larry Tunsil is nice but outside that I have dislike most of their moves. Outside Tampa Bay, they might have the worst collection of RBs, the offensive line is still shake and the Clowney trade didn’t benefit them at all.

Still, while I hated everything about Houston’s offseason. I’m still backing them to win the AFC South and to get a first-round bye. It’s only because of QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins, they’re the best QB-WR duo in the league and can wreck even the best of defensive game plans. Plus, JJ Watt had a great bounce back season last year. I don’t think he’ll ever reach the crazy heights he did a few years ago but he’s still a force to deal with.

NFC

Philadelphia Eagles

2018 record: 9-7

2019 Over/Under: 10.5 – Over, Wentz for MVP!

I really, really like this Eagles team this year. They’ve flown under the radar and are probably the least talked about team in their division, and it’s crazy because they’re a top 3 team. When the midseason mark rolls around and everyone is making predictions for the second half of the season, they’re going to be the trendy Super Bowl favorites. 

I especially love QB Carson Wentz this season. He hasn’t played all 16 games at any point in his career but I think he’s due to make it all 16. He kind of reminds me of the NBA’s Steph Curry. At the start of his career everyone loved Curry but it always came back to “If only he could play a full regular season.” Once Curry was able to make it through a regular season, he rocketed toward superstardom. I see the same thing happening for Wentz this season as he goes on to win his first MVP. 

No. 1-SEEDS

AFC

Kansas City Chiefs

2018 record: 12-4

2019 Over/Under: 10.5 – Over, Mahomes is a cheat code.

Patrick Mahomes lit the league on fire in his first full season as a starter. He threw for 50 TDs, a club that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had only populated, and 5097 yards, which puts him in the top 10 All-Time, and he and Dan Marino are the only QBs to throw for 5000-plus yards before their 25th birthday. 

Naturally, you expect Mahomes to come back down to Earth. Repeating or bettering his 2018 season would be unheard of. Brady and Manning both dropped some after their 50-plus TD seasons. Manning threw 39 and Brady threw zero because he blew out his ACL. And normally I’d be on board with a recession to the means for Mahomes but I think he might be the exception.

The Chiefs defense still stinks and they lost key players on that side of the ball in the offseason, so there’s still plenty of opportunity for shootouts. Andy Reid is still the coach and I’m sure has been tinkering with the offense to keep defenses confused. And Mahomes isn’t even in his prime which is terrifying for the other 31 NFL teams.  

I think Mahomes gets close to repeating his numbers from 2018 and the Chiefs lock up the No. 1-seed in the AFC because he is so ridiculous.

NFC

Seattle Seahawks

2018 record: 10-6

2019 Over/Under: 8.5 – Over, my most courageous pick for the 2019 season!

The Clowney trade has me feeling so much better about this prediction. And for the record, I had the Seahawks in this spot at the start of the preseason.

This prediction is all about my trust in Pete Carrol and Russel Wilson. The Seahawks were supposed to be terrible last season but Carrol got his young defense coached up and playing well above their capabilities. Having largely the same group back with the addition of Clowney makes this unit even better. Clowney isn’t the level of pass rusher that Kahli Mack is, he’s just a tier lower and gives the ‘Haws defense an edge and identity. 

While everyone is going to high-flying passing attacks the ‘Hawks are keeping it on the ground. Normally, I’d make fun of this but when you have a QB like Wilson you can pull it off. Wilson is so efficient you know he’s going to make the play when they need to go to the air. 

The biggest question mark on this team is their WRs. Tyler Lockett has to assume the Doug Baldwin role and be that reliable go-to guy for Wilson on third downs.

But Wilson and Carrol are great leaders and will get the most out of their guys as the ‘Hawks go on to shock the NFC and take the No. 1-seed.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

WILDCARD ROUND

AFC

Jags over Browns

Pats over Chargers

NFC

Packers over Bucs

Panthers over Niners 

DIVISIONAL ROUND 

AFC

Jags over Chiefs

Pats over Texans

NFC

Packers over Seahawks

Eagles over Panthers

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

AFC

Jags over Pats

NFC

Eagles over Packers

SUPER BOWL

Jags over Eagles (Here’s the homer pick I told you about.)

 
 

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