Trying to predict the future is sort of what my blog is all about. I have spent more time this year keeping up with the NFL action than any time before, whether it’s watching The Pat Mcafee Show, listening to the PFF Podcast, or just scanning Twitter for the day-to-day minutia.
I did this exercise last season — the one where I gave a few paragraphs to every team and tried to guess whether they would go over or under their projected win total. I enjoyed it, so I’m doing it again. Being a typical American and working five days a week makes me appreciate the time I have to myself, and I can’t help but spend the overwhelming majority of that time following the sports I love. Everything that follows is the culmination of how I have spent my February (since the Super Bowl) through June (a couple weeks before training camp starts), at least as it relates to my free time.
With that being said, I imagine it will be pretty easy to tell which teams I paid more attention to and which teams I didn’t have much to say about. I also imagine I’ll have a few instant regrets once I get done posting all the divisions, since that’s the nature of betting over/under props — theoretical coin flips — and since the NFL is so unpredictable. For purposes of this, two-plus months before the actual season starts, I consider it to be more of a snapshot of what I feel right this second. So take it all with a grain of salt.
Disclaimer: All over/under win totals are provided courtesy of Bovada.
Part I: NFC East
Common opponents: NFC South (Bucs, Falcons, Panthers, Saints), AFC West (Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders) My NFC East record last year: 3 wins (Cowboys, Football Team, Giants), 1 loss (Eagles)
1. Dallas Cowboys
2020 record: 6-10 2021 over (-115)/under (-115): 9.5 wins
Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury was all she wrote last year for the Cowboys. Without it, Dallas likely would have cruised to an NFC East crown in an historically weak division that saw the Washington Football Team take home the title with a pathetic 7 wins and 9 losses. But with it, it felt a lot like the Cowboys packed it in. Neither Andy Dalton nor a scrub like Ben DiNucci (yes that’s a real person who played QB in the NFL last year) had enough juice to lead a dummy-proof offense to the promised land.
Even though they added 8 defensive players in the NFL Draft — including each of their first six selections — Dallas’s defense is likely to stink again in 2021. Whether or not that’s the case, my very low expectation is that they will be able to improve upon the 29.6 points per game allowed figure they put up last year (5th-worst in the NFL), particularly considering the idea that if Dak Prescott is healthy it will probably force other teams to throw the ball a lot more. I don’t consider this year’s Cowboys to be a juggernaut, but there will be days that the offense is hot and puts the opponent in two- or three-score holes. That alone, making opposing offenses more predictable, should allow their defense to be more effective.
One big thing: Prescott got paid. The Cowboys offense is going to be a wrecking ball so long as Dak is healthy, and his addition for a full season is bound to ignite the whole roster. He might not be a top-5 QB in the league, but he is most certainly a “guy”. And if you’ve got a guy, someone the team believes in, it’s going to raise the floor for everybody. That means training harder, studying harder, and ultimately playing harder. It’s only a coincidence that one of my favorite bets for a team win total is attached to the first team I am writing about, but when it comes to the Cowboys I lean heavily towards over the modest 9.5-win projection betting markets have for them.
2. New York Giants
2020 record: 6-10 2021 over (-135)/under (+105): 7 wins
The table is set. The pieces are in place. If Daniel Jones can’t put together a winning season in 2021, then the New York Giants are going to be looking for another quarterback next year.
In free agency the Giants signed perhaps the most talented wide receiver on the market — Kenny Golladay — and also added veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. In addition, they plucked WR Kadarius Toney out of Florida with their first draft pick. Combine that with former top pick RB Saquan Barkley, playmaking TE Evan Engram, and deep threat WR Darius Slayton, this is an offense that can potentially do some shit.
The defense last year was actually pretty decent, allowing only 22.4 ppg. Second-year head coach Joe Judge — at least from my outside perspective — seems to be a culture-builder type of dude who gets his guys to play for him. I don’t know how much that is worth when Daniel fucking Jones is your QB, but it kind of feels like the Giants are the lite version of the San Francisco 49ers. They have a fairly solid roster if you take out the most important position on the field.
One big thing: Does Daniel Jones take a major step forward in his 3rd year? If he does, then the Giants are going to win 10 or more games and Jones is going to get a massive extension after the year. If he doesn’t, there’s a decent chance the team checks out somewhere midseason and New York is again drafting in the first 10 or so picks. I don’t see a lot of in between, and I don’t think a 7-10 or 8-9 season is necessarily what they want for their longterm prospects. My gut feeling says take the over on 7 wins, but my mind tells me that Daniel Jones is not the QB of the future.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
2020 record: 4-11-1 2021 over (-145)/under (+110): 6.5 wins
I don’t know what there is to say about this team that justifies why they shouldn’t be one of the three-worst teams in the NFL next year. The organization fired their head coach last year; they moved on from Carson Wentz, whom they drafted 2nd overall and gave a massive extension to; there seems to be turmoil between the front office and the coaching staff. Philadelphia is a wreck.
And that’s a bummer, because I actually really like their QB Jalen Hurts. I like him as a person, but I don’t know if I like him as a starting QB in the NFL. Last year the team went 4-11-1 and ended up drafting a Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver who weighs like a hundred pounds. I like him too, by the way. I just don’t know how much I’m going to like the end result of the stew they are making.
They have a first-year head coach who made a fool of himself during his opening press conference. They have, probably, the worst starting QB in the NFL. And everything about this team feels disheveled. I don’t like their offense and I don’t like their defense. I don’t like anything about them, really, and I don’t understand why the you have to lay -145 to bet on them over 6.5 wins. I believe it’s in their best interest to lose as many games as they can and secure the first pick in the draft next season.
One big thing: Let’s see if head coach Nick Sirianni can make the Eagles a cool place to play at again. I am big on culture and creating a winning environment, but it’s kind of hard to build culture when you aren’t winning. Since I don’t see many wins for the 2021 Eagles I think Sirianni has his hands full, and for that reason I am leaning way under 6.5 wins.
4. Washington Football Team
2020 record: 7-9 2021 over (-125)/under (-105): 8.5 wins
Washington is expected to be exactly average in 2021. In the new 17-game format 8.5 wins falls directly in the middle, and that feels about right. Their major free agency additions included QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (via Miami) and WR Curtis Samuel (via Carolina), which add to what looks like an interesting offense. They are already set at RB with Antonio Gibson, they already have a number one WR with Terry McLaurin, and last year (former Virginia Tech quarterback who I saw play in high school in Lynchburg, Virginia) Logan Thomas showed he can be a solid TE.
The headliner of this team actually has nothing to do with the offense; it’s all about the defense. They have talent at every level, highlighted by potential defensive player of the year Chase Young at EDGE. It’s entirely possible that the Washington Football Team only needs to average around 23 points score to win 9 or 10 games in 2021, which sounds weird since it’s such an offensive league. But that’s how talented this defense is.
One big thing: If Ryan Fitzpatrick can dial it up and perform like a top 12-ish quarterback, the Football Team has every chance to repeat as NFC East Champs. Knowing his history as a gunslinger I think it’s reasonable to expect a few clunkers here and there, but as long as he isn’t out there blowing games left and right it should be a two-horse race in this division. I lean over 8.5 wins, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this squad cleaned up and won 11 games next year.
NFC East Prediction:
- Dallas Cowboys: 11-6
- Washington Football Team: 10-7
- New York Giants: 7-10
- Philadelphia Eagles: 4-13