2021 NFL Preseason Predictions
With the training camps and the preseason now underway, we are this close to the start of the 2021 NFL regular season.
This page will track our 2021 predictions as we head into the upcoming season.
NFL Predictions 2021: AFC East
Here are our early AFC East projections for each team including their win total:
1. Buffalo Bills - Projected Wins: 11.0
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has improved by leaps and bounds each season and has emerged as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. Outside of Patrick Mahomes (+500) and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers (+800), no other player has shorter odds to win the 2021/22 MVP than Allen (+1000), per Bovada.lv. And now he's paid like it, as the Bills locked up their franchise quarterback with a massive contract extension that keeps him under contract through his age-32 season (2028).
Allen's next-level ascension coincided with Tom Brady leaving the division in 2020 and it was only the third time since 2001 that the Patriots didn't win the division and have the best quarterback in the division. It's clear that Allen is head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacks in the division, but future seasons could be very interesting with the other three teams rostering a high first-round quarterback entering either his first or second season. Helping Josh Allen take such a massive step forward was Stefon Diggs, who led the NFL in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535) despite the absence of a traditional offseason. Beyond Diggs, Allen has a talented group of receivers at his disposal with Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis.
Even though the Bills ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing, the Bills ranked second in the NFL in total offense (behind Kansas City) and scoring offense (behind Green Bay). NFL.com's Cynthia Frelund predicts that Zack Moss will be Buffalo's most-improved player in 2021. If true, it would help take some pressure off of Allen. While the Bills added depth to their offensive line via the NFL Draft, their offensive line is solid, but not spectacular, and is better as a unit in pass protection than run blocking.
Given their elite offense, their defense doesn't need to be elite and it's not. The Bills defense ranked middle of the pack -- 14th in YPG allowed and 16th in PPG allowed. The team used its first two draft picks this year on bolstering its pass rush by selecting Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham.
Buffalo's first six games before their Week 7 bye are the most difficult part of their schedule. Four of their first six games are against AFC opponents that won double-digit games in 2020 including an AFC Championship Game rematch on the road. That Week 5 matchup against the Chiefs could later be significant for seeding and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Continue reading our NFL Predictions 2021: AFC East
NFL Predictions 2021: AFC North
Here are our early AFC North projections for each team including their win total:
1. Baltimore Ravens - Projected Wins: 10.2
Since drafting Lamar Jackson with the last pick of Round 1 in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Ravens have won double-digit games and made the playoffs in all three seasons. During that span, no AFC North team has won more games than the Ravens (35) -- Steelers (29), Browns (24) and Bengals (12).
In his first full season as a starter (2019), Jackson was named league MVP. While he regressed from his unsustainable 9.0 TD% in his MVP season, Jackson once again rushed for more than 1,000 yards. The Ravens' dominant rushing attack led the NFL, but the passing offense ranked dead last. The trio of Jackson, second-year back J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards gives Baltimore a top-three rushing attack (or better), but the team invested in more weapons for Jackson to continue to develop as a passer. That said, the team's top receivers are either dealing with an injury -- Marquise Brown (hamstring) and Rashod Bateman (groin) -- or have struggled with durability -- Sammy Watkins (multiple missed games in five of past six seasons).
Meanwhile, their defense has been one of the league's best as well. The defense has ranked top-three in scoring defense for three consecutive seasons and no worse than seventh in total defense during that span. In addition, they were one of four teams to rank top eight against both the run (eighth) and pass (sixth) in 2020. Their offensive-defensive balance has helped them rank first in yardage differential (2018), scoring differential (2020) or both (2019) in the past three seasons.
If Jackson and the passing offense are able to improve upon last year's numbers, the Ravens will be as dangerous as any team in the league. If not, it may be difficult for them to keep up with the extremely potent Buffalo and Kansas City offenses in the playoffs.
Continue reading our NFL Predictions 2021: AFC North
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