At long last, the NFL season is finally near. In one week, the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs will host the Houston Texans to begin their quest for a second consecutive Super Bowl title. No team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2004 New England Patriots. Will the Chiefs be able to do something that has not been done in well over a decade? We asked our entire Pro Football Network staff. The results are what we call our consensus 2020 NFL Season and Award Predictions.
2020 NFL Season Predictions: AFC East
1. Buffalo Bills
2. New England Patriots*
3. Miami Dolphins
4. New York Jets
*denotes wild card team
Could it really be that we see someone other than the New England Patriots win the division for the first time in 12 years? The departure of Tom Brady has certainly made that a realistic possibility, but then the arrival of Cam Newton put the breaks on any talk of the Patriots falling off a cliff.
However, they will have their work cut out preventing the Buffalo Bills from making a run at their first division title since 1995. The Bills and Patriots are both built with strong defenses and with offenses that will be hoping to provide just enough support. It could be a fascinating race between those two teams for the top.
Behind them, the Dolphins and Jets will be fighting desperately to prove they are set to be relevant in this division over the next five years. Both outperformed expectations to some extent in 2019, but can they show signs of progress in 2020? The Dolphins season will largely ride on how their new pieces, both veteran and rookies gel, while the Jets will be desperate to prove their strong finish to last season was more than just because of a soft schedule.
AFC East Betting Perspective by PFN’s Chris Smith
- Exact Order Payout: +600
- Buffalo Bills are currently +125 to win AFC East
- Cam Newton is currently +3200 to win MVP
- Brian Flores is currently +2400 to win Coach of the Year
- New York Jets are currently +1400 to have NFL’s worst regular season record
2020 NFL Season Predictions: AFC North
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Pittsburgh Steelers*
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Cincinnati Bengals
*denotes wild card team
This division has the potential to be the most competitive of the entire league. The Ravens rightly enter as the big favorites, having led the NFL with a 14-2 record in 2019. With a full year’s worth of tape, teams will have spent a large portion of their offseason planning how to stop this offense. However, if Lamar Jackson shows even more development in his passing game, it is hard to imagine anyone else winning this division.
The Steelers will be getting their franchise quarterback back under center, and they will believe they can challenge the Ravens if he is fully healthy. They need to see a lot more progress from their offense than just the play of the quarterback, though, after struggling all over the field last season.
In Ohio, both teams will be desperate to right the wrongs of last season. The Browns have a new head coach and an opportunity to be somewhat of a post-hype sleeper when it comes to the AFC playoffs in 2020. They will need to get Baker Mayfield feeling comfortable in the pocket, and then look for their talent-rich roster to perform up to expectation.
Mike Tanier | Browns may quietly fulfill last year’s promises in 2020
As for the Bengals, well, this should be a development season, as they break in plenty of youth, including their new franchise QB in Joe Burrow. Anything more than five wins will likely be a bonus, with individual performances being more important results in 2020.
AFC North Betting Perspective by PFN’s Chris Smith
- Exact Order Payout: +160
- Baltimore Ravens are currently +650 to win Super Bowl LV
- Pittsburgh Steelers are currently -134 to make the playoffs in 2020
- Baker Mayfield is currently +2500 to win Comeback Player of the Year
- Joe Burrow is +230 consensus favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year
2020 NFL Season Predictions: AFC South
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Tennessee Titans*
3. Houston Texans
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
*denotes wild card team
This is another intriguing division, with three teams potentially in the mix. The Colts went out and added key players on both sides of the ball, which should put near the top. With one of the best offensive lines in the entire league, they will be hoping to get a Philip Rivers looking to end his long career with a ring.
Mike Tanier | Titans made all the wrong moves in the 2020 offseason
The Titans will enter 2020 looking to prove that last season was no fluke. With long-term deals handed out to quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry, a lot of pressure will fall on this offense to perform in the same way they did in the second half of 2019. If they can avoid a similar start to 2019, 2-4, then they have a great chance to win this division in 2020.
No team seems to be trending downwards as much as the Houston Texans entering 2020. After another offseason of decisions that raised eyebrows, all eyes will be on the play of Deshaun Watson without his safety blanket in DeAndre Hopkins. However, writing off Watson is never a good idea, no matter what the organization is doing around him.
Mike Tanier | Texans risk wasting yet another year of Deshaun Watson
In Jacksonville, 2020 is expected to be a rebuilding season. The Jaguars could be a legitimate challenger for the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Therefore, 2020 is all about deciding whether the future of this team lies with Gardner Minshew, or if a new option needs to be sought going forward.
AFC South Betting Perspective by PFN’s Chris Smith
- Exact Order Payout: +260
- Indianapolis Colts are currently +125 to win AFC South
- Derrick Henry is currently +750 to lead the NFL in rushing yards
- Houston Texans are currently +154 to make the playoffs in 2020
- Jacksonville Jaguars are currently +3000 to go winless in 2020
2020 NFL Season Predictions: AFC West
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Denver Broncos
3. Los Angeles Chargers
4. Las Vegas Raiders
It will be extremely surprising if the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are not the runaway winners of this division. They do have questions surrounding their defense, but their offense can blow anyone away within minutes if given the opportunity.
The real race in this division is for second place, and one of those all-important wild card spots. The Broncos are the team many expect to build upon the promise they demonstrated last season. Drew Lock is surrounded by young talent and their defense is always one of the tougher ones to face. Oh, and never count out the importance of homefield advantage in the thin atmosphere of Empower Field at Mile High.
Frame it however you want, but last season was a major disappointment for the Chargers. After making it all the way to the Divisional round in 2018, the Chargers’ wheels came off early and often in 2019. With a new quarterback under center, this team is going to need its talent-laden defense to step up in a big way.
The Raiders are arguably the most disrespected team in the NFL right now. They fell off late last season but were not out of the conversation for the division until the start of December last season. Their offense was quietly extremely efficient last season, and another year of Derek Carr and Jon Gruden, with a lot of new playmaking weapons around them, could make for a strong first year in Las Vegas.
AFC West Betting Perspective by PFN’s Chris Smith
- Exact Order Payout: N/A
- Kansas City Chiefs are currently +500 to score most regular season points
- Denver Broncos are currently +235 to finish in 2nd place in AFC West
- LA Chargers are currently +205 to finish in 3rd place in AFC West
- Josh Jacobs is currently +2000 to lead the NFL in rushing TDs
AFC Champions: Kansas City Chiefs
Unsurprisingly, the Chiefs are the favorites to come out of the AFC after their explosive playoff performance of 2019. A big key will be taking advantage of a division that lacks a second true contender in an attempt to claim that number one seed and the all-important bye in the first week of the playoffs.
The Chiefs’ biggest contender likely comes in the shape of the Ravens. But with both the Steelers and Browns expected to be significantly improved in 2020, the AFC North will be a different prospect for Baltimore this season. In the other two divisions, none of the Bills, Patriots, Colts, Texans or Titans seemingly possess the upside to challenge for that number one seed. If the Chiefs offense has an extra week’s rest and homefield advantage, it is hard to imagine anyone stopping them from going to the Super Bowl.