2021 NFL Season Predictions: Josh Allen wins MVP, surprising COY choice

NFL season predictions are in, and the individual awards might look a bit different than most outlets have. What pick surprises you most?

Nothing quite brings on a strong whiff of fall and football quite like some NFL season predictions. Who’s winning this division? Who’s winning that award? Will there be any surprises on the sheet? Well, the Pro Football Network staff came together, and all picked who they believed were the winners of each. Let us know how we did.

2021 NFL season predictions: AFC

This is how the staff believes the American Football Conference will shake out. There shouldn’t be too many surprises here. There seems to be a pronounced hierarchy within the AFC.

AFC East

As our season prediction shows, the mood has shifted in a division most recently dominated by the New England Patriots.

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. New England Patriots
  4. New York Jets

The Bills have one of the best rosters in football and are the AFC East division winners in our season prediction. Josh Allen took a massive step last season. If he continues to hone in his mental process, he’ll become relatively unstoppable. His arm strength, accuracy, and athleticism make him one of the more dangerous weapons in football. The Bills’ defense finished top 10 in the past two seasons. With this offense, that gives them a Super Bowl shot.

If Tua Tagovailoa plays the regular season at anywhere near the level he played in the preseason, this Dolphins team could be a problem. They’re well-coached defensively with legitimate top-end talent at both outside cornerback spots. They have unique offensive weapons. Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, and Preston Williams all provide stellar weapons at receiver. Mike Gesicki is one of the more gifted tight ends in the league, and Myles Gaskin can go by land, sea, and air. If this team doesn’t win 10 games, it’ll be because Tua couldn’t elevate his game.

While doing my individual picks, the Patriots were one team that made the NFL season predictions process difficult. They have a solid roster, but it’s difficult to see the upside with them. The offensive line is good, which will help rookie QB Mac Jones remain upright and confident. They have talent at tight end, but their receivers will be an issue. Losing Stephon Gilmore for at least the first six weeks of the season is also a massive blow.

The Jets made a move to improve their pass rush with Carl Lawson, but they quickly lost him to a season-ending injury. Their defensive backfield and pass rush is a mess. However, Joe Douglas and Co. have done a fantastic job trying to cultivate an offense that can survive around rookie QB Zach Wilson. They went out and attacked OL and WR in the draft and even got great value in RB Michael Carter in Round 3. They could play spoiler to a team or two later in the season if Wilson gets into a groove.

AFC North

The AFC North is the last bastion of the old school. Each team is a cold-weather team. The teams in the AFC North legitimately hate one another. It’s the most entertaining football there is.

  1. Cleveland Browns
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Cincinnati Bengals

The Browns might have the scariest roster of all the divisional powerhouses. Their questions lie within the playsheet of the coach and the right arm of the quarterback. Baker Mayfield must show he can elevate an already tremendous roster to the next level. They invested heavily in their secondary in free agency, which should allow alien lifeform Myles Garrett to get to the quarterback even more often in 2021. Add in their excellent OL, and you have a team worthy of winning the AFC North in our NFL season predictions.

Baltimore still has Lamar Jackson, who is a better passer than anybody gives him credit for. The Browns have an outstanding secondary, but the Ravens have the upper hand in LB play, and their CB group is stronger. If Baltimore’s receivers can stay healthy, they could compete with the Browns in the North. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them win it in the end.

The Steelers are another team that makes the NFL season predictions difficult. They dismantled their offensive line during the offseason, and they lost Mike Hilton in free agency. Najee Harris looks like the real deal, but it remains to be seen if this OL can get the job done enough in the regular season to have an explosion in the offense. Big Ben already uses the football as a hot potato in the pocket, and that was with a good OL.

Cincinnati could also play spoiler to some more talented rosters, but they don’t have the firepower to compete. Hopefully, Ja’Marr Chase gets back into a receiving groove as the season progresses. But the biggest question involves protecting their quarterback. Joe Burrow is coming off a gruesome knee injury, and they need to do whatever it takes to keep him upright.

AFC South

The AFC South is the weakest division in the AFC. Each team has legitimate questions surrounding their roster.

  1. Tennessee Titans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Houston Texans

The Tennessee Titans should walk away from this division. They have a talented roster, with two of the most gifted receivers in the league. Our NFL season predictions have them winning the division because of those weapons, a great quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, and the most intimidating running back in the league, Derrick Henry. But they may just win the division by default in 2021.

The Colts might not get their quarterback on the field at this rate. Carson Wentz came to camp and almost immediately needed surgery on his foot. From there, he landed himself on COVID-19 protocol and was forced to miss more time. The Colts have a low vaccination rate, making their ability to remain available on Sundays more difficult. They still have to answer the other Wentz question. Is he going to be any good again?

The Jaguars are finishing this division a step up from the basement by default in our NFL season predictions. They appear to be a bit of a train wreck. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to be more of a dumpster fire when you have the Texans in the division. Hopefully, Urban Meyer and Co. don’t do anything to stunt the growth of their talented rookie QB.

The Texans would be relegated if American sports weren’t so cowardly. This team has consistently made poor decision after poor decision, making them the lowest-rated team in our power rankings and our NFL season predictions. There isn’t anything to even get excited about with this team outside of their talented left tackle, Laremy Tunsil.

AFC West

The Chiefs might not be staring in the rearview mirror at the Chargers, but the Chargers might be just a corner or two behind them.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Los Angeles Chargers
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Las Vegas Raiders

The Chiefs showed us they still exist in the preseason when they mopped the floor with the Vikings on their first two offensive drives with Patrick Mahomes under center. Sure, they have a “new” offensive line this year, but it might be better. If Mahomes stays healthy in 2021, it’ll be difficult for anybody to usurp them in the AFC. But it’s not impossible.

The Chargers remain challenging to place in NFL season predictions because they’re always underwhelming. It’s seldom their fault, either. Hopefully, their stars — Joey Bosa and Derwin James — stay healthy this season. Justin Herbert is set to light the NFL on fire in Year 2 with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler.

The Broncos have one of the best rosters in the entire league, but it’s difficult to see the team’s upside with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. Vic Fangio’s seat must be a bit spicy because this looks like a decision to take the higher floor than ceiling. The Broncos’ defense alone could have the team much higher in our NFL season predictions. Their secondary is the deepest in recent memory. They have a good OL with good, young weapons. Hopefully, Pat Shurmur can maximize this offense around Bridgewater’s limitations.

The Raiders are like a moody teenager. Whatever they need to do, they make an effort to do the exact opposite. Despite all the confusing moves, they’ve improved their record every season under Jon Gruden. However, if Derek Carr can’t find time to deliver the football, this team has no chance to improve on last season. Even with the addition of LB K.J. Wright, this defense will struggle mightily.

AFC Playoff Standings

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Buffalo Bills
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Tennessee Titans
  5. Baltimore Ravens
  6. Miami Dolphins
  7. Los Angeles Chargers

2021 NFL season predictions | NFC

There are a few questions surrounding how the NFC will shake out, but most of those questions come from the West Coast.

NFC East

The worst division in football made a few upgrades heading into 2021, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Washington Football Team
  3. New York Giants
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

If Dak Prescott remains healthy for 17 games, the Cowboys will have no excuse not to win the NFC East. They possess the second-easiest schedule, according to Vegas. Their offense should contend for the best in the NFL. All the defense needs to do is survive — tread water. This team should walk away with the division as long as it can stay out of the bottom third.

Washington reloaded with more weapons in the offseason. Curtis Samuel is a fun piece to add alongside Terry McLaurin. Dyami Brown has impressed in camp and is a good complement to the two. Antonio Gibson is a stud, and they have upside on the offensive line. Washington’s defense is one of the most talented in the league, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is their QB. As fun as he is, we’ve never seen him put it together over the course of an entire season.

The Giants are a team doing everything in their power to improve a dreadful offensive line. Unfortunately, continuity and talent matter on the line, and they lack both. Pair that with an offensive coordinator from the stone age, and it’d be difficult for a good quarterback to succeed. Yet, they don’t have that either. Daniel Jones has the potential to make our NFL season predictions look stupid, but the turnovers are a massive problem, and so is Jason Garrett.

The Eagles are weirdly constructed at this point. There is a lot of veteran talent on the defensive and offensive lines. They have young players at receiver and at QB, with a bunch of unknowns on defense. If Jalen Hurts rounds into a franchise quarterback, this could be a team that might not win many games but could ruin seasons for a contender or two. Hurts’ athleticism could be a big problem for defenses.

NFC North

The NFC North may be the biggest snoozer of all the divisions, although another NFC division could fight for that title.

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Chicago Bears
  4. Detroit Lions

The Packers could sleepwalk through the regular season, but they almost surely won’t. Aaron Rodgers went from a man seeking vengeance in 2020 to a calm, collected mercenary for 2021. Rodgers would love nothing more than to win the Super Bowl in his final season with the Packers, just to show how silly it was for them to draft Jordan Love. Green Bay needs to stay healthy, but they have the talent to make a playoff run.

The Vikings upgraded their defensive line this offseason, but the offense didn’t look very inspiring during the preseason. Even before that, the PFN staff was already low on Minnesota. The secondary will rely on a seemingly washed Patrick Peterson and second-year player, Cam Dantzler. Hopefully, those few series against the Chiefs in the final preseason game didn’t indicate what the Vikings’ offense must overcome in 2021.

The only legitimate excuse Matt Nagy has for not starting Justin Fields would be to say that he’d rather sacrifice Andy Dalton behind this offensive line. But he can’t actually say that. Not wanting to potentially stunt the growth of a rookie behind a horrific offensive line is admirable. However, Nagy’s job is to win football games, and Fields gives them the best chance to do that.

The Lions simply do not have the quarterback and weapons combination to have success. There’s a reason they are one of the lowest-rated teams in our NFL season predictions. Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes have a lot of work to do on this roster.

NFC South

The defending Super Bowl champions could run away with the division in 2021.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Carolina Panthers
  4. Atlanta Falcons

The Buccaneers are the reigning champions, and they bring back all 22 of their Super Bowl starters. In fact, only 10 players on their opening 53-man roster are different from last season. When doing draft analysis for the Buccaneers, it really was the first time that I’ve seen a best-player-available moment. The only holes they had on their roster were backup interior line and some edge-rushing help. They got both in the draft with limited capital. Tampa Bay should be able to coast through the regular season, but who knows what kind of Jameis Winston we’ll see now that he can see?

If Winston can maintain his downfield, explosive nature without unnecessarily putting the ball in harm’s way, this team could very easily be one of the surprises in the NFL. Last season, they ranked second in defensive efficiency despite seeing a down year from Marshon Lattimore. This team still has a lot of talent, and Winston will surely be looking to stick it to his former team.

The Panthers still aren’t there yet. They’re building an outstanding foundation around whoever will be their starting quarterback of the future, but that’s probably not Sam Darnold. One of the reasons they get so little love in NFL season predictions is the lack of faith in his turnaround. The defense has two draft classes full of young talent, and the trio of DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall Jr. is intriguing. But Darnold must show sharp growth if he wants to be their future.

The Falcons are floundering in a dangerous zone of mediocrity. However, the Arthur Smith offense rolls into town. That offense has landed in the top 5 two years running in Tennessee. Between Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Hayden Hurst, the team should have the weapons to keep up offensively. The one glimmer of hope this team could turn it around lies in hiring defensive coordinator Dean Pees. If he can get the most out of this defensive roster, the Falcons could be a surprise in the NFC.

NFC West

This is easily the most contested division in the NFL. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of these four teams, or even possibly ALL FOUR OF THEM in the playoffs.

  1. Los Angeles Rams
  2. Seattle Seahawks
  3. Arizona Cardinals
  4. San Francisco 49ers

This is easily the biggest difference in our NFL season predictions and many others. The Rams bring in an upgrade at quarterback with a fleeting window to compete, given their complete lack of draft capital and an aging roster. They lost Troy Hill and John Johnson in the offseason, along with Brandon Staley, but the defense should still be good. Sean McVay will get this rushing attack going, and Matthew Stafford’s arm allows for a more open playbook.

The Seahawks have never won less than nine games in the Russell Wilson era. Their defensive roster doesn’t seem very good, but when one thing has happened for nine straight seasons, it’s better to see it before we believe it. Wilson and wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will have this offense humming, despite its oftentimes backward playcalling. Trading for Sidney Jones helped ease some concern, but then they traded Ahkello Witherspoon to the Steelers. The Seahawks are one of the more fascinated teams in the league.

According to our season predictions, Arizona comes in as a surprising third-place finisher in the West. The Cardinals’ offense is filled with names at the skill positions. DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green are top names, but only one of them appears to still have game. The 2021 season will come down to J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones’ health because their cornerback depth chart leaves a lot to be desired.

The 49ers also have some questions surrounding their secondary. Yet, their fourth-place ranking in our NFL season predictions comes from a lack of belief in Jimmy Garoppolo and not knowing when rookie Trey Lance will get the call up from the bullpen. Even with the easiest schedule in the NFL, according to Vegas, they still have to go through the rest of the NFC West.

NFC Playoff Standings

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. Los Angeles Rams
  4. Dallas Cowboys
  5. Seattle Seahawks
  6. Washington Football Team
  7. San Francisco 49ers

2021 NFL MVP season predictions | MVP

Josh Allen

QB Josh Allen is one of many names that could be worthy of this award by the end of the season. He was in contention last year, and if he progresses at all in 2021, the award could very easily be his. The Allen ascension was unlikely, given his accuracy issues, but in about 18 months, the narrative surrounding him has done a 180.

2021 NFL season predictions | Offensive Awards

Offensive Player of the Year | QB Patrick Mahomes

Maybe there is a bit of Patrick Mahomes’ fatigue. Maybe he and Allen both had outrageous seasons, and the NFL wanted to honor both. Personally, this just looks like two of the best in the game being honored before the season begins. Right now, Mahomes and Allen are first and third, respectively, in odds.

Offensive Rookie of the Year | QB Mac Jones

Mac Jones is in a good situation to win games as a rookie. He has a solid offensive line and a stable of impressive running backs and tight ends. Additionally, Jones looked great in the preseason. There are still instances where his mental trigger needs to speed up, but he’s looked impressive as a rookie.

2021 NFL season predictions | Defensive Awards

Defensive Player of the Year | DE Chase Young

Whew! Pro Football Network loves themselves some Chase Young. Working on the Washington defensive line surely helps his case, as he should have opportunities to secure sacks. Because of the talent along the DL and in the secondary, Young should get more opportunities than anybody outside of maybe Myles Garrett (who could very well win the award, too).

Defensive Rookie of the Year | LB Micah Parsons

Micah Parsons has wowed everybody during the preseason. His year off of football in 2020 didn’t negatively affect his processing speed. Not that it matters too much, because he’s a 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker that is somehow the fastest player on the defense. He’ll be used all over, so he should pick up stats as an off-ball linebacker, a pass rusher, and a coverage defender. That utility should give him the résumé to win the award.

Coach of the Year | Mike McCarthy

A Dallas Cowboys fan’s worst nightmare, outside of the inevitable wins this award brings. Jason Garrett won the award in 2016, but he certainly wasn’t the best coach in football that year. He got lucky with a fourth-round rookie QB playing out of his mind. There are far better coaches in the league than McCarthy, but at least the award means the Cowboys are relevant.

Comeback Player of the Year | QB Dak Prescott

If there’s one award to put in pen, it’s this one. Dak Prescott is coming off not just a horrific ankle injury but the tragic loss of his brother as well. If McCarthy wins COY, it’s because Prescott and this offense packed the defense up on their back and carried them to a 12-win season. Prescott was on pace to shatter records before his injury last season, and he could do similar things in a more efficient manner if the team isn’t trailing in every game.

AFC Champions | Buffalo Bills

This is where the Chiefs’ fatigue comes into play. Teams do not often make it back to the Super Bowl the year after losing one, and the Chiefs have already been to two straight. The Bills have the offensive firepower to keep up. They also have the great veteran safety play to go alongside Tre’Davious White to match up with the Kansas City offense.

NFC Champions | Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers are bringing back 43 of their 53 rostered players from their Super Bowl run, including all 22 starters. They have solid starters at almost every single position. As long as they remain relatively healthy, the only NFC team that should give them problems is the Packers.

Super Bowl LVI Champions | Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This feels dirty, but it is what it is. Tom Brady goes to a city, and that city starts taking championships like it’s their birthright. Want your city to win a ship? Have your owner pay Brady to live in the city for a year after he retires. Greatness follows Brady like stink does on a soldier on a two-week field op. If it happens, Brady will remain bulletproof for the rest of our lifetimes.

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