B/R NFL Skilled Picks for 2020 Division Winners

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    Seth Wenig/Related Press

    The 2020 offseason has been like no different. The COVID-19 pandemic has worn out minicamp, OTAs and the complete preseason.

    However with rookies reporting to coaching camp and veterans making ready to affix them, we’re lastly inching towards the NFL’s return.

    There are any variety of uncertainties going through groups this 12 months. The dearth of prep time would seem to place groups with new coaches and schemes (in addition to the complete rookie class) behind. Numerous gamers (together with some massive names like New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Kansas Metropolis Chiefs operating again Damien Williams) have opted out of the 2020 marketing campaign altogether.

    The primary season with 14 playoff groups goes to be a doozy.

    With simply over 40 days to go till the Houston Texans and Kansas Metropolis Chiefs are scheduled to open the common season, 5 of the NFL writers right here at Bleacher Report have gathered to forged their votes for the champions of the league’s eight divisions.

    What number of groups will repeat? Who is ready to vary the steadiness of energy of their division? Will the established order or chaos reign in 2020?

    Here is what they needed to say.

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    Eric Christian Smith/Related Press

    Gary Davenport: Buffalo Payments

    Tyler Dunne: New England Patriots

    Brad Gagnon: Buffalo Payments

    Matt Miller: Buffalo Payments

    Brent Sobleski: New England Patriots

    For the final decade-plus, the AFC East has been the last word train in foregone conclusions. The final time a crew not named the New England Patriots received the division was 2008. That is the one time the Pats have not claimed the division since 2003.

    Nevertheless, the instances they’re a-changin’. Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay. New England misplaced a handful of key defensive gamers to free company, and much more (together with defensive starters Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung) opted out of the 2020 season.

    The Patriots will not essentially be a foul crew in 2020 with Cam Newton beneath middle. However they are not the front-runners within the division. The Buffalo Payments are, and it has been over 20 years since anybody stated that.

    The Payments aren’t dominant in anybody side of the sport, however the crew additionally does not have any obtrusive weaknesses.

    Josh Allen improved as a passer in his second season and received a giant enhance within the offseason when the crew traded for wideout Stefon Diggs. Buffalo’s eighth-ranked speeding assault added a bruising younger operating again on this 12 months’s draft in Utah’s Zack Moss. The Buffalo protection does not have a ton of star energy outdoors cornerback Tre’Davious White, however the crew ranked third in yards allowed throughout 2019.

    After a 17-year postseason drought, the Payments have earned a wild-card berth in two of the previous three seasons beneath head coach Sean McDermott. However they have not received the division outright since all the way in which again in 1995.

    That adjustments in 2020.

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    Chris Szagola/Related Press

    Davenport: Dallas Cowboys

    Dunne: Philadelphia Eagles

    Gagnon: Philadelphia Eagles

    Miller: Dallas Cowboys

    Sobleski: Philadelphia Eagles

    On paper at the least, the Dallas Cowboys appear to be essentially the most gifted roster within the NFC East. The addition of explosive rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb to the league’s No.1 offense in 2019 provides Dallas one of many NFL’s most loaded models on that facet of the ball.

    After all, that is been the story in Dallas for a number of years. The crew has appeared the half on paper however has come up quick on Sundays. The Cowboys introduced in a brand new head coach, Mike McCarthy, in an effort to place a cease to these disappointments. However in a 12 months with out minicamps, OTAs or preseason video games, change could be a harmful factor.

    The reigning NFC East champions, alternatively, are heading into their fifth 12 months beneath Doug Pederson. As Dave Zangaro reported for NBC Sports activities Philadelphia, the pinnacle coach thinks that continuity can solely assist the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020.

    “We have been blessed,” Pederson stated. “I have been blessed going into my fifth 12 months right here in Philadelphia and sustaining the employees that I’ve and including some nice additions to the employees this 12 months. And our gamers are excited as a result of they don’t seem to be having to study a essentially new offense or protection or particular groups.”

    Veteran cornerback Darius Slay was a giant get for Philadelphia, and rookie wideout Jalen Reagor ought to add some pop to a unit that was ravaged by accidents final 12 months.

    However the primary purpose the Eagles are the decide to win the NFC East might be that whereas the Cowboys repeatedly fail to fulfill expectations, Pederson’s Eagles have a behavior of exceeding them.

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    Gail Burton/Related Press

    Davenport: Baltimore Ravens

    Dunne: Baltimore Ravens

    Gagnon: Baltimore Ravens

    Miller: Baltimore Ravens

    Sobleski: Pittsburgh Steelers

    It is hardly a shock that the Baltimore Ravens are our panel’s decide because the AFC North champions. In any case, the crew posted one of the best document within the NFL a 12 months in the past. After beginning the season 2-2, the Ravens peeled off 12 wins in a row, setting a document for essentially the most speeding yards by a crew in league historical past alongside the way in which.

    If there is a shock right here, it is that the Ravens weren’t a unanimous decide, particularly as a result of the crew received even higher within the offseason.

    There wasn’t a lot enchancment to be made to an offense led by reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. However by deciding on Ohio State operating again J.Okay. Dobbins within the second spherical of the 2020 draft, Baltimore’s already fearsome floor recreation received that rather more formidable.

    The protection, alternatively, obtained an enormous enhance. The Ravens drafted two athletic younger linebackers in LSU’s Patrick Queen and Ohio State’s Malik Harrison, filling the crew’s largest want within the course of. The defensive position received a succesful veteran starter in Derek Wolfe and a five-time Professional Bowler in Calais Campbell.

    Baltimore additionally did not maintain any main personnel losses in free company on both facet of the ball.

    With a wholesome Ben Roethlisberger again beneath middle, the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t going to be a straightforward out this season, however the Ravens are extra than simply the favorites to win their division. They’re one of the best wager within the AFC to knock the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs from their perch atop the convention.

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    Butch Dill/Related Press

    Davenport: Minnesota Vikings

    Dunne: Chicago Bears

    Gagnon: Minnesota Vikings

    Miller: Inexperienced Bay Packers

    Sobleski: Minnesota Vikings

    For a lot of the previous decade, the NFC North has belonged to the Inexperienced Bay Packers. They’ve received the division in six of the previous 10 years, together with final season.

    Nevertheless, after a puzzling offseason in Titletown, throughout which the Packers invested extra in a possible successor to quarterback Aaron Rodgers than in fixing the problems at extensive receiver round him, nearly all of our consultants consider a altering of the guard might be on the horizon.

    It is not that the Minnesota Vikings haven’t got problems with their very own that should be addressed this season. The commerce that despatched Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Payments created a gap at extensive receiver reverse Adam Thielen. The Vikings misplaced their prime three cornerbacks within the offseason. The defensive finish spot reverse star Danielle Hunter is a query mark.

    And honest or not, quarterback Kirk Cousins has developed a repute for developing quick when it issues most.

    Nevertheless, they added younger expertise at each nook and receiver within the draft to offset their losses at these positions. Head coach Mike Zimmer hasn’t dominated out a reunion with veteran finish Everson Griffen, and the Vikings nonetheless have a gifted and balanced roster with none main weaknesses.

    As Bryan Perez wrote for NBC Sports activities Chicago:

    “Within the final 30 years, 52 groups improved by 6+ wins from one 12 months to the following. Solely 18 of these 52 groups improved to document at the least 12 wins, just like the Packers (from 6-10 to 13-Three final 12 months). Of these 18 groups: 

    “Zero received the identical quantity or extra video games the next 12 months

    “All misplaced at the least two extra video games the next 12 months

    “13 misplaced at the least 4 extra video games the next 12 months

    “On common, these 18 groups misplaced 5.9 extra video games the next 12 months.”

    That regression will open the door for the Vikes.

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    Charlie Riedel/Related Press

    Davenport: Houston Texans

    Dunne: Tennessee Titans

    Gagnon: Houston Texans

    Miller: Houston Texans

    Sobleski: Indianapolis Colts

    The 2020 offseason was not particularly type to the Houston Texans. As Ben Standig reported for The Athletic, they obtained essentially the most votes (11) in a ballot of NFL brokers for the crew that had the worst offseason, largely as a result of they traded star wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals.

    “I simply do not perceive them in any way,” one agent stated.

    “They rid themselves of their finest participant when not pressured,” one other added.

    And but, the Texans have been the decide of three writers to repeat as AFC South champions, primarily as a result of they’re the defending AFC South champions.

    In a season throughout which continuity is king, the 2020 Texans will look an terrible lot just like the 2019 Texans. Sure, Hopkins is gone. So is operating again Carlos Hyde. However they received an improve over Hyde in David Johnson because of the Hopkins commerce, and so they introduced in a confirmed veteran substitute for the departed wideout in Brandin Cooks. If they’ll keep wholesome, the Houston offense should not take a giant step backward this season.

    The Texans nonetheless have defensive finish J.J. Watt and inside linebacker Zach Cunningham to anchor the protection, in addition to one of many NFL’s most electrifying younger quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson.

    This can be a Texans crew that raced out to a 24-Zero lead in final 12 months’s playoff loss to the Tremendous Bowl champion Chiefs. Whereas the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts aren’t far behind, Houston is the decide to as soon as once more rule the AFC South.

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    Butch Dill/Related Press

    Davenport: New Orleans Saints

    Dunne: Atlanta Falcons

    Gagnon: Atlanta Falcons

    Miller: New Orleans Saints

    Sobleski: New Orleans Saints

    The NFC South has the makings of an actual brouhaha in 2020. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the most-hyped crew in the complete league after including quarterback Tom Brady. The Atlanta Falcons went 6-2 over the second half of the 2019 season and are only some years faraway from a Tremendous Bowl journey. The Carolina Panthers…

    OK, so the Panthers stink. However nonetheless, it has the makings of a troublesome division this 12 months.

    And the New Orleans Saints stay the crew to beat.

    Drew Brees does not have an MVP award (one way or the other) like Brady or Matt Ryan, however he does have extra passing yards and touchdowns than any signal-caller in league historical past. In operating again Alvin Kamara, extensive receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and tight finish Jared Cook dinner, Brees has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. The Saints even have a top-three offensive line in each run blocking and move safety, per Soccer Outsiders.

    The protection has no scarcity of expertise, both. Defensive finish Cameron Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis are two of essentially the most underrated gamers within the league at their respective positions. Veteran security Malcolm Jenkins is again in Massive Simple, becoming a member of a secondary that additionally consists of one of many NFL’s finest younger corners in Marshon Lattimore.

    It is not hyperbole to say the Saints may be essentially the most balanced crew within the NFL—and whereas New Orleans got here up quick within the postseason final 12 months, the crew is without doubt one of the main contenders to symbolize the NFC in Tremendous Bowl LV.

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    Patrick Semansky/Related Press

    Davenport: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

    Dunne: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

    Gagnon: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

    Miller: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

    Sobleski: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

    The Kansas Metropolis Chiefs are fairly good.

    In 2019, they received 12 video games and the franchise’s first championship in half a century. They’ve arguably the sport’s finest participant in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who simply signed the biggest contract extension within the historical past {of professional} sports activities.

    And to listen to the Chiefs inform it, the crew is just simply getting began.

    As McKenzie Nelson reported for KSHB-TV in Kansas Metropolis, defensive sort out Chris Jones (who simply inked an enormous extension of his personal) has predicted that the Chiefs will win 5 Tremendous Bowls. Star wideout Tyreek Hill went one (truly two) higher, forecasting a seven-ring dynasty that might be the best the NFL has ever seen.

    Mahomes is on board with the concept of the Chiefs dominating the NFL for the following decade.

    “You like the fellows have the objectives and so they wish to be in Kansas Metropolis for a very long time and that they wish to win championships and so they do not wish to be common, they wish to be nice each single 12 months,” he stated.

    Now, seven championships may be stretching issues only a bit. It has been virtually 20 years because the NFL had a repeat champion. However the Chiefs have an MVP quarterback, a fully loaded offense and a protection that made main strides within the crew’s march to the title in 2019.

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    Chris Szagola/Related Press

    Davenport: San Francisco 49ers

    Dunne: Seattle Seahawks

    Gagnon: San Francisco 49ers

    Miller: Seattle Seahawks

    Sobleski: Seattle Seahawks

    The San Francisco 49ers received 13 video games final 12 months and finally represented the NFC in Tremendous Bowl LIV, the place they very almost defeated the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. Now {that a} seventh playoff crew has been added in every convention, there’s a superb opportunity the Niners will make it again into the postseason.

    In response to nearly all of the NFL writers polled for this piece, it simply will not be as champions of the NFC West.

    The Seattle Seahawks truly got here near capturing the division final 12 months. Regardless of a so-so pass-defense, one of many NFL’s weakest pass-rushes and a litany of accidents, they virtually pulled off a Week 17 upset over the 49ers that might have given them the division title.

    Seattle’s protection received a large enhance in current days with the commerce that introduced All-Professional security Jamal Adams to the Emerald Metropolis. However its hopes in 2020 relaxation the place they’ve since 2012: with quarterback Russell Wilson.

    As Mike Sando wrote for The Athletic, at the least one NFL offensive coordinator thinks Wilson is each bit the quarterback Patrick Mahomes is.

    “If Wilson was enjoying in Kansas Metropolis, folks could be calling him one of the best quarterback within the NFL, and if Mahomes was in Seattle, they might be saying, ‘God, this man is absolutely good, however you want they might give him an opportunity early in video games,'” the coordinator stated.

    Having an MVP-caliber quarterback might be extra necessary than ever this 12 months.

    And whereas Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff are good and Kyler Murray is ascending, Wilson is the gold commonplace beneath middle within the NFC West.

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