NFL
February 10, 2021

10 NFL Predictions for 2021 That'll Totally Happen

Nobody could have predicted that the 2020 NFL season would be unlike any other. 

Last offseason, long before the COVID-19 pandemic, who would've guessed that the NFL would cancel the preseason? or that Tom Brady would be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer? How about that the Green Bay Packers would trade up in the first round to draft Aaron Rodgers' successor? 

That's how crazy every NFL offseason is. And this year could be even wilder. 

With multiple quarterbacks already changing teams, and the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes potentially on the horizon, it's time predict what we think will totally happen in the upcoming season. 

Don't worry: We won't be predicting things like the Kansas City Chiefs will make the playoffs. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers Miss The Playoffs

The days of the Pittsburgh Steelers getting four easy wins over the Browns and Bengals every season are over. The Browns are now a legit playoff team and the Bengals should be on the rise with Joe Burrow under center.

Ben Roethlisberger has stated that he would rework his contract to help out the team and come back for another season. That still might not be enough. The Steelers have the fourth-worst salary cap situation heading into the season at more than $30 million over the projected $180 million cap. That means numerous players, likely including James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, are on the way out.

The Steelers’ offense had no run game last season and it's hard to imagine them finding one in the offseason. While the defense will still be strong, we could see some players departing on that side of the ball too.

With the rest of the division on the rise, the Steelers are likely to be the ones to fall — especially since Big Ben isn't getting any younger.

The Washington Football Team Will Win A Playoff Game

Saying the Washington Football Team will make the playoffs in 2021 isn’t enough, since they did so in 2020. Saying they will make the playoffs and win a game, now that's a bold prediction. 

Washington is going to have one of the best defenses in the league again next season. While that is no surprise, it is the Washington offense that could shock people. After smartly moving on from Dwayne Haskins Jr., Washington can now focus on bringing in a new quarterback or instead rely on Alex Smith or the newly re-signed Tyler Heinicke. 

Antonio Gibson looks to be a legit NFL running back and wide receiver Terry McLaurin is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the league. Add in Logan Thomas, who had a breakout season in 2020, and you have some serious talent. 

For this prediction to come true, WFT will need to make a move at quarterback, though. Whether that's landing Sam Darnold or another upgrade, this team can be a serious NFC threat next season if they find the right passer.

New QB or not, they will still be in a great spot to win the NFC East and get a playoff win against a wild card team next year. 

Deshaun Watson Will Win MVP

Where will Deshaun Watson be playing in 2021? We don’t know yet, and the Texans probably don't, either. The Texans essentially wasted one of the star quarterback’s prime seasons in 2020 and that will only leave Watson more hungry when he steps on the field next year.

While whoever pays the hefty price for Watson might have the same problems the Texans did, we already know Watson can deliver MVP numbers. If he ends up on a team that's ready to compete, like the 49ers, then he has an incredible shot of winning the MVP. It becomes a lot less likely if he ends up on the Dolphins or Jets, but if he's able to turn those teams around in one season then voters might not have a choice but to award Watson the MVP. 

Kliff Kingsbury Will Be the First Coach Fired

Entering the 2021 campaign, there might not be another coach whose seat is hotter than Kliff Kingsbury. 

The supposed offensive mastermind has struggled to turn the Cardinals into a competent offense despite having the supremely talented Kyler Murray under center. 

Kingsbury was brought to Arizona to lead a high-octane scoring attack and develop Murray, but neither has gone to plan so far. Murray still makes jaw-dropping plays, but he's still an athlete playing quarterback instead of the other way around. 

Murray's running will always make him a threat, but he'll need to become a better passer for the Cardinals to realize their potential. And if Kingsbury's Cards struggle like they did at the end of last season, then the former Texas Tech coach could get his walking papers. 

Tua Tagovailoa Won't Be The Dolphins Starting Quarterback by End of Season

Whether Deshaun Watson comes to Miami or not, Tua Tagovailoa will not be the Dolphins’ starting quarterback at the end of the season. In fact, he might not even be the starter at the beginning of the season if the 'Fins do acquire Watson. 

Tagovailoa made nine starts in 2020 and went 6-3, thanks mostly to his defense and special teams. He was benched multiple times for Ryan Fitzpatrick because the Dolphins’ offense was so ineffective with him under center. Tagovailoa averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt last season, 31st in the league. He was also sacked on 6.5% of his pass attempts. 

You can’t call a player a bust after just nine career starts, especially with a 6-3 record. However, the Dolphins have to wish they would have gone with Justin Herbert instead at this point.

Whether he is traded out of Miami or not, don’t expect Tagovailoa to be the No. 1 guy for the Dolphins as the season ends.

The Cincinnati Bengals Finish With a Winning Record

We don’t know if Joe Burrow will be back from injury in time for Week 1 just yet, but like nearly every player after surgery, he's ahead of schedule. Regardless of whether or not Burrow starts the season, the Bengals should be in for a fairly promising 2021 campaign.

Burrow was putting together a very promising rookie year, especially considering how bad the Bengals were. He threw for 2,688 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games while adding three touchdowns on the ground.

Also returning from injury for the Bengals will be running Joe Mixon, who played in six games last season. Add in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins as wide receivers and the Bengals’ offense has some real potential. The defense will certainly need to improve from last season but that is what the offseason is for.

Playing in the AFC North will make it difficult to reach nine wins, but if the Bengals can bolster their offensive line and add some pieces on defense, they could battle for a wild-card spot next season. 

The New Orleans Saints Miss The Playoffs

The New Orleans Saints enter the offseason with nearly $25 million more salary cap debt as the next highest team. Add in the fact that one of the best quarterbacks of all-time in Drew Brees is all but certain to retire and the Saints could be in for a long season in 2021.

With no salary cap space to play with, the Saints will have to rely on Taysom Hill or hope to re-sign Jameis Winston to take over for the future Hall of Famer. 

But due to going all-in in an attempt to get Brees one more Super Bowl, the Saints will have to pay the price this year. This roster is going to have a lot of turnover.

Could the lack of a franchise quarterback and being in salary cap hell lead to a rebuild in the Big Easy?

Trevor Lawrence Won't Be Offensive Rookie of The Year

Trevor Lawrence is entering the 2021 NFL Draft as arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. He is certainly the best quarterback in the class and will likely go on to have the best career. However, don’t expect him to come in and play at an elite level right away.

Since 2013, just three quarterbacks have won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, and Justin Herbert). With a talent-deprived roster around him, Lawrence might not quite live up to the hype in his first season which could hurt his chances at winning the coveted award. 

This rookie class is stacked with offensive players, too. With four other QBs and three receivers expected to be top-15 picks, there will be plenty of competition for rookie of the year in 2021. 

The First 4 Picks in the NFL Draft Will Be QBs 

Speaking of the talented rookie class, the NFL Draft is stacked with potential superstar quarterbacks at the top of the draft. 

For this to happen, there would probably need to be a trade or two in the first four selections. 

As we mentioned, Lawrence is widely believed to be the No. 1 pick. Then there's BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance. 

With multiple teams needed a quarterback in the top 15 — like the Panthers, Jets, Lions, Broncos, 49ers, Patriots — it wouldn't be surprising for teams to make blockbuster trades to get their guy. 

Expect all four QBs to go in that top four with the Panthers the most likely to make a huge deal. 

Derrick Henry Won't Lead The NFL In Rushing

Derrick Henry has been a beast these last two seasons and it will be hard to take his crown. LaDainian Tomlinson was the last player to lead the league in rushing in back-to-back seasons. And just three players in NFL history (Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell and Jim Brown) have accomplished that in three straight seasons.

Henry rushed the ball 378 times last season, the most since DeMarco Murray in 2014 when he rushed 392 times. While he will surely be the Titans’ main offense weapon again next season, it is hard to imagine him averaging 23.6 carries per game again next season.

The league has a number of elite running backs who could dethrone Henry in 2021. Between Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, James Robinson, and Alvin Kamara, the path to three-straight league-leading seasons for Henry will be difficult. After such a heavy workload in 2020, a stepback in 2021 is likely. 

It also doesn't help that the former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Brown has taken over as the Falcons' head coach. 

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration