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Windy City Gridiron forecasts the 2020 NFL season

A season of precariousness means that it feels like anything could happen. That is, until January. The WCG staff-wide forecast for this fall.

Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium Nhat V. Meyer/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

The NFL loves to tout parity. The NFL loves to sell hope. The two concepts intertwined together is the primary rationale behind season openers always being treated like the holiest of holidays. But for as much as the league prefers to pretend it’s an organization of opportunity for every team involved, early winter manages to snuff out expected contenders and pretenders rather quickly. And it’s rare for most of those who had rose-colored glasses in September, to still be puffing their chests out come December. Such is the nature of the game.

Everyone has a chance, but only if you have a top quarterback. Everyone can win, but only if your defense is relatively competent. Everyone can be the last team standing come February, but only if your head coach has a steady hand. Everyone can win and should believe they can win. Who would a pro football player be if they weren’t optimistic, if they weren’t throwing in the towel before they even took a field in full pads?

But please, check all course prerequisites before signing up for a “Playoff” or “Champion” course. It’ll save the guidance counselors’ valuable time and energy. An ongoing pandemic, without a bubble, won’t change anything drastic in regards to the cream of the crop that will find usual means to rise to the top.

The Windy City Gridiron staff makes its predictions for the 2020 NFL season.


Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski

NFC

1. Cowboys

2. Saints

3. Seahawks

4. Lions

5. Buccaneers

6. Packers

7. Cardinals

For the life of me, I can’t remember the NFC ever being stronger from top to bottom. If the NFL manages to get through the entire season, this conference projects to be a bloodbath. While teams up top like Dallas and New Orleans are juggernauts, don’t sleep on, uh Tom Brady? In Tampa Bay?

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Patriots

4. Titans

5. Bills

6. Steelers

7. Broncos

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Seahawks

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

With the addition of Jamal Adams, one could make the argument Seattle has entered heavyweight status. I think the ol’ Seachickens have enough to overcome the NFC, only to lose in a quarterback epic on the game’s biggest stage. The Barbecue Capital of the United States soldiers on.

Divisional Round - Tennessee Titans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Lester Wiltfong Jr.

NFC

1. Seahawks

2. Cowboys

3. Saints

4. Packers

5. 49ers

6. Buccaneers

7. Bears

The battle for the wildcard spots in this year’s NFC is going to be incredible. The only three teams I see as having no chance are Washington, Carolina, and the Giants. But with every other team I could make a decent argument for them sitting in the playoff mix.

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Patriots

4. Titans

5. Texans

6. Steelers

7. Raiders

Super Bowl LV: Ravens over Seahawks

MVP: Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson makes it to the biggest stage after a wild AFC Championship Game with the Chiefs. He’s too much for Seattle’s defense to handle in the Super Bowl. With Jackson taking all the headlines for the Ravens, I think a lot of people forget just how good their defense is.

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Jacob Infante

NFC

1. Saints

2. 49ers

3. Cowboys

4. Packers

5. Seahawks

6. Eagles

7. Buccaneers

The NFC has the potential to be a total war zone this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the playoff teams I listed were to come out of the conference as the victors. That’s how stacked it is. I’ll take the Cowboys as the NFC champs. They have as talented an offense as any other team in the conference, and their defense could end up being much better than many give them credit for.

AFC

1. Ravens

2. Chiefs

3. Titans

4. Bills

5. Broncos

6. Steelers

7. Colts

Unlike the competitive NFC, the AFC is a two-horse race, and I’m not referring to the two teams named after horses in the conference. The Ravens and Chiefs are far and away the two best teams in the AFC. I think that Baltimore comes away with the crown this year.

Super Bowl LV: Ravens over Cowboys

MVP: Lamar Jackson

The Ravens have, arguably, the most complete roster in the NFL. With the 2019 MVP under center, an elite ground game and a passing attack, their offense is certainly not a unit to be trifled with. Their defense is also one of the more formidable units in the league and arguably got even better this off-season. After an abrupt exit in the playoffs last winter, this year could be the time Baltimore makes that deep postseason run.

NFL finally unmasks real football as Texans and Chiefs kick off season amid pandemic Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Robert Schmitz

NFC

1. Seahawks

2. Cowboys

3. Saints

4. Bears

5. 49ers

6. Buccaneers

7. Cardinals

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Titans

4. Patriots

5. Bills

6. Texans

7. Steelers

The 2020 NFL has a cavalcade of “what-ifs” that will shape the league. “What if” the aging quarterbacks we know and love regress en-masse? “What if” the Packers’ record in close, competitive games falls back to earth and they experience regression similar to the 2019 Bears? “What if” Dak Prescott plays up to his billing? “What if” Kliff Kingsbury’s Cardinals take a step forward? Taking all of these questions into account, I think we’ll see great play out of the NFC West, bad football out of the AFC East, regression from the Packers, continuity from the Titans, standout play from Russell Wilson, a big step backward by Josh Allen, and a very fun 2020 NFL season overall.

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Seahawks

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

I usually don’t bet against Patrick Mahomes, but after last year’s incredible comeback-driven playoff run there’s no picking against the man who’s as close to a perfect quarterback as Andy Reid could ask for. Think about this: The only playoff game Mahomes has lost thus far in his career was decided by his defense in overtime, not by any action of his own. With that in mind, though I expect the Seahawks to have a great season of their own, I’ll take the Chiefs going back-to-back.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Bill Zimmerman

NFC

1. Seahawks

2. Saints

3. Cowboys

4. Bears

5. Buccaneers

6. 49ers

7. Eagles

No, I don’t think the Bears are the fourth best team in the NFC. But I think the North is the weakest division and 9-7 can take it. I think the Vikings and Packers took a step back, and the Lions still have Matt Patricia as their head coach. They are automatically eliminated. The NFC is wide open this year. I’ll take the best quarterback to win the conference, and that quarterback is Russell Wilson.

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Patriots

4. Titans

5. Colts

6. Steelers

7. Texans

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Seahawks

MVP: Russell Wilson

Do the Chiefs still have Patrick Mahomes? Yeah, the Chiefs are Super Bowl favorites. Until someone sneaks Mahomes some Kryptonite into his locker, I’ll be picking him (and his team) to win the Super Bowl every year.

New York Jets v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Aaron Leming

NFC

1. Saints

2. Packers

3. Seahawks

4. Cowboys

5. Buccaneers

6. Eagles

7. Bears

Every year I pick against the Saints being one of the top teams in the conference and every year I get proven wrong. I don’t think the Buccaneers are going to be as good as most people think, but the NFC South isn’t strong and it’s not hard to see them winning 10 games. The last spot was between the Bears and Cardinals for me, but I’m still not sold the Cardinals are ready to take the next step. The Super Bowl loser curse holds strong this year and the 49ers miss out on the postseason.

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Titans

4. Bills

5. Steelers

6. Texans

7. Broncos

Super Bowl LV: Ravens over Saints

MVP: Lamar Jackson

I’m terrible about picking Super Bowl teams (although I did nail Kansas City last year). I do think there are a lot of teams grouped closely together. For redundancy’s sake, I’m taking the Ravens (who fell hard on their faces in the playoffs) to win it all.

New England Patriots v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Sam Householder

NFC

1. Saints

2. Seahawks

3. Cowboys

4. Packers

5. Buccaneers

6. Vikings

7. Cardinals

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Bills

4. Titans

5. Colts

6. Broncos

7. Steelers

In the AFC, I hemmed and hawed about the Titans, Texans, Browns and Steelers but I feel like Big Ben has one more playoff run in him and I like Mike Vrabel as a coach over Bill O’Brien. It will likely come down to whether Deshaun Watson can cover O’Brien’s warts. I also think Philip Rivers gives the Colts a surprising boost. At the end of it all, I think the Ravens are out to avenge last year’s early exit and the Saints get one last run out of Brees thanks to their run-heavier attack.

Super Bowl LV: Ravens over Saints

MVP: Lamar Jackson

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

WhiskeyRanger

NFC

1. Seahawks

2. Cowboys

3. Saints

4. Packers

5. 49ers

6. Buccaneers

7. Bears

God, the NFC is stacked. Seriously, there’s so many good teams that I almost over ruled my pre-season homerism! But then I remembered there was an extra Wild Card slot this year, and I snuck the Bears in there. Crisis averted.

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Patriots

4. Colts

5. Bills

6. Steelers

7. Broncos

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Seahawks

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

As stacked as the NFC is, and as good as I think the Seahawks are going to be this year (and I think they are going to be really good), I can’t NOT give it to the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. Barring injury, I’m calling a repeat.

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Erik Duerrwaechter

NFC

1. Saints

2. Cowboys

3. Bears

4. 49ers

5. Seahawks

6. Eagles

7. Buccaneers

Yes, I’m picking the Bears to win the NFC North. I think if they commit to balance on offense, and play good team football overall, they can beat a lot of teams. The Cowboys are ridiculous on paper, but the Saints remain the class of the NFC. Not even Tom Brady’s arrival on a respectable Buccaneers team will change that.

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Titans

3. Bills

4. Steelers

5. Ravens

6. Texans

7. Broncos

Super Bowl LV: Bears over Titans

MVP: Khalil Mack

Yes, I’m (also) picking the Bears to win the Super Bowl. Two years ago, the team was a double-doink away from what should have been a major run in the playoffs. They don’t need perfect quarterback play, not with the Destroyer of Worlds named Khalil Mack hell-bent on winning a ring.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jack Salo

NFC

1. 49ers

2. Eagles

3. Saints

4. Packers

5. Seahawks

6. Panthers

7. Cardinals

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Titans

3. Ravens

4. Patriots

5. Texans

6. Steelers

7. Raiders

The AFC is blessed with the LeBron James of the NFL, a young man known as Patrick Mahomes. There is such a huge gap No. 1 and everyone else, it’s not even funny. The Titans have put together a great roster, and if you are lucky enough to draw the No. 1 pick in fantasy and don’t pick Derrick Henry, then you weren’t paying attention last year. The Patriots could easily be that team that wins their division sub-.500 (see: 2010 Seahawks), and I see the Steelers defense carrying them deep into the playoffs.

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Saints

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

How do you pick against the defending champs when they haven’t lost anything dramatic this off-season? They’re better than your team at every position on offense except running back, and even there, despite Damien Williams opting out of the 2020 season, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is legitimate threat to take off every time he touches the ball. Picture if you only needed your defense to be “average” for your generational quarterback to carry you to the promised land. That’s the Chiefs’ situation.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Ken Mitchell

NFC

1. Bears

2. Saints

3. Cowboys

4. Seahawks

5. Buccaneers

6. 49ers

7. Vikings

Because Bears.

AFC

1. Chiefs

2. Ravens

3. Texans

4. Titans

5. Colts

6. Steelers

7. Raiders

Super Bowl LV: Bears over Chiefs

MVP: Nick Foles

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