2021 NFL Super Wild Card Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, & Pranav Thiriveedhi

For the first time in the NFL’s history, we will be seeing a playoff with 14 teams, as opposed to the usual 12 teams, with each conference having 7 representatives, and one team in each conference receiving a bye week, bringing us our first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend, where we get to see 6 games between Saturday and Sunday played to decide who moves throughout the playoffs. Here are our predictions for who will prevail in the Super Wild Card.

AFC Predictions

#7 Indianapolis Colts @ #2 Buffalo Bills

Saransh’s Prediction: The Buffalo Bills have at times looked like the scariest team in the NFL not named the Kansas City Chiefs, and it is no secret as to why. Josh Allen has played like an MVP candidate all year and drastically improved and like the Chiefs with their QB-Receiver duo of Mahomes and Kelce, Allen has found his duo partner in Stefon Diggs, who was acquired this past offseason. 

Meanwhile, for the Colts, they signed QB Philip Rivers to a 1-year, $21M deal, which surprised many, but his consistent play in the late-season stretch, along with the elite defense, helped Indianapolis secure the 7-seed in the AFC. This game features two defenses that have been hot for the majority of the season, but the Bills’ offense is far superior and more consistent than that of the Colts, propelling them to a win. Final Score: 31-21, Bills

Pranav’s Prediction: The Buffalo Bills are your AFC East Champions! That is something the world has not been heard in over 20 years, but after an upsetting season from the New England Patriots, who placed 3rd in the division, the Bills not only filled the seat but also took the #2 seed in the AFC conference. The Bills are a scary team on all sides of the ball. A very dynamic yet work-in-progress quarterback Josh Allen is the leader for arguably the best wide receiver core in the league. Stefon Diggs, the NFL’s leader for receiving yards and receptions, is finally on a team with a quarterback that can reach his ceiling. 

On the other side, the Indianapolis Colts have proven to be an excellent team, especially with their destructive defense. They ranked first or second in the categories that matter, including points and rushing yards allowed. Matching up a weaker secondary against a strong suited receiving core, though, could prove to make the difference in a win or loss. The Bills are going to take the dub here, but watch out for the Colts next year. 

Final Score: 38-31 Bills

Rohan’s Prediction: The Bills will be hosting their first playoff game in 24 years! A lot has changed for the franchise as they have returned to relevance thanks to HC Sean McDermott, GM Brandon Beane, and MVP candidate Josh Allen. Allen has shattered franchise records this year, throwing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs, who was acquired in a trade this past offseason, was a big part of that and became Buffalo’s first player to lead the NFL in catches (127) and yards receiving (1,535). Furthermore, the Bills are perhaps the hottest team in the NFL as they are winners of six straight to end the regular season. 

On the other side, Phillip Rivers, who was signed on a 1-year deal, is a veteran passer who can take the offense down the field. He needs to hit on all cylinders Saturday and put the ball into the endzone as the Bills’ offense is dangerous. The run game and defense are the highlights of this Colts squad. The defensive unit is fantastic and has not allowed more than 90 rushing yards in any of the last five games. Furthermore, Jonathan Taylor is a joy to watch and became the third rookie in Colts history to have 1,000-plus rushing yards and 10-plus rushing TDs in a season. The run game will be key to the Colts victory, and if they can find leaps of success, they can pull off the upset. The Bills defense is poor against the run but tightened up recently and has played much better in the 2nd half of the season. It will be a close battle, but the hot Bills will take this one and get their first playoff win since 1995. Final Score: 24-16 Bills

#6 Cleveland Browns @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers

Saransh’s Prediction: If the Cleveland Browns did not have their head coach, along with four other players out for this game due to them having tested positive for COVID-19 or having been in close contact with those that did test positive, I would pick Cleveland, but without them, especially without your head coach, that will be a difficult task. Pittsburgh started as maybe the most underwhelming team ever to start a season with 10+ wins and be undefeated, with losses to the Washington Football Team, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals, and big losses at that proved exactly why. The offense was simple and easy to figure out for defenses after a while, there was no run game, and the defense never missed a beat all year, until that Washington game. 

Cleveland, meanwhile, looked like they were headed for a bit of a downfall when they had gotten their season back on track, but then Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL, but they found themselves finishing the season 11-5 and having a Week 17 rematch with the Steelers as their Wild Card matchup. This game will come down to the wire and Cleveland will earn the respect of the NFL, but Pittsburgh will take advantage of the players out for Cleveland. Final Score: 34-27, Steelers

Pranav’s Prediction: Cleveland is going into their first playoff game in a very long time. That is hard to win with a team that has no playoff experience. Cleveland is going into their first playoff game without their head coach, without their best player [Odell Beckham Jr], and four other players. The Browns are an exceptional team who have proved to show that they are not quitters. They have the guts and talent to win games against any team. But being matched up against their division rivals, who they barely beat after the Steelers rested many starters, is not a welcoming entry into the playoffs. 

I have to congratulate them for doing what would have been the impossible two years ago, and even though they possess the running power to beat many teams. The Pittsburgh defense, along with Cleveland’s vacancy in the head coach position will cost the Browns their first playoff win in a long time. 

Final Score: 28-13, Steelers

Rohan’s Prediction: Browns fans have been waiting nearly two decades for their team to return to the playoffs, and it finally happened. Sadly, Cleveland will be without COTY candidate Kevin Stefanski, safety Ronnie Harrison, and LG Joel Bitonio, the longest-tenured player on the team and made three consecutive Pro Bowls. They could also be without tight end Harrison Bryant and cornerback Denzel Ward as they are still on the COVID-19 list. Moreover, the team has not practiced all week and their facility remains closed, which is brutal for Cleveland considering the magnitude of this game. 

It is difficult for me to pick Cleveland to win here despite the Steelers finishing the season 1-4. To be fair, Pittsburgh took Cleveland to the final minutes in Week 17 without Ben Roethlisberger, TJ Watt, and Cam Heyward. The Steelers will win this one comfortably. Unfortunately for Browns fans, they will have to wait a little longer for a playoff win. Final Score: 24-13 Steelers

#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #4 Tennessee Titans

Saransh’s Prediction: The whole ‘Lamar Jackson is 0-2 in the playoffs’ narrative has been the biggest topic of discussion coming into this matchup, but the real talk should be about how the Titans beat them in the playoffs last year, and that this year they may be even better. Titans RB Derrick Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards this season, Ryan Tannehill had a career-high in passing TDs and won 11 games and the AFC South, and Mike Vrabel continues to be one of the NFL’s premier coaches. 

One big advantage that Tennessee has had is to have fans (14,500 total) since October. Having fans during the playoffs will give them a true home-field advantage. The Ravens defensive line will do their job to stop Henry, but it will come down to which QB will make more big plays, and I will take the most underrated QB in football in Ryan Tannehill, in what should be the most exciting game of the weekend. Final Score: 41-37, Titans

Pranav’s Prediction: I agree with Saransh that Tennessee is a good team, but Baltimore is better on paper. I will wait for him to prove that Lamar Jackson truly is a playoff quarterback so I will keep this short and sweet. Final Score: 28-21, Titans

Rohan’s Prediction: The Titans stunned the Ravens in last year’s postseason and the Ravens are looking to get their revenge, this time in Tennessee. This will be an exciting matchup as two of the NFL’s most explosive offenses go head-to-head, with the spotlight being on Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry. Tennessee built off of last year’s playoff run and got better this year. Derrick Henry had another impressive 2,000 rushing yard season, and Ryan Tannehill had the best season of his career, throwing for a career-high 33 touchdowns and leading the Titans to an 11-5 record. The receiving core of AJ Brown and Corey Davis is no joke, and the Titans defense is very talented. 

Meanwhile, the hungry Ravens are looking to redeem themselves and are entering the playoffs on a 5-game winning streak. Lamar Jackson endured a midseason slump but bounced back in December thanks in part to an easy schedule. The Ravens also have a great rushing attack like the Titans, averaging 191.9 yards per game with Jackson, rookie J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards. I think it will come down to the defenses. Baltimore has a far superior defense, and the Titans just gave up 38 points to a Texans team that had nothing to play for. The defenses will prove to be the deciding factor, and the Ravens will come out on top this time around. Final Score: 34-30 Ravens

NFC Predictions

#7 Chicago Bears @ #2 New Orleans Saints

Saransh’s Prediction: Alvin Kamara tweeted on Thursday evening ‘See y’all Sunday,’ signaling to fans, as well as the Chicago Bears, that he should be back on Sunday evening after having tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday. Chicago’s offense has been explosive as of late, and Drew Brees has had his playoff struggles the past few years, but with the return of both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, Chicago may not have much of a chance. Final Score: 38-28, Saints

Pranav’s Prediction: This is a very complicated game for me to predict. On one side, the New Orleans Saints are a heavily talented team on both sides of the football, but even with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas returning to the lineup, Drew Brees has not played like his former self. I think a strong Chicago defense can step up and steal a few possessions from the Saints. While I do not believe an inexperienced Mitch Trubisky will be enough to take down the Saints, I will call the upset thanks to that defense.

Final Score: 17-14, Bears

Rohan’s Prediction: Alvin Kamara is a huge factor here. He is currently on the COVID-19 list but the Saints are hopeful that he plays and he recently tweeted “See y’all Sunday”, suggesting that he plays. Drew Brees loves to depend on Kamara, who leads the Saints with 83 receptions, and Brees still looks shaky after returning from his rib injury. 

The Bears and Saints met in the regular season and went into overtime, but things are different this time around. Mitchell Trubisky is now the starting quarterback for the Bears, and both Drew Brees and Michael Thomas are back for the Saints. The Bears defense is elite and is among the best at stopping their opponent’s wide receivers, but I do not see their offense giving enough firepower to win this game. With Michael Thomas back and Kamara likely to play, I think the Saints will move on. Final Score: 26-10 Saints

#6 Los Angeles Rams @ #3 Seattle Seahawks

Saransh’s Prediction: What if I told you that since Week 11, the Seattle Seahawks had the #1 scoring defense in the NFL? After the historic start to the season for the offense, setting multiple scoring records and such, the defense was on pace to a historically tragic start, and at one point could have allowed the most yards per game on average. The return of Jamal Adams and the trade for Carlos Dunlap has changed the fortune of this defense and has made them lights-out, but their offense has sputtered since. The offense that could once put up 30+ effortlessly every week can barely even score 20, and this Rams defense that ended the season as the #1 defense in the NFL will hold that Seahawk offense in check, but potentially without QB Jared Goff or Jared Goff at 100%, the Rams defense may be asked of too much, and we all know that Russell Wilson and this offense always finds a way. Final Score: 23-20, Seahawks

Pranav’s Prediction: Is it just me, or has the Seattle Seahawks offense been playing badly recently. So bad that the defense that once was atrocious is now winning them games. I like Russell Wilson, but he has not been meeting any marginal expectations, regardless of his record. A strong Rams defense against a weaker Seattle offense will sputter points for Seattle, and an explosive offense (even if Goff does not start) will be the deciding factor for whether the Rams can pull off the playoff upset. But for my prediction, I will be taking the Rams. 

Final Score: 21-20, Rams

Rohan’s Prediction: The Seahawks got off to a hot start to begin the season, but the offense, led by Russell Wilson, started to run out of gas and became inconsistent. The defense, however, is the complete opposite, as the unit is improving and was responsible for the Seahawks winning 6 of their last 7 to finish the year. No matter what the records were, games between these two teams were always tight, and I expect a close game once again. The Rams have an elite defense and held Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense in check in both games. 

A player to keep an eye on is quarterback Jared Goff who did not play in Week 17 due to a thumb injury and is questionable for this wild-card matchup. The problem with Los Angeles is poor QB play, limiting their potential. Even though Goff has had a subpar year, he is better than backup John Wolford and gives them the best chance to win. Due to the inconsistencies at quarterback for the Rams, I am going to go with the Seahawks here. Final Score: 20-14 Seahawks

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #4 Washington Football Team

Saransh’s Prediction: The Washington Football Team, who would have thought that after everything they endured, such as Alex Smith’s near-death injury, Ron Rivera’s battle with cancer, Dwayne Haskins being one of the most immature football players of recent memory, and a major scandal involving owner Dan Snyder, that the Washington Football Team would host a playoff game? Well, not any of us, as you can see from our preseason predictions. The NFC East was not great, but teams like Washington and New York both played better than what their record shows. Washington sports the #2 defense in the NFL with the most intimidating front-4 that we have seen since ‘Sacksonville’ in 2016. Alex Smith is 5-1 as a starter, and even without the most impressive numbers, one thing that has stayed consistent with him is that he is a winner. He battled back to the playing field, and Ron Rivera, who battled through cancer, got this team from 2-7 and the bottom of the division to the playoffs. 

Meanwhile, the Bucs acquired Tom Brady, and they have had a mostly consistent season, with most of their mishaps coming in primetime games against strong blitz defenses, which bodes well for Washington. Brady also may not have Mike Evans, but Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski are plenty to work with. Washington’s defense will pressure Brady all night and slow down this offense, but the Bucs defense, who has been solid all season, should slow down the injured Alex Smith, and backup QB Taylor Heinicke. It will be a slugfest, but Tampa should pull it out. Crazier things have happened, however. Final Score: 24-22, Buccaneers

Pranav’s Prediction: The Washington Football Team has a top-five defense that is like none other, and Chase Young is my vote for DROY, but their offense is atrocious compared to any other playoff team. I know the saying, “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships,” but a 7-9 Washington Football Team that doesn’t even possess a mascot, has not won a sufficient amount of games to show me that they belong in the playoffs, regardless of how the playoffs work. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the far better team here. With future HoF quarterback Tom Brady, who is the greatest of all time, and a crazy offense to counterpart (even without Mike Evans), Washington’s defense is like a wall with a big door. Tampa Bay also has a top-10 defense to complement themselves as well. And against a weak WFT offense, who will not move the ball, expect a playoff blowout Saturday night.

Final Score: 38-7, Buccaneers

Rohan’s Prediction: You could say that Washington only made the playoffs due to how atrocious the NFC East is, but they are the best team in the East, and it is very impressive how big of a leap they made from last season to this season. Ron Rivera is a Coach of the Year candidate, fighting cancer at the beginning of the season and taking Washington from 2-7 to 7-9 and a division title. They also have the Comeback Player of the Year, Alex Smith, who has inspired millions of people with his road back from his devastating injury and was a big part in taking the team to the playoffs. 
Washington’s defense is tremendous, ranking 2nd in the NFL, with a phenomenal pass rush that should force a lot of pressure on Brady this weekend. However, this is going to be a tough task as the Buccaneers have a crazy loaded offense that has Tom Brady coming off a 40 touchdown season. They arguably have the best receiving core consisting of Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and potentially Mike Evans will be a handful for Washington’s secondary. Also, Alex Smith is still nursing a calf injury that has affected the offense as a whole. Washington’s run game, headlined by Antonio Gibson, keeps the offense alive, but Tampa has the number-1 ranked rushing defense. WFT has the defense to make this a battle and shock the world, but I feel that their offense just will not give enough to win. Tampa takes this one. Final Score: 31-20 Buccaneers

The NFC (L)East: The Worst Competitive Division Ever

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC East’s current leader, the Philadelphia Eagles, has a half-game lead over the other 3 teams in the division, who are in a 3-way tie for second place in the division. These teams must be good, right? Well, they certainly are competitive, and they have had their fair share of injuries, unlucky losses, roster changes, blowouts, coaching turmoil, and everything in between. All of these teams have 3 wins, with the Eagles only having a half-game lead over the rest of the division due to the tie they had with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. This week has some big division games coming, with the Cowboys hosting Washington on Thanksgiving Day, the Giants playing the Bengals, and the Eagles hosting the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Here are our predictions for who wins the NFC East:

Current NFC East Standings:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1), Division Record: (2-2)
  2. New York Giants (3-7), Division Record: (3-2)
  3. Washington Football Team (3-7), Division Record (2-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Division Record (1-2)

Saransh’s NFC East Winner: Washington Football Team

Washington Remaining Schedule: @ Cowboys (3-7), @ Steelers (10-0), @ 49ers (4-6) vs. Seahawks (7-3), vs. Panthers (4-7), @ Eagles (3-6-1)

Yes, I am a Washington fan, but no, I am not saying this in a biased sense. Right now, of the 4 starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, the one quarterback that I trust most to not turn the football over and make poor decisions, win games, and use their experience to their advantage, is none other than Alex Smith. For New York, Daniel Jones has shown improvement over a 2-game stretch, where they played Washington and Philadelphia, but is still a turnover machine. For Dallas, Andy Dalton is still shaky and does not have the best chemistry with all of the Cowboys’ WRs, although he has a very nice connection with CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. And lastly, for Philadephia, Carson Wentz has the clock ticking on him as the starter in Philadelphia. Alex Smith is a born winner, and when he had come into Washington, he was at the time in the top-5 in terms of winningest active QBs at the time (2018). Then, of course, the gruesome leg injury happened which nearly ended his career and his ability to ever walk again, yet he is here on a football field, inspiring the young Washington Football Team to be in winning situations and even win games, something that has not been seen in Washington for years. Alex Smith may never be even half of what he was as a QB before his injury, but he is still a winner and a leader, and the other quarterbacks in the division are not showing that right now. On top of that, Terry McLaurin has been unreal and is easily the most underrated wide receiver in the entire league, but most of all has been another great leader on the field and in the locker room.

The defense, who are middle-of-the-pack against the run, is ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass and 3rd in sacks. Having guys like rookie sensation Chase Young be double and even triple-teamed at times, has allowed the rest of the front seven, like Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan, to get constant pressure along with Young. Then there is the secondary, led by cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, who have quietly led the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. To be fair, the stats are misleading, as this defense has had some big games, such as their 7-sack performance in Week 1 against the Eagles, but also poor games, like giving up 30 points to a Lions offense without Kenny Golladay. If they can find even the slightest bit of consistency, as the offense is beginning to show now under Alex Smith, this team can win the games they should win, and do enough to win the division.

Washington should beat Dallas on Thanksgiving and should beat the Eagles to complete the season sweep to finish 4-2 in the NFC East overall. Outside of that, Carolina should be a win, and a sneaky win could come against the 49ers, who will be without George Kittle and most likely also Jimmy Garoppolo. Without the 49ers win, they would finish 6-10, and they would finish 7-9 with it. Either way, I do not think any other NFC East team finishes with more than 5 wins. The Giants, who are the biggest competition to Washington for the division title, have all but two of their remaining games against teams with winning records, and I do not see the Giants doing enough to get past Washington. HC Ron Rivera has battled through cancer this season, and Alex Smith, while being nothing more than an average QB, has still made one of the greatest comebacks from an injury in the history of sports. This team not only could end up being the best in the NFC East when it is all said and done, but also the most inspiring. Whatever happens in this wild division, it will be intriguing (and ugly) to watch, and all of these teams will have their work cut out for them this offseason.

Pranav’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

Let me start by saying I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. ‘Go Birds’ and all that stuff, but this year? The Eagles stink, and no single person can be blamed. Sure, Carson Wentz and his disgusting attempt at being a marginally good quarterback, or Doug Pederson and his awful play-calling, have failed miserably, but this is a team problem that is not a one-week fix. Let us face reality here, the Eagles have tried to fix these problems every week, yet nothing has changed. Fans and critics thought it might be because half the team is injured but the truth is the Eagles are not the best in the NFC East, regardless of their place in the division presently. At the beginning of the season, Dallas and Philadelphia split the predictions for winners of the NFC East, but after the injury to Dak Prescott, Dallas doesn’t have a shot. The Philadelphia Eagles, for the last few weeks, have been too quick to crown themselves as the division winners, but now everyone can see that they might have called it too early. They have probably the hardest remaining schedule in the NFC East, playing four Super Bowl contenders in a row: Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona. 

On the other hand, the dark horse team in the NFC East, the New York Giants, are riding on a few wins. The New York Giants and I hate to say this, are the best team in the division. No one expected them to be anywhere outside of the last place in the division to start the season, and even more after Saquon Barkley’s season-ending injury, but things change. For starters, the Giants have the easiest remaining schedule, and being tied for second is a big help for them because one win already puts them in the driver seat for the East. The Giants are better than the Washington Football Team, having the series sweep. The Giants are also better than the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite having split the season series, the Giants have dominated both matchups with ball control, as they lost their first matchup with Philly due to avoidable penalties. And lastly, the Giants are better than the Dallas Cowboys, and I do not even have to explain. I know I should have no bias as an Eagles fan, but I will never give the Cowboys any love unless they have 1:1 odds to win something.

That being said, the Giants are in the position to take the NFC East, but this is still a division too early to call. We don’t know what is going to happen, or what more (or less) to expect, and to be honest with you, it is not good. All I can say is that none of these teams are going anywhere this season and will be undergoing major changes this offseason. 

Rohan’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

I am also a Washington fan like Saransh, yet I believe the Giants will come out on top and take the NFC East crown. Joe Judge is doing a solid job in his first year as head coach of the Giants, and the team is making incremental progress game after game. Daniel Jones is starting to pull it together with consecutive no turnover performances, and I trust the Giants defense the most in this division. The Giants defense is ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring average this season, with several standout players, including lockdown cornerback James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Leonard Williams. Also, over the last 6 games, the Giants are 3-3 and those three losses are just by 6 points. One of those losses includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are viewed by many as Super Bowl contenders. The Giants were playing the best football of any team in the NFC East before their bye, and I think they will get 3 more wins (CIN, CLE, DAL) to win the division. I view Dallas as the biggest competition to the Giants. They have the easiest road as they still get to play each of the East teams once and have opponents like the 49ers and Bengals on their schedule. They have also been very competitive, nearly beating the undefeated Steelers at home and knocking off the Vikings recently on the road. The offense looked solid with Andy Dalton back and Zeke had his best game in a while, totaling over 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. Tony Pollard has also been a nice touch, as he added some quality carries and a TD against the Vikings. They also have a special talent in CeeDee Lamb who is looking like the best rookie receiver in the draft class. However, the Cowboys defense needs to improve, especially their poor secondary. Their run defense is atrocious as well, allowing a whopping 153.8 yards on the ground per game to opposing offenses. 

The Cowboys hopes for winning the NFC East division will likely disappear if their defense is not up for the task. Washington, meanwhile, has a solid chance but a few problems of their own. Let us start with the defense, who was supposed to be one of the best units in the league under DC Jack Del Rio but has not lived up to the hype. By looking at the numbers, you might think that Washington has an above-average defense, however, it’s the complete opposite. Their defensive line has plenty of talent like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne, but have failed to take advantage of poor offensive lines, which proved to be critical in getting swept by the New York Giants. These losses hurt Washington big time as the Giants now have the tiebreaker. The linebacker core and secondary are both very weak and it showed when they played average offenses like the Lions. However, I also think a better offense would have a positive impact on the defense. The offense is badly underperforming overall, ranked 29th in the league, and Alex Smith is nothing more than an average quarterback. Washington has a bright future with star receiver Terry McLaurin and rookie running back Antonio Gibson, and their offensive line is looking better than expected, but aren’t going to go far with the style and play of this offense. The Thanksgiving game between Washington and Dallas will be very critical, as Washington can take the tiebreaker over Dallas with a win. 

Finally, Philadelphia is terrible, starting with QB Carson Wentz. He currently leads the league in interceptions and is making head-scratching mistakes game after game. Ever since that ACL injury, Wentz has been trending downward and could crash down to the point of no return. Carson is not the only one to blame, though. The coaching staff has regressed, and Head Coach Doug Pederson should be fired this offseason. Veterans like Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Mills are on the decline. The Eagles are a dumpster fire and could very well lose out and only win 3 games this season, as they have the toughest remaining schedule in the division. 

This division is all-around terrible, and we might see the worst division winner of all time. The worst record that a playoff team has ever recorded is 7-9 (Seahawks, 2010), and it is hard for me to envision an NFC East team even getting to 7 wins. It is crazy to think that one of these teams is going to host a playoff game. I do see this division coming down to the very last game, however, and that game would be Week 17: Cowboys @ Giants, a winner-take-all game to decide the division. One thing we can all agree on is that the team that makes the playoffs will not go far, and all of these teams have to make major changes this offseason. 

NFL Draft 2020: What to Watch For This Weekend

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFL Draft will commence Thursday, but instead of in the Fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it is online. Never thought I would be saying those words in my lifetime. Anyways, this year’s draft presents a lot of compelling storylines, such as finding quarterbacks that could be Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s successor, the Justin Herbert and Tua debate, Chase Young to the Redskins, and the plethora of veterans that could be traded for draft picks. Here are the storylines to watch out for in this year’s NFL Draft:

Saransh’s Storyline: Herbert or Tua? Who’s the First QB After Joe Burrow?

Joe Burrow being the Number 1 overall pick is something that has been established for quite a while now, but the quarterback contention after him is what really gets interesting. Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama was the obvious Number 1 overall choice until Joe Burrow and LSU beat them back in November, and then Tua’s chances were completely thrown out the window when he hurt his hip and his season was over for good. Since then, Tua has been fully recovered since February, and had been doing workouts and drills with teams, and was at the Combine. Despite that, scouts and analysts, including myself, still wonder how he will be able to prevent another major injury that could derail his career, as this one nearly did.

The other big-name quarterback heading into this year’s draft is Justin Herbert out of Oregon, whom many thought would have entered the draft last year and could have been a first-round pick. He has now upped his stock and could potentially be a top-5 pick in the draft. While he could not lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he led them to a Pac-12 Championship victory, as well as a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Having had his best season yet as a college quarterback and winning so many big games after a very rough season for the team the year prior, that along with his Combine and Pro Day showings are having people put Herbert ahead of Tua in their draft boards.

In the top 6 picks of this draft, 3 teams, those being the Detroit Lions at Number 3, the Miami Dolphins at Number 5, and the LA Chargers at Number 6, they all need a quarterback, and Herbert and Tua will be the first guys looked at. While I believe the reports that the Lions are trading down and believe they will trade down, I see Herbert going first over Tua, and going to South Beach and quarterbacking the Dolphins and their young yet exciting offense for the next few years, and Tua going to LA. If the Lions do not trade, however, I expect Herbert in Detroit, Tua in Miami, and then Jordan Love in LA, although speaking of Love, the soft-spoken quarterback of Utah State is someone worth mentioning in this conversation. Love could potentially go higher than both Herbert and Tua, but he could also end up as a late first-rounder, or even early second-rounder, depending on how teams judge him, much like Josh Allen did in 2018, going to the Bills, yet many even thought he could surpass Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and go first in the draft. Keep an eye out for Love, but Tua and Herbert will be the ones getting all the attention.

Rohan’s Storyline: Where Will Trent Williams Finally Be Traded to and What For?

Trent Williams has still yet to be traded by the Redskins despite publicly demanding a trade in late March, but it could happen in this year’s draft. NBC’s Peter King recently reported that Trent Williams is the most likely player to get traded during the draft. Even though the Trent Williams holdout saga has been going on since June of last year, the Redskins still hold all of the leverage in a potential trade. Under the new CBA, if Trent sits out another year, he will not be able to enter free agency and remain a Redskin. He can either play this upcoming season and show his worth, or sit out and incur a ton of fines. Furthermore, Trent is an All-Pro Left Tackle and is still one of the best offensive lineman in the league, so Washington can still get a decent return. Now, which teams in the league make the most sense to acquire Williams? I am going to go with the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Minnesota Vikings, with Cleveland being the most likely destination. 

ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted this morning that Trent Williams is “still on the table” for Cleveland. If the Browns miss out on or elect to not draft one of the top tackles who include Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills and Andrew Thomas, then I think this significantly boosts the chances of a deal that sends Trent to Cleveland. Baker Mayfield took 40 sacks in 2019, and adding a top tier tackle would shore up the left side of the line for the Browns. The Browns also have offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who worked with Trent his whole career in Washington. I predict the Browns will trade for Trent since they have been the team showing interest for a while now, but as mentioned Los Angeles and Minnesota could trade for him too. I expect the Redskins to start fielding calls after the top 4 tackles in this draft are taken. JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington reported that the Redskins will only trade him for a package of comparable value, but what would that package consist of? I think they are asking for at least a 2nd-rounder, but at this point it seems at least a 3rd-round pick is more reasonable. If a trade with Cleveland were to happen, my prediction is that Washington will receive Pick #74 (3rd-rounder) and Pick #187 (6th-rounder) in this year’s draft. 

Pranav’s Storyline: Should New England Stick with Stidham, or Find a New QB?

Tom Brady leaving New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest storyline of the offseason, leaving the Patriots with a huge problem: filling Brady’s shoes. After a 20 year run, Bill Belichick has to look for a new quarterback in a league with not many options. During the Brady era in New England, the coaching staff had great quarterbacks on the roster to help out when Brady was unavailable, from the 2009 season with Matt Cassel who went 10-6 (somehow missing the playoffs), to the 2016 season where Brady’s suspension from the year before came into effect, giving both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett the opportunity to perform for New England. Both quarterbacks played well under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s coaching scheme, but due to the threat that they would likely take Brady’s spot as a starter later, owner Robert Kraft shipped them out to other teams. 

The 2020 Patriots are now left with Jarrett Stidham, a young quarterback from LSU, who showed promising features through various training camp meetings, practices, and mostly during the pre season games. The Patriots also hold 12 draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft (4 compensatory picks), including the 23rd pick. Since this draft has only a few stellar quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert), who will be taken very early, the New England Patriots would be left with quarterback picks like Jordan Love, who is an above average quarterback from Utah State. If I was Bill Belichick, I would put my money on Jarrett Stidham, giving him a year under center, and letting the first round pick in the draft go to another position in need, such as safety or defensive end. The Patriots have had a lot of success in trusting a no name quarterback to lead the team in the most difficult situations, so maybe Stidham can outperform initial expectations and prove that he was the right choice. You never know, Jarrett Stidham could be the next Tom Brady…  

 

2019-20 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The New Year’s Eve fireworks will be arriving a little earlier this year, as the College Football Playoff Semifinals get set to kick off this Saturday. Clemson and Oklahoma return to the stage with Clemson being the defending champion, and Oklahoma returning for the 3rdconsecutive year. This year, however, LSU enters the playoff for the first time and dethrones their SEC counterpart in Alabama, and Ohio State returns to the place they thought they should have been last year. This year also features a new feat, where 3 transfer quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to LSU; Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma; and Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State), are leading their teams into the College Football Playoff. So, will it be a transfer quarterback leading their team to a championship, or will Trevor Lawrence lead Clemson to a repeat?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU, 4PM EST, ESPN

The first game to kick off the playoff will be the battle of the Heisman winner and runner-up, Burrow and Hurts. This will be Hurts’ fourth time in the College Football Playoff (technically his third since he was backup and did not play last year, but it is his 4thsince he was with Alabama the past 3 years), with his 7thOffensive Coordinator (he had 5 different coordinators at Alabama and two Co-Offensive Coordinators at Oklahoma), coming off his third Conference Championship win. In terms of winning, overcoming adversity, and constantly playing the underdog role, Jalen Hurts might be the most decorated college football player ever. He is the true definition of a winner. While many scouts believe he is not the most NFL-ready QB, he certainly deserves the shot to be a starter on an NFL team come next season after he is drafted.

On the other side is Joe Burrow, Heisman-winning QB who has broken every SEC passing record in the book by a healthy margin, will be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals come April, and will lead the heavily-favored LSU into the Peach Bowl as the #1 team in the country. But things didn’t come that easy for Burrow. Burrow in 2017 was part of the Ohio State College Football Playoff team, where he played backup behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. At the time, not many people knew who he was, as he was a 3rd-string QB who had been redshirted. In 2018, Ohio State looked to life after Barrett, and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer, chose Dwayne Haskins well before the season began, leading Burrow to go into the transfer process, where LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron, served him to a lobster dinner and got him. Burrow last season led a struggling LSU offense that could barely put up 27 points in a game. This year, under new Offensive Coordinator Joe Barry, he leads the nation’s #1 offense, and has two 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, and a 1,000+ rusher in Clyde-Edwards Helaire (whom he may not have on Saturday due to injury). The transcendence of Burrow has been one of the most unexpected, but the story is incredible.

Now, to the game. Oklahoma’s wide receiving core, led by CeeDee Lamb, who is regarded by many including me as the best receiver in college football and the upcoming NFL Draft, will cause problems for Derek Stingley and Grant Delpit, the best cornerback and safety in the country, respectively. His speed and quickness is almost Tyreek Hill-like, as he has the ability to take any pass to the house. The problem here for Oklahoma’s offense come with the running backs, who will be led by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks is getting the starting nod after Trey Sermon had a season-ending injury midseason against Iowa State, and after Rhamandore Stevenson was one of 3 Sooners players suspended for failed drug tests. Brooks is a great back, but not good enough to lead an already-fringe running game. Hurts will be required to put his head down and run with the ball himself quite a bit, which, as great of a runner as he is, is exactly what LSU wants, is for their linebackers to stop the run and not have to worry about helping out too much in the passing game.

For LSU, the running game will most likely feature Edwards-Helaire (according to Coach O), but even if they don’t have him available, the three backup running backs have had healthy doses of experience in the offense this season and have been very effective in scoring touchdowns, with 9 TDs between the 3 of them. As far as defenses, don’t expect too much of it, this will be a high-scoring game. But as I said earlier, the lack of ability to keep pace could haunt them, much it did for Oklahoma the past few years. Oklahoma is too thin in the run game, and does not have enough talent in the secondary to stop the core of Chase, Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and Terrace Marshall. Prediction: 49-41, LSU

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State, 8PM ET, ESPN

The defending champion Clemson Tigers find themselves playing in a playoff game rematch once again, but not against Alabama this time. Clemson instead is squaring off against Ohio State this year, the team with the nation’s best defense and best defensive player in Chase Young. Clemson has been decimated by the media the entire year for having an incredibly weak schedule for an elite Power 5 conference team, yet that criticism hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Coach Dabo Swinney has kept his mouth out of the media trap and instead focused on the field and players and looks to go for back-to-back 15-0 seasons. Trevor Lawrence has had a down year but really picked up last year’s form towards the end of the season, Travis Etienne keeps showing why he could be the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Brett Venables-led defense keeps feasting on opposing offenses.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been Top 2 in the rankings ever since they went into Madison, Wisconsin and won 48-0 on Saturday Night Football back in October. Their electric defense has helped them sport a ball-control oriented offense that is run-first behind JK Dobbins and then uses a lot of 5-wide Spread to pass the ball out of with Justin Fields, a transfer QB from Georgia (Georgia is probably regretting benching him for Jake Fromm, which prompted Fields’ transfer request). Speaking of Fields, another Heisman finalist who has defied odds, he is coming into this game nursing a knee injury he suffered against Michigan back at the end of November, and it hasn’t shown too much improvement since. Fields had a great one-legged performance in the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin in their 14-point comeback win, however, and despite the knee, looked good for most of the game. Much like in that game, Ohio State will use Dobbins on early downs, and then look towards their Fields and their receivers, such as KJ Hill Jr. and Chris Olave to make plays downfield.

This game comes down to running back play, Dobbins vs. Etienne. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage better in this one will win the game, as ball control and clock management will be vital. Clemson often goes for this approach in semifinal games, and. Ohio State will need to use this in order to keep Fields healthy, because unlike in 2017, they do not have a Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow-type guy on their bench that can come in and perform on the big stage. While on paper this matchup would favor Clemson, the Chase Young-led pass rush might be too much for Lawrence and could force him into throwing interceptions, something he has done often this season compared to last. Predcition: 34-31, Ohio State

2019 Heisman Watch: Does Chase Young Deserve Heisman Consideration?

Yesterday marked a day in which this year’s Heisman contenders shined brightest. LSU QB Joe Burrow hit 4,000 yards passing for the season and became the 4thSEC QB to do so after torching Arkansas for 327 yards and 3 TDs. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts kept playoff hopes alive for the Sooners with 173 yards and 2 TDs rushing, along with 145 yards and 2 TDs through the air in a gutsy 28-24 win over TCU. Oregon QB Justin Herbert ended all consideration for himself winning the award with a loss to the lowly Arizona State, despite his 304 yards and 2 TDs. The biggest standout from yesterday was the most dominant player in college football, Ohio State DE Chase Young, who after a short suspension over a loan from a family-friend cost him a few games, came back in full force, with 9 tackles, including 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Despite his dominance, which has featured 16.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles for him throughout the season, will he get Heisman consideration, and does he deserve it despite being a defensive player? Here are my 3 candidates for the Heisman and who I believe will win.

Player Profile: Chase Young

College football’s most dominant player has simply everything you could ask for in a defensive lineman. Size, speed, power and finesse moves on the edge, and a strong tackling ability. Well Chase Young has that and then some. As I mentioned earlier, his season has been shortened by 2 games due to the suspension, so he has put up all of these stats in just 9 games. Numbers like that are almost unheard of from any defensive end in college, which brings up the point of the Heisman Trophy. The last defensive player to win a Heisman was Desmond Howard, but him also having played a little wide receiver helped him out in his case for the Heisman. But other than Howard, no defensive player has ever won the trophy, and only 3 non-quarterbacks have won it. So, while he most definitely deserves to at least be one of the 3 Heisman candidates, do not expect him to win it.

Player Profile: Joe Burrow

My, oh my, has Joe Burrow been terrific. Going into this season as the reigning Fiesta Bowl MVP and having led the Tigers to a 10-3 season, the expectation was more of the same from Burrow and Co., but Burrow had other ideas. LSU currently sports the No. 1 rank, an 11-0 record, and the deadliest offense in football, with 1 4,000-yard passer in Burrow, a 1,000-yard rusher in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and 2 1,000-yard receivers in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Burrow also has the 3rd-most TDs thrown by an SEC QB with 41 already this season (he needs 4 more TDs to break the single-season TD record), and his passing yardage total puts him 4thAll-Time amongst SEC passers (he needs just 262 more yards to break the single-season passing yardage record). With these records he is about to break, he is the clear front-runner and should probably win the Heisman. If Chase Young wasn’t suspended for 2 games and he could have a chance to break records, then the race between them would be closer. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Player Profile: Jalen Hurts

If you asked me before the season who my Heisman pick was (aside from Tua), I would have said Jalen Hurts, and everyone would have thought I was crazy, but Hurts has had a Heisman-candidate worthy season. He has thrown for 3,184 yards, 30 TDs, 6 picks, is 4thin the nation in QBR, and has run for 1,156 yards and an outrageous 17 TDs, all of these numbers are a career-best in any full season he has played. Oh, and he has been the ‘Comeback King’ of the season, including the illustrious 28-3 comeback last weekend at Baylor. Hurts has proven every doubter wrong and goes into the NFL Draft this coming April as a guy who teams can build around yet wait until the 2ndor 3rdround to get. Very comparable to the career Dak Prescott had at Mississippi State. As far as his Heisman chances, had guys like Burrow and Young had seasons like this in another year, then he would be the frontrunner, but unfortunately not this year.

My Heisman Pick

Joe Burrow. The way he came out of nowhere into the Heisman conversation, the fact that the SEC QB record books will have his name all over it, and the lack of love defensive players get in the Heisman consideration, he’s the clear frontrunner.