Regardless of what effect COVID-19 ends up having on the start of the 2020 NFL season, we know football will be played in some form or fashion. After all, the NFL is a money making and viewership machine and not having a season is a thought that few want to consider. To set expectations for the upcoming season, I will break down each team division by division in the attempt to do 2020 NFL season predictions.
In this series we will look at how teams ended last season, what important moves they’ve made so far this offseason, and how they stack up against the teams on their schedule. NFL season predictions are never easy and it’s very possible I could end up being way off track or right on target, but that’s part of the fun of doing NFL season predictions.
2019 result: 8-8, missed the playoffs
Dallas Cowboys fans can rejoice. After years of clamoring for head coach Jason Garrett to be removed from his job, their wish was granted following an 8-8 season in which it seemed at times that no one wanted to win their division. Though the team was loaded with talent at the prime offensive skilled positions of quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, their revered offensive line started to show cracks due to injury and unexpected losses to the New York Giants and Chicago Bears cost them in the long run.
Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was brought in to be the new head coach in the Cowboys, hoping that his experience would get them past their typical playoff stumbles. Quarterback Dak Prescott is unsigned as of this moment, but as with running back Ezekiel Elliott last year, it seems to be more of a when not if situation regarding when his contract will be complete. The team did manage to resign top wide receiver target Amari Cooper and drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round to create one of the best one-two punches in the league.
The division has some easy match-ups for the Cowboys in the Giants twice and the Washington Redskins twice. A home match-up versus the Atlanta Falcons and on the road versus a rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals team are others to look forward to. There are a few tough ones, though, as the NFC East does play against teams from the NFC West and AFC North in 2020, including the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Baltimore Ravens.
2020 prediction: 10-6, wins their division, 4th seed in the playoffs
New York Giants
2019 result: 4-12, missed the playoffs
2019 was a transition year for the Giants as star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns and former two time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning was benched during the season in favor of rookie first round pick Daniel Jones. An already thin wide receiver corps was ravaged by injury and the defense ranked in the bottom half of the league in important categories including turnovers, sacks, penalties, and yards allowed. After two straight disappointing seasons, head coach Pat Shurmur was dismissed.
The Giants hired former New England Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge to be their new coach. Both in the draft and in free agency the team focused on fixing holes on the defense and remaking an offensive line that for years had issues giving Manning the time he needed in the pocket. Notably missing from their additions was a wide receiver, indicating that the Giants are relying on bounce back seasons from players such as Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard.
While the schedule does include some weaker opponents such as the Redskins twice and Bengals, don’t expect much of an improvement on 2019. The Giants have tough match-ups throughout the season against top tier opponents such as the 49ers, Seahawks, Ravens, and Cowboys twice.
2020 prediction: 4-12, misses the playoffs
2019 result: 9-7, won their division, 4th seed in the playoffs
If the Giants were injury ravaged at wide receiver, it’s hard to find the words to describe the situation in Philadelphia. By season’s end none of their wide receivers had at least 500 yards and they were starting undrafted players such as Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Joshua Perkins. However, quarterback Carson Wentz was able to stay healthy after missing significant games leading up to and including the playoffs the previous two seasons and the tight end combination of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert were enough to pull out late season wins, including against the Cowboys, leading to a division title.
In a nod to needing help at wide receiver, the Eagles used its first round pick in the draft on Jalen Reagor in hopes that he and Alshon Jeffery can form a dynamic twosome once Jeffery recovers from a Lisfranc foot injury he suffered last season. Though Wentz did stay healthy in 2019, the Eagles didn’t waste the opportunity to draft quarterback Jalen Hurts as an insurance policy at the game’s most important position.
As with the rest of the division, unfavorable match-ups include the 49ers, Seahawks, and Ravens as well as a potentially improved Cowboys team twice, but the Eagles do seem to have a knack for playing tough against teams they should struggle against. The Redskins twice and Bengals are among the easier match-ups.
2020 prediction: 9-7, misses the playoffs
2019 result: 3-13, missed the playoffs
2019 didn’t go the way Washington had expected. Following a superb 2018 season in which he nearly lead the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl, the Redskins signed quarterback Case Keenum in the event that Alex Smith was not able to recover from a gruesome leg injury he suffered in 2018. As expected, Keenum did end up starting but was not able to deliver wins, leading to his benching for first round draft pick Dwayne Haskins. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Haskins seemed over-matched at times and the team never found its footing even after head coach Jay Gruden was fired following an 0-5 start to the season.
Though 2019 was bad for the Redskins, 2020 seems to already have some possible bright spots. Former Carolina Panthers head coach and two time NFL Coach of the Year Ron Rivera was hired as the team’s new head coach. In the draft, the Redskins held onto the 2nd overall pick and used it on defensive end Chase Young, one of the most highly touted pass rushers in recent years. On the downside, trading seven time Pro Bowler Trent Williams creates a hole at offensive tackle that will be crucial to fill.
The 2020 season depends on Haskins taking a huge step forward and it’s hard to see that happening with the gauntlet of teams in the Redskins’ way. Not only do the 49ers, Seahawks, Ravens, and Cowboys twice rate as hard match-ups, but there aren’t many manageable ones outside of the Bengals, the Giants twice, and the Detroit Lions.
2020 prediction: 3-13, misses the playoffs