Return of the Ravens, A Stellar NFC West and a New MVP: 10 Hot Takes for the 2021-22 NFL Season
On September 10th, the Cowboys and the Buccaneers will kick off in Tampa Bay to mark the start of the 2021-22 NFL Season. If this season is the same as the last, I'm sure it will be packed with fantastic comebacks, jaw-dropping performances and a whole lot of unpredictability. Despite how hard it is to foresee the future, it's always fun to guess what might happen over the next few months. So without further ado, here are ten bold takes Let's Talk Sports has for the upcoming 2021 NFL Season.
1. The Ravens beat the Chiefs in the regular season and make it to the conference championship game:
After losing to the Bills in the 2020 Divisional Round, the Ravens retooled their team in hopes of winning their first Super Bowl since 2012. They signed Sammy Watkins & Le'Veon Bell while adding Rashod Bateman, Odafe Oweh and Shaun Wade in the draft. Although they did lose some pieces, particularly on the defensive side, this new Ravens team seems to have a new energy not seen last year. Although he has regressed from his MVP season a few years ago, Lamar Jackson is poised for a bounce back, and MVP candidate worthy season in 2021. In addition, TE Mark Andrews is looking to prove he earned his new four year, $56 million contract. Based off this, I truly believe that the Ravens will be able to beat the Chiefs this year in the regular season and advance to the AFC Championship. However, I do see the Chiefs getting their revenge and beating Baltimore in the AFC Championship.
Hot Level: 3
2. The Browns will have both the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, the third occurrence of this since 2000:
In 2017, Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley won both "Player of the Year" awards whole both playing for the LA Rams. Likewise, Ray and Jamal Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens accomplished this in 2003. But, who will be next to join that list? Well, at +500 odds according to sportsbettingdime.com , Myles Garrett is predicted to stay on the tear he was at in 2020, where he posted 12 sacks and four forced fumbles. In addition, Nick Chubb is posted at only +1600 according to oddsshark.com . Although injuries were a concern for Chubb last year, when healthy he can be a top five running back in the league with the potential to win OPOY. Recognizing that, if the stars align in Cleveland, it's not impossible for them to become the third duo since 2000 to accomplish such a feat.
Hot Level: 8
3. The Dallas Cowboys fail to make the playoffs for the second year in a row:
Don't get me wrong here, the Cowboys' offensive unit is quite possibly top 10 in the league. They boast a great quarterback in Dak Prescott, three high quality receivers (Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup), and a top five (when healthy) running back in Ezekiel Elliot. However, their defense is atrocious. They ranked 23rd in yards allowed per game and 28th in points allowed per game. In a year where many crucial games are played against teams with strong defenses like the Chargers, Football Team, and Giants, their offense might not be strong offense to drag a defense allowing almost 30 points per game to the playoffs. Although they do play in a weak division, other teams like Washington are slightly more well rounded, which will aid them when playing stiffer competition.
Hot Level: 6
4. Jameis Winston starts every game for the Saints and leads them to a winning record:
As the Week 1 starter for a Saints team coming off of a division title and a 12-4 record. Additionally, he has backup Taysom Hill breathing down his throat, ready to step in at a moment's notice. However, I'm not sure that time will come for Hill, as Winston is poised for a stellar year. Like in Tampa Bay, he has plenty of weapons to utilize in his offense. Additionally, the solid Saints defense will provide Winston the cushion he needs to win ballgames. Although decision making was an issue in the past, the older and likely wiser Winston will be more adept at reading coverages due to his experience. This, combined with an overall great team, will lead the Saints to another winning season and a shot at the playoffs.
Hot Level: 5
5. Ron Rivera wins Coach of the Year after coaching the Washington Football Team to an 11-6 record:
With a top five defense, new veteran quarterback and much improved skill positions, everything is there for the Football Team to take a step above their 7-9 record from last year. Pair that with Ron Rivera, a two time Coach of the Year award winner who brings a winning culture to the locker room, and you have a dangerous team. Despite playing a rougher schedule than in 2020, the Football Team will exceed expectations and become the first back to back division winners of the NFC East in over 15 years. This will no doubt lead to Rivera winning his third, and record tying, Coach of the Year award. Although there are plenty of great coaches in the league such as Sean McDermott, Andy Reid and Sean McVay, they are already expected to have great records, whereas Rivera will be exceeding expectations.
Hot Level: 5
6. All four teams in the NFC West hit at least 8 wins, with three having a winning record:
Although this might be the least bold take out of the ten, it still takes a lot of pieces to come together in order for every team in a division to win eight games in a 17 game season. Injuries have to be minimal, young players have to step up & shine, and veterans have to prove they still have what it takes to stay in the league. However, the reason why I believe this can happen regardless is the quarterback situation. Quarterbacks are often the captain and the deciding factor in the success of a team. Fortunately, three out of four teams (Seattle, Los Angeles and Arizona) have good quarterback situations, and even San Francisco has two serviceable options in Trey Lance & Jimmy Garroppolo. As always, this division will be competitive. So, most teams will come away with their fair share of division wins while also racking up wins outside of the NFC West. The extra game helps too, as it is against an out-of-division team. Long story short, expect the NFC West to dominate everyone else outside of their own division.
Hot Level: 2
7. Mac Jones fails to reign in the Patriots, and they have a bottom ten record in the league:
When you're the first quarterback the Patriots have trusted their franchise with since Tom Brady, you have some big shoes to fill. Believe me, Mac Jones will eventually reach his potential and be a great quarterback in this league. However, this is not his year. With defensive captain Stephon Gilmore out for at least six weeks, young stars like JC Jackson will have to carry the New England defense to match the production of past years. In addition, the weapons of New England are not as good as they once were, and running back Damien Harris along with tight ends Jonnu Smith & Hunter Henry will be the sole skill players of any value. Providing Mac with little help will likely lead to tight defensive coverage that will force him into bad decisions. Without any offense, it is likely that the Patriots tank and stay in the rebuild for a little bit longer.
Hot Level: 3
8. For the first time ever, two quarterbacks eclipse the 1,000 rushing yards mark this season:
In the last few years, seeing one quarterback doing this hasn't been THAT rare, as Lamar Jackson has achieved this feat each of the last two years and will likely repeat that feat in the 2021-22 season. However, the only person not named Lamar Jackson to do this is Michael Vick, who achieved the feat in 2006. Insert Jalen Hurts. The 6' 1" QB for the Philadelphia Eagles hit this mark in 2019 while in college, and has shown flashes of that talent in the NFL. Except, he averaged more yards per attempt last season in the NFL than in college. So in theory, if Hurts is given enough chances to escape the pocket, becoming the third quarterback in NFL history to run for 1,000 yards isn't unfeasible.
Hot Level: 7
9. A new tight end is added to the exclusive 1,300 yard club:
So far, only four tight ends have hit this mark in a single season, that being Travis Kelce (2x), George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. There are two things that most of these candidates have in common during those seasons: being a primary receiver in the offensive scheme and having a questionable running back situation. This year, the Las Vegas Raiders have no receiver remotely talented in comparison to Darren Waller, and have an odd running back situation in which both Kenyan Drake & Josh Jacobs will see quality reps. So, I would not be surprised if Waller hits that exclusive mark.
Hot Level: 4
10. The 2021-22 NFL MVP is Josh Allen. However, the Bills don't make it past the divisional round:
I'll admit, the first part of this take isn't very hot. Josh Allen is certainly a top three quarterback in the league and maybe even a top ten player by the end of the year. Plus, seeing how the award is more often than not given to a quarterback, it is very likely that Allen wins it. However, in connection with take number one, I think the Bills will fall short again in the playoffs, this time to the Ravens. Without a strong running back, the Bills' offense is still mainly dimensional, limiting the work a defense will need to do to succeed. In addition, the Bills have lost some key players like Quinton Jefferson and Shaq Lawson who they never really replaced. So, it's not out of the question for Buffalo to go another year without winning their first Super Bowl.
Hot Level: 5