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10 way-too-early predictions for the 2020 NFL season

The book has just closed on the 2019 NFL season. But even as the Super Bowl 54 tweetfetti is still being swept up in Miami, it’s time to turn our attention to 2020.

A lot will change between now and September. Rosters will take new shape thanks to free agency, the draft, and the inevitable retirements and injuries. With that, our thoughts about what next season will look may evolve.

That’s not to say our knee-jerk reactions after a season ends don’t matter. They give us a chance to reflect on how we’re feeling in the immediate aftermath of the season and about the future of the NFL. It’s an added bonus that when we can look back a year from now and laugh about how wrong we all were.

So what will everyone be mocking us about next year at this time? Let’s dive into our way-too-early predictions for the 2020 season to find out.

2020 NFL MVP

Russell WilsonChristian D’Andrea
Russell Wilson — Harry Lyles Jr.
Russell Wilson — James Brady
Lamar JacksonMorgan Moriarty
Kyler Murray Sarah Hardy
Patrick MahomesAdam Stites

Why I picked Wilson: Poor Russ keeps having to play bridesmaid to these emerging young quarterbacks. One of these years he’ll be recognized for what he is: one of the most efficient players to ever take the field, and the reason why Seattle’s been able to survive the sunset of the Legion of Boom without suffering an ugly rebuild. — D’Andrea

Why I picked Jackson: Yes, I understand how difficult it is for a player to repeat and win this award twice in a row (see: Mahomes), but Jackson is just getting started. 2019 was his first full season running the offense, and Baltimore should pretty much get everyone back from that unit in 2020. Call me crazy, but Jackson should have another MVP and Super Bowl run next season. — Moriarty

Why I picked Murray: This seems like a long shot, but I like trends. Mahomes was named MVP as a second-year quarterback in 2018 and Jackson won the award as a second-year quarterback in 2019, meaning we are one away from making this a real trend. Murray, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, is the best bet of QBs from his draft class to keep it rolling. — Hardy

Comeback Player of the Year

Cam NewtonHarry Lyles Jr.
Cam NewtonChristian D’Andrea
Tom BradyJames Brady
A.J. GreenSarah Hardy
David JohnsonAdam Stites

Why I picked Newton: Newton will likely be staring down a new opportunity in 2020 and should be 100 percent healthy for the first time in two years. He’s got to prove he’s still a starting NFL quarterback — and that should motivate him to a massive bounceback season. — D’Andrea

Why I picked Brady: Because the NFL is stupid. It genuinely doesn’t matter that Brady had an OK season and the Patriots were a playoff team. He’s not coming back from anything, but he’ll have a good season and win this award anyway. — Brady

Why I picked Green: Whether it’s with Joe Burrow and the Bengals, or a new team for the first time in his career, Green should finally be healthy again and back to his seven-time Pro Bowl self. — Hardy

Why I picked Johnson: It’s been a while since David Johnson was anything like the player who had 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016. He had a decent 2018 season, but back and ankle injuries slowed him down again in 2019. If he can stay healthy (and stay on the Cardinals roster), an improved Arizona offense could finally lead to a Johnson resurgence. — Stites

Player who will regress the most

Shaquil BarrettAdam Stites
Ryan TannehillChristian D’Andrea
Ryan TannehillHarry Lyles Jr.

Why I picked Barrett: Leading the NFL in sacks with 19.5 is presumably going to get Barrett a ton of money in 2020. And deservedly so. Expecting him to do it again might be overly optimistic, though. Only Reggie White, Mark Gastineau, Michael Strahan, DeMarcus Ware, and J.J. Watt have had multiple seasons with at least 18 sacks. Can Barrett continue to rack up sacks now that he’s earned the league’s attention? Probably not. — Stites

Why I picked Tannehill: I mean, come on. Tannehill was great in the 2019 regular season, but I’m pretty sure he’s not going to lead the NFL in passer rating again. — D’Andrea

Why I picked Tannehill: What he said ^. — Lyles Jr.

Team that will surprise us and make the playoffs

Miami DolphinsAdam Stites
Arizona Cardinals — James Brady
Las Vegas RaidersSarah Hardy
Cleveland BrownsChristian D’Andrea

Why I picked the Dolphins: Going from tanking to the playoffs that quickly would be an incredible feat, but not that wild when you consider how the Dolphins finished 2019. They won three of their last five, including a win over the Patriots. They have five of the first 60 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft and can add some serious talent to a young roster in the offseason. — Stites

Why I picked the Cardinals: Kyler Murray. Another offseason working with Kliff Kingsbury should be huge as the quarterback takes the next step. We just saw the 49ers go from 4-12 to 13-3, and while the Cardinals probably won’t be that good, I think they stand a chance of being the second-best team in what should once again be a very competitive NFC West. — Brady

Why I picked the Raiders: The Raiders still had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but ultimately they couldn’t overcome their last-season slide when they lost five of their last six games. Two more first-round picks, a new city, and maybe a new quarterback (don’t hold your breath, though) could be just what they need to take that next step. — Hardy

Why I picked the Browns: Cleveland was a tangled mass of talent squandered under a rookie head coach. Now Freddie Kitchens is gone, and in his stead is Kevin Stefanski, who just coached Kirk Cousins to the best year of his career as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. Add in Myles Garrett’s revenge tour, and this could be the year the Browns playoff drought finally ends (although, let’s face it, it probably won’t be). — D’Andrea

Team that will disappoint us like the 2019 Bears

Minnesota Vikings — Christian D’Andrea
Minnesota Vikings — James Brady
Dallas CowboysMorgan Moriarty
San Francisco 49ers — Adam Stites
Buffalo BillsSarah Hardy

Why I picked the Vikings: Minnesota went 1-4 against playoff teams in the regular season. Now the Vikings have to improve their roster despite currently having a projected -$12 million in cap space for 2020. — D’Andrea

Why I picked the Cowboys: The Cowboys had one of the most loaded rosters in the NFL, at least on offense, and they sat at home in the playoffs. Jerry Jones hiring Mike McCarthy is basically just another Jason Garrett, so I have low expectations for this team already. — Moriarty

Why I picked the 49ers: A dominant defense couldn’t quite get the job done because of questionable play at quarterback. Where have I heard this story before? Oh that’s right, it’s the Bears of last season. And the Jaguars the year before that. If the 49ers defense takes a step back at all, they could be the latest Super Bowl hangover victim. — Stites

Why I picked the Bills: I agree with Adam, except on which “great defense, iffy quarterback” team will miss the playoffs. — Hardy

Team that will lose in the playoffs in excruciating Saints fashion

New Orleans Saints — Sarah Hardy
Dallas Cowboys — Adam Stites
Baltimore Ravens Christian D’Andrea
San Francisco 49ers — James Brady

Why I picked the Saints: It’s always the Saints. The only thing that changes is the round. — Hardy

Why I picked the Ravens: As Marlon Humphrey pointed out, that’s kinda the Ravens’ thing now. — D’Andrea

Why I picked the 49ers: Because nothing matters and happiness is an illusion. Potentially related, I am a 49ers fan. — Brady

Team that will employ Tom Brady next season

New England Patriots — Sarah Hardy
New England Patriots — Christian D’Andrea
New England Patriots — Adam Stites
New England Patriots — Harry Lyles Jr.
Oakland Raiders — James Brady

Why I picked the Patriots: A few years ago, Terrell Suggs shared some wise words about Ben Roethlisberger: “I know what he’s doing. I’m not going to let him fool me with trickery and Jedi mind tricks.” We should apply that knowledge anytime Brady hints about possibly going anywhere. — Hardy

Why I picked the Patriots: Because the Raiders are going to offer him $35 million, and then he’ll sign with the Pats for $20 million. It’ll be a pretty good heckle. — D’Andrea

Why I picked the Raiders: Because when Jon Gruden wants something to happen, he’ll bulldoze everything in his path to make it happen. It’s unlikely the Raiders will have to do anything to employ Brady other than pay him too much money to be not that much better than Derek Carr (at this point in his career). — Brady

Team that will employ Philip Rivers next season

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Christian D’Andrea
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Morgan Moriarty
None — Adam Stites
His kids — Harry Lyles Jr.

Why I picked the Bucs: Rivers lives in Florida now, and the Buccaneers are the only team that can either afford his services or will be in need of a 38-year-old QB. — D’Andrea

Why I picked the Bucs: The Dolphins are going to draft Tua Tagovailoa, and the Jags are doing just fine with Gardner Minshew. The Bucs will be much better off with Rivers than Jameis Winston, so if I were Bruce Arians, I’d call up Rivers ASAP. — Moriarty

Why I picked none: Rivers hasn’t retired yet, but he could go that route if his playing options aren’t to his liking. Considering he threw 20 interceptions in 2019, there might not be many teams banging down his door to be a starter. — Stites

Why I picked his kids: He doesn’t have much more to prove outside of winning a Super Bowl, and it’s hard to envision some team that would pick him up and accomplish that. Go be a dad. — Lyles Jr.

Team we’ll pretend will win Super Bowl 55 because, I dunno, maybe Patrick Mahomes will get bored and try to play a whole playoff game left-handed

Seattle SeahawksChristian D’Andrea
New England Patriots — Sarah Hardy
Baltimore Ravens — Morgan Moriarty
San Francisco 49ers — David Fucillo
Pittsburgh SteelersAdam Stites
San Francisco 49ers — James Brady

Why I picked the Patriots: Last year I said it was going to be the Patriots and then it wasn’t. I’d like to jinx them again. — Hardy

Why I picked the 49ers: I’m a glutton for punishment? Super Bowl runner-ups have a habit of taking a step back the next season, but this 49ers fan doesn’t expect his team to do it. And nothing bad ever came from expecting great things from your sports team. The 49ers return most of their starters, and will hopefully get a full season from center Weston Richburg. If Richburg is healthy, I don’t think we see Chris Jones dominate the 49ers interior nearly as much, and that proved as big a game-changer as anything in their Super Bowl loss. — Brady

Super Bowl 55 halftime performer

Imagine Dragons or something else heartbreaking — Christian D’Andrea
Elton John — Morgan Moriarty
Ariana Grande — Adam Stites
Drake and Future — Sarah Hardy

Why I picked a steaming dose of shit: The NFL, hearing your complaints about all the Spanish spoken at Super Bowl 54’s halftime show, will instead opt to put America’s dullest band (non-Maroon 5 edition) on stage. The whole thing will be sponsored by Jeep, whose CEO once wished so hard upon a Nickelback album that Imagine Dragons was born. — D’Andrea

Why I picked Elton John: Look, I realize that this is stretch, given that Elton is British and probably doesn’t give a damn about the NFL or other American sports. But he is retiring from touring this year, and the NFL might give him enough money to convince him to get back on the live performance horse one last time. What a better option to have one of your last live performances be the Super Bowl halftime show, too? — Moriarty

Why I picked Drake and Future: Almost five years ago, the two rappers released their insta-hit collaboration, What a Time to Be Alive. In the first month of 2020, the duo leaked two songs amid rumors that they’re working on a new project together. Now that Drake is back on good terms with NFL partner Jay-Z, and considering how much of a sports curse fan Drake is, it makes too much sense for him to be next year’s headliner. Especially if it gives Future another chance to get under Russell Wilson’s skin. — Hardy

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