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By Doc Alan


BUCCANEERS – The defending Super Bowl Champions return all 22 starters on both sides of the ball. This is very rare in this modern era of free agency / player movement. Head coach Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, & defensive coordinator Todd Bowles are back as well. The problem for the defending Super Bowl Champions is that history shows it is very hard to repeat, the last team to do so was the Patriots in the 2003 & 2004 seasons. Every opponent the Champs will face this year will have the game ” circled ” and will be sure to bring their “A” game. CONTENDER  

FALCONS – The Falcons finished 2020 with a horrific 4-12 record. An 0-5 start led to Falcons head honcho Dan Quinn & GM Thomas Dimitroff being run out of town together on a rail. In steps new Sideline Boss Arthur Smith who was the Titans offensive coordinator, who will also double as the Dirty Birds offensive coordinator, and new GM Terry Fontenot. The new Sheriff’s in town decided to stick with 13-year veteran QB Matt Ryan instead of drafting a QB with their 1st round draft pick # 4 overall. They used that high 1st round draft pick on TE Kyle Pitts who many predict could become a superstar. They also made a good decision in hiring Dean Pees as their defensive coordinator. PRETENDER     


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SAINTS- QB Drew Brees is retired, and head coach Sean Payton has decided that Jameis Winston will start week # 1. The problem is Winston is famous for going into the NFL history books for all the wrong reasons! He’s the one & only member of the exclusive NFL 30/30 club for QB’s – 30 picks & 30 TD’s in one season! High risk / high reward, unless Sean Payton decides to take the air out the ball and give stud RB Alvin Kamara more touches. The defense should be good again, but this is a transition year for the Saints. PRETENDER        

PANTHERS – Last season, rookie head coach Matt Rhule  guided the Panthers to a 5-11 record. However, they were 9-7 ATS and were competitive in most of their games despite not having stud RB Christian McCaffrey for most of season. Last season, the Panthers had QB Teddy Bridgewater under center, but this season in steps QB Sam Darnold off a less than stellar 3 year stay in the Big Apple. The problem is that Darnold has always been a turnover prone QB, going all the way back to his playing days in college at USC. He will have better weapons and a better head coach, but turnover prone QB’s usually continue with their turnover ways. PRETENDER      


SEAHAWKS – The Hawks won the division last year with a 12-4 record, but they suffered an early exit in the playoffs at the hands of the Rams. The Seahawks 2020 season was like a bipolar split personality – the defense was historically bad to start out the season, while QB Russell Wilson started out HOT. But then the roles reversed, and the Seahawks defense played much better later in the season, while QB Russell Wilson cooled off. There was a lot of off season drama with Russell Wilson and all the trade rumors, but he’s back in the Emerald City for at least one more year with head coach Pete Carroll. CONTENDER    

RAMS – 2 years removed from their Super Bowl appearance the Rams found their way back into the playoffs with a 10-6 record spearheaded by their # 1 ranked D led by NFL defensive player of the year stud DT Aaron Donald &  Pro Bowl CB Jalen Ramsey. The Rams took care of the Seahawks in the Wild card playoff game but couldn’t get past the Pack in the divisional round. The BIG? mark for the Rams going into 2021 was were they going to stick with regressing QB Jared Goff or a get a new QB. The Rams brass decided for the latter option and landed Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who must now be elated to work with better weapons and a better head coach in whiz kid Sean Mcvay. The loss of stud RB Cam Akers will hurt, but this team is loaded. CONTENDER  

49ERS- NFL stands for ” not for long ” and the 49ers are exhibit # 1. Off a 13-3 1st place record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2019 to a very disappointing 6-10 last place finish in 2020. From the penthouse to the outhouse in 1 year! The 49ers were ravaged by injuries to many of their star players last year, but that wasn’t their only problem. The 49ers were a horrific – 11 in turnover differential, only the Broncos were worse at -16! This year, the 49ers will be getting many of their injured star players back. However, the big? mark is will veteran QB Jimmy G be back under center, or will it be 1st round draft choice rookie QB Trey Lance? CONTENDER  

CARDINALS – The head coach & QB combo of Kliff Kingsbury & Kyler Murray enter their 3rd year together in the Valley of the Sun, and they have shown improvement each year, going from a 2019 record of 5-10-1 to 8-8 in 2020. Much is expected in the 3rd year of the Kingsbury & Murray era, but a lot may depend on the defensive side of the ball. They lost Patrick Peterson & Dre Kirkpatrick on the back end, but they gained stud DE J.J. Watt on the front end, and stud OLB Chandler Jones will be coming back from injury, so the Cardinals have the potential to have a fierce pass rush this year. PRETENDER  

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WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM – Under head coach Ron Rivera in his 1st year, the WFT won the NFC East with a 7-9 record, and gave the Bucs all they could handle in their wild card playoff game. The strength of this team is clearly their defense, led by defensive rookie of the year DE Chase Young. Over the last 8 games in 2020 the WFT stop unit held 7 of their opponents to 20 points or less. The QB? is now settled, with 17-year veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick taking the reins. The WFT’s D will keep them competitive. CONTENDER        

COWBOYS – New head coach Mike McCarthy’s 1st year didn’t produce the results many were hoping for. An UNDER whelming record of 6-10 was the result of losing QB Dak Prescott to injury, and a historically bad Cowboys defense that gave up up 30 or more points in 8 of their games, en route to giving up a franchise record 479 total points! New Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is a good hire to fix the defense. CONTENDER    

GIANTS  – Rookie head coach Joe Judge led the GMEN to a 6-10 record despite losing stud RB Saquon Barkley for the season due to injury and sophomore QB Daniel Jones continuing to be a human turnover machine. The GMEN acquired WR Kenny Golladay & drafted WR Kadarius Toney in the 1st round of the draft in an effort to bolster the offense. The? mark is can Jones in his 3rd year take the next step? Turnover prone QB’s like him are like tigers who don’t change their stripes. PRETENDER       

EAGLES – After a putrid 4-11-1 2020 season, head coach Doug Pederson was given his pink slip out of the City of Brotherly Love, a mere 3 years after winning the Super Bowl. QB Carson Wentz regressed horribly and was also shown the door. In steps new Sideline Boss Nick Sirianni the Colts offensive coordinator for the last 2 years, along with all new coaches. This is a team in complete rebuilding mode. Sophomore QB Jalen Hurts is unproven, and he could be given quick hook if he struggles in favor of recently acquired QB Garner Minshew II. PRETENDER


PACKERS – The Pack put together another stellar season under 2nd year head coach Matt Lafleur going 13-3 for a 2nd straight season and reaching the NFC Championship game for the 2nd year in a row before falling short again. QB Aaron Rodgers had an MVP season, and he was clearly motivated by the personal slight he felt when Packers GM Brian Gutekunst drafted QB Jordan Love with the Packers 1st round draft pick in the 2020 NFL draft instead of drafting a WR as Aaron Rodgers had requested. There was a lot of off-season drama with QB Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay, but he’s back in Titletown. CONTENDER

VIKINGS – The Vikings turned in 7-9 record last season, and Vikings QB Capt. Kirk Cousins had a pretty good year. Stud RB Dalvin Cook was the NFL’s 2nd leading rusher. The Vikings offense put up a record # of points per game & yards per game during head coach Mike Zimmer’s tenure. On the flip side, Mike Zimmer called his defense the ” worst he’s ever had ” as they gave up a record # of points per game & yards per game under his watch. The defense should improve with the return of stud DE Danielle Hunter & LB Anthony Barr. The return of fans to the U.S. Bank Stadium will reestablish a true field advantage that was lacking last year. CONTENDER     

BEARS – The Bears somehow snuck into the expanded playoffs last year with an 8-8 record but were quickly shown the door by the Saints. Gone is QB Mitch Trubisky, who never lived up to hype that came from being selected # 2 overall in the 2017 NFL draft. Bears GM Ryan Pace was aggressive on draft day and traded up in the 1st round to get QB Justin Fields out of Ohio State with the 11th overall pick. However, it looks like it will be veteran QB Andy Dalton under center in week # 1. The Bears have a way to go in their rebuild. PRETENDER

LIONS – Another forgettable losing season led to Lions Head Honcho Matt Patricia being finally given his pink slip out of the Motor City. In steps new Sideline Boss Dan Campbell, along with a new coaching staff, and they will inherit a team in complete rebuilding mode. The Lions shipped QB Matthew Stafford out of town in favor of QB Jared Goff, who regressed terribly with the Rams last year. PRETENDER  


CHIEFS – As defending Super Bowl Champions in 2020, the Chiefs finished with a stellar 14-2 record and won the AFC Championship game before losing to the Bucs in the Super Bowl. QB Patrick Mahomes was running for his life in the Super Bowl loss to the Bucs, and this spurred the Chiefs to remake their entire offensive line during the off season. The Chiefs think they have solved that problem, but they have another problem facing them this year, namely, they are Super Bowl losers. Since the 1993 season, there has been only 1 Super Bowl losing team that has made its way back the big game the following year, that being the Patriots in the 2018 season. History is against them, but as long as the Chiefs 

have head coach Andy Reid and QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs are a CONTENDER  

CHARGERS – A 7-9 record in 2020 wasn’t enough to save head coach Anthony Lynn’s job. In steps new head honcho Brandon Staley who was the Rams defensive coordinator last season, along with a new coaching staff. The Chargers have found their new franchise QB in Justin Herbert who was the 2020 offensive rookie of the year. They lost 6 games by 7 points or less, better coaching should improve that stat. I like the Chargers to improve. CONTENDER   

BRONCOS – Head Coach Vic Fangio is on the hot seat after 2 losing seasons. Last season, the Broncos finished last in the division at 5-11, and a big part of that was their NFL worst -16 in turnover differential. QB Drew Lock was big contributor to that infamous stat with his 15 picks. The good news is that Lock won’t be behind center come week # 1, it will QB Teddy Bridgewater, who takes care of the football. For that reason alone, the Broncos should improve. Also, the defense gets a big boost with stud LB Von Miller coming back. CONTENDER

LAS VEGAS-In 2020, Raiders head honcho Jon Gruden turned in an 8-8 record in the Raiders 1st season in Sin City. An 8-8 record was really pretty amazing accomplishment when you look at how bad the Raiders defense was all year, as in 10 out of their 16 games, they surrendered 30 or more points. They were -11 in turnover margin as well. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley should help improve the defense. In 2020 QB Derek Carr had his best year ever, and the Raiders have some good offensive weapons. But until the Raiders fix that atrocious defense, they will remain a PRETENDER


TITANS – The Titans finished 2020 with an 11-5 record and won their division, but they suffered an early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Ravens. The Titans have found a great combo with QB Ryan Tannehill & stud RB Derrick Henry, who was the 2020 offensive player of the year and was the NFL rushing leader. The Titans were an NFL best + 11 in turnover differential last year, so expect some regression. On defense, they signed free agent stud LB Bud Dupree who should have an immediate impact. Head coach Mike Vrable has the arrow pointing up in Music City. CONTENDER   

COLTS- The Colts finished 2020 with an 11-5 record in earning them a Wild Card playoff berth, but they suffered an early exit with a loss to the Bills. The Colts were a +10 in turnover differential last year, so expect a bit of regression. QB Philip Rivers is now retired, and the Colts are pinning their hopes on resurrecting the career of QB Carson Wentz. However, the? becomes when will Carson Wentz see the field after his latest injury? The Colts have a really good young stud RB in Jonathan Taylor, and they have a very good defense led by stud LB Darius Leonard. The Colts are a very talented deep team and they are well coached by Frank Reich, so despite the uncertainty of who will be behind center, the Colts are a CONTENDER  

JAGUARS – Q. When is a 1-15 season record considered a success? A. When you can select a QB that many are calling a once in a generational talent with the # 1 overall pick in 

the 2021 NFL draft and select NCAA National Championship winning Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who has been compared to Peyton Manning. The Jags arrow is now pointing up for that reason alone. But wait, it gets better, the good news doesn’t stop there! As an added bonus, head coach Doug Marrone was given his walking papers, and in 

steps NCAA National Championship winning head coach Urban Meyer as the Jags new sideline Boss. The Jags will show improvement, but this team is rebuilding. PRETENDER  

TEXANS-Head coach Bill O’Brien was given shown the door last season after an 0-4 start, and the Texans ended up with a horrific 4-12 record. New head coach David Culley inherits a team in complete rebuilding mode. Franchise QB Deshaun Watson is unlikely to see the field this season as a member of the Texans due to his mounting off the field legal problems and his request to be traded. Some have predicted this team to be the 1st 0-17 team in NFL history. The Las Vegas oddsmakers think that’s possible, as the Texans have the dubious honor of being the only NFL team to be made an underdog in all 17 of their games. The Texans team are a dumpster fire. PRETENDER 


BILLS – The Bills turned in a stellar 13-3 record reaching the AFC Championship Game before losing to the Chiefs. The Bills offense put up a franchise record 501 total points, and they look poised to put up big offensive #’s again this year. Head coach Sean McDermott has guided the Bills to the playoffs in 3 out his 4 years in Buffalo. Hopes are high that the Bills are ready to take “the next step ” and get to the Super Bowl for the 1st time since the 1993 season. The Bills are favored in 15 of their games this year. CONTENDER    

PATRIOTS – Year 1 in New England after the departure of GOAT QB Tom Brady produced a result that GOAT head coach Bill Belichick and Patriots fans aren’t used to – a losing 7-9 record! Last year was a transition year, and many Patriots players opted out due to COVID-19. QB Cam Newton didn’t have a very good 2020 season, and he has just been cut, thus paving the way for 1st round draft pick Mac Jones to take over the QB reigns. The Patriots should be slightly improved. PRETENDER            

DOLPHINS – The Dolphins doubled their win total in 2020 , posting a 10-6 mark, up from 5-11 in 2019. Head coach Brian Flores has the Dolphins moving in the right direction. The Dolphins were a + 9 in turnover differential, so expect some regression. The BIG? mark going into 2021 is what kind of QB play are going to get from QB Tua Tagavailoa, who has had his fair share of struggles?  QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer around to come in off the bench when Tua struggles, and Tua will be working with 2 new offensive coordinators, George Godsey & Eric Studesville. The uncertainty around Tua makes the Dolphins a PRETENDER     

JETS – Q. When is a 2-14 season record considered a success? A. When you can ” kill 2 birds with 1 stone.“ The Jets were able to send probably their worst head coach in franchise history Adam Gase, and turnover prone QB Sam Darnold who was once predicted to be the next Broadway Joe, both packing out of the Big Apple in one fell swoop. In steps new Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who was the 49ers defensive coordinator for the last 4 years, along with all new coaches. The Jets selected QB Zach Wilson out of BYU # 2 overall with their 1st round draft pick. The Jets are in rebuilding mode. PRETENDER           


RAVENS –  The Ravens posted an 11-5 record which earned them a Wild Card playoff berth, and QB Lamar Jackson got his 1st playoff win by beating the Titans on the road before falling to the Bills in the divisional round. QB Lamar Jackson once again rushed for over 1,000 yards for a 2nd straight year, making him the only NFL QB to do so. The loss of stud 

RB J.K. Dobbins due to injury will hurt, but the offense will keep humming, the defense is solid, and head coach John Harbaugh is simply one of the best. CONTENDER       

STEELERS –  The Steelers started out 2020 ON FIRE winning 11 straight games to start the season, before going 1-5 down the stretch to finish with a 12-4 record, winning the AFC North. However, a turnover fueled playoff game vs. the Browns gave the Steelers an early playoff exit. Based upon what we saw down the stretch, the Steelers seem to be on everyone’s fade list. The reports of the Steelers demise maybe premature. Head coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. The Steelers made a shrewd move in drafting stud RB Najee Harris with their 1st round draft pick, he should be an immediate impact player. The defense led by LB T.J. Watt & DE Cameron Hayward should remain solid. This is most likely QB Ben Roethlisberger’s last season, and he and his teammates should be very motivated to have his final season be a successful one. CONTENDER

BENGALS  Q. When is doubling your win total from the prior year not considered a success? A. When you have doubled your total from 2 wins to 4 wins. That’s 6 wins in 32 tries for head coach Zac Taylor who suddenly finds himself on the ” hot seat ” in his 3rd season in the Queen City. One piece of good news is that # 1 overall draft pick LSU QB Joe Burrow had a stellar rookie year before going down in week # 11 with a season ending injury, and he’s expected back to be back under center. If things start out bad, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Zac Taylor be the 1st NFL head coach fired in 2021. PRETENDER 

BROWNS –  The Browns posted an 11-5 record in 2020 , which secured them a Wild Card playoff sport, and NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski in his rookie year did what no Browns head coach had done in 25 years – win a playoff game ! I like the RB duo Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt, but QB Baker Mayfield is still a? mark, can he take the ” next step ” ? On defense, stud DE Myles Garret returns, but there will be new starters on that side of the ball, we’ll have to see how well they will all play together. The turnaround on the shores of Lake Erie is real. But I’m not ready to put the Brownies in the big game just yet. CONTENDER

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