Way Too Early NFL Predictions

Story posted September 14, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Grant Sheets

If week one of the 2021 NFL season was a preview of things to come, then this year is going to be one for the ages.

The Las Vegas Raiders’ maddening overtime defeat of the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night was a fitting way to wrap up the week.  It is a great time for fans to look into their crystal balls and speculate on what each team’s future holds.

On that note, here are four way-too-early predictions for this NFL season.

Matthew Stafford wins MVP and his first Lombardi Trophy

It’s time to give Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford the respect that he deserves. The veteran signal-caller was nothing short of electric in his Rams debut on Sunday night, finishing with 321 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 34-14 thrashing of the Chicago Bears.

After 12 seasons in Detroit without a playoff victory, Stafford was acquired by L.A. in a package deal that included quarterback Jared Goff, whose inefficiencies over the past two seasons led to his departure.

L.A. has owned one of the most talented rosters in the NFL over the past few years, and the ex-Lion appears to be the final piece to the puzzle. Now paired with head coach and offensive mastermind Sean McVay, Stafford is primed for a title run.

Ezekiel Elliott fails to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons

What happened to the “feed Zeke” mantra in Dallas? Since 2016, the Cowboys running back has amassed a league-leading 6,417 rushing yards. However, the former All-Pro is becoming an afterthought in a pass-heavy attack.

Elliott, the NFL’s second-highest-paid running back, was unimpressive in Thursday’s 31-29 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, carrying the ball just 11 times for 33 yards. 

While it’s fair to argue that the Bucs’ defensive unit is known for stifling opponents’ running backs, Dallas trailed on the scoreboard for most of the game and was never in the position to establish their presence on the ground. This was a common theme for America’s Team last year, resulting in Elliot’s most inefficient season of his career. 

Unless the Cowboys’ defense can force turnovers to get the offense on the field more, there is no reason to believe that Elliott will return to a workhorse role in 2021.

The Baltimore Ravens miss the playoffs for the first time in Lamar Jackson’s career

After a handful of injuries have decimated this roster over the past month, the Ravens’ status as a contender hangs in the balance.

Following a prime-time upset loss in Las Vegas on Monday, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned in Baltimore.

The defense, who lost cornerback Marcus Peters for the year after an ACL tear, allowed 435 yards through the air, their highest figure since Week 14 of the 2017 season. 

The offensive line often collapsed in pass protection, allowing 3 sacks and a handful of hits on quarterback Lamar Jackson

While we’ve come to expect miracles out of Jackson, Baltimore is going to need a career year from the former MVP to reach the postseason in a highly competitive AFC North.

The Houston Texans hold on to Deshaun Watson for the entirety of 2021

Despite disgruntled quarterback Deshaun Watson’s refusal to play in Houston, the Texans seem content with keeping him inactive.

In January, Watson publicly requested a trade from Houston after a series of disagreements with the front office over team management and roster decisions.

Until a team makes an offer that general manager Nick Caserio cannot refuse, Watson will stay put in Houston this season. As it stands right now with the quarterback situations around the league, the odds of a midseason trade are extremely unlikely.

Grant Sheets is a first-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at gcs5231@psu.edu.