2020 NFC season preview | Yardbarker
The 2020 season is going to be one of the most unpredictable and difficult forecasts of any NFL campaign. With no preseason games and the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak looming over teams, expect the unexpected. The predictions here are the best reading of the prevailing winds, clouds and sunshine for all 16 teams in the NFC.
I went through each and every game from Weeks 1-17 and tallied the win/loss results. I then repeated the exercise with both my best-case and worst-case scenarios for each team. The results here are the closest whole number to the average of the outcomes. As a result, the sum of the win totals might not be mathematically possible.
Dallas Cowboys (10-6): In Dak we trust, and thus far that’s proven a prudent strategy for Dallas. He gives new head coach Mike McCarthy a veteran capable of running his controlled offense. Adding CeeDee Lamb to up-and-down Amari Cooper and emerging talent Michael Gallup gives the Cowboys some great potential in the passing game. With Ezekiel Elliott still running strong behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, the Cowboys shouldn’t have trouble scoring.
Their defense got significantly better upfront with the late-summer addition of Everson Griffen. The starting defensive 11 looks very solid even without LB Sean Lee (injured once again). Other than CB, it’s also paper-thin in terms of proven depth. Youngsters like Neville Gallimore could help change that, but I need to see it before I buy it. McCarthy’s influence compared to feckless predecessor Jason Garrett is a dynamic that will determine if this team surges to 12-13 wins or stagnates around .500.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): Few teams offer as wide a range of potential outcomes as these Eagles. If everyone stays healthy and performs at or near their peak, there is every reason to believe Philadelphia not only wins the East but could win the entire NFC. But if injuries and/or faded performances from some key players hit, the Eagles will be lucky they have a cakewalk schedule to avoid losing double-digits.
The former forecast is the most likely and it’s because of the defense. The front four is deep and talented, adding Javon Hargrave in the middle to help make Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett that much better. Darius Slay should give the Eagles the viable No. 1 CB they have desperately sought for years, and he moves everyone else back to where they belong on the depth chart. That’s a huge boon for a defense that asked too much of too many.
That also needs to be true on offense, where the concerns are a lot direr. Injuries have already hit the offensive line, forcing Jason Peters back to left tackle. They’re shamefully thin at wide receiver behind Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson, who combined to play just 13 games last year. Having a great 1-2 punch at TE helps, but there’s only so much Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert can do. Carson Wentz was fantastic last year and will need to be that way again. I’m not a big fan of their RB group or their OL beyond RT Lane Johnson and C Jason Kelce. Having good specialists does help engender some confidence.
New York Giants (5-11): The 2020 Giants remind me some of the Browns. Both have a rookie head coach, rookie left tackle firmly on the spot, a young QB that can go in either direction and a defense that looks good up front but has more questions than proven answers behind it. The difference with the Giants is they don’t have an Odell Beckham Jr., Myles Garrett or Denzel Ward. There just aren’t any game-changing players evident on this roster, particularly on defense. I think Dalvin Tomlinson, Lorenzo Carter, Leonard Williams and Jabrill Peppers are good pieces, but who is the difference-maker?
On offense, new coach Joe Judge and OC Jason Garrett need Saquon Barkley to be the star he was as a rookie in 2018. He quietly fell back some in his second season and the Giants offense will not work unless he’s a worthy All-Pro instead of a marginal Pro Bowler. I like the dedication to rebuilding the OL but it’s unlikely to be ready to take a big step in 2020; Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux is a fantastic OL draft haul, but don’t raise expectations too high as rookies. At least Daniel Jones has a strong trio of WRs to work with and the perennial potential for a breakout year from TE Evan Engram, too. New York should be entertaining, but the wins probably don’t start piling up until 2021.
Washington Football Team (4-12): I love the (temporary) name change, new head coach Ron Rivera, and the uniform redesign. I love WR Terry McLaurin, who could quickly emerge as one of the league’s best big-play threats in his second year. I love the defensive front with No. 2 overall pick Chase Young joining what was already the strength of the team. The secondary and offensive line should at least be solid if everyone stays healthy and performs to expectation. I even hold optimism for improvement from QB Dwayne Haskins in his second season. They should be tough to beat and give fits to weak OLs, but it’s hard to see how they win games over most opponents. The overall lack of offensive talent and changing on the fly to a new regime are severely limiting factors in Washington this year.