2021 NFL Season: Playoff And Awards Predictions

Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady / NFL

The 2021-2022 NFL season gets underway Thursday night as the Dallas Cowboys take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Grab a beer, order some wings, and glue yourself to the couch because it’s football season once again. Every fan comes in with the hope that it’s their year, and all of that hope will disappear after your team’s offense goes three and out on the first possession. There’s no better feeling than yelling at the television on a Sunday.

After much deliberation, I’m ready to make my playoff and awards predictions. Buckle up those chinstraps, and let’s go.

NFC

Once again, Tom Brady took his team to the Super Bowl and walked away with another ring. Every fan should have seen this coming especially if your team plays in the AFC. Why would it be any different? Brady runs the league, and the Bucs are going to be contenders once again with all 22 starters from the Super Bowl team. The rich, do in fact, get richer.

So who will stop Brady’s reign of terror? The best bet plays in Green Bay, and his name is Robert Paulson. Actually, his name is Aaron Rodgers, and he’s the reigning MVP. Despite falling to the Bucs in the Conference Championship Game, the Packers still have #12 under center for at least one more season, which automatically makes Green Bay a contender.

The NFC West is the group of death as the Rams, 49ers, and Seahawks are all talented enough to not only make the playoffs but win a Super Bowl. In the East, someone has to win the division right? In the South, maybe this is the year I stop believing in the Falcons. I can’t make any promises.

NFC Seeds

  1. Bucs
  2. Packers
  3. 49ers
  4. Cowboys
  5. Rams
  6. Seahawks
  7. Saints

NFC Title Game – Bucs over 49ers

Special Note: As a Giants fan, I’m contractually obligated to give a prediction for the NFL season. With a horrible offensive line and mediocre quarterback, I’m not expecting to light up the scoreboard. However, I believe in Joe Judge and the defense. The Giants should be on the “In The Hunt” graphic all season. Final record: 8-9.

AFC

Ask yourself one question: Can *insert team here* beat Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs?

That’s the only question that matters. So far, no team without Brady has beaten Mahomes in the playoffs. To go one step further, the Kansas City Chiefs have never played a road playoff game since Mahomes become the permanent starter. Why should that change this year? Frankly, I don’t think it will. Mahomes is going to be a man possessed after the Chiefs were embarrassed in the Super Bowl. A pissed-off Mahomes is a quarterback that I wouldn’t want to see if I’m on the other sideline.

The teams with the best chances of stopping Mahomes are the same two teams that faced the Chiefs in the playoffs a season ago. Those teams are the Browns and the Bills. Top to bottom, the Browns roster is more talented than the Chiefs. Cleveland has the best 1-2 rushing attack in football with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Plus, Myles Garrett is one of the favorites to win MVP. I hate to channel my inner sports talk show host, but Cleveland’s success will come down to Baker Mayfield. If he moves the chains, the Browns will go far.

In Buffalo, the Bills are coming off their most successful season of the 21st century. Last year was not a fluke for Josh Allen (more on him late), and the young quarterback should be even better than he was a season ago. The biggest non-move of the offseason was the return of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. If their defensive line improves, expect a rematch with Kansas City for the AFC Championship.

In other news, Lamar Jackson might rush for three thousand yards after every running back in Baltimore suffered catastrophic injuries. Don’t count out Mike Tomlin, who’s never had a losing season. Also, the “Year Two” jump for quarterbacks is real. CC: Justin Herbert.

AFC Seeds

  1. Chiefs
  2. Bills
  3. Browns
  4. Titans
  5. Ravens
  6. Steelers
  7. Chargers

AFC Title Game – Chiefs over Browns

Super Bowl

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Bucs and Chiefs are still the two best teams in the NFL. I expect a closer Super Bowl this time around, but I’m still picking the GOAT to win by a field goal.

Super Bowl – Bucs over Chiefs

Awards

MVP – Josh Allen

If the Bills make the playoffs again, then Allen will have to be spectacular once again. He still needs to take care of the ball, but there’s a chance his stat line could look like this: five thousand yards, 42 passing TDS, and 10 rushing TDs. That’s good enough to win NFL MVP.

Offensive Player of the Year – Josh Allen

See the above.

Defensive Player of the Year – T.J. Watt

If it’s not Aaron Donald again, I’ll take T.J. Watt, who finished 3rd and 2nd in voting the previous two seasons.

Comeback Player of the Year – Dak Prescott

This is the easiest award to predict. Dak was on pace for record-setting numbers before his injury in 2020. Expect the QB to light it up once again.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Trevor Lawrence

The bet to place is that a QB will win this award. Why not go with the number one overall pick? Lawrence will struggle at first but expect a huge second half once he gets in sync with Urban Meyer.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Patrick Surtain II

Surtain II is a s-t-u-d. Add his name to the list of elite Denver cornerbacks.

Coach of the Year – Kyle Shanahan

The 49ers should jump from 6 wins a season ago to at least 11, probably 12, no matter who lines up at quarterback. If that happens, Shanahan should take home this award for the first time.

Enjoy the season.

What are your predictions for the upcoming NFL season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Five Trade Destinations that Make Sense for N’Keal Harry

Heading into his third year in the NFL, N’Keal Harry’s agent has requested that the New England Patriots find him a new home. Los Angeles-based lawyer and NFL Agent Jamal Tooson gave the following statement about the former first-round pick’s trade request, first reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo:

For the record, I came up covering N’Keal Harry, first as a high school standout, and then later as a star receiver at Arizona State University. While Patriots fans are understandably upset at the idea that anyone would ask to be moved from their storied franchise, the trade request actually makes sense. Bill Belichick’s post-Tom Brady offense ranked tied for last in TD passes, 31st in completions, 30th in passing yards, and 27th in points per game. They return the same offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels, and WR coach in Mick Lombardi, and in all likelihood, Cam Newton will take the majority of the snaps under center this year as 2021 first round draft pick Mac Jones develops.

In his first two years in New England, N’Keal Harry has battled injuries, and struggled to find a consistent role in the Patriots offense when he’s on the field. As his agent alluded to in his public comments about the trade request, Harry desires to be used as a downfield threat. To many Patriots fans, they see a receiver that struggles to create separation off the line of scrimmage, and so continuing to try and make use of him on shorter routes seems to be counterintuitive.

While Pats fans might be upset at Harry’s early production, and at the idea that he’s request a trade heading into his third season, if they don’t believe he’s going to ultimately fulfil their expectations, why wouldn’t they be behind the idea of attempting to get some compensation in return for finding a more fitting offense?

On N’Keal Harry’s end, it makes sense to attempt to position himself as a necessary offensive weapon on a team with a thriving (or at the very least, average) offense. It’s going to be increasingly difficult for N’Keal Harry to earn a second contract on a team whose wideouts from the 2020 season ranked 28th in total targets, and one of only three teams in the NFL without a single wide receiver on the roster to average over six targets per game (Eagles, Raiders).

Whether there’s a market for N’Keal Harry isn’t in question, what remains to be seen is just how motivated Bill Belichick is to finding a new home for Harry whilst seeking fair compensation in return. Assuming the Patriots do move N’Keal Harry, here are five trade destinations that make the most sense:

1. The Kansas City Chiefs

Any wideout would jump at the chance to play alongside Patrick Mahomes, as well as in an Andy Reid offense. What makes this a potentially great fit is that the Chiefs actually have a need for a bigger-bodied receiver after losing Sammy Watkins in free agency to the Baltimore Ravens. They have Marcus Kemp, Jody Fortson and Gehrig Dieter as developmental guys, so you know they have a desire to play a bigger wideout alongside speedy-but-diminutive threats Mecole Hardman and Tyreek Hill. N’Keal Harry could make an already unstoppable offense even more dangerous, but as Charles Goodman of Chiefs Wire pointed out, the $1.4 million and $3.2 million cap hits over the next two years might be a tough pill to swallow unless they believe Harry is going to pan out.

2. The Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert likes big receivers, and isn’t afraid to take risks downfield. While adding N’keal Harry would likely be more of a depth play in 2021, as Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are firmly entrenched as the top two receivers on the Chargers roster, one has to wonder if the Chargers plan on breaking the bank to keep Williams and Allen paired together beyond 2021. The dynamic duo is scheduled to make a combined $31 millions this season, and with Williams on the cusp on unrestricted free agency, and Allen due another $66 million in 2022-2024. Harry could give the Chargers the option of spending their money elsewhere in the 2022 offseason, while giving him some of the more mild weather that he thrived in as a collegiate standout.

3. The Jacksonville Jaguars

Urban Meyer likes big athletes with five-star pedigrees, and N’Keal Harry certainly has that going for him. The Jaguars are putting their franchise in the hands of a rookie QB in Trevor Lawrence, and the best thing they can do for him is surround him with as much talent as possible right out of the gate. The Jaguars have the resources and the cap room to make this happen without even breaking a sweat, and the capital with the fans to mark any risk that doesn’t pan out in the early going as a well intentioned experiment (for reference, see Tim Tebow).

4. The Green Bay Packers

Could one man’s trade request be the cure for another? Aaron Rodgers’ much-chronicled battle with the Green Bay front office has dragged on far longer than any Packers fan is comfortable with, but it looks like they’re ready to hang on to Rodgers no matter how hard the future hall of famer makes the lives of every single suit in that organization. Certainly adding one former first round pick at wide receiver isn’t going to cure all of the internal ills they have going on over there, but even if adding N’Keal Harry doesn’t tempt Aaron Rodgers to squash his many beefs and attempt to put together another MVP season in 2021, Jordan Love is going to need more weapons on the outside anyway.

5. The Denver Broncos

You might be looking at the Denver Broncos being included on this list and saying to yourself “why would N’Keal Harry want to go to a team that’s equally unsettled at the quarterback position?” Well, fellow class of 2016 5-star wideout Jerry Jeudy is a Denver Bronco, and one thing the Denver Broncos made sure to do was give him tons of opportunities to succeed. Jeudy was second in targets among rookies in 2020 despite being eighth in receptions. Through their growing pains, the Broncos at least made sure to take plenty of shots. The other thing I find appealing about this Broncos offense is the way Vic Fangio makes use of 6-4, 212 WR Tim Patrick. After two forgettable years in Denver, Patrick had 51 receptions and 6 touchdowns in 2021. That’s exactly the type of development and career rehabilitation N’Keal Harry needs.

Super Bowl LV: The GOAT Debate Starts Or Ends Sunday Night

Tom Brady goat

What are the two worst words in sports? Answer: “GOAT Debate.” This time, the subjects are not Michael Jordan or LeBron James. The new GOAT debate between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady will either start or end after Super Bowl LV.

Thanks to sports talk shows, the basketball GOAT debate has been shoved down our throats like Joey Chestnut’s hot dogs on July 4. Is Jordan better than LeBron? Is LeBron better than Jordan? Is six for six in the NBA Finals worth more than four wins in ten appearances? Jordan may have had the better peak, but LeBron has the longevity.

The only thing holding back the GOAT debate is time. MJ played in the 90s while LeBron played in the 2000s. The two icons never faced off in the NBA Finals, let alone a regular-season game. Had Jordan and LeBron played each other with the biggest prize on the line, the GOAT debate would cease to exist.

Unlike the NBA, the NFL’s quarterback GOAT debate will receive clarity on Sunday night when Mahomes and the Chiefs take on Brady and the Buccaneers.

Currently, Brady is the GOAT. Whether you believe that means he’s the greatest football player of all time or the greatest winner of all time is totally up to you. However, he’s the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL.

The numbers speak for themselves. 6x Super Bowl champion, 4x Super Bowl MVP, 3x NFL MVP, 2X Offensive Player of the year, and a partridge in a pear tree. The fact that 43-year-old Brady will be playing in his tenth Super Bowl on Sunday is mind-boggling.

There is only one current player who might be able to catch Brady’s stats and accomplishments. It just so happens that he’ll be on the other sideline Sunday night.

Many believe Mahomes is already the most gifted quarterback to ever play in the NFL. In just three seasons as a starter, Mahomes won a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl MVP, and an NFL MVP. Mahomes has only lost one playoff game in his career and that was to Brady’s Patriots. If Dee Ford doesn’t go offsides, he would be undefeated in the postseason. Keep in mind, Mahomes is only 25-years-old. With Andy Reid, Eric Bienemy, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill at his disposal, Mahomes and the Chiefs will be Super Bowl contenders for the next five years.

All of the pressure is on Mahomes. If he wants to be the GOAT, he will need to beat Brady on the biggest stage. He needs to avenge his loss in the AFC Championship and win his second Super Bowl. If Mahomes beats Brady, he’s not the GOAT, but he’s on the right trajectory.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Chiefs win Sunday night, Mahomes wins MVP, and they win the championship the following year. That means Mahomes would be the catalyst for the first three-peat since the NFL merger. Plus, Mahomes would have the key victory over Brady in the Super Bowl. There would still be some work left to do, but you could make the argument that three straight Super Bowls including one over the GOAT rank higher than Brady’s six. I personally wouldn’t crown Mahomes the GOAT just yet, but if he were to win four to five championships including the important one over Brady, it would be difficult to not call Mahomes the GOAT.

On the flip side, if Brady beats Mahomes on Sunday, the GOAT debate ends right there. It would be dead on arrival. It would be seven to one in terms of championships. Brady would hold wins over Mahomes in the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl. No matter what Mahomes does the rest of his career, not beating Brady in the two biggest games of the season would a giant blunder on his resume. For Brady, a win on Sunday gives him an insurmountable lead over Mahomes.

Sports talk shows will run GOAT debates until the end of time. After Super Bowl LV, they will either intensify or disappear at the quarterback position.

Who will come out on top in Super Bowl LV? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Former Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes Looks Like the MVP with Chiefs

QB Patrick Mahomes Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes looks like an NFL MVP in his first season as a starter with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since his time as a quarterback with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Patrick Mahomes has been demonstrating that he has a cannon for an arm that’s worthy of top recognition. Unfortunately, the Tech defense couldn’t find a rhythm in his time there. And while the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has its own issues, Mahomes has consistently proven why the “system” conversation experts insist on having every season needs to be replaced with praise for inventiveness, grit, and resourcefulness.

With Mahomes being Texas Tech’s top overall pick in program history, and Baker Mayfield taking the first-round spot last year, it’s started another debate on how “system quarterbacks” are fitting in the League. While teams throughout the league from the Rams to the Chiefs are embracing a more avant-garde approach to schematics, perhaps Mahomes’ performance throughout the 2018 season should provide a glimpse into what offensive coordinators should be looking for while updating their playbooks and personnel.

For Patrick Mahomes, however, record after record broken this season, he not only padded his statistics en route to the League MVP title, he also made his supporting cast like tight end Travis Kelce (1,336) appear goliath on the field. With production increases all around, it’s impossible to overlook Mahomes as the leading candidate for the prestigious award.

Mahomes has accounted for 5, 097 passing yards and leads the league with 50 touchdowns. His 8.8 yards-per-pass almost guaranteed a first down on every snap, and while he trails Ben Roethlisberger for No. 1. in the AFC in passing, Mahomes’ YPP averages 1.4 yards more than Roethlisberger’s.

Many of the experts believe the MVP race is between Mahomes and New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees. Brees ranks 13th in the NFL in total passing, at 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns, and a game average of 266.1 yards. If we’re comparing stats solely, league-wide, Mahomes is still the second-best passer in the league.

Mahomes has made throws into windows so tight the reception probability was exceptionally narrow, but if you watched him at Texas Tech, those throws were the standard, making Mahomes one of the most prolific quarterbacks in program history. Now, those improbable throws are turning Mahomes into a one-man highlight reel, and making pundits question every negative thing they’ve said about “system quarterbacks.” Instead, it’s made people begin to understand that every offense that a quarterback develops in is its own “system,” and that it’s become a buzzword to diminish innovation.

Patrick Mahomes throws off balance, he stares down the soul of defenders while connecting with his receivers. He throws oddly angled sidearm passes and evades tackles as only a Big 12 quarterback could. What’s more, Mahomes is only 23 and only has a full season under his belt. He has only shown us the beginning of what he’s capable of, and as the Kansas City Chiefs continue to build the team around him and his progression, the NFL could be witnessing the next Tom Brady-type legend emerge.

Mahomes certainly has had a season for the record books, but his play has elevated him into the levels of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. He was named on Friday to the 2018 NFL All-Pro team, along with Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and even broke fantasy football history by posting the greatest fantasy season by a quarterback, with 417 total points.

If the NFL MVP award is truly given to the player who was most valuable to the League, then Patrick Mahomes is it, and it’s not even close. He’s not a prototypical player, and when he took over when Alex Smith was traded last season, it was viewed as the biggest gamble in Andy Reid’s head coaching career. That gamble has paid off, and now Mahomes is consistently outplaying league veterans and rewriting the rules.

T. J. Houshmandzadeh made a case for Mahomes against Drew Brees saying that the NFL MVP shouldn’t be a “lifetime achievement award because it’s a disservice to Patrick Mahomes,” and even dovetails to the contributions Brees has had at defense compared to Mahomes, who has to turn the burners on to compensate where the Chiefs’ defense has lacked this season.

The NFL MVP Award will be selected on February 2, and it’s clear that it’s already becoming one of the most polarizing pre-Super Bowl debates, which could dominate post-season discussions. When Mahomes hit 5,000 yards, he joined an elite group of professional quarterbacks and became the first player ever to throw for 5,000 yards in a season in college and in NFL. To say his talent and electric performances aren’t deserving of the League’s most prestigious award is disrespectful to the sport.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear with players like Baker Mayfield and Mahomes and coaches like Reid and Sean McVay, the “system” is here to stay.

Philip Rivers Could Be NFL MVP: Just in Case You Didn’t Know

Patrick Mahomes is the odds-on favorite to win the MVP, but there is one player that is gaining ground quickly. It’s not Drew Brees. It’s not Andrew Luck. It’s not Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack. Philip Rivers is that player!

Why is Philip Rivers all of a sudden on MVP ballots? Beating the division-leading Chiefs on the road in primetime to keep the Los Angeles Chargers in the hunt not just for the AFC West, but home field advantage throughout the playoffs is a good start. Also, this throw helps…a lot.

Rivers is capitalizing off of the “what have you done for me lately,” theory. Recency bias tends to happen with awards and although Mahomes has had a spectacular season, Rivers recently shined when the lights were brightest. In the biggest game of the season on the biggest stage, it was Rivers, not Mahomes, who delivered late. Down 14 points in the fourth quarter, Rivers led the Chargers on two straight drives that ended in touchdowns with the exclamation point coming in the form of a 2-point conversation with 4 seconds left to give the Chargers their first lead of the entire night, which ended up being the difference over the Chiefs. Also, keep in mind that Rivers did not have his top wide receiver, running back, or tight end in the lineup in the 4th quarter.

Although Drew Brees is second in the odds for MVP, the Saints QB has struggled in his past three games with only 531 yards, 2 TDs, and 3 INTs. If Brees struggles again this week at home against the Steelers, his decline in the MVP race will continue.

However, while we’re on the topic of the last three games, let’s take a look at the numbers from both Mahomes and Rivers.

Mahomes: 915 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INTs

Rivers: 832, 5 TDs, 2 INTs

Mahomes’s numbers are better on paper, but they don’t really tell the story during that three game stretch. Mahomes struggled against Baltimore the entire game and had it not been for a miraculous throw to Tyreek Hill; the Chiefs would have been losers of two straight games, bouncing them from the top of the AFC to the 5th seed. The yards and touchdowns favor Mahomes tremendously, but if you take a closer look at the completion numbers and records of each team, the race is not as wide as portrayed by the oddsmakers.

Also, if you can believe this, Rivers has more games with multiple touchdowns (13), which is first in the NFL, than Mahomes (12). Plus, voters are more likely to remember Rivers’ late-game comeback win over Mahomes than Mahomes’ 4 TD performance Week 1 over the Chargers.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the season ended today, Patrick Mahomes would win the MVP (and rightfully so). However, there are still two weeks left with huge playoff implications on the line. The Chiefs and Chargers are currently tied for first in the AFC West with 11-3 records. The Chiefs currently hold the tiebreaker so if both teams win out, the Chiefs would not only win the AFC West, but they would earn the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. One misstep by Mahomes and it could result in the 5 seed.

Rivers is going to have to play out of his mind these next two weeks to gain momentum for his MVP campaign. First of all, Mahomes will have to struggle mightily, which hasn’t happened all season long. Mahomes and the Chiefs travel to Seattle on Sunday night, which is no easy task, and finish off the season at home against the Raiders. If Mahomes throws multiple interceptions in both games with little to no touchdowns, Rivers has a chance to steal votes away. With a game at home against Baltimore and a game on the road against Denver, if Rivers can light up the scoreboard and throw for 6+ touchdowns that result in two wins, Rivers will have a legitimate case to win the MVP.

Philip Rivers is not a traditional long shot since he is third in the MVP odds. That being said, Mahomes has been at the top of the ballot all season long while Rivers has not even been in the top 5 for most of the season. Can Rivers actually unseat Mahomes from the MVP race despite? It seems impossible, but with the ball in his hands, Rivers won’t go down without a fight.

Patrick Mahomes: Why The New Chiefs Quarterback Will Thrive In The NFL

Patrick Mahomes

In Week 2 of the NFL Preseason, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dropped back to pass, avoided pressure in the pocket, stepped up, and threw the ball 70 yards in the air to a streaking Tyreek Hill for the touchdown.

Patrick Mahomes is going to be a stud.

70-yard throws do not guarantee Super Bowls, but that throw is precisely what the Chiefs have been missing the past few years with Alex Smith. To his defense, Alex Smith was no slouch. During his tenure, Smith brought the Chiefs to the playoffs in four out of five seasons and made two Pro Bowls. Smith also went almost two years without throwing a touchdown to a receiver and never brought the team past the Divisional Round.

Just like the Toronto Raptors shook up their roster after a successful season in the NBA, the Chiefs decided to do the same thing and trade Smith to the Redskins. The Patrick Mahomes era is set to begin on Sunday. There is a reason why the Chiefs traded three draft picks to select Mahomes. The Texas Tech product was known for his big arm and ability to make all of the throws, which culminated in a 734-passing-yard performance against Oklahoma. Mahomes has a gun-slinger mentality, which has drawn comparisons to Brett Favre. 

Via Bleacher Report

The Guru

If there is one coach who knows how to evaluate quarterbacks, it’s Andy Reid. Reid drafted Donovan McNabb who, despite being met with a chorus of boos at the 1999 NFL Draft, became a 6-time Pro Bowler and led Reid to his only Super Bowl appearance. In Week 2 in 2010, Reid turned the reigns over to an aging Michael Vick, who was looking for a second chance after spending time in prison. Vick leads the Eagles to the playoffs and won the Comeback Player of the Year. Finally, Reid brought in Alex Smith when he went to the Chiefs and Smith lead the team to the playoffs in 4 of 5 years. The track record speaks for itself. Andy Reid knows a thing or two about quarterbacks.

Patrick Mahomes takes over for a team that has Super Bowl talent but has failed to put it all together. It’s not like Mahomes is going to a team under a rebuild like Josh Allen and the Bills or Baker Mayfield and the Browns. The Chiefs are a legitimate team that has competed for the AFC West title the last five seasons. Mahomes will look to excite fans with his rocket arm and a plethora of weapons like Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce.

ESPN NFL Analyst Louis Riddick said, “I would take Patrick Mahomes over just about any quarterback in this list. I would stack him up against anyone.  Furthermore, I think Mahomes is going to absolutely set the league on fire next year. Andy Reid is on to something down there in Kansas City.”

If Mahomes lives up to the hype, fans in Kansas City will have something to cheer about for years to come.