NFC predictions: 'Boys make title run, Pack flops

Check out my AFC predictions here

NFC East

1. Dallas Cowboys 12-4

2. Philadelphia Eagles 9-7 (Wild Card)

3. Washington Football Team 5-11

4. New York Giants 5-11

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Cowboys: The Cowboys led the NFL in yards per play (6.5) and yards per game (440.9) by wide margins last year and then made big offseason upgrades with the addition of CeeDee Lamb and Blake Jarwin having a larger role and the subtraction of Jason Garrett as coach. Dallas is going to smash its over (9.5 wins), and Dak Prescott is an MVP candidate … DeMarcus Lawrence at 40/1 to win DPOY is nice, while Jarwin finishes as a top-10 fantasy tight end … Amari Cooper is the third-most valuable Cowboys WR, with Lamb grabbing double-digit touchdowns in a dominant rookie season, as Dallas wins the NFC.

Eagles: DeSean Jackson is a top-25 fantasy wide receiver and goes down as one of the biggest bargains in 2020 drafts, while Dallas Goedert is a top-12 tight end with top-three upside should Zach Ertz go down … Boston Scott is treated as an RB1 during the weeks in which Miles Sanders is sidelined, while Jalen Hurts is a top-five fantasy QB (in Philly) by the end of 2021.

Washington: I rank Terry McLaurin as the No. 6 WR on my board, and the only way he isn’t a second-round fantasy pick next year is if he’s going in the first … Steven Sims and Logan Thomas are two of the better sleepers at their positions, while Dwayne Haskins outperforms his ADP in Superflex leagues … Antonio Gibson finishes with more fantasy value than David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley.

Giants: The rest/prep inequality in the NFC East this year does the Giants and Eagles no favors when compared to the Cowboys. Daniel Jones is a much better fantasy player than he is quarterback for the Giants (and his early season schedule is brutal) … Saquon Barkley bounces back with a huge campaign, while Sterling Shepard emerges as the Giants’ WR alpha.

NFC North

1. Detroit Lions 9-7

2. Minnesota Vikings 9-7 (Wild Card)

3. Green Bay Packers 7-9

4. Chicago Bears 6-10

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Lions: It’s risky backing Matt Patricia, who’s literally the biggest long shot to win Coach of the Year, but Matt Stafford was playing at an MVP level (8.6 YPA) the last time we saw him in this Darrell Bevell offense. Stafford finishes as a top-five fantasy QB, Marvin Jones a top-30 WR and T.J. Hockenson a top-10 tight end, as the Lions’ defense is improved enough for the team’s offense to carry them to a surprising division title.

Vikings: Adam Thielen bounces back with 115 catches, but Dalvin Cook misses more games with injuries, and Mike Boone makes it a committee situation with Alexander Mattison … Irv Smith has a more productive season than Justin Jefferson, and the Yannick Ngakoue trade gives the Vikings an impressive group of edges.

Packers: Green Bay made the NFC title game last season, but the Packers suffer a big letdown in 2020 and fall out of the playoffs … Aaron Rodgers continues to show decline, and his relationship with management won’t end well … Jamaal Williams will annoy Aaron Jones’ fantasy managers more than AJ Dillon, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling emerges as Green Bay’s No. 2 wideout … Davante Adams beats Michael Thomas as 2020’s No. 1 fantasy wide receiver.    

Bears: It’s not a great sign Nick Foles was unable to replace Mitch Trubisky easily before the season, and while he’s almost certainly going to rather soon, it would be nice if Allen Robinson ever got even average QB play during his career … Anthony Miller is a breakout waiting to happen, while no Bears running back provides a draft-day profit, although Cordarrelle Patterson gets enough carries to have people complain about his WR-only eligibility.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford looked great last season before having his campaign cut short by injury. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints 12-4

2. Atlanta Falcons 9-7

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8

4. Carolina Panthers 4-12

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Saints: Drew Brees recorded a 23:1 TD:TO ratio over the final eight games last year, and New Orleans added Emmanuel Sanders during the offseason. Despite his age and not running, Brees simply has to be ranked as a top-10 fantasy QB during his final year before (likely) retiring … Latavius Murray is the “league-winning” pick for 2020, and his Yahoo ADP is comically outside the top-120 … The Saints are the only team in the league that are projected favorites in all of their games this season.

Falcons: Atlanta has the league’s toughest schedule based on opponent’s 2019 offensive EPA per play, but at least the Falcons are getting two 2019 first-round offensive linemen back from IR … Todd Gurley goes down with an injury, making Brian Hill one of the year’s hottest pickups … Hayden Hurst proves to be the far better choice than earlier tight end fantasy picks Darren Waller, Hunter Henry and Evan Engram.

Buccaneers: Tom Brady has a terrific new group of receivers, but he’s also as old as John Oliver and was the least accurate QB over the second half of last season by a significant margin. It’s easy to fade the Bucs hype, but it got even easier after the team decided to bring in Leonard Fournette 10 days before the season. The fantasy community’s infatuation with Fournette is something I’ve yet to figure out … No Buccaneers fantasy player finishes top-15 at their position, with O.J. Howard outproducing Rob Gronkowski, as Bill Belichick makes the playoffs again, but Brady doesn’t.

Carolina: Teddy Bridgewater is among the league-leaders in pass attempts and goes down as a bargain in Superflex leagues, while Mike Davis is the backup plan should the unthinkable happen to CMC … DJ Moore finishes as an easy top-10 wideout and is a nice bet at 20/1 to win the receiving title ... It’s not all good in Carolina, as Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson and Ian Thomas all disappoint fantasy managers, as the Panthers finish last in the conference.

NFC West

1. San Francisco 49ers 11-5

2. Seattle Seahawks 10-6 (Wild Card)

3. Arizona Cardinals 7-9  

4. Los Angeles Rams 7-9

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

49ers: George Kittle is fantasy’s No. 1 tight end and produces first-round value with a monster season, while Raheem Mostert is a top-15 back … The health of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will go a long way toward Jimmy Garoppolo having merely a good season or a truly great one now in Year 2 in Kyle Shanahan’s system and further removed from ACL surgery. Jimmy G had 10.0 YPA on first downs last season … History has typically been unkind to Super Bowl losers, but SF had the most games missed by injury, the most touchdowns nullified by penalties and the second-most missed field goals in the NFL last season, so regression could go both ways here. The team also added Trent Williams and got back a healthy Dee Ford during the offseason … Jordan Reed is a deep sleeper, while Nick Bosa wins Defensive Player of the Year.

Seahawks: Russell Wilson is one of the five best NFL players ever, and I’m beginning to regret assuming Rashaad Penny would eventually surpass Chris Carson … Wilson is perennially among the leaders in end-zone targets, helping make Greg Olsen a sleeper and Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf both top-15 fantasy wideouts … The Seahawks’ management gave up a ton (including the opportunity cost of losing Jadeveon Clowney along PFF’s last ranked defensive line) to bring in stud safety Jamal Adams, as Seattle also plays its base defense at an extraordinarily high rate and skews run-heavy despite having a superstar at quarterback.

Cardinals: Arizona enters with a shaky defense, questionable offensive line and concerns about Kenyan Drake’s health. The development of Kyler Murray is assumed, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement … DeAndre Hopkins is overvalued in drafts after coming to the desert, as he finishes outside the top-10 wide receivers.

Rams: LA is spending $74 million on Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley this season, so it’s clear which direction this franchise is headed after going all-in for its Super Bowl runs … When it comes to being a far better fantasy QB than real life one, give me Goff over Josh Allen in 2020. While Allen’s rushing TDs are due to regress, Goff is due for much better luck … Robert Woods had the ninth-most targets last season but ranked just 75th in red-zone targets, so don’t be surprised when he continues to frustrate with a lack of touchdowns. Cooper Kupp, meanwhile, is a real threat to lead receivers in TD catches this year … Tyler Higbee is a top-five fantasy tight end, while Cam Akers is a top-20 back, but the Rams finish last in their division just two years after reaching the Super Bowl.

Season Predictions

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

Rookie of the Year: Joe Burrow

Defensive Player of the Year: Nick Bosa

NFC Championship Game: Cowboys over 49ers

AFC Championship Game: Steelers over Chiefs

Super Bowl: Steelers over Cowboys

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