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NFL Speculation: July Is Not Early

Mill Woods

Posted on July 14, 2021 21:28

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The ever-lengthening NBA season is now over. Attention will shift away from sports leagues where a handful of teams dominate to the world's most competitive pro sports league, the NFL, where more than a third of the teams will not only make the playoffs but also have a legitimate shot at winning it all.

Now that it seems that every pundit has jumped on the Tampa Bay Bucs' bandwagon, this pundit is going to throw some shade — not because I doubt Tampa's football club, but because any of about 20 NFL teams could hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February.

That famous NFL parity — rather than coercing me to be cautious — actually makes it great fun for me to go out on a limb. And July is not too soon. I will certainly revise my predictions before Labor Day, but it is not too soon to stoke the coals.

In the rear view mirror are the draft, free agency and coaching moves. Lots can change, but right now, this is how I see the postseason.

NFL 2021 Playoff Teams (in no particular order):

 

1. Bucs
2. Seahawks
3. Cowboys
4. Vikings
5. Cardinals
6. Falcons
7. Titans
8. Chiefs
9. Bills
10. Ravens
11. Browns.

Yes, that is only 11, and we all know the NFL fields 14 contenders.  I have several teams that I think could fill the other spots or knock one off of my list: Colts, Raiders, Jets, Dolphins, Bears, Packers, Saints, Rams, 49ers — again, not listed in any particular order.

Do you see what I mean about NFL parity?  I just named a total of 20 teams as legitimate contenders — 20 of 32. You just can't do that with the NBA, NHL or MLB.

What is the logic behind my (admittedly early) NFL playoff picks? First, I believe those are the best teams. Secondly, I feel that the NFC South and AFC South have favorable schedules, which could help more teams from those divisions get playoff spots. Thirdly, rather than just looking at exciting new players coming via the draft and free agency, I am looking even closer at exciting coaching changes that were made in the offseason, like the new coaches with the Jets and Falcons.

Coaching overhauls do not guarantee quick turnarounds, of course. But for the benefit of some fans who still think that NFL turnarounds take years, I will mention just two names: Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles.  They are far more responsible for the Bucs' Super Bowl shocker than Tom Brady (who is, of course, still Tom Terrific).

Once again, we see that veteran quarterbacks are a big catalyst behind the most promising teams (with the possible exception of Pittsburgh). And, once again, we see that veteran coaches, especially at the head coach and coordinator positions, get the most juice out of their lineups. 

This is why I am not inclined to anoint the Bucs as repeat champions — there are just too many great veteran players and coaches populating the NFL.  

This is also why die-hard football fans are excited to get on with America's true number one sport.  Practice games start in August. The real thing follows right after Labor Day. Bring it on!

 

 

 

Mill Woods

Posted on July 14, 2021 21:28

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