NFL 2021 Season Record Predictions by Quinn Gray

American, playbook, play.

[R] denotes rookie
* denotes division winner
^ denotes wild card
For those who don’t know, the NFL has moved to a 17-game schedule.

AFC North

*Cleveland Browns
2020 record: 11-5
Projected 2021 record: 12-5 (win division by tiebreaker)
Notable additions: DE Jadeveon Clowney, S John Johnson III, CB Troy Hill, CB Greg Newsome Jr. [R] Notable departures: DT Sheldon Richardson, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Larry Ogunjobi
The Browns focused on the defense this offseason, making sure to add players to positions that held them back last year. Johnson, Hill, and Newsome will greatly improve the secondary that had lots of trouble last year. Clowney will be a great complement to Myles Garrett, the Browns’ stud pass rusher. The offense can only keep getting better, and Odell Beckham Jr. will be returning from injury, which will help out the receiver group mightily (although Baker Mayfield has looked better without Beckham on the field). RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have a very good chance to form the best rushing attack in the league, with Chubb being one of my personal favorites to be this year’s Offensive Player of the Year. I predict that the Browns win the AFC North this year.

^Baltimore Ravens
2020 record: 11-5
Projected 2021 record: 12-5
Notable additions: LB Justin Houston, WR Sammy Watkins, OT Alejandro Villaneuva, LB Odafe Oweh [R] Notable departures: OT Orlando Brown Jr., LB Matt Judon, RB Mark Ingram, DE Yannick Ngakoue
If not for the crushing season-ending injury to RB J.K. Dobbins, it’s likely that it would be the Ravens who I had winning the AFC North. However, while the Ravens made great additions over the offseason, the Browns also had a great offseason and suffered less losses than the Ravens. The Ravens will have one of the better defenses in the league even with Judon and Ngakoue’s departure. Oweh is one of the fastest LB/DEs that we have seen enter the league and will provide a great complement to Houston and Calais Campbell. QB Lamar Jackson should have another good year, solidifying the Ravens as a force in the AFC.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 record: 12-4
Projected 2021 record: 9-8
Notable additions: ILB Joe Schobert, OLB Melvin Ingram, RB Najee Harris [R], OG Trai Turner
Notable departures: C Maurkice Pouncey, OG David DeCastro, OT Alejandro Villenueva, RB James Conner, EDGE Bud Dupree
The Steelers won the AFC North last year by riding an easy schedule and check-downs from QB Ben Roethlisberger, who got brought back despite showing that he has taken a large step back. Their once great O-line was completely dismantled this offseason, starting with the retirement of possible future Hall of Fame C Maurkice Pouncey and the loss of Villenueva in free agency. The team also surprisingly cut DeCastro after a below-average 2020 season. The pick of Najee Harris solved their running back problem, but what is he going to do when the offensive line is full of people who can barely start? No playoffs for the Steelers this year.

Cincinnati Bengals
2020 record: 4-11-1
Projected 2021 record: 6-11
Notable additions: OT Riley Reiff, DE Trey Hendrickson, WR Ja’Marr Chase [R] Notable departures: CB William Jackson III, WR AJ Green, DT Geno Atkins, DE Carl Lawson
With Joe Burrow returning from a season ending ACL and MCL tear due to the Bengals’ horrible O-line, people thought that the team would do more to address this area of weakness. However, all they did was sign Riley Reiff and draft Jackson Carman in the second round. The team picked rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell, a promising tackle who could have solved their needs at the position for the long term. Chase provides the Bengals with a true deep threat (as long as he can solve his drop problems), and should help make the offense fun to watch. The defense still has some work to do, but if free agent signee Trey Hendrickson can replicate his production with the Saints, the Bengals should improve on both sides of the ball.

NFC North

*Green Bay Packers
2020 record: 13-3
Projected 2021 record: 13-4
Notable additions: CB Eric Stokes [R], WR Randall Cobb
Notable departures: C Corey Linsley, RB Jamaal Williams, OT Rick Wagner
Packers fans everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief now that reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is back and ready to play in Green Bay now that his problems with the team have been solved…for now. The team traded for Randall Cobb back, one of Rodgers’ all-time favorite targets to throw to, as another way to help keep him around. The team lost All-Pro center Corey Linsley to free agency, a loss that the line will surely feel, but versatile lineman Elgton Jenkins will help fill in at whatever position he needs to, due to his ability to play everywhere on the line. The team also drafted speedy corner Eric Stokes to fill in at some point for struggling Kevin King. The Packers have a good chance to make the Super Bowl this year, at a time that it is extremely urgent as Rodgers’ future after this year is greatly unknown.

Minnesota Vikings
2020 record: 7-9
Projected 2021 record: 10-7
Notable additions: CB Patrick Peterson, TE Chris Herndon, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Sheldon Richardson, OT Christian Darrisaw [R] Notable departures: TE Kyle Rudolph, OT Riley Reiff, S Anthony Harris, CB Jeff Gladney
The Vikings surprisingly missed the playoffs last year (in part to injuries to defensive players), with head coach Mike Zimmer calling the defense the worst he has ever coached. The Vikings made sure to shore up holes on the D-line by signing Tomlinson and bringing back Richardson and Everson Griffen, players who the team regretting letting go in prior years. Plus, Danielle Hunter will be returning after suffering a season-ending injury last year. The team was forced to let 2020 first rounder Jeff Gladney go after domestic violence charges stemmed, but the signing of Peterson will be a great replacement until they find a long-term solution. The Vikings have a chance to make the wild card this year, but I believe they will narrowly miss.

Chicago Bears
2020 record: 8-8
Projected 2021 record: 8-9
Notable additions: QB Justin Fields [R], QB Andy Dalton, OT Jason Peters
Notable departures: CB Kyle Fuller, OT Charles Leno Jr., DL Roy Robertson-Harris
After the Broncos surprisingly passed on Justin Fields, the Bears knew what they had to do and traded up with the Giants to select the OSU quarterback. Fields has looked like one of the best rookie quarterbacks in preseason and camp, but the Bears chose to start out the season with Andy Dalton under center, which will probably result in a losing start to the season. Once Fields comes in, he could have a learning curve, but will be an improvement over Dalton. The loss of Fuller will be a big hit to the secondary and Robertson-Harris’ departure will be felt on the D-line. The Bears snuck into the playoffs when they shouldn’t have last year, and let’s just say, that isn’t happening this year.

Detroit Lions
2020 record: 5-11
Projected 2021 record: 2-15
Notable additions: QB Jared Goff, OT Penei Sewell [R], DT Michael Brockers, WR Tyrell Williams
Notable departures: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Marvin Jones Jr., WR/RS Jamal Agnew
The Lions are in full-on rebuild mode now that Matthew Stafford finally escaped the horrors of Detroit. The team looks to be in competition with Houston for the 1st overall pick. Their receiving corps has been reduced to one of the worst in the league, with oft-injured Tyrell Williams now leading the pack, a huge downgrade from Kenny Golladay. Second year CB Jeff Okudah needs to step up or could be known as one of the biggest busts from recent drafts. The Lions are in a pivotal year that will determine their future, and it’s likely that they will not be seeing many wins, if any.

AFC South

*Tennessee Titans
2020 record: 11-5
Projected 2021 record: 12-5
Notable additions: WR Julio Jones, EDGE Bud Dupree, CB Caleb Farley [R] Notable departures: CB Malcolm Butler, TE Jonnu Smith, DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Corey Davis
The Titans now have one of the most unstoppable offenses in the league with physical receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones leading the pass catching side and 2020 rushing champion Derrick Henry leading the ground game with QB Ryan Tannehill under center. The team did lose underrated TE Jonnu Smith to the Patriots, leaving Anthony Firkser to start. Their offense will be a nightmare for opposing defenses. On the flip side, the defense has made strides but is still going to be a bottom-tier unit. Dupree was overpaid after tearing his ACL, as the edge rusher was significantly helped out by having T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward pull all the offensive linemen, giving him inflated sack numbers. In addition, the secondary is still relatively rough, but now instead of Malcolm Butler, the team has raw rookie Caleb Farley. The Titans will win the division due to their elite offense.

Indianapolis Colts
2020 record: 11-5
Projected 2021 record: 10-7
Notable additions: QB Carson Wentz, OT Eric Fisher, DE Kwity Paye [R] Notable departures: QB Philip Rivers, OT Anthony Castonzo, OLB Justin Houston, S Malik Hooker
After the retirement of Philip Rivers, the Colts searched for a QB and decided on trading for Wentz, who enjoyed his best season in Philadelphia under then-head coach Frank Reich. Wentz was horrible last season in Philly, and the Colts hope that he will be able to improve, although that is not a given. Castonzo also retired, and the Colts signed Fisher, who is still rehabbing from a torn Achilles, to replace him. Paye is a rookie who should provide an instant impact and help the already great defense. The Colts will just barely miss the playoffs but will continue to improve.

Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 record: 1-15
Projected 2021 record: 6-11
Notable additions: QB Trevor Lawrence [R], CB Shaquill Griffin, WR Marvin Jones Jr., S Rayshawn Jenkins, DL Roy Robertson-Harris, WR/RS Jamal Agnew, RB Travis Etienne [R] Notable departures: QB Gardner Minshew, MLB Joe Schobert, CB Sidney Jones IV, WR Keelan Cole
After finishing last season with the worst record in football, the Jaguars drafted Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who is expected to be the player the franchise has needed to turn itself around. Lawrence looked great in the Cowboys preseason game and he, as well as backup C.J. Beathard, gave the Jaguars the sign that it was time to move on from Gardner Minshew, who was traded to the Eagles. Shaquill Griffin will form a powerful corner duo with 2020 first-round pick C.J. Henderson, and Marvin Jones will improve an already stacked receiver room that contains DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. Following the injury to Etienne in pre-season, 2020 breakout player James Robinson will once again be the main running back for the team. Overall, the Jaguars have greatly improved but will still show some growing pains this year as this young team finds its traction.

Houston Texans
2020 record: 4-12
Projected 2021 record: 1-16
Notable additions:
OT Marcus Cannon, RB Mark Ingram II, LB Christian Kirksey, QB Tyrod Taylor
Notable departures: DE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, C Nick Martin, WR Randall Cobb
Texans QB Deshaun Watson is currently in a tough situation. After requesting a trade from the Texans, Watson was accused of doing some horrible things to multiple people, which I will not go into detail about. With his future on the team being up in the air, my prediction is based on the assumption that he doesn’t play and is replaced by Tyrod Taylor. Taylor isn’t bad, but he’s not as good as Watson. The Texans lost two of their best receivers, and J.J. Watt finally made it out of Houston. The team signed a number of low-impact free agents to one-year deals, which typically signifies the team is going to let the season go to the wayside. They have a high chance of getting the first overall pick in the 2022 draft and will begin to try to fix their ruined franchise after this season.

NFC South

*Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 record: 11-5 (Super Bowl Champions)
Projected 2021 record: 13-4
Notable additions: RB Giovanni Bernard, EDGE Joe Tryon [R], QB Kyle Trask [R] Notable departures: Full starting team retained
The Buccaneers achieved the crown jewel of all achievements last season, winning the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Their sights are set on repeating as Super Bowl champions and are in a great position to do so. They are the first team in the Superbowl era to bring back all 22 starters. Tom Brady is continuing to play at a high level and is ready to lead the Buccaneers and teach rookie QB Kyle Trask to prepare him for when his time comes to start in the near future. The defense staked their claim as a formidable unit and should continue its elite performance. The return of OJ Howard only improves the already stacked pass-catcher room, and Bernard gives them the receiving back that they needed last year. Antonio Brown will be available for the whole year (barring suspension or injury), and it will be interesting to see how his season goes. The Buccaneers have a great chance to make it back to the playoffs and defend their title.

New Orleans Saints
2020 record: 12-4
Projected 2021 record: 9-8
Notable additions: S Jeff Heath, CB Brian Poole, DE Payton Turner [R] Notable departures: QB Drew Brees, DE Trey Hendrickson, WR Emmanuel Sanders, DT Sheldon Rankins, TE Jared Cook
This offseason was incredibly tough on the Saints, who were so far over the cap that they had to let a lot of starters walk and cut or restructure others. They were unable to make any high-profile free agent signings. QB Jameis Winston looks ready to lead the team and preseason star WR Marquez Callaway will help fill the void left by Sanders. Unfortunately for the team, WR Michael Thomas had surgery on his ankle and will be out for a couple of weeks. The secondary will need lots of help, and CB Marshon Lattimore could be facing a suspension. The Saints will not be able to make it back to the playoffs this year as they deal with life after Drew Brees.

Carolina Panthers
2020 record: 5-11
Projected 2021 record: 7-10
Notable additions: QB Sam Darnold, LB Haason Reddick, CB AJ Bouye, CB Jaycee Horn [R] Notable departures: QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Curtis Samuel, RB Mike Davis
First-round bust Sam Darnold is hoping to find his stride with the Panthers after having the beginning of his career marred by the Jets. The team lost do-it-all receiver Curtis Samuel and RB Mike Davis, who filled in nicely when Christian McCaffrey got hurt. Reddick, Bouye, and Horn will all improve a young defense that is still finding its stride. Second-year S/LB Jeremy Chinn will hope to improve off of his surprise breakout season last year when he proved to be one of the top defensive players from last year’s draft. The Panthers will definitely improve this year but still have a long way to go.

Atlanta Falcons
2020 record: 4-12
Projected 2021 record: 6-11
Notable additions: TE Kyle Pitts [R], RB Mike Davis
Notable departures: WR Julio Jones, C Alex Mack, S Keanu Neal, RB Todd Gurley II
The Falcons made talented Gators TE Kyle Pitts the highest drafted TE in NFL history when selecting him 4th overall, and rightfully so. Pitts figures to be a replacement for Julio Jones as a sure-handed, physical pass-catcher. Teaming him up with WR Calvin Ridley will greatly help QB Matt Ryan as he enters the final years of his career. The team replaced Todd Gurley with Mike Davis, who had a surprisingly good season last year with the Panthers. The Falcons defense is still in rough shape and is what is holding the team back. Once they can implement some serious changes, they’ll still be at the bottom of their division.

AFC East

*Buffalo Bills
2020 record: 13-3
Projected 2021 record: 14-3
Notable additions: WR Emmanuel Sanders, DE Gregory Rousseau [R] Notable departures: WR John Brown
The Bills addressed the defensive line heavily in this draft, picking Rousseau and DE Boogie Basham in the 1st and 2nd rounds, respectively. That was one of the main areas of their team that was lacking last year, and it showed in the playoffs. If they are to defeat the Chiefs, they knew that they needed to improve there, which they did. Sanders will provide a great complement to Stefon Diggs, who led the league in receiving yards after heading to Buffalo in a trade with Minnesota. QB Josh Allen is my pick to win MVP this year, and it will be fun to see how he performs. The Bills are once again poised for a deep playoff run.

^Miami Dolphins
2020 record: 10-6
Projected 2021 record: 11-6
Notable additions: WR Will Fuller, WR Jaylen Waddle [R], CB Jason McCourty, DE Jaelan Phillips [R] Notable departures: LB Kyle Van Noy, OG Ereck Flowers, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, DT Davon Godchaux
The Dolphins were disappointed with QB Tua Tagovailoa’s performance last season and worked to put as many weapons around him as possible. Fuller and Waddle will join DeVante Parker to form one of the most electric receiving trios in the league. The team no longer has veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to bail Tua out when he needs it, so now, the team’s success rests solely on his shoulders. McCourty and Phillips will help the already powerful defense which helped carry the team to lots of its wins and hopefully solidify it as one of the best in the league. The Dolphins hope to make the playoffs after narrowly missing them last year.

^New England Patriots
2020 record: 7-9
Projected 2021 record: 11-6
Notable additions: QB Mac Jones [R], LB Matt Judon, LB Kyle Van Noy, TE Hunter Henry, TE Jonnu Smith, OT Trent Brown, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Kendrick Bourne
Notable departures: QB Cam Newton, OG Joe Thuney, CB Jason McCourty, RB Sony Michel, WR Julian Edelman
After drafting Jacksonville native Mac Jones in the 1st round, Cam Newton became expendable, and after watching the two QBs play in preseason, the Patriots elected to cut Newton and roll with Jones as the unquestioned starter. Jones will undoubtedly show some early rookie struggles, but as indicated by his preseason performances, display the traits that made him a first round QB. The Patriots signed loads of talented free agents and now have the best TE duo in the league, with two top ten options in Henry and Smith. The defense has improved as well, with the linebacker corps now becoming one of the best in the league. Although the WR position was addressed in free agency, it is still weak, and is what is holding the team back.

New York Jets
2020 record: 2-14
Projected 2021 record: 4-13
Notable additions: QB Zach Wilson, OT Morgan Moses, WR Corey Davis, DE Carl Lawson
Notable departures: QB Sam Darnold, TE Chris Herndon IV, CB Brian Poole, LB Neville Hewitt
After narrowly missing out on Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence by getting the second-worst record, the Jets settled for BYU QB Zach Wilson with the second pick. Wilson has shown off some of his great attributes and some of his glaring flaws. Personally, I feel Justin Fields would have been a better pick for the Jets, but what’s done is done. The Jets worked to put some pieces around Wilson by improving the brutal o-line and adding Corey Davis to the receiver room, who is solid but overrated. Carl Lawson, their big defensive free agent signing, is out for the season after getting hurt in practice. The Jets still have a long way to go before they’re competing in the strong AFC East.

NFC East

*Washington Football Team:
2020 record: 7-9
Projected 2021 record: 11-6
Notable additions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Curtis Samuel, MLB Jamin Davis [R], CB William Jackson III, OT Charles Leno Jr., OG Ereck Flowers
Notable departures: EDGE Ryan Kerrigan, OT Morgan Moses, CB Ronald Darby
After narrowly winning the weak NFC East last year with horrible quarterback play, Washington knew it was time to upgrade. The team signed journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and added Curtis Samuel to play alongside WR Terry McLaurin to form a powerful receiving duo. They added to their already elite defense by signing Jackson and drafting Davis, and improved their o-line with Leno and Flowers. This team is ready to truly compete, and it will be fun to see how they play.

Dallas Cowboys
2020 record: 6-10
Projected 2021 record: 9-8
Notable additions: LB Micah Parsons [R], S/LB Keanu Neal, S Malik Hooker
Notable departures: LB Sean Lee, QB Andy Dalton, CB Chidobe Awuzie
After losing Dak Prescott to injury last year, the Cowboys got exposed. Their powerful offense could no longer make up for their horrible defense. The Cowboys made it their priority to address the defense in the draft and free agency but were operating with low cap space. They signed Neal and Hooker to help out the extremely weak secondary, and Parsons will help an awful linebacker corps out. To make matters worse for the Cowboys defense, LB Jaylon Smith has taken a noticeable step back, and LB Leighton Vander Esch has been horrible in coverage as of late, and is very injury-prone. While the Cowboys offense should return to form with Prescott back, the defense will cause them to not live up to their potential.

New York Giants
2020 record: 6-10
Projected 2021 record: 9-8
Notable additions: WR Kenny Golladay, TE Kyle Rudolph, WR Kadarius Toney [R], CB Adoree’ Jackson
Notable departures: DT Dalvin Tomlinson, OG Kevin Zeitler
Daniel Jones is entering a pivotal year that will determine his future with the team. The team was sure to put weapons around him, including Golladay and Toney, who will join Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. Rudolph will join Pro Bowl fraud TE Evan Engram to give Jones some big bodied pass catchers to work with as well. Star RB Saquon Barkley will be returning from injury and will help out the offense as well. The defense is slowly getting better as well, and will be a solid unit with DL Leonard Williams and CB James Bradberry leading the unit. This year is make or break for Jones, and the team’s performance will depend on whether he makes the next step or stays a mediocre QB.

Philadelphia Eagles
2020 record: 4-11-1
Projected 2021 record: 6-11
Notable additions: S Anthony Harris, WR DeVonta Smith [R], CB Steven Nelson, EDGE Ryan Kerrigan, QB Gardner Minshew
Notable departures: QB Carson Wentz, S Jalen Mills, DT Malik Jackson, WR DeSean Jackson
The Eagles were surprisingly horrible last year, due to Carson Wentz’s ugly performances that led to him getting benched in favor of QB Jalen Hurts. The Eagles had one of the worst receiving corps last year, and selected Heisman winner DeVonta Smith in the 1st round, who figures to improve the weak group. They helped out their weak secondary by signing Harris to a surprisingly cheap deal and adding Nelson. Kerrigan will help their already strong D-line and can fill in at LB when needed. The Eagles’ Super Bowl championship feels so long ago due to the intense tear-down of this once-great team.

AFC West

*Kansas City Chiefs
2020 record: 14-2
Projected 2021 record: 15-2
Notable additions: OG Joe Thuney, OT Orlando Brown Jr., C Austin Blythe, DT Jarran Reed, LB Nick Bolton [R] Notable departures: OT Eric Fisher, OT Mitchell Schwartz, WR Sammy Watkins
The Chiefs lost Super Bowl LV to the Buccaneers thanks to their injury-ravaged O-line, which forced Patrick Mahomes to run for his life the entire game. The Chiefs rebuilt their line and it now looks better than ever, especially with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang returning from opt-out. Reed will help a defensive line already containing Chris Jones and Frank Clark (who could be suspended), and will make an instant impact. The Chiefs are once again a favorite to win the Super Bowl…as long as Mahomes finally learns how to beat Tom Brady.

Los Angeles Chargers
2020 record: 7-9
Projected 2021 record: 10-7
Notable additions: C Corey Linsley, TE Jared Cook, OT Rashawn Slater [R] Notable departures: TE Hunter Henry, LB Denzel Perryman, DE Melvin Ingram, CB Casey Hayward, C Mike Pouncey
The Chargers are beginning to get closer to a playoff berth under QB Justin Herbert. One of the main things that the team knew they had to address was the O-line, and they signed top free-agent center Corey Linsley and drafted Slater. EDGE Joey Bosa and S Derwin James, the team’s top defensive players, are returning from seasons in which both were hurt in some capacity, with James being out for the season. They lost veterans Ingram and Hayward, who will be missed. This year won’t be a playoff berth for the Chargers, but as long as Herbert continues to improve and the defense performs like it should, this team should be ready next year.
Denver Broncos
2020 record: 5-11
Projected 2021 record: 7-10
Notable additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Ronald Darby, CB Patrick Surtain Jr. [R] Notable departures: CB AJ Bouye, OT Ja’Waun James, RB Philip Lindsay
QB Drew Lock failed to improve last year and was downright horrible, prompting the team to trade for Bridgewater, who beat Lock out for the starting job this year. The team created one of the best secondaries in the league, with Fuller, Darby, and Surtain joining safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson to create a lockdown defense in the air. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will continue to be a fearsome linebacker duo, but the D-line is significantly worse, and is a major concern for the team. The offense needs to improve if this team is to be a competitor.
Las Vegas Raiders
2020 record: 8-8
Projected 2021 record: 6-11
Notable additions: DE Yannick Ngakoue, CB Casey Hayward, C Nick Martin, OT Alex Leatherwood [R], RB Kenyan Drake
Notable departures: OT Trent Brown, C Rodney Hudson, OG Gabe Jackson, WR Tyrell Williams
The Raiders chose to go for a complete rebuild of their O-line, trading away three valuable starters for draft picks. They reached for Alex Leatherwood in the draft, in typical Raiders fashion, and signed Nick Martin to replace Hudson, a significant downgrade. Their defense continues to be an area of concern, and the Raiders signed Ngakoue to help out, even though edge rusher was not what needed the most help, seeing as they already had Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby there. The receiving corps is still getting better, and Henry Ruggs should improve after a disappointing rookie year. RBs Josh Jacobs and Drake will form a nice one-two punch, giving the Raiders one of the better backfields in the league. The team will regress from last year but won’t be horrible.

NFC West

*San Francisco 49ers
2020 record: 6-10
Projected 2021 record: 12-5 (win by tiebreaker)
Notable additions: QB Trey Lance [R], C Alex Mack, EDGE Samson Ebukam
Notable departures: DE Kerry Hyder, CB Richard Sherman
If not for the team being ravaged by injuries last season, the 49ers would have likely made the playoffs. However, the team lost countless players as the season went on, and completely fell off the rails. The team drafted the future at QB when they traded up for Trey Lance, who is soon to replace QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The defense should return to form now that players like Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are back, and the offense will improve since TE George Kittle, WR Deebo Samuel, and RB Raheem Mostert are all returning after having injury-riddled seasons. The 49ers are ready to compete again, and I have them winning a tough NFC west.

^Los Angeles Rams
2020 record: 10-6
Projected 2021 record: 12-5
Notable additions: QB Matthew Stafford, WR DeSean Jackson, RB Sony Michel
Notable departures: QB Jared Goff, S John Johnson III, CB Troy Hill, TE Gerald Everett, EDGE Samson Ebukam, DT Michael Brockers
The Rams got rid of former 1st overall pick Jared Goff in favor of underrated Matthew Stafford, who will instantly elevate an offense that didn’t get much done last year. While the team still has an elite defense with Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Darious Williams, the losses of Johnson and Hill will be felt in the secondary. After the season-ending injury to Cam Akers, the team traded for Sony Michel to complement Darrell Henderson. If not for Akers’ injury, it’s highly possible that it would have been the Rams, not the 49ers, winning the division.

^Arizona Cardinals
2020 record: 8-8
Projected 2021 record: 11-6
Notable additions: DE JJ Watt, C Rodney Hudson, WR AJ Green, RB James Conner, LB Zaven Collins [R] Notable departures: CB Patrick Peterson, RB Kenyan Drake
The Cardinals barely missed the playoffs last year, and are ready to win this year. They added JJ Watt to play alongside DE Chandler Jones to form a terrifying pass-rush duo. Collins will improve an already powerful LB corps containing second year player Isaiah Simmons, who will see time at LB and S. Rodney Hudson is a huge improvement on the O-line and will help protect Kyler Murray. Green and Conner arrived on cheap veteran deals and will help out at key offensive positions. Murray looks poised to improve even more off of last year’s Pro Bowl performance, and the entire team looks much more playoff-ready than last season.

^Seattle Seahawks
2020 record: 12-4
Projected 2021 record: 11-6
Notable additions: OG Gabe Jackson, DE Kerry Hyder, TE Gerald Everett, CB Sidney Jones IV, WR D’Wayne Eskridge [R] Notable departures: CB Shaquill Griffin, LB KJ Wright, DT Jarran Reed, CB Ahkello Witherspoon
That’s right, I have the entire NFC West making the playoffs. This is an elite division containing 4 teams that deserve to be in the postseason. Although the Seahawks lost 3 important defensive veterans, they were able to sign some others to new contracts, specifically S Jamal Adams, one of the top safeties in the league. Jackson will help fix up a below-average O-line and Everett and Eskridge will give QB Russell Wilson more people to throw to. Hyder and Jones are solid veteran additions to the defense, which is still trying to get back to being as elite as it was in the early 2010s. The Seahawks will get the final wild card spot.

There you have it, my entire predictions for this year’s NFL season. As with any year, there will be surprises, both pleasant and disappointing, but based on how the teams look at this time, this is how I believe the season will go.