by Scott Mangan (Twitter: @fantasyspatula)
What a season it has been. What a year it was. What a year 2021 already is!
Man, I don’t know what happens next. In sports or in the world. But I’m thankful for all I have right now. I’m thankful for the world of sports and the role it’s played in helping me have a break from the craziness of everything going on in our lives.
There was a point in 2020 where I felt bewildered. Here in New York City, there was no escape from reality. And although I didn’t necessarily want there to be, I also realized that I needed something new and fresh (but not too serious) to help cut through the intense realness of 2020.
Being able to experience live professional sports again brought all the moments from this past year together in a digestible way. We can stream all the movies, TV shows, and classic games we want, but nothing can replace the moments during a live game where the future has not been written and you get to witness it as it happens in all its glory. The mind-blowing catches, the shot at the buzzer, the game-winning home-run. When you experience them in real-time, it’s a reminder that life is creating itself. That all is not written. And the future is limitless in its potential. It’s exhilarating. Sure, it’s just sport, but it’s a microcosm of something so much more important.
In a year filled with waves of unwanted drama, it was like an emotional life-raft to be able to turn on the TV and just watch a game. Live. As it happens.
As much as I just professed my love for being present in the moment and willing to be a witness to the unknown becoming known, I am still here on Pro Football Mania to give you my own personal glimpse into a possible future as I see it. And with that, here are my 5 Bold Predictions for the 2020 Playoffs.
1. Lamar Jackson will break Colin Kaepernick’s all-time single game rushing record by a QB
Seven years ago in 2013, 26-year-old Colin Kaepernick was the starting QB for the 49ers as they were hosting the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. In that game, he ran for the most yards by any quarterback in NFL history. That record of 181 rushing yards still stands today.
As the tired old saying goes, “Records are made to be broken.” And if there was ever a player that had the game-breaking speed and elusiveness to snuff out that 181-yard rushing record it’s Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens’ take on the Titans in Round 1. The same Titans team that stifled Jackson in last year’s playoffs and again this season in Week 11. But the Ravens’ team the Titans see on Sunday is not the team they played previously. The Ravens are on a roll and running the ball efficiently. Jackson looks like a new player. The team is getting hot at just the right time.
In their divisional round loss last season, the Titans stacked the box and forced Jackson to throw a career high 59 times. Even though the Ravens got manhandled and lost 28-12 Jackson still ran for 143 yards.
For Lamar to truly become the elite championship caliber QB that we all want him to be, he’s going to need to get past the Titans. If he does, he gets (most likely) the Chiefs and then (most likely) the Bills. All three teams are in the bottom half of run defenses in 2020.
Jackson is set up for running success throughout these playoffs and that could mean we see the all-time rushing record by a QB fall when he runs for 200+ yards in these playoffs.
2. Saints get upset in the Wild Card Round
The Saints have had Super Bowl aspirations for the past few years. And they’ve exited the playoffs in each of the past three seasons in pretty epic fashion.
This may be the end of the road for (soon to be) 42 year old Drew Brees. The future Hall of Famer is finishing up a 2020 where his Saints’ won the NFC South for the 4th consecutive season and primed for one last playoff run with Brees at the helm. But 2020 hasn’t been the gentle trot off into the sunset that he had hoped for.
Brees suffered 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung back in Week 10. He’s back, but he’s not 100%. Neither is his #1 WR Michael Thomas. And his best weapon on offense, Alvin Kamara, hasn’t practiced all week because he was on the COVID list. To say the Saints are banged up is an understatement.
They host the Bears in the Wild Card Round and something tells me it’s not going to be the blowout Saints’ fans expect.
The Bears defense was lights out to start the season. Through Week 11 they were one of the best in the league, but they’ve been quite mediocre over the past six weeks. If the defense that was incredibly efficient in the first 10 games of the season shows up against the Saints, these guys have a real shot at giving Drew Brees a mighty unceremonious outro to his otherwise illustrious career. With solid, smart offensive play and a little luck the Bears could surprise the football world.
It’d be kind of par for the course considering the Saints’ heartbreaking playoff losses over this past decade. Wouldn’t ya say?
3. Rams go to the Super Bowl
Sean McVay is a lot of things. A member of the 5 o’clock shadow club. A hair gel enthusiast. A lover of Ukranian models. He’s also quite possibly the best modern day football strategist.
What he is doing with this current Rams roster is really impressive. They haven’t had a 1st round pick in the past FOUR YEARS and yet his team is still playing at an elite level. He’s drafted well and getting the most out of his players. His scheming is second to none. And his ability to put talented people in a position to succeed may be his greatest strength.
The most impressive part of the 2020 Rams is their defense. First year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has done a heck of a job. They’re without a doubt the best in the league. They shut down the run, take away their opponents’ best wide receiver, and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The NFC is wide open this postseason. Top seeded Green Bay is good, but not unbeatable. There’s no reason the Rams can’t disrupt Aaron Rodgers’ MVP season with a good old fashioned playoff drubbing. They used to say “defense wins championships.” Maybe it’s time we bring that saying back. Because the Rams are a couple wins away from getting back to the Big Dance for a second time in three seasons.
4. The Chiefs don’t win a single playoff game
I get it. I get it. The Chiefs look like an unstoppable juggernaut. We’re all ready to crown them as the next dynasty. Mahomes already looks like an all-time great. A true challenge to the GOAT. Andy Reid may as well get his Gold Jacket already because he’s a no-brainer HOFer.
But it’s way too easy to just give them their second straight Super Bowl. All it will take is a solid defensive effort by one of these AFC playoff teams to knock them out and it just so happens that the AFC has one of those in the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is no slouch. He’s got a Super Bowl Ring himself and he has his own MVP quarterback. It’s not crazy to think they can sneak up on the Chiefs and end their season “early.”
5. The Ravens beat the Chiefs in the Divisional Round and go on to win Super Bowl LV
The Ravens will have to get over the Tennessee Titans hump first, but they definitely have the offensive and defensive playmakers to take down the defending champs as well.
Remember, every great team and every great athlete has met speed bumps along the road to championship success. Lamar has had a tough time with the Chiefs so far in his career. He’s even referred to them as his “kryptonite.” But Lamar Jackson isn’t Superman. He’s an MVP quarterback with the tools and team to beat any team on any given Sunday.
It makes sense that Lamar Jackson would have to defeat the Titans and Chiefs if he were to go on a historic playoff run and win his first Super Bowl. I mean, sometimes the story writes itself. Even though the future is never written.