Marcus Mosher makes his picks and predicts the final regular-season record for each NFC team ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Find out which team will lead the conference in wins, which team will serve as the rest of the league’s punching bag and which teams could make surprise appearances in the 2021 NFL Playoffs.
The Cardinals made several big moves this offseason to fancy themselves as a contender in the NFC West. The addition of J.J. Watt and the first-round pick Zaven Collins should greatly improve the front seven. The biggest question, however, is still Kyler Murray.
We know that he improved during the 2020 season, but is he ready to be a top-10 quarterback and lead his team to the playoffs? I have my doubts, especially since this projects to be the toughest division in football. Look for the Cardinals to be competitive once again but likely come up short in their goal to make the playoffs.
- Arizona Cardinals 2021 Record Prediction: 8-9
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The Falcons still have one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL in Matt Ryan, but this is clearly a team in the midst of a rebuild. First-year head coach Arthur Smith will have his work cut out for him, but without Julio Jones on the roster and one of the league’s worst defenses, it will be challenging for this team to stay competitive. It’s tough to envision this team finishing any better than third in their division, and that’s why the Falcons will likely be a 6-to-7-win team this season.
- Atlanta Falcons 2021 Record Prediction: 6-11
In Matt Rhule’s first year with the team, the Panthers went 5-11. The offense had its moments, but they were without Christian McCaffrey for most of the season. Since then, the team has decided to move on from Teddy Bridgewater and is instead turning to Sam Darnold to be their quarterback of the future.
Whether the former No. 3 overall pick proves to be an upgrade remains to be seen, but this is a team that has a chance to get significantly better if the quarterback play improves. Still, the Panthers are likely a year away from being a playoff contender. Look for them to win 7-to-8 games this season.
- Carolina Panthers 2021 Record Prediction: 7-10
If the Bears were to name Justin Fields as the starting quarterback for Week 1, this team would be a lot more exciting. Instead, lame-duck head coach Matt Nagy appears to be set on veteran signal-caller Andy Dalton to open the year. Chicago has one of the best defenses in the NFL and is hoping Dalton can be “good enough" to help keep this team afloat, but he’s regressing as a passer. Dalton’s yards per attempt have dropped to 6.7 since the start of the 2017 season.
The Bears have the talent to be a playoff team in 2021, but a Dalton-led group will struggle to accumulate many wins. Expect Fields to become the starter eventually, but Chicago may stick with Dalton too long to compete for a spot in the postseason.
- Chicago Bears 2021 Record Prediction: 8-9
It’s hard to take too much from Mike McCarthy’s first season in Dallas. The team lost its star quarterback and both offensive tackles for the season by Week 6. However, we do know this offense has the potential to be the best in the NFL, and if Dak Prescott plays as well as he did last year, he will be a legitimate MVP candidate.
The biggest question is the defense, which Dan Quinn now leads. There are several big holes on the roster, specifically at defensive tackle and safety. The Cowboys are banking on Prescott and on the offense to cover up their flaws, but this team’s ceiling will be significantly lower if the defense continues to be among the worst in the league.
Dallas is the favorite in the NFC East, but they will need the defense to be much better to compete for a Super Bowl.
- Dallas Cowboys 2021 Record Prediction: 10-7
After trading away Matthew Stafford and letting Kenny Golladay leave in free agency, the Lions are in a full-blown rebuild. Jared Goff doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence at quarterback, but the offensive line is so good (and young) that it might allow him to be somewhat successful. With that said, the defense needs a lot of work, and there is a general lack of talent on this roster.
Detroit knows that this could be a rough season, so don’t be surprised if they lean into tanking and finish the season with only a few wins.
- Detroit Lions 2021 Record Prediction: 4-13
Green Bay Packers
The toughest team to project in the NFL right now is the Green Bay Packers. Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers wants to be traded and hasn’t been around the facility at all this offseason. Still, it feels unlikely that the team will trade Rodgers, and he doesn’t have many moves left unless he wants to sit out the season.
Assuming he does return and plays for the Packers, they will once again be Super Bowl contenders. They still lack a few playmakers and the offensive line has gotten older, but expect Green Bay to be right back in the thick of things in the NFC this season.
- Green Bay Packers 2021 Record Prediction: 11-6
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have never had a losing season since Sean McVay arrived in Los Angeles, averaging nearly 11 wins per year since 2017. They have a chance to be even better in 2021 after acquiring Matthew Stafford to replace Jared Goff. Stafford should open up the rest of the offense, making them even more dangerous to defend.
The roster is as top-heavy as it gets in the NFL, meaning injuries could derail them quicker than any other team in the league. But on paper, this is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
- Los Angeles Rams 2021 Record Prediction: 12-5
The Vikings finished fourth in yards per game on offense and 27th on defense. That is quite the role reversal for Mike Zimmer, who prides himself on having a hard-nosed defense. The Vikings did take steps to improve the unit this offseason, signing veterans Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson and Xavier Woods, but does this team have the talent to get over the hump and be contenders in the NFC?
Assuming the defense can improve some and stays relatively healthy, the Vikings could easily win 10+ games this season in a weak NFC North — especially if Rodgers isn’t a factor. But if Rodgers does return, look for them to compete for the No. 2 spot in the division.
- Minnesota Vikings 2021 Record Prediction: 9-8
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have won at least 11 games in four straight seasons, but a change at quarterback for the first time since 2006 could change everything. Who that is remains to be seen, but Sean Payton has shown that he can succeed without Drew Bress.
Over the last two seasons, the Saints are 8-1 without him on the field. While it’s unrealistic to think they can keep that winning percentage up, the Saints should be just fine in the post-Brees era. They return one of the best defenses in football, plus with a tremendous offensive line and talented playmakers. As a result, new Orleans could well be a 10-to-11-win team again in 2021.
- New Orleans Saints 2021 Record Prediction: 10-7
New York Giants
All the stars seem to be aligning for third-year quarterback Daniel Jones to have a big season. The team signed Kenny Golladay in free agency to be his No. 1 receiver and drafted speedster Kadarius Toney in Round 1. The offensive line looks to be improved, and Saquon Barkley is back to help make the offense even more explosive. If Jones makes a big leap in 2021, this could easily be a playoff team. But if he continues to be a middling, turnover-prone passer, this could be a squad stuck in the middle once again.
- New York Giants 2021 Record Prediction: 7-10
The time has come for the Eagles to rebuild and retool. Philadelphia fired Doug Pederson and went with Nick Sirianni to restart the process. There is still some quality talent on this team — specifically in the trenches — that could allow this team to steal some wins.
The biggest deciding factor will be Jalen Hurts. He showed well at times last season, but he must become more accurate and speed up his process to be a successful passer. Look for him to show improvements, but plan on the Eagles finishing at the bottom of the NFC East.
- Philadelphia Eagles 2021 Record Prediction: 6-11
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are one of the most challenging teams to project in the NFC. In 2019, they were just a play or two away from winning the Super Bowl. In 2020, they suffered an absurd amount of injuries and lost plenty of talent in free agency. But what does the 2021 season have in store for San Francisco? How soon will Trey Lance become the starter, and more importantly, what does the offense look like with him under center?
This is still an incredibly talented roster that features one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. However, the NFC West will be very competitive, which could lead to San Francisco going under its win total.
- San Francisco 49ers 2021 Record Prediction: 10-7
The Seahawks won the ultra-competitive NFC West in 2020, going 12-4 on the season. Since drafting Russell Wilson in 2012, the Seahawks have never won fewer than nine games and have won at least 11 games in five of those seasons. However, speaking to the competitiveness of the NFC West, they only have the third-best odds to win the division this year.
This is a veteran team that should be dominant on offense once again, making it hard to pick them to win fewer than 10 games this season. The division will be incredibly tough, but this is among the most consistent teams in the league.
- Seattle Seahawks 2021 Record Prediction: 11-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After winning the Super Bowl in their first season with Tom Brady, you would expect the Buccaneers to be even better in 2021. Not only did they manage to retain all 22 starters, but Tampa Bay even improved in some areas after selecting defensive end Joe Tryon at the end of Round 1 to give them a better group of pass-rushers.
However, given how well Tampa Bay played on the road last postseason, expect them to be more concerned about keeping players healthy throughout the season than earning the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. This will still be an outstanding team, but 11-to-12 wins feels more realistic than 13-to-14.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2021 Record Prediction: 11-6
Washington Football Team
On paper, Washington has the best roster in the NFC East by quite a large margin. The defense has a chance to be the best in football, and the addition of Curtis Samuel should help the offense.
The biggest question surrounding this team, as it is every year, is the quarterback situation. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger and should provide some magic to this offense, but is he good enough to get Washington over the hump? He will be 39 in November, and his play almost always declines as the season goes on. However, even if Fitzpatrick struggles, Washington should approach double-digit wins as they ride their defense and running game.
- Washington Football Team 2021 Record Prediction: 9-8
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