As the finale of our 2020 NFL Season Preview, we surveyed 19 of our staff members for their picks on division champions, award winners, and more.
AFC East Winner: Buffalo Bills
The Bills have not won the division since 1995, but without Tom Brady around, our staff felt that this is the year as Buffalo accumulated 14 votes. They added some weapons and have both a strong defense and coaching staff, but the season seems to hinge on Josh Allen’s play as the Patriots appear to still be in the mix.
Also receiving votes: Patriots (4), Jets (1).
AFC North Winner: Baltimore Ravens
The reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and his squad are the overwhelming favorites to win their third-consecutive AFC North title, as they collected 17 votes. The return of Ben Roethlisberger provides some intrigue, however.
Also receiving votes: Steelers (2).
AFC South Winner: Tennessee Titans
Mike Vrabel led his team on quite the improbable run last season, ending the season on a hot streak and upending both the Patriots and Ravens on the road. With some formidable challengers in Houston and Indianapolis, this division proved to be the most divisive among our staff. Tennessee had a league-wide low of nine votes.
Also receiving votes: Colts (6), Texans (4).
AFC West Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
The Super Bowl Champions should have very few threats within their division, and were the only unanimous division winner among the staff, receiving all 19 votes.
Also receiving votes: none.
NFC East Winner: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas appears to have one of the most potent offenses in the league, returning practically every weapon at the disposal of Dak Prescott. While the Eagles are experiencing injury issues for another season, they still figure to be in the hunt. Dallas accumulated the large sum of 16 votes.
Also receiving votes: Eagles (3).
NFC North Winner: Green Bay Packers
The Packers surprised everyone by taking Jordan Love in the first round of the draft during the off-season, and did not add a lot of weapons around the aging Aaron Rodgers. Despite this, they received ten votes to win back-to-back years. Minnesota had the most votes out of the teams that did not have a majority.
Also receiving votes: Vikings (9).
NFC South Winner: New Orleans Saints
Returning almost their entire team, the Saints is in play for their fourth-consecutive NFC South title. Despite Tampa Bay adding Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and what seems like a growing list of solid veteran pieces, they did not receive a lot of love among the staff votes for the division title. New Orleans had an overwhelming 16 votes.
Also receiving votes: Buccaneers (3).
NFC West Winner: San Francisco 49ers
After blowing a lead in the Super Bowl in February, the 49ers will look to avenge what was one of the toughest losses that franchise suffered in decades. Our staff thinks their success will be parlayed into a second season, as they received 12 votes.
Also receiving votes: Seahawks (6), Cardinals (1).
AFC Wild Card Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns
The return of Big Ben has sparked a lot of confidence in the Steelers this season, who look to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. After Pittsburgh’s ten votes, Houston and Cleveland both received eight. The Texans are looking to return to the playoffs for the third-straight season while Cleveland vies for its first appearance since 2002.
Also receiving votes: Patriots (7), Titans (6), Chargers (5), Broncos (3), Bills (2), Raiders (2), Jets (1), Dolphins (1), Ravens (1).
NFC Wild Card Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers/Seattle Seahawks
In a jam-packed NFC, Tampa Bay acquired a leading 13 votes to make it to the playoffs in Brady’s first season. Our staff felt Philadelphia could overcome their injury adversity, as they obtained eight votes. In the only tie, Green Bay and Seattle each received six votes, with a litany of teams right behind them.
Also receiving votes: Vikings (5), Rams (5), Cardinals (4), 49ers (3), Falcons (2), Saints (2), Cowboys (1), Washington Football Team (1), Lions (1).
AFC Champion: Kansas City Chiefs
Our staff has confidence in the ability of Andy Reid to lead his team to back-to-back Super Bowls, as they received 12 votes compared.
Also receiving votes: Ravens (7).
NFC Champion: New Orleans Saints
As mentioned before, the NFC seems to be much more competitive top to bottom than the AFC. Proving true here, five teams received votes, with New Orleans topping the list with eight.
Also receiving votes: 49ers (4), Cowboys (4), Seahawks (2), Vikings (1)
Super Bowl Champion: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens received seven votes to make it to the Super Bowl, and six of those voters also had them winning the Super Bowl. After back-to-back disappointing playoff exits, a Super Bowl win would silence any remaining doubters about the new-found offense in Baltimore.
Also receiving votes: Saints (5), Chiefs (4), Seahawks (2), Cowboys (2)
Most Surprising Team: Miami Dolphins
After going on a major spending spree in the offseason, Miami looks to take a big step in year two of the Brian Flores era. Not having to see Tom Brady twice a season definitely helps their cause as well.
Also receiving votes: Colts (4), Cardinals (4), Panthers (2), Browns (1), Bills (1), Falcons (1)
Most Disappointing Team: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have had some very talented teams over recent years, but have struggled with injuries as documented earlier. If some of their pieces miss extended time, it could lead to another upsetting end to the season for a team that won the Super Bowl just a few years ago.
Also receiving votes: Buccaneers (3), 49ers (2), Raiders (2), Jets (1), Ravens (1), Bills (1), Bengals (1), Steelers (1), Texans (1), Cowboys (1), Vikings (1).
Most Valuable Player: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
After signing a 10-year, 450 million dollar extension, Patrick Mahomes looks to add to his already impressive NFL career. Look for him to be in mix for his second MVP award in three seasons, as he receiving a leading seven votes.
Also receiving votes: Aaron Donald (4), Russell Wilson (3), Kyler Murray (2), Drew Brees (1), Tom Brady (1), Lamar Jackson (1).
Offensive Player of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
McCaffrey accumulated close to 2400 total yards from scrimmage last season, a jump of 427 from the year prior. In a rebuilding year, expect him to get even more of the spotlight when he is on the field.
Also receiving votes: Patrick Mahomes (5), Lamar Jackson (2), Josh Jacobs (1), Alvin Kamara (1), Saquon Barkley (1).
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Rams
Aaron Donald recorded double-digit sack totals in four of his six seasons, including 20.5 in 2018, the last time he won this award. Our staff expects him to win it for the third time in his career, as he collected seven votes.
Also receiving votes: Nick Bosa (5), Khalil Mack (3), JJ Watt (1), TJ Watt (1), Myles Garrett (1), Danielle Hunter (1).
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals
After having one of the best seasons ever recorded for a college quarterback, Joe Burrow enters his NFL career with a lot of expectations. In an offense-friendly environment in Cincinnati with a few good weapons, he received a leading six votes in what turned out to be a competitive list.
Also receiving votes: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5), Tua Tagovailoa (4), CeeDee Lamb (2), Henry Ruggs III (1), J.K. Dobbins (1).
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chase Young, DE, Washington Football Team
One of the most prized pass-rushing prospects in recent years, Young will look to provide an immediate impact for a franchise that is in the midst of a rebuild. He received an overwhelming 17 votes, the most out of any award winner on our list.
Also receiving votes: Isaiah Simmons (1), Jaylon Johnson (1).
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Chiefs
Andy Reid deserves a ton of praise for what he has been able to achieve in Kansas City, and he is set up for a long stretch of success. He received five votes in what was a very wide-open race.
Also receiving votes: Mike McCarthy (4), Bruce Arians (3), Bill Belichick (2), Brian Flores (1), Frank Reich (1), Kliff Kingsbury (1), Pete Carroll (1), Sean Payton (1).
Comeback Player of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Patriots
Everything seems to be culminating in a renaissance season for Cam Newton, as he collected five votes. New England is building an offense in which he can succeed and return to his former self after a rough, injury-riddled 2019 season.
Also receiving votes: Alex Smith (4), Ben Roethlisberger (4), Rob Gronkowski (2), A.J. Green (2), Johnathan Abram (1), Tom Brady (1).
(Photos from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports, Harry How/Getty Images, Baltimore Ravens, and Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)