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2021 Season Preview, Predictions and BEEF! | NFL Deep Dive

Week 1 is around the corner; tune in for the 2021–2022 NFL forecast.

It’s the big one: Jenny, Conor and Gary etch their season predictions in stone.

But first, they begin with some friendly, respectful, lighthearted disagreements regarding certain takes. Are the Patriots in a position to steal the AFC East—even with an offense that looks like it might have been built with Cam Newton in mind? Are the Browns or Steelers the better bet to win the AFC North? Is everyone sleeping on the Colts or are they right to be turned off by Carson Wentz’s rocky summer? Can the Seahawks figure things out on defense, and/or can the Cardinals figure things out on offense?

Then, it’s on to the official predictions for the 14 playoff teams, conference championship matchups, regular-season individual awards and, finally, Super Bowl score predictions. Get upset at all of it!

But be sure to stay for the mind-blowing twist toward the end of the show, when Conor reveals the truth behind his “Browns to the Super Bowl” pick and it turns out nothing is what it seems.

Have a question for the show? Email themmqb@gmail.com or tweet at Gary, Jenny and Conor.

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New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Mac Jones (10) during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

The following transcript is an excerpt from The MMQB NFL Podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or on SI.com.

Jenny Vrentas: All right, so only in 2021 would this be considered against the grain. But I have picked the Patriots to win the AFC East. Maybe it is getting caught up in the recent Mac Jones hype and the rookie's strong preseason and him winning the job. Or maybe it's the fact that this is the real start of the post–Tom Brady era for New England. Or maybe I just think that we're all a little bit too down on the Patriots after one lone down season. And I don't really want to bet against the resurgence this year, so I have picked them to win the division. It'll be an interesting division this year. A lot of young quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa in Miami, Josh Allen in Buffalo is suddenly the elder statesman, the Jets have Zach Wilson. So lots could be up in the air this year. But I can just imagine a situation in which Mac Jones was trained for this opportunity by Bill Belichick's best friend in coaching [Nick Saban]. He knows exactly what to do. And there were a lot of games last season where the Patriots just had to do a little bit more. And that was with a league-high number of opt-outs for COVID-19. And that was with a lot of positions being patched together, they went on a free-agency spending spree, all of these things are uncharacteristic because they had to do things differently in the post–Tom Brady era. The Patriots had to take a different tack. They couldn't do team-building the same way they've always done it. So those things don't always work out, rarely do we see a free-agency spending spree work out. And it is hard for a rookie quarterback to come in and immediately make an impact. But I am not going to bet against that happening. 

Gary Gramling: Boy, I'll say one thing, and it happened a while ago, so we don't have to rehash the whole Cam Newton getting cut stuff. But I don't know, I was just so excited to see a full-on Cam Newton, 11-man running game. It just seemed like that's how they were building it, as I try to again justify my incorrect thoughts from like three weeks ago. It just seemed like when you signed Kendrick Bourne, you're not signing Kendrick Bourne to be like a hundred-catch guy like the new Wes Welker, you're signing him because he's a little-things guy who is going to help you out on perimeter blocking and stuff like that. But it's just an interesting fit here with Mac Jones because they're not very good on the outside. And does that matter ultimately? Nelson Agholor is probably your only starting-caliber receiver at this point. 

JV: I don't think it matters. The Patriots haven't been good on the outside generally, right? I mean, obviously when they had Randy Moss, but that was a brief period of time. I think they bring in players that fit a specific function in their offense. And I think it's probably true that we don't know exactly what specific function all of these pieces will fit, but they don't ever sign anybody or draft anybody without some plan. Not saying that it works out, obviously, they have had a lot of draft misses in recent years and thus they needed to spend on free agency. But I think when they chose Mac Jones as a starting quarterback, they obviously had a plan for an offense that would work around him. 

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