Welcome to the March edition of the Hot-Take-o-Meter.
Check out the February edition here.
Stage 1: Siberia
DeAndre Hopkins will lead the NFL in receiving yards.
Despite posting two of the top 40 seasons in NFL history in terms of receiving yards, Hopkins has never led the league. He has finished in the top-five three times including a second-place finish in 2018. Hopkins was traded to the Cardinals, and there is a shot that Hopkins exceeds the output that he had at any point in his Houston career. Arizona could have one of the best offenses in the NFL with a true star receiver in Hopkins and a plethora of good complementary pieces in Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, and other young wideouts. The defense is also bad enough for the Cardinals to likely be in many shootouts, necessitating Kyler Murray to throw the ball 35 or 40 times a game.
Stage 2: Chicago in February
New England’s primary starter will throw 15 or more interceptions.
In 20 years with the Patriots, Tom Brady never threw more than 14 interceptions. In the year that Brady was sidelined with a torn ACL, Matt Cassel stepped in and threw just 11 interceptions. Regardless of who the starter in Foxborough is, they will likely be nowhere as turnover-aversive as Brady has been for the last two decades. Incumbent Jarrett Stidham kept the interceptions in check in college, but a difficult New England schedule could see the turnovers pile up as the likes of Tre’Davious White and Xavien Howard meet the Pats twice while Marcus Peters and other ballhawks also look to make their mark.
If the Patriots do make a mid-season switch at quarterback, the interception total of the two (or more) quarterbacks would likely exceed 15.
Stage 3: Boston in June
The Redskins will be in the top half of the league in points allowed and yards allowed.
For most of his time in Carolina, Ron Rivera led a strong defensive unit. As a coordinator in Chicago and San Diego, Rivera’s teams never finished in the bottom half of the league in points allowed, and they routinely finished in the top five of yards allowed (including finishing best in the league on the ill-fated 2010 Chargers). The Redskins had a terrible defense in 2019, placing 27th in points and yards allowed, but they have returning cornerback Kendall Fuller, Thomas Davis, and Ronald Darby to help out the back seven. The pass rush will get a massive boost as Washington seems to be the landing spot for generational talent Chase Young, and Montez Sweat will look to build off a productive rookie season.
Stage 4: Atlanta in June
One of four teams that won 13 games will finish below .500.
In 2019, the Ravens (14), 49ers, Packers, and Saints finished with 13 wins. The outlier of the group is likely the Packers, but Green Bay has made steady additions to ensure 13-3 was not a fluke. Baltimore is a popular pick for regression as they lean heavily on MVP Lamar Jackson. However, the Ravens have worked to fortify their defensive line with Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. The 49ers and Saints appear as two strong Super Bowl contenders, but the 49ers must trust Jimmy Garoppolo, and Drew Brees is not getting any younger. All four teams should be good again, but regression could come for one (or more) of these great teams.
Stage 5: Phoenix in August
The NFC West will have 4 of the top 8 teams in the conference.
San Francisco and Seattle can be penciled in for the next five postseasons. The Rams would have joined the playoffs under the new format, but they were on the outside looking in. Arizona has its star at wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins. While all four of the teams making the playoffs seem to be highly unlikely, the Seahawks and 49ers should pace the division again, and the Rams and Cardinals should capitalize on third- and fourth-placed schedules to win enough games outside of the division to be in the playoff hunt. Arizona’s defense could be terrible again, but any improvement would put the Cardinals squarely in 9-7 territory.
Stage 6: Sauna
Six of 2019’s draft class will surpass 1,000 receiving yards.
Last season, four sophomores (DJ Chark, Courtland Sutton, Michael Gallup, and DJ Moore) surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. The 2019 class was loaded with incredible wide receiver talent, and A.J. Brown posted a 1,000-yard season as a rookie. In 2020, there will be more than a half dozen challengers for 1,000-yard sophomores, but Brown could be joined by the likes of Marquise Brown, Diontae Johnson, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, and Terry McLaurin. There are dark horse threats in (undrafted) Preston Williams, Mecole Hardman, and Darius Slayton. Marquise Brown is the unlikeliest of the initial five to make the list, but he was on pace for 1,000 yards through seven games, and he looks to be even better with an injury-free off-season. Johnson, Samuel, and McLaurin should be the premier wide receiver option on their teams by the end of the season. Metcalf will play a secondary role to Tyler Lockett, but he would have gotten to 1,000 yards if he did not have six total receiving yards in two games against the Cardinals.
Stage 7: Crematorium
The 2020 draft will have a first-year All-Pro,
After 2018 had a spectacular showing with Quenton Nelson, Derwin James, Darius Leonard and Michael Dickson making the 2018 All-Pro roster, 2019 had no such luck as only Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, and Mecole Hardman made the Pro Bowl. 2019 was the only time of the decade that a drafted rookie was not designated as a first-team All-Pro. While many were involved in special teams (nearly impossible to predict in advance), players such as Ndamukong Suh and Zack Martin stepped into the NFL as the best at their positions. The best players of the draft face stiff competition, and it is unlikely that the likes of Joe Burrow, Chase Young, and Jeff Okudah knock off Lamar Jackson (or, more likely, Patrick Mahomes), TJ Watt, Chandler Jones, Stephon Gilmore, and Tre’Davious White (among others).
Deonte Harris technically made the All-Pro roster as a rookie, but he went undrafted.
Stage 8: Satan’s Favorite
A No. 7 seed will win a playoff game.
Winning playoff games is all about being hot at the right time. In recent history, No. 6 seeds have had fairly limited success beyond the first playoff game as the 2019 Titans were the first sixth-seed since the 2010 (and future champion) Packers to make a conference title game. In theory, a seven seed would have a lower chance of winning than the six seed would (and they do), but the playoffs boil down to matchups. The 2019 Rams would have challenged the Packers, and they might win in an alternate universe if Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler play in a manner that Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Nick Bosa, and Arik Armstead played when their teams demolished the Packers.
Stage 9: The Sun
Josh Allen will lead the NFL in sacks.
Despite Nick Bosa garnering most of the spotlight among 2019’s class of pass rushers, Josh Allen led rookies in sacks with 10.5. (Bosa finished third behind Maxx Crosby). Jacksonville has lost many pieces through trade in the last 12 months, dismantling 2017’s star-studded defense. As of writing, Allen is paired with Yannick Ngakoue, but Ngakoue is on the trade market. Allen could be the lone bright spot on the defense (outside of the potential two first-round picks that could be spent on upgrades), but he has the talent to put up between 15 and 20 sacks out of the blue.
Stage 10: Heat Death of the Universe
Kelce and Kittle have been the top two tight ends in football over the last two years, and they are poised to dominate for the better part of a decade. However, Waller is a sleeping monster for the Raiders. Waller posted an absurd 1,190 yards on 90 catches for the Raiders in his breakout campaign. If he avoids being shut out, he could push for 1,200 or 1,300 yards. Jason Witten has joined the Raiders, and he could sap some production away from Waller, but Waller will be relieved of some of his usual blocking duty. Waller was drafted as a wide receiver, and his role as a weapon could expand without some of the blocking work. Kelce and Kittle will be great again, but Waller could put up a massive season.