When it comes to predicting the NFL you might as well play the lottery using the birthdays of your dead ancestors. What I mean to say, albeit flippantly, is that I don’t really believe it’s possible to have supreme confidence that your football opinions will be proven correct in near future.

This business is one of calculated risks. Not only by teams hoping their draft pick and free agent gambles pay off, but trickling all the way down the system to people like me, your humble, portly sportswriter. See, we all know that hot takes help pay the bills. Brash, strong proclamations backed up by bravado and little more is what keeps guys like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith front of mind. We’re all banking on one of two things:

A. You won’t call us out for our mistakes.
B. We have an employer who doesn’t care how much we screw up, as long as it makes money.

Now look, I don’t hate the players dabbling in this game. It’s a hell of a racket to say something like “THE DENVER BRONCOS WILL NEVER MAKE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE REST OF MY NATURAL LIFE!” knowing full well people either won’t remember it, or won’t care enough to follow through. The point I’m getting at is this: We’re all just guessing here, folks. Some of us are far more gifted than others, but no matter how much film, or deep into DVOA you dive, at the end of the day we’re all just hoping we can get a few things right. So, in honor of this proud tradition, I’m going to do the same. Here are my predictions for the upcoming season.

The Bills will take a step back

I know making a proclamation like this will anger upstate New Yorkers to the point of wanting to put my husky ass through a table, but honestly — it’s kind of a mark of respect.

I’m not saying that Buffalo won’t make the playoffs or anything dumb like that, it’s more that I just don’t see any way a 13-3 record holds in 2021. There are a few factors to this. Firstly, the rest of the AFC East has gotten much better than a year ago. Secondly, the Bills remain good, but didn’t didn’t do a ton to get much better. Thirdly, and most importantly, nobody is overlooking them in 2021.

This is the price you pay for making the transition from “very good” to “elite.” No longer are you a tough game on the schedule, you’re one that’s circled. Every team in the league has you earmarked to be their statement game, and like Baltimore and Kansas City before, so too the Bills will learn that sustaining success in the NFL is far more difficult than gaining it.

I fully believe Buffalo will return to the post season, and perhaps even make a run. I just don’t think it will be as dramatic as a year ago.

Matthew Stafford is going to surprise a lot of people

The seemingly lateral trade of Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff was one of the most remarkable NFL deals in recent memory. You just don’t see two teams with franchise quarterbacks decide they don’t like them anymore and look for greener grass in a new pasture.

When we look back in a few years I fully believe Detroit will have gotten the best of this deal, but the Rams are in win now mode (at least relatively speaking). Stafford had kind of fallen into anonymity ever since Calvin Johnson retired from the NFL. Gone were memories of elite Lions passing offenses, and he became relegated to a curious shrug. What I mean by this is that you’d look at end of season passing records and be like “Huh, I had no idea Matthew Stafford passed for 4,000 yards this year,” because he did, last year in Detroit — it’s just that nobody cares about the Lions outside of Michigan.

Now, in Los Angeles, with an elite defense and a host of solid receivers, I think we could see a bog-standard, effective Matthew Stafford season start to get treated like transcendent, only because he has a better cast around him. I think the Rams could surprise a lot of people, and while tough, the NFC West still feels up for grabs.