Are you ready for some football? Somehow, someway, the NFL season is here. There was no preseason this year due to the ongoing pandemic, so it's tough to gauge which teams are regular-season-ready. But there's still plenty of intrigue this year — especially with Tom Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay — even if the anticipation is a bit more subdued than usual due to everything going on in the world right now.
That hasn't stopped our panel of musicians from making some bold predictions about the 2020 season. They're pretty psyched about what's to come, even in the face of uncertainty. From Super Bowl predictions to insight on their own team, our panel looks deep into the future on what this year has in store, with some more optimistic than others.
Now that your fantasy team has been drafted — and ahead of Thursday night's AFC Divisional Round rematch between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs — here's how musicians see the season shaking out.
The Poison star gave his thoughts on the Steelers' chances this season in the video above.
San Francisco 49ers
What's the prognosis for the team this year? Can you ever have as much fun/be as pleasantly surprised as last year?
I live less than a mile from where Candlestick Park once stood: the home of the five-time champion 49ers. I have signed Ronnie Lott and Colin Kaepernick jerseys framed on the walls of my studio, so it should come as no surprise to you that I found the 49ers' loss in the last seven minutes of the 2020 Super Bowl more than a bit tough to chew on during the offseason. So like most of the players and Niner Nation around the world, I see the 20-21 season as only one thing – a revenge tour! I know it’s extremely difficult to for any team to get back to the final game, but I truly believe the best is yet to come for this young, selfless, unified team that is hungry to get there and avenge the sting of the 2020 Chiefs comeback during this season of COVID and the NFL finally getting woke as the movement for racial equity collides head-on at the 50-yard line of every field.
As for the 49ers, most people will point to a few key players lost from last year as a reason why we won’t make it back – DT DeForest Buckner, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and OT Joe Staley being the major three. However, the front office addressed these losses before the NFL draft even ended. There was no way we could afford Buckner’s contract long term, so trading him to the Colts for the no. 13 draft pick and getting Javon Kinlaw was genius on GM John Lynch’s part. Kinlaw will take a year or two to develop, but he has the upside to be even better than Buckner, which is effing scary. Trading up to get WR Brandon Aiyuk could prove to be an even better move – he’s shined in training camp thus far, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he outplays Emmanuel Sanders over the course of his career. Finally, snagging a hungry OT Trent Williams might be the most important move of all. In practice, he’s been holding his own against Nick Bosa, who was the top pass rusher in the NFL as a rookie last season. I’m confident he’s going to uphold retired Joe Staley’s high level of play from the previous decade on our offensive line.
Jimmy G: good or overhyped? Do you blame him for the Super Bowl loss?
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finally has a complete season under his belt, and he’s another year removed from his ACL injury. He’ll be more confident, precise and mobile in the pocket. People will forget we didn’t have DJ Jones or Ronald Blair to sub in on the line in the Super Bowl, and Kwon and Dee Ford were dealing with injuries. Personally, I think we’d have won the Super Bowl if they were healthy. Even with the loss of Buckner, this defensive line will be better – Bosa will have over 11 sacks in his second year and DT Arik Armstead hopefully maintains the level of play he had from last year.
What are your reasonable hopes for the 49ers? What's their ceiling/floor? Who is your player to watch this year on the 49ers?
The RB crew continues to be a "three-headed monster" – Raheem Mostert still the star, Tevin Coleman in relief and Jerick McKinnon finally in the mix after injury and contract issues. McKinnon is an athletic beast and has apparently been impossible to guard on passing plays in practice — I expect him to add something new to the offense this year. At tight end, believe it or not, we get better – George Kittle is still the best in the league, and rookie Charlie Woerner will be a punishing blocker on running downs, and if DJ Reed can stay healthy for a chunk of the season, watch out.
On the interior, look for Solomon Thomas to finally play to his first-round potential in a contract year — he’s put on muscle, will be at his natural three-technique position and is another year removed from his sister’s tragic suicide. At linebacker, Fred Warner might be one of the most underrated players in the NFL — he has quickly become one of the top five-to-10 LBs in the NFL and probably the best coverage LBs in the league. Last year we had the best defense in the league, and barring major injuries we should be even better. On the offensive line, the left side is one of the league’s best behind Trent and Laken. If there was one glaring weakness on offense, it is at the center and right guard positions — both are still up for grabs (after injuries). Hopefully, Weston Richburg is back by midseason at center; that would be huge.
Another potential weak spot is our receiving corp, where the loss of Jalen Hurd for the season (again) hurts (ouch!) — I was really looking forward to seeing him. That said, we have just as much depth this year as last. Deebo Samuel should be back no later than Week four; Aiyuk will be productive from day one; Kendrick Bourne put in serious work this offseason and looks like a strong number three; Trent Taylor back and healthy will be exactly what Jimmy needs as a reliable target underneath to pick up third-down conversions.
What's your Super Bowl matchup? How do you think COVID impacts the season?
I truly believe this can be the year the 49ers bring home number six, but I’d like to close with this thought…
It was 2013 when Colin Kaepernick took us within a foot of winning the Super Bowl and then got blacklisted from the league after the 2016 season for kneeling in support of black families suffering from police brutality. Since that time the country has been rocked by more killings of Black people while in police custody, and streets have been filled with protests and counter-protests. Kaepernick paid a career-ending price for his silent kneeling and was put on blast weekly by President Trump and the entire NFL hierarchy, only to have NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologize in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd a few weeks ago, saying, “I wish we would have listened to Colin sooner.”
This season will be played under the spotlight of a revolution of awakening to racism in America, and no doubt every team and player will be feeling a great deal of pressure to best communicate the voices of their communities and their own hearts. As we approach the 2020 U.S. Presidential election at the start of the season, while games are played socially distanced due to the global COVID pandemic, and security higher than ever before due to the threat of domestic terrorism, the game of football will be seen by many as a thermometer for the temperature of the entire nation and used by others to fan the flames of hatred and fear for political gain.
Every player will become an activist, whether they want to be or not, and sports reports once limited to stats and prognosticating about the week’s games will need to make room for nightly conversations on the social issues of the day. Important conversations about social progress have always found their way to the dinner table, through the on-field play of the likes of Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Kaepernick or the U.S. Women’s soccer team. This NFL season will be unlike any we’ve ever seen before, and while it stinks that we realistically won’t be in stadiums at all this year due to the COVID pandemic, let’s pray that the season can still go on, all the games can be played and that what Kaepernick started can help move the needle closer towards ending police brutality and bringing about much needed systemic change and racial healing.
I’ll take that over a Super Bowl any time.