NFL

Clay’s NFL projections and unit grades: Best, worst offenses and defenses, plus ranking all 32 teams

  • Fantasy football, NFL analyst for ESPN.com
  • Member of Pro Football Writers of America
  • Founding director of Pro Football Focus Fantasy
  • 2013 FSTA award winner for most accurate preseason rankings

Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season is just around the corner. What better way to raise (or temper) expectations than with a complete breakdown of predictions and projections?

Below is a guide of what to expect from every team once the season kicks off Thursday — from power rankings, to teams that will score the most points and defenses that will allow the least, to the easiest and toughest schedules — as well as predictions for the playoffs and, of course, Super Bowl LVI. Will we have a repeat Super Bowl champion?

I used to kick this thing off with a look at the best and worst positional units across the league, but I did an expanded version of that in August, so be sure to also check that out. Let’s start with who has the easiest slate of games on the calendar this season.

Easiest schedules

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending champions have the easiest schedule. That might not seem fair, but remember that the schedule is a predetermined formula. Tom Brady & Co. will benefit from six divisional games against the Drew Brees-less Saints, plus the underwhelming Falcons and Panthers rosters. The Bucs will also face the AFC and NFC East divisions, which means games against the Giants, Eagles and Jets. As for unique games, remember that the Buccaneers did not win the NFC South last season. That means they will face three second-place teams, as opposed to three defending division champs — the Rams, Bears and Colts instead of the Seahawks, Packers and Titans.

2. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo is set up well for another AFC East title run, and a light schedule only helps their odds. The Bills’ divisional foes aren’t overly scary — six games against the Patriots, Dolphins and Jets — and they also take on the NFC South and AFC South. Buffalo’s unique games aren’t easy — Titans, Chiefs, Steelers — but that is offset by the rest of the slate.

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