An entire decade is soon coming to an end, with the 2010s behind us and the 2020s looming large. In my previous piece, I reminisced over some of the most noteworthy players and moments from the past decade of NFL football. However, now comes a time to look forward to the decade ahead. Without further ado, these are my forecasts and predictions for what the next decade of football has in store for fans, and the history of the league.
The NFL MVP of the next decade: Lamar Jackson, QB (Baltimore Ravens)
Never in my whole time thus far of NFL analysis or fandom have I witnessed such sudden progression in a single-player as I have with Lamar Jackson. Last season, Jackson had awful pocket awareness while consistently putting himself in a position to get the ball stripped while throwing or in the pocket. Additionally, his accuracy was horrendous and he often would miss wide open receivers by a country mile. That issue also persisted and was prevalent even this preseason when he egregiously missed multiple open receivers against backup defenders. Just about all Lamar seemed to have going for him was his legs, often drawing mockery that he was just a running back. Well, Jackson responded to that criticism in more ways than one…
This season, Jackson has posted an incredible touchdown to interception ratio with 33 touchdowns through the air and just 6 interceptions. Additionally, Jackson has the league’s third-highest passer rating with a lucrative 112.8 rating, which ranks only behind a surprisingly good Ryan Tannehill and Drew Brees himself, who just broke Peyton Manning’s all-time passing touchdown record. As if his sudden success as a passer isn’t enough, he also made history versus the Jets in week-fifteen as he broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback. In fact, Jackson’s 1,103 rushing yards this season ranks eighth league-wide, ahead of the likes of Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, and his very own running back Mark Ingram.
Lastly, Jackson’s surefire MVP season this season with his league-best 12-2 record Ravens is only a sign of things to come for a very long time. Lamar is just 22 years old and the top 2 receivers on his team in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns (tight end Mark Andrews and wideout Marquise Brown) are both very young. In short, this historic dominance we’re seeing out of Lamar Jackson is here to stay for a very long time. Lamar Jackson is not simply a shoo-in for the 2020 NFL MVP, he should easily be the MVP of the 2020s as a decade. Get ready, because Big Truss is here to tear the NFL to pieces.
The NFL Offensive Player of the Next Decade: Christian McCaffrey, RB (Carolina Panthers)
It was difficult to just not double up and give this award to Lamar Jackson as well, but, if anyone is going to win it besides Jackson, it’s Run CMC himself. During his rookie season, he didn’t quite burst onto the scene yet as he posted just 435 yards rushing at a 3.7 yard per carry rate. However, in his second season at just 22 years old, McCaffrey put up 1,098 yards on the ground while rushing at an elite 5.0 yard per carry rate, and also notched 7 rushing touchdowns. However, the way that McCaffrey truly transcends and separates himself as a running back is his dual-threat nature. Last year in his 2nd season, he also broke the NFL record for catches by a running back in a season with an astronomical 107 catches and 867 receiving yards out of the backfield. For comparison, that’s more catches than receiver Antonio Brown had last season (104) in his Pro Bowl year. McCaffrey managed to find himself top 10 league-wide in catches as a running back, which is simply ludicrous.
This season, McCaffrey may be even better than his historic campaign last season as he’s managed to notch over 1300 yards rushing, 14 rushing touchdowns, 94 catches, and 814 receiving yards with 2 games in the season still to go. Even more impressive is the fact that McCaffrey has managed to get even better this season despite being given all the attention from defenses after his teammate and quarterback Cam Newton went down with an injury. At just 23 years old, McCaffrey will be making defenses look silly for a long time to come, and his dual-threat ability in the passing game adds utility to his game that will benefit his longevity greatly. Don’t expect Run CMC to do anything but put on an absolute clinic for the next decade of NFL football.
The NFL Defensive Player of the Next Decade: Nick Bosa, DE (San Francisco 49ers)
Really, this award was decided primarily off of age and longevity. TJ Watt is the most dominant edge rusher in the NFL age 25 and younger right now. However, with his age of 25 years old, Watt may only still have dominant play in him for the first half of the next decade to come. Nonetheless, Nick Bosa is dominating as the centerpiece of an elite 49ers defense right now with nine sacks, four pass deflections, an interception, a forced fumble, and a pair of fumble recoveries. More importantly: Bosa will be just 22 years old at the start of the next season. In short, Bosa’s terrifying edge antics for opposing offenses won’t be going away any time soon. It also helps that his division typically doesn’t consist of the best offensive lines (specifically Arizona and Seattle).
The NFL Team to Watch for the Next Decade: The Baltimore Ravens
With the team’s top three offensive weapons (Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown) all 23 years old or younger and an elite secondary propelling their defense, the Ravens should look to be a force league-wide for years and years to come. Sitting at the top of the NFL right now with a 12-2 record, the sky is the limit for Baltimore.
Dark Horse Team to Watch for in the Next Decade: Dallas Cowboys
This team has probably baffled me more than any other this season in the league. The Dallas Cowboys are filled with talent across the board with their cornerstone players all full of youth as well. For example, the team’s franchise quarterback Dak Prescott is just 26 years old, Ezekiel Elliott is just 24 years old, star wideout Amari Cooper is 25 years old, All-Pro defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is 27, and both members of the team’s All-Pro-level linebacker duo in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are under 25 years old. Dallas has youth everywhere necessary to be a true dynasty and last a decade. Additionally, the Cowboys are the NFL’s leading offense while averaging 434 yards per game, are seventh in total defense (323 total yards allowed per game), and are top ten league-wide in both passing yards per game allowed as well as yards per carry allowed. However, somehow this Dallas team who is good in just about everything with youthful Pro-Bowlers across the board is sitting at a 7-7 record and have a 1-6 record against teams with a winning record this season. Whatever is ailing Dallas whether fans decide to point the finger at execution (they lead the league in dropped passes and missed tackles), coaching, or special teams (they have the league’s worst), if they manage to clean up their issues, then this team has a chance to be truly great for a very long time. All it will take is some major adjustments in a couple of very fixable areas. Whether those fixes start with the firing of head coach Jason Garrett or not we’ve yet to see. Nonetheless, Dallas is a dark horse team to watch for the next decade of football to come.
The next decade of NFL football is sure to bring many historic NFL moments and performances while players and teams league-wide cement themselves into the history books. The players and teams listed above are just some of my many predicted pivotal pieces to the NFL 2020s. Leave your thoughts in the comments down below on what you’re most excited to see for the next decade of NFL football! Thank you for visiting us today at The Sports Wave!