I think we can all agree that 2020 has been hard. It was a year that ruined just about everything, and sports were no exception. If I tried to count the number of fiascos, scandals, controversies or near-heart attacks in sports this year, I’d be here all day. Today, I instead wish to look forward to 2021, a year that promises to still be difficult but with a markedly greater sense of hope. So in my last piece of the semester, I intend to make some predictions for the sports world to get us all warmed up for the year we all can’t wait to get started.
Your Super Bowl champions: The Buffalo Bills
This team is so likable, on all fronts, for countless reasons. The current AFC East leaders are well positioned to nab the third seed in the playoffs, though mathematically you can’t rule out a jump to the second or first with a pivotal matchup against a Pittsburgh Steelers team on the horizon that looks more and more winnable. In past years, the team has been a defensive monster capable of playing well enough to give the inaccurate young quarterback Josh Allen enough of a cushion to not torpedo the game. In 2020, where everything is topsy-turvy, Josh Allen is a changed man at quarterback. He’s spent the season combining newfound accuracy with the vicious gunslinger playstyle that compelled the Bills to draft him so high at pick 7 in 2018. He has had to mask the flaws of the defense for much of this season, which seems to be missing that extra gear despite some serious talent all over the field. I believe this unit still has it in them to be dominant, and the coaching staff is very capable of stringing together some strong outings come crunch time. Between Allen’s newfound ceiling at quarterback and talent aplenty throughout the lineup, this team has the makings for a deep playoff run come January.
The NBA trade machine never stops
Even with a bevy of trades in the 2020 shortened offseason, there are still countless stars rumored to be movable. And with a March 2021 trade deadline, I expect some splashy moves to put an exclamation mark on what should already be a wild NBA season. Not to mention, the coming 2021 draft is reportedly stacked with young players with insane potential, and teams that choose to go the route of rebuilding could get aggressive in acquiring picks. If the Washington Wizards don’t like what they see with the new Russel Westbrook/Bradley Beal pairing, Beal could be on the move to a contender for an absolute haul in the draft. Victor Oladipo’s relationship with the Indiana Pacers has been put under a magnifying glass in recent months, and his addition could be another splash while netting a high first rounder. But the player I expect will absolutely get traded before March is James Harden of the Houston Rockets. The perennial MVP candidate has been stirring up a media circus with some reported distaste for his situation, and has asked the team to ship him to a contender. Houston does not need to oblige now, but I expect the addition of John Wall to be less than stellar, prompting Houston to cut their losses at midseason and ship Harden to a surging Philadelphia 76ers team.
A small market slugfest in baseball
The Tampa Bay Rays put themselves on the map in a big way in 2020, making a run at the World Series on the back of a largely unsung, cost-effective roster. They are bound to stick around, and another offseason to dream up some more savvy moves could keep their arrow firmly pointed up. The Rays are primed to make another appearance in the World Series in 2021, and I am calling my shot at their opponent coming out of the National League: San Diego. The Padres have been building something scary down in Southern California, with a slew of young talent ready to build off of an impressive 2020 season. This team has a nasty slugging duo in Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, and they looked primed to build up a deep roster with some big names in free agency this winter.