NFL Season Preview Series: LA Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals & San Francisco 49ers (9-5-20)
By: Darrell Owens
With the NFL season returning, here at LegacyMaker Sports Network, we want to give our preview of the upcoming 2020 NFL season. You will be seeing articles over the next couple of days with previews for each NFL team. Today, we are going to break down the Chargers, Bengals and 49ers.
Los Angeles Chargers
The 2020 NFL season is a brand new journey for the Los Angeles Chargers franchise. With the opening of their brand new stadium (SoFi Stadium) expectations for the franchise will start to rise. The Chargers do share their new stadium with the Los Angeles Rams, so they won’t start this new journey alone. The Chargers are lead by Head Coach Anthony Lynn, who is entering his 4th season (48-26 record) as the team’s head coach. Lynn is entering his most challenging season yet. With big names like Phillip Rivers (Colts) & Melvin Gordon (Broncos) playing on new teams, Lynn will now have to turn to veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor to run the offense. Taylor has been one of the most efficient QBs when it comes to TD/INT ratio in the league, at one point he was best in the league. They will also use Taylor to help bring along the #6 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, QB Justin Herbert from Oregon. Chargers drafted Herbert to be the future franchise QB of the team. Herbert has show tons of potential during camp and at this pace could be a huge factor for LA sooner then later.
Austin Ekeler takes over as the lead back and should provide some explosiveness on the offensive side of things. Chargers also signed Former Green Bay Packer offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, who will help strengthen the offensive line, especially on the right side. The defense will be fine especially with superstar Joey Bosa leading the charge. Bosa sign a massive 5-year/$135 Million, with $102 million guaranteed and will be the leader of this team for the foreseeable future. Also Melvin Ingram III, Casey Hayward and Derwin James (once healthy) will make the defense very competitive.
Prediction: Chargers 2-14 (4th in AFC West) For me this is a rebuilding year offensively for the Chargers. Hopefully, they will keep Anthony Lynn around during this process. I feel like he is the right coach for the job.
Cincinnati Bengals come into 2020 with a lot of potential and promise for the future. Cincinnati finished with the worst record (2-14) in the league last season & clinching the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft and selected their quarterback of the future with Joe Burrow. The Heisman Trophy & national champion winning quarterback out of LSU, is task with leading the Bengals out of obscurity. Some have called Burrow the next Tom Brady, but those are extremely huge shoes to fill.
Bengals 2nd year head coach Zac Taylor has a huge task at hand with this team. Taylor came from the Rams last season and help coached one of the most potent offenses in football in 2018. When hiring Taylor, Cincinnati had to have that in mind. With AJ Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross (if healthy)& 2020 2nd round pick Tee Higgins…Taylor & Burrow should have a solid receiving corp.
With Joe Mixon in the backfield leading the way, he should have the Bengals running game constant, but watch out for crafty veteran Giovani Bernard, who has been a mainstay in the Bengals backfield the last 8 seasons and one-year back, Jacques Patrick will be another name to watch out for in the backfield. The former XFL player from the Tampa Bay Vipers is looking to make his make in the league.
The Bengals defense is the biggest concern. The run defense was the worst in the league giving up 148 yards per game. They were 25th in points allowed per game. One positive, the secondary and pass defense was ranked 12th in the league in passing yards allowed.
Prediction: Bengals 3-13 (4th in AFC North) I see Burrow having a decent year, especially if AJ Green stays healthy. The connection between him and Higgins will be key to the future of the team. Geno Atkins will be the glue that holds the defense together, his leadership will be critical.
San Francisco 49ers
The defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, were a quarter away from being Super Bowl 54 Champions, but Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs had other plans. 2020 expectations for the 49ers are simple..”Super Bowl or Bust”. This team is loaded defensively. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford, Fred Warner and the list goes on. San Francisco was the #2 defense in the NFL last season and most experts including myself except this team to be a Top 5 defense again.
The offense is lead by Jimmy Garoppolo. When Garoppolo was traded to San Fran in 2017, the 49ers went on a 5-game winning streak after Jimmy G took over in Week 13. In 2018, Garoppolo was injured early in the season with a torn ACL and 49ers would struggle the rest of the season finishing with a 4-12 record. In 2019, no one knew how good Garoppolo and the 49ers would be. In Garoppolo’s first full season as the starter , he would not disappoint. Jimmy G would throw for 3,978 yards, toss 27 touchdowns with retain a 102.0 QB rating. The 49ers hope they will get even greater production from Jimmy Garoppolo this year.
Jimmy’s G grow is truly important, but the 49ers offense won’t work without the amazing running game. Last Season, the 49ers 4-head monster at running back Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Brieda & Jeff Wilson Jr. produced the 2nd best rushing offense in football. This season, one member (Matt Breida traded to Miami) of the 4-head monster will be replaced by Jerick McKinnon, who is entering his 3rd season with the team. The downside to that, McKinnon has yet to play a regular season game in a 49ers uniform, hopefully for San Francisco that will change this season.
Prediction: 49ers 11-5 (2nd in NFC West) A healthy WR group will be huge for this offense. Deebo Samuel proved last season he can a huge factor on this offense and the Niners will look for more of that this season. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk will be someone to watch. If Aiyuk can develop quick that could be major for this football team. 49ers could easy win this division again this year, but there is something about Russell Wilson this year for me that says otherwise.