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Predicting what sports fans will be saying at the end of 2021

(AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

If you asked a sports fan towards the end of 2019 what they expected to see in 2020, there’s a good chance they missed the boat completely.

Sure, they would have been correct if they said the Kansas City Chiefs would win Super Bowl LIV, or even if they predicted that the Los Angeles Lakers would win the NBA Finals.

But, no one could have anticipated the circumstances that emerged in the first quarter of 2020, specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

>>RELATED: How the NBA is adjusting the 2020-2021 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Numerous regular seasons were postponed for months, and annual events like March Madness and city-centered marathons around the country were canceled all together. Through it all, fans were left wondering for an extended period of time about whether or not sports could or would even return in 2020.

With all of that said, you would think we learned a lesson from it all, right? Almost a “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch”-esque epiphany?

Unfortunately, if that’s something you predicted for the end of 2020, you would be wrong.

Since we don’t know any better, let’s try our best to guess what sports fans will be saying towards the end of 2021.

  • “Cardinals QB Kyler Murray deserves to win NFL MVP honors.”

At one point in the 2020 season, there was a serious case to be made as it related to the Cardinals being the best team in the NFC West, arguably the NFL’s toughest division.

The Kyler Murray-led offense was clicking, the team’s defense was holding up just enough, and Arizona was briefly undefeated against NFC West opponents. As a result, they looked like a clear-cut playoff contender.

Unfortunately, consistency issues kicked in, with a three-game losing streak in the second half of the year negating the positive effects of a three-game winning streak from earlier in the season.

As the final quarter of the 2020 season got going, the Cardinals found themselves in third place in the division, and on the fringe when it came to the NFC’s seven playoff teams.

Don’t let all of that fool you, though: The Cardinals can be a true threat for years to come, and Kyler Murray has the potential to win league MVP in the immediate future.

>>RELATED: The hype is real: Watch out for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals

Murray has the arm, evident by 23 touchdowns and more than 3,000 passing yards through the Cardinals’ first 13 games in 2020. He has the speed on the ground, evident by his 10 rushing touchdowns in that same span.

And, he has the confidence to put it all together, whether it’s a clutch, game-tying drive against a divisional rival like the Seahawks, or a massive Hail Mary for the win against the Bills.

If he and the rest of the Cardinals can stay healthy in 2020, don’t be surprised to see Murray earn that honor in his third year in the league, all while leading Arizona to its first NFC West title since

  • “Wow, what a comeback season Dak Prescott just put together.”

Football fans likely felt sick to their stomachs when they witnessed the gruesome injury that ended Dak Prescott’s 2020 season before it could ever really get going. But, as they say, it’s not about how you fall, but rather how you get back up.

Unfortunately for Prescott, the injury happened in a pivotal year in his career as he looked to prove his worth for a big-money contract extension with the Cowboys. Uncertainty is filling the conversation when discussing Prescott’s future in Dallas, but one thing is abundantly clear: the fifth-year quarterback isn’t going down that easily.

Similar to Alex Smith’s resurgence with the Washington Football Team, Prescott seems like an easy candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year if he can make his way back onto the field and succeed in 2021.

>>RELATED: Building a 53-man roster representing every NFL team in 2020

Who knows if he will be back with the Cowboys and looking to lead his team back to an NFC East title, or if he will be looking to prove himself elsewhere in the league with a quarterback-needy team like the Chicago Bears or the New England Patriots.

But, you can take our word on this one: Dak Prescott’s comeback is going to be one of the biggest sports stories of 2021.

  • “How does LeBron James keep doing this?”

Ahead of his 18th season in the league, LeBron James is seemingly showing no signs of slowing down. Questioning that at all? Just take a look at his bank account after the Lakers star signed a two-year, $83 million extension that keeps him in Los Angeles through the 2022-2023 season.

Now, fans have to wonder how long James’ success can truly last. Will he slow down throughout the COVID-19-impacted 2020-2021 regular season? Where will he be both mentally and physically when that extension runs out in 2023? Could he play until he’s 40 years old?

>>RELATED: The Decision: Reminiscing on LeBron James’ move and its impact 10 years later

It seems foolish to doubt a man that has been able to do what James has at 35 years old, especially when factoring in his size and the amount of games he has played (both regular season and postseason) in his career. Knock the “load management” movement all you want, but you can’t argue with the multitude of NBA Finals appearances, and corresponding championship rings.

So, as “The King” turns 36 a few days before the calendar switches over to the new year, it seems just as silly to think James won’t still be sitting on the throne when his 37th birthday rolls around in December of 2021.

  • “Can you believe James Harden got traded by the Rockets this year?”

The biggest storyline of the 2020 NBA offseason had numerous angles to it, but all were centered around disgruntled Rockets players.

First, fans saw all sorts of drama play out between Houston’s front office and star point guard Russell Westbrook, who had voiced his concerns about the franchise’s future and expressed his interest in leaving the team after just one season. Then, before you knew it, Mr. Westbrook Went to Washington (to join the Wizards).

>>RELATED: Russell Westbrook traded to Wizards: Initial thoughts on blockbuster move involving John Wall

It seemed like a snowball was rolling down the hill ahead of the 2020-2021 regular season, gaining steam towards an eventual James Harden trade. Alas, despite many trade rumors, nothing seemed to percolate, and Harden remained in Houston (with some apparent side missions to Atlanta and Las Vegas).

Even with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins joining the team, it doesn’t seem like the Rockets are the same threat as they were with the two-headed monster of Harden and Westbrook. So, it won’t be surprising when Harden eventually works his way out of Houston, potentially joining the Heat or Bucks via trade in 2021.

  • “How crazy is it that the Dodgers became the first team to repeat as World Series champions since 2000?”

In case you missed it amid all of the sports chaos in 2020, the Dodgers managed to win their first World Series title since 1988. Yes, MLB managed to make it through an entire regular season, albeit a 60-game version, in the midst of a global pandemic.

While the Dodgers aren’t a fan-favorite to many because of their status as a Los Angeles-based team, the franchise can take pride in the fact that it is listed as the favorite to win the 2021 World Series, as well.

>>RELATED: ‘Best program in the country’: The rise of North East Baseball and its impact on the MLB Draft

There hasn’t been a successful attempt at a repeat since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 through 2000, so it may seem like a tall task for Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw and company.

But, with more of a regular season to work off any rust ahead of the 2021 postseason, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Dodgers holding up the World Series trophy once more when October rolls around.

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