2017 NFL Preview
It’s that time of the year again! The NFL season is officially upon us, which means it is time to take a look at how some of our CommRadio analysts see the 2017 season playing out!
Projected Winner: New York Giants
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off an impressive 13-3 record last year, however with Elliot being suspended for the first six games of the season, pressure falls squarely on Dak Prescott. With so many good teams in this division, I find it hard to believe that the Cowboys manage to recreate the magic they had last season, especially now that teams have game footage on the second year quarterback out of Mississippi State.
Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz at moments has looked like a possible future league MVP, and coming into this season he looks to only get better. The Eagles added some desperately needed weapons for Wentz and additions to the defense look to sure up some holes as well. The Eagles look to improve on both sides of the ball, but it will be interesting to see how they all mesh and play cohesively.
I believe the most interesting team to watch from this division will be The Washington Redskins. Cousins looks to have plenty of people to throw too, but at the end of the day, I fear this team is the least likely to win big games down the stretch.
My prediction to win the NFC East this year is the New York Giants. They have a two time Super Bowl winning Quarterback in Eli Manning, perhaps the best wide receiver corps in the whole league in, and one of the top defenses. If they can find a way to win some key games, it is hard for me to see a scenario where they don’t win the division.
Projected Winner: New England Patriots
Going from one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL to what seems like a forgone conclusion, we move to the AFC East. The New England Patriots have dominated this division for over a decade, and that trend certainly won’t end this season. If you want to know why the Patriots have had such a stranglehold on the AFC East for so long, look no farther than the quarterbacks.
In Buffalo, you have Tyrod Taylor who although just a couple years ago signed a long term deal, rumors are saying that he is in jeopardy of losing his starting job to rookie Nate Peterman.
For the Jets, the quarterback situation might be the least of their worries. As of now the job belongs to veteran Josh McCown, but that doesn’t mean he will play all 16 games. Look for quarterbacks Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg to each start a couple games for gang green in an expectedly awful season.
The only possible threat to the Patriot’s throne comes in the form of the Miami Dolphins. They are a former playoff team last year with a stingy defense, but their hopes were all but dashed when quarterback Ryan Tannehill went down with a season ending injury. Their fate now rests in the hands of Jay Cutler, who a couple months ago was preparing to call games not play in them.
Simply put, none of these guys come anywhere close to Tom Brady, meaning another AFC East division title is almost certain.
Projected Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh’s offense is as loaded as any in the league. The return of WR Martavis Bryant from a yearlong suspension further elevates this elite offense already boasting the star talent of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, and WR Antonio Brown. A young and improving defense should push the Steelers to a rematch with New England in the AFC Championship.
Baltimore is led by an elite defense along with improved weapons around QB Joe Flacco. Free agent additions, S Tony Jefferson and CB Brandon Carr, improve an already stout defense. Flacco has been injury prone lately, but a receiving core led by Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and free agent pickup Jeremy Maclin should pick up the pieces. Overall, I believe Baltimore will be in contention for a wild card berth.
After five straight appearances in the postseason, Cincinnati looks to rebound from a disappointing season. Cincinnati has elite weapons on the outside led by Pro Bowlers, WR A.J. Green and TE Tyler Eifert, to complement rookie RB Joe Mixon. However, a weak offensive line may limit their potential. Defense should be strong with DT Geno Atkins anchoring the unit. Look for the Bengals to fight for a return to the postseason.
Projected Record: 8-8
The Browns were 1-15 last year and don’t project to be much better this upcoming season. Cleveland is clearly building for the future by holding 12 picks in next year’s draft. However, rookies DE Myles Garrett, S Jabrill Peppers, and QB DeShone Kizer have potential to build something special in Cleveland. The Browns will struggle this year, but they finally seem to be on the right path.
Projected Winner: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay, led by all-world QB Aaron Rodgers, have a great shot to be playing in Minnesota at the end of the year for the Super Bowl. Rodgers has plenty of targets this year including WRs Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams, and new TE Martellus Bennett. The defense should again be strong with LB Clay Matthews and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Expect Rodgers to be contend for league MVP and the Packers to end up in the NFC Championship.
Minnesota released face of the franchise RB Adrian Peterson, and instead chose Latavius Murray and rookie Dalvin Cook. QB Sam Bradford will improve in his second year in Minnesota and speedy WR Stefon Diggs should bolster the passing attack. The defense is led by Pro Bowlers, CB Xavier Rhodes and S Harrison Smith. The Vikings will challenge the Packers and should be a wild card team.
I see the Lions taking a step back from last year. QB Matthew Stafford and WR Golden Tate won’t be enough as a lack of a consistent running game will make this offense one-dimensional. DE Ezekiel Ansah will continue to be a elite pass rusher, but a weak secondary won’t help their defense. Detroit will be competitive however, fall short of the postseason.
Chicago is clearly building for future. The Bears traded up to draft QB Mitchell Trubisky as their guy for the future. The offense will rely on RB Jordan Howard. Growth of LB Leonard Floyd will be key to growing the defense. The Bears will struggle this season and look for this to be potentially John Fox’s last season in Chicago.
Projected Winner: Tennessee Titans
The Jaguars can never seem to get it right. Jacksonville hasn’t had a winning season since 2007, and I don’t see them breaking that streak this year. The quarterback situation is a nightmare. Leonard Fournette presents promise as a rookie, but, at this point, we don’t even know if he’ll even get to start. There are some pretty talented names on defense, like Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Jalen Ramsey, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to get the Jags anywhere far this season.
How 2017 goes for Indianapolis may depend on the health of Andrew Luck. Luck was removed from the PUP list last Saturday, but it’s been made clear that he’s unlikely to start on Sunday against the Rams. Luck is definitely the man they need at the helm, but he can’t do it alone. He’ll need all the support he can get from the offense and defense. It may take some time for the Colts to get readjusted and return to the top of the pack again.
There’s a lot to love here in Houston. Bill O’Brien has done a fine job as head coach since taking over in 2014. The defense features key players like Jadeveon Clowney and the monster defensive end, J.J. Watt. DeAndre Hopkins may become an elite receiver, but it will all depend on who’s throwing the ball. Neither Tom Savage nor Deshaun Watson have done enough thus far to prove they’re right for the job, but this setback shouldn’t prevent Houston from having another winning season.
Tennessee just has too much talent not to be good this season. Marcus Mariota is a rising star in the NFL who now has plenty of receiving weapons. DeMarco Murray has proven he can run as well as any other back, and the offensive line is among the league’s best. The defense also features key players like Jurrell Casey who can make big plays in big moments. This roster is just so loaded. It would be disappointing to see Tennessee perform any worse than what I’m predicting.
Projected Winner: Atlanta Falcons
With Christian McCaffrey, a lot of people are predicting Carolina to return to the top of the pack, but I just don’t see it happening. Sure, they have the pieces. After all, Luke Kuechly is as good as any other linebacker, Greg Olsen is a top tier tight end, and Cam Newton is a fine quarterback, but last season may have been an indication that this team has the pieces but can’t put them together. Even with McCaffrey, I think it will take more than a season for Carolina to get back to the top.
For three straight years, the Saints have finished 7-9. In that time period, they still haven’t learned that they need a defense to win games. On the flipside, the offense is just as fantastic as ever, with Drew Brees still throwing for 5,000 yards a season at age 38. Michael Thomas is a playmaker that may end up with even better stats than last year, and the duo of Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson provides New Orleans with a ground game. Still, it’s hard to have a winning season with such issues on defense.
Bucs fans have been waiting for over a decade to see their team back in the playoffs again, and this may finally be the year. Jameis Winston has put together good outings in 2015 and 2016. He’ll take the next step in 2017. Mike Evans is a touchdown factory. Underrated names on the other side of the ball like Gerald McCoy, Brent Grimes, and recent signee T.J. Ward make for a sneaky good defense. Dirk Koetter’s team is definitely going to be a contender in the NFC south this year.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people are predicting Atlanta take a step back this year, and, frankly, I’m not sure why. They’ve had time to rebound from their devastating Super Bowl loss. It shouldn’t be an issue going forward. Matt Ryan is a top 10 signal caller. Julio Jones is the best receiver in the business. Devonta Freeman and an underrated line round out the offense, while guys like Desmond Trufant can make the defense a force to be reckoned with. I’m expecting Atlanta to light it up again in 2017.
Projected Winner: Seattle Seahawks
The NFC West is one of the best defensive divisions in the NFL, boasting quite possibly two of the best secondaries in the whole league. The Seahawks’ Legion of Boom, made up of potential future Hall of Famers Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas III, and Kam Chancellor are coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign.
Last season was not quite disastrous, but a letdown for a team of this caliber to say the least. Thomas missed a great deal of time with a broken tibia, and the team lost in the divisional round to the Falcons. However, Thomas is back, and the team has made some other big offseason moves, trading wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round draft pick to the jets for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. This move adds another weapon to what may have already been the best defense in the NFL. Trading away Kearse isn’t a huge loss, as the Seahawks have always been a defensive team. Plus, in 2016, Kearse wasn’t too productive, only putting up 510 receiving yards and one touchdown. Swapping a mediocre offensive asset for a threatening defensive asset only makes the best defense in the NFL better, and as they say, defense wins championships.
Projected Winner: Oakland Raiders
The AFC West will be a very entertaining division to watch this year. If the Broncos can find someone to solve their offensive issues at quarterback, their defense should be enough to lock up a playoff spot. The Chiefs have also thrown themselves in the mix after a spectacular season last year, just nearly edging out the Steelers for a chance to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC title game.
However, one team in the west should be seen as a clear favorite; the Oakland Raiders. Derek Carr, after a tragic end to his 2016 season, is back for 207 and may even be in the running for MVP. With one of the best offenses around him made up of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and recently added Marshawn Lynch, Carr has all of his tools from last year, which he threw for 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns. The addition of Lynch only makes the Raiders more of a threat to the AFC. The Raiders have undoubtedly the best offense in the AFC West, and none of the other teams in the division have really gotten any better. Therefore, it’s a safe assumption that the Raiders should win the AFC West.
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