Are you ready for some NFL fooooootballlllll????!!!!!!!
We are but hours away from the kickoff to the 2017-18 NFL season. The New England Patriots, fresh off their 5th Super Bowl victory and ending the argument on who is the GOAT QB, host the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.
It’s a magical time of year, when (almost) every fan base believes that yes, this is the year their team makes the playoffs and makes a run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But is it realistic?
The crack team at WinColumnSports teamed up this week to make a prediction for all 32 squads. Some you’ll like, some you won’t…..but remember, at least your boss isn’t Roger Goddell.
NFC South (by Kail Schofield)
- Atlanta Falcons - Despite blowing a 28-3 lead, Altanta will be back in the postseason. Unlike their division mates in Carolina, the Falcons will not suffer a Super Bowl swoon. There may be a learning curve on offence as the team adjusts to new OC Steve Sarkisian, but the roster is deep and talented enough to overcome the change. Julio Jones will have a 100 catch campaign.
- Carolina Panthers - The Panthers will make headlines with their former MVP, but not for the right reasons. Cam Newton, just over a season removed from being tabbed the best player in the league, will hit a bad stretch, so much so that he will be benched mid-game for Derek Anderson. It will be a short benching, but enough to set Twitter aflame. Christian McCaffrey will show flashes of brilliance, but will be wildly inconsistent in game-to-game production.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - A long wait will pay off as Tampa Bay finally make the playoffs. It’s been over a decade since the Bucs saw the postseason. Year 3 of Famous Jameis, along with new weapons DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, have Tampa Bay primed for a 10 win season. The defence will finish Top 10 overall despite playing in a division with 3 talented offensive teams.
- New Orleans Saints - Consistent for all the wrong reasons, the Saints will finish 7-9, again, for the 4th year in a row. Drew Brees will continue to assault NFL defences this season; however, with a 4th consecutive losing season, Sean Payton and ownership will finally part ways. Adrian Peterson will have a (somewhat) bounceback campaign, getting into the endzone 8 times.
NFC North (by Trevor Eliott)
- Green Bay Packers - When Aaron Rodgers hoists the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl LII in Minnesota on February 4, 2018, it will be the Rodgers’ second time and fifth in franchise history. The most consistent field general in the NFL’s history will earn the 2017 MVP, once again having a career year with Nelson and Adams returning and Bennett as a red-zone target. The Packers have shored up their rushing attack with three backs drafted in the 2017. Unfortunately, the Green Bay defense will still struggle, but the Packers will win 11 games en route to the playoffs.
- Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings will have better success moving the ball with 2017 rookie of the year, Dalvin Cook leading the backfield. The Vikings will also boast a top five defense whose performance will not take a major nosedive due to fatigue such as they experienced in 2016. Thielen will continue his success he had in the 2016 season and will be Minnesota’s top receiving target in 2017. Look for the Vikings to win nine games and return to the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
- Detroit Lions - Mediocrity will continue for the Detroit Lions as they struggle to win no more than eight games in 2017. Ebron will finally break out as a tight end and Tate and Jones will be sufficiently mediocre targets for their $27 Million QB Matthew Stafford. Detroit’s defense will spend significant time on the field as the running back committee will struggle trying to move the ball downfield.
- Chicago Bears - The Bears are setting themselves up for a long winter. With Meredith out for the season, White and Wright are the receiving duo in the windy city. White will stay relatively healthy in 2017 and confirm why he was a seventh overall pick in 2015. Tarik Cohen will be a legitimate third-down back and Shaheen will be the leading targeted tight end, but Glennon will still struggle moving the ball. Glennon will get dinged down the stretch, leading to field time for Trubisky who will not relinquish the quarterback job. The Bears will struggle to win four games in 2017.
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NFC West (by Liam Horrobin)
Seattle Seahawks - Honestly, just hand Seattle the division title already. Their defense is insanely elite in every single position and their offense will always be superb with Russell Wilson leading the way. The most intriguing thing about the Seahawks coming into the 2017 campaign is their running game. The Hawks have taken a risk on bringing in Eddie Lacy, but if it pans out for them they have pretty much got back what they had in Marshawn Lynch. Both Thomas Rawls and CJ Prosise proved they can reliable players too.
Arizona Cardinals - Carson Palmer’s performance will determine how well the Cardinals do this season. On the other side of the ball, their defense is exceptional and filled with elite talent. The signing of Anthea Bethea was an excellent replacement for DJ Swearinger who signed with the Redskins. Also, drafting Haason Reddick will give them plenty of versatility in their front seven since he can play almost anywhere. Overall, if the Cardinals can play a basic offense and not have to rely on the arm of Carson Palmer they’ll be fine. The defense will have to stay consistently good but that really won’t be an issue.
LA Rams - Jared Goff should improve on last years disappointing campaign. However, in his defense, it was a terrible situation for a rookie to be in. On top of that, the Rams had a dismal running game with Todd Gurley not being able to repeat the form he had during his rookie season. The addition of Sammy Watkins will also help improve Goff’s performance if he can stay on the field that is. Defensively, the Rams are talented with Trumaine Johnson and Robert Quinn in their lineup. The subtraction of Aaron Donald though will be a huge loss to this team. The Rams won’t be good enough to make the playoffs this year, but if they win more than eight games nobody should be surprised.
San Francisco 49ers - What the 49ers did this off season was awesome. By letting the draft play out, they got two potentially elite talents in the first round in Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, and then in the third round, they selected C.J. Beathard who has been awesome all pre-season. For having a rookie general manager and head coach, they did an amazing job. Away from the draft, they filled out their roster with low-risk players and quality veterans. Elvis Dumervil will play a big part in the development of both Thomas and Foster, Brian Hoyer is an extremely reliably quarterback which gives them time to find one for the future, and Marquise Goodwin could play the role Taylor Gabriel played for the Falcons last season. However, even with all the moves, this team made they are still the worst in their division.
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NFC East (by Liam Horrobin)
- New York Giants - Since Ben McAdoo became the head coach of the New York Football Giants, I have been extremely impressed with what signings the team has brought in. Brandon Marshall gives Eli Manning another solid target and he’s only two years out of a 14 touchdown season.They still lack a legit starting running back, however, their players at the position all compliment each other well: much like the New England Patriots. QB Eli Manning may be inconsistent at times but their defense is the best in the division by a long shot. The Giants will take home the East this year.
Dallas Cowboys - The Elliott suspension will shine the spotlight on Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris. Speaking of spotlight, everyone has had an off-season to figure out Dak Prescott. On the defensive side of the ball, Jaylon Smith will be a huge addition after he missed his entire rookie campaign with a knee injury. Their secondary took a big hit with the loss of Brandon Carr and Barry Church both leaving. They did sign Nolan Carroll as a replacement but the Cowboys are surely hoping Bryon Jones can step up. Dallas will still make the playoffs but won’t win the division.
Philadelphia Eagles - The main goal of the summer was to bring in experienced and talented weapons in for Carson Wentz: that’s exactly what they did. Alshon Jeffery was brought in on a one-year deal, Torrey Smith received a three-year contract, and LeGarrette Blount signed for one-year too. Wentz had a good season last year even with Jordan Matthews as his number one receiver. Also, a big fan of what the Eagles did in the draft by drafting Derek Barnett and Sidney Jones. With the weapons he now has, the Eagles and Wentz will be a legitimate threat in the NFC East. Don’t be surprised if they sneak into the playoffs.
Washington Redskins - It was two years ago that the Redskins finished first in the NFC East. Now, they are arguably the weakest team in the division. Washington brought in both Brian Quick and Terrelle Pryor, but with the loss of both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, the team downgraded at the position. They also brought in Zach Brown, a linebacker from Buffalo, which seems unnecessary considering the talent they already have at the position. Their one good signing of the off season was DJ Swearinger, he had two sacks in 2016 with the Cardinals along with three interceptions. Also looks even better with the future of safety Su’a Cravens in jeopardy.
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AFC South (by Kail Schofield)
- Tennessee Titans - will win the division for the first time since 2008. Marcus Mariota, in Year 3, will make another leap forward and garner consideration for a Top 10 QB spot. Eric Decker, possibly the most under-looked WR in fantasy football, will enjoy his 4th 1000 yard season. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will prove to be a lethal 1-2 rushing combining for over 2000 yards.
- Houston Texans - will miss the playoffs, leading to the dismissal of Bill O’Brien. Even when the Texans were making the playoffs, buzz was high that the coach may be dismissed. J.J. Watt will enjoy a 10-plus sack season after having back woes last year. DeShaun Watson will take over the starting QB duties by Week 10, as Tom Savage proves serviceable but not dynamic.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - will be surprisingly competitive this season! The (re)addition of Tom Coughlin to the organisation will “up” the quality control on all levels and facets. Blake Bortles will show he can be a consistent NFL starter, and the Jags will no longer be a pushover, winning 6 games, the most since 2010.
- Indianapolis Colts - are in for a tough season. Andrew Luck‘s shoulder is still a major question mark, and the team simply hasn’t built a decent o-line in front of him. The Colts will be (smartly) cautious with bringing him back, but will pile up the losses in the meantime. Expect Indianapolis to be drafting in the Top-10 as this season is quickly tabbed a rebuilding year. And yes, another coaching position will open up.
AFC North (by Trevor Eliott)
- Pittsburgh Steelers - The healthiest the Steelers offense has been in years, the support of a young but talented defense, and not much competition, Pittsburgh will easily win 11 games and earn another AFC North Championship. Le’Veon Bell will be 2017’s top fantasy player, leading the Steelers to another appearance in the AFC Championship game. Should the Steelers make it all the way to the Super Bowl, veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger will retire.
- Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals will move the ball easily in 2017, helping Andy Dalton to a top ten season among quarterbacks. The Bengals will start the year with a running back committee, but Hill and Bernard will both continue to struggle to stay healthy, resulting in Mixon becoming the Bengals’ top back by playoff time. AJ Green will continue as the Bengals top receiver, while rookie John Ross usurps Brandon LaFell as the WR2 by the end of the season. The Bengals will win nine games and earn a Wild Card spot.
- Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens will struggle in 2017 as their entire roster has been stung by the injury bug. A less than 100% Joe Flacco won’t move the ball well, but is still a significant improvement over the alternatives. Terrance West will be the Ravens top back, but Woodhead will add a career year as a receiving back. Maclin will be the top receiving choice, but Wallace continues as the deep threat. Luckily, Baltimore’s defense keeps them in the game, enabling them to win six games.
- Cleveland Browns - The Browns will easily top their 2016 win total, surprising many as they earn a handful of wins in 2017. DeShone Kizer will be a remarkable improvement over Kessler’s 2016 performance. The Browns have finally found their franchise quarterback. Crowell will be a top ten back in 2017, pushing for 1,500 all-purpose yards. Coleman will have a breakout season as the Browns’ top receiver. Despite limited competition, Njoku struggles like most other rookie tight ends.
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AFC West (by Len Nunes)
- Kansas City Chiefs - Can a team who’s biggest offensive threat is a tight end win a Super Bowl? Next question, can a team with nothing more than a game manager at QB win a Super Bowl. Ladies and gentleman of the court, the first statement describes the defending champions and the second statement describes the previous champions. Am I calling a Chiefs Super Bowl appearance? Hell no but they are winning the division. The Patrick Mahomes fan club will have to wait another year.
- Las Vegas…errr…Oakland Raiders - “Carr again showed patience and poise in the pocket, even if he seemed to use flips of his wrist more than his legs when throwing the ball downfield.” That’s the ESPN quote about the QB recovering from a broken leg. This should worry you. It should also worry you that your featured back Marshawn Lynch is coming back from a one year retirement. The Raiders are a fun to team to watch cause they have to outscore teams to win (nice way of saying their defense is middle-of-the-pack at best) but it may take a few weeks before the fun starts.
- Denver Broncos - Remember when the Broncos won the Super Bowl despite their worn-out version of Peyton Manning being at QB? Probably safe to assume that John Elway called him this off-season to come back and be their starter - hey, they brought back Brock Osweiler after a historically bad year away from Mile High. New coach Vance Joseph has former offensive coordinators Mike McCoy, Bill Musgrave, Geep Chryst and Jeff Davidson all on his sideline trying to give Von Miller and company on the defensive side some help.
- San Diego…errr…Los Angeles Chargers - A revamped offensive line and return of number one target Keenan Allen should pave the way for QB Philip Rivers to throw for a 5th straight season of over 4,200 yards. The added protection in the pocket should also reduce the amount of interceptions thrown by Mr. Rivers. The Chargers will finish 8-8 tied for the cellar in the West.
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AFC East (by Joshua Berube)
- New England Patriots - While most teams coming off a Super Bowl championship tend to add minor tweaks here and there, the Patriots look to make the most of Tom Brady’s final years (it seems we have been saying that for years, right Max Kellerman) adding a top-10 Wide-out in Brandin Cooks to an already potent offense. Meanwhile, they updated their secondary with the signing of Stephon Gilmore to work opposite Malcolm Butler. In a notoriously weak AFC East, the strong just got stronger, making them their own worst enemy to make a back-to-back appearance to the big game since 2003-2004.
- Miami Dolphins - Does signing Jay Cutler who already had one foot in the broadcast booth and in my mind was the most disinterested player ever… and wait for it, one of the top-40 hated NFL players as written by the Sporting News give Dolphins fans everywhere hope? Not to mention their top wide receiver in Jarvis Landry is in the midst of a domestic legal issue. The Dolphins always seem to have a formidable defense, but in the NFL, it is about scoring points. Their running game behind Jay Ajayi will bring glimpses of what could be in the future but will struggle to get to 8-8.
- Buffalo Bills - should be fortifying their own team but cannot seem to keep players, losing Stephon Gilmore and Mike Gillislee in Free Agency to their chief rival, not much unlike Chris Hogan the year before to the Patriots. The Bills are in a midst of a rebuild after trading promising wide receiver Sammy Watkins for cornerback E.J. Gaines and with the surprise retirement of Anquan Boldin, who they signed a month earlier. They do have one thing to look forward to, LeSean McCoy has a decent chance to eclipse the 10,000-yards rushing milestone in an otherwise sub .500 season.
- New York Jets - You know that Quarterback that couldn’t hack it with the J-E-T-S? Gino Smith has landed as a backup QB behind a two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning, where the Jets have chosen Josh McCown, a 38-year old journey man, who the Cleveland Browns didn’t want back to be their signal caller. The New York Jets could legitimately claim the Belichick curse and have been pretty dysfunctional since. ESPN gives the Jets a 0.5% chance of winning their division, never mind the Super Bowl. While every team should be excited for the season to start, the Jets might be wishing for a strike. Only worse news in the NFL’s immediate future is the extension of Roger Goodell. Winning 5-games should be considered a successful season. The tomato can that is the AFC East continues.