AFC

NFL 2017: Who’s In & Who’s Out

Every NFL team goes into week 1 of the season with high hopes and dreams of holding the Lombardi Trophy.  Yup, even the Cleveland Browns have those aspirations as far fetched as they may be.  But only one team can claim that right and last year the New England Patriots won their 5th title in historic comeback fashion.  While most expected the Patriots to reach the Super Bowl last year, not many pegged the Atlanta Falcons to represent the NFC.  Somehow the “experts” have forgotten about the high flying birds of prey.   But Tom Brady won the Super Bowl MVP and that’s what really counts.

 Most experts have New England returning to the big game and winning it all for the sixth time.  They are the favorite once again.  But who’s your favorite?!  Which teams do you believe will represent the AFC and NFC in Super Bowl LII?  Minnesota is hosting the Super Bowl this season so maybe the Vikings can make a run at being the first team in NFL history to win the title on their home field.  Here are my predictions along with a quick blurb about each team.

  • Patriots:  No Edelman, no problem.  Newly acquired Brandin Cooks and budding star Chris Hogan are expected to pick up the pieces.  Not to mention Gronk (if he stays healthy) and we all know that Tommy Boy can make any WR look good!
  • Jets:  Uh, um, well, Ya know…Nothing!  The Jets are the 76ers of the NFL.  “Relying on Rosen” will be the chant throughout MetLife Stadium as the Jets QB carousel continues.  Jets fans will watch more UCLA games than they will Gang Green.
  • Bills:  I don’t expect much here.  LeSean McCoy is a health risk, they traded away Sammy Watkins and also lost Robert Woods.  Tyrod Taylor is limping into the season.  Without a very solid defense, this team is going nowhere.
  • Dolphins:  A playoff team from last year that was seemingly on the rise who took a low blow when Ryan Tannehill was declared out for the season.  So they went out and grabbed Jay Cutler who played his best season with Adam Gase as his OC in Chicago.  With Gase now running the show in Miami, many think the Phins won’t miss a beat.  DeVante Parker will emerge as the top WR on the team.
  • Steelers: Pittsburgh is one of the handfuls of teams that can give the Patriots some problems come playoff time.  We know they’re gonna score points.  Question is can they prevent the opposition from doing the same.
  • Browns: Same old situation.  New QB, losing a head coach, players you can’t name and a division full of better teams.  I think they’ll improve as a team especially if DeShone Kizer plays well and shows promise.
  • Ravens: I believe Baltimore is an under the radar team.  They have pedigree, a great head coach, a Super Bowl MVP quarterback and a strong team philosophy.  They were a quiet 8-8 team last year so if they can win most of their divisional games then I see them with 10 wins in 2017.
  • Bengals: This is a tricky team!  They always seem to make the playoffs but can never win a game.  They have a bunch of great players on both sides of the ball.  To me, once again this comes down to Marvin Lewis ability to coach in big games.  If Cincinnati doesn’t make the post season this year then Lewis will finally meet his end as head coach.
  • Texans: When you think Texans you think defense.  If not for them Houston would be a four-win team.  Unless Tom Savage or rookie DeShaun Watson plays out of their mind this season then I don’t think that D can hold up for 16 games again.
  • Titans: Tennessee is everyone’s darling team this year.  They are a team on the rise with talent all over the field.  Decker is a nice acquisition and gives stud QB Marcus Mariota another target to hit downfield.  But in order for the Titans to be successful, they’ll have to get a bit tougher on defense.
  • Colts: Without Andrew, the Colts are out of Luck!  They aren’t a great squad, to begin with but if Luck misses significant time, then Indy has no shot — especially with Tennessee on the rise and the resilient Houston Texans.
  • Jaguars: We’re still waiting for them to make some noise.  Bottom line is their defense is weak and they can’t score on offense.  They’ll rely heavily on rookie Leonard Fournette who they hope will open up the offense for the Allen twins at wide receiver.
  • Broncos: Denver is similar to Houston in the sense that they both have top 5 defenses, but not enough offensive power to be considered a true competitor.  The AFC West is perhaps the best division in football and while the Broncos may have the best defense, they also have the worst offense.  If they can’t run the ball with success, Denver won’t have anything during the 2017 season.
  • Chiefs:  People are high on the Chiefs and they should be.  They can run the ball, they don’t turn it over, the defense is solid and they are well coached.  They are a top 3-4 team in the AFC.  But do they have enough offensive power? Tyreek Hill is outstanding but as the #1 target in the receiving game, I don’t think that will cut it.
  • Raiders: Everyone’s new favorite team.  If not for Derek Carr getting injured late last season, many thought that Oakland could give the Pats a run for their money.  The Raiders are right there with the rest of the teams a notch below New England.  Oakland has youth on their side, hunger from last season and unlimited potential with possible offensive and defensive MVPs in Carr and Khalil Mack.  The black and silver are back!
  • Chargers: Let me get it out of the way.  The Los Angeles Chargers.  Weird!  Whatever city they play in, I believe they’ll compete for the bottom of the AFC West with the Broncos.  The Chargers have relied on the arm of Phillip Rivers for too long and with questions at WR, L.A. will need 3rd year back Melvin Gordon to carry a huge load.  Not to mention, this defense seems to play their worst at the most important times.
  • Giants: A playoff team from last year. The additions of Brandon Marshall along with the other offensive weapons and a returning top level defense lead one to think the G-Men are playoff bound again.  I’m not so sure.  They play in a tough division with some pretty good pass rushers.  The Giants will need to pass protect better and find a running game if those weapons are to get open.
  • Cowboys: I very much doubt that Dallas can repeat their unlikely and remarkable 2016 regular season.  Dak Prescott shocked us all and it will be difficult to put up the extremely efficient numbers he did last year.  With Ezekiel Elliot’s immediate future in doubt and the possibility of missing 6 games, I’m not so sure the Cowboys can keep their head above water until he returns.
  • Eagles: Now here’s a team a bit under the radar that I feel will be very good this season.  In fact — a playoff team.  Carson Wentz has already proven he belongs in this league and has some brand new toys to play with in Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith.  They also added LeGarrette Blount in the backfield along with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles.  Philly has serious fire power offensively, so if the defense can stay in the top half of the league then the Eagles can make some noise in the post season.
  • Redskins: This team is just too unbalanced.  They replaced Jackson and Garcon with Pryor, the running back situation isn’t solid and the defense allows too many points.  With the high octane offenses of their division rivals, they’ll need more than Josh Norman to stop the opposition from throwing for 300 plus yards per week.
  • Packers:  If you got Aaron Rodgers, you got a chance.  Yes, Tom Brady has all the records, but most agree that Rodgers is the best QB in the league.  But again it will be the same old story.  Green Bay will score plenty of points and have one of the best offenses in the NFL.  But my goodness that defense couldn’t stop a paper bag riding on top of a slug. If the secondary doesn’t wake up then the Pack will go to sleep once the playoffs begin.
  • Vikings: Minnesota is another team that fans have high hopes for in 2017.  They host the Super Bowl this year and would love to play in that game.  But they won’t.  I love their defense but offensively they have issues, in particular, the passing game.  Their savior could be their rookie chef.  Dalvin Cook will need to heat up the kitchen between the tackles so the Vikings can control the pace of the game and allow the defense to remain fresh and dominant.  They’ll be a tough team to beat week in and out.
  • Bears: The countdown to Mitchell Trubisky begins.  Chicago fans are chanting his name even after the organization over spent for starting QB Mike Glennon.  The Bears may even have a worse offense than the Jets this season.  And it’s not like their defense is going to bail them out of games.  They’ll have a high draft pick again in 2018.
  • Lions: Detroit went from losing those 3 point games in 2015 to winning them in 2016.  Either way, it’s too close for comfort.  The Lions should score more points given their weapons but the play calling has been horrible and they haven’t had a running game since Barry Sanders retired.  They have a pretty good defense, but the NFC is deep this season and Detroit is not capable of winning 10 games required to guarantee the post season in the conference.
  • Saints:  Seems we all have a soft spot for New Orleans.  Their soft spot is their defense.  Much like the Packers and Rodgers, if Drew Brees is on the field you have a chance.  However, their D has let them down time and time again.  Every shootout the Saints engage in, they end up losing because the defense can’t make a critical stop.  Maybe coach Sean Payton will look to use Mark Ingram and the new addition to the backfield, Adrian Peterson more in the offense and play more ball control style offense and keep that defense off the field.
  • Falcons:  Defending NFC champions.  They can do it again, Ya know!  They are explosive on offense, very well coached and a defense that keeps improving.  Matt Ryan is very disciplined with the football and the Falcons rarely turn the ball over.  They also have 2 running backs they can switch up and keep fresh so they can close out games in the 4th quarter.
  • Panthers:  Carolina is one of the teams I believe will come back in a big way!  Rookie Christian McCaffrey is lighting it up in the pre-season, Kelvin Benjamin looks great, the defense is solid and Cam Newton is the ultimate X-Factor.  When Cam is on, you’d be hard pressed to find a better quarterback in the league.  Cam can do it all except get roughing the passer calls.
  • Bucs:  All I keep hearing is Jameis Winston is ready to take Tampa Bay to the promised land.  I like Winston and he makes plays, but they usually come on broken plays.  Winston will need to throw the ball 40+ times every Sunday because they lack a running game.  He must keep the turnovers to a minimum and allow his defense to give them good field position.  I’m not as high on Tampa as most are.
  • Seahawks:  Since 2012 Seattle has been a perennial playoff team.  Not just that, but also a Super Bowl favorite.  I love the Seahawks this season.  They have 4 different RB’s they can rotate, Russell Wilson is bound for a solid year throwing to Baldwin and Graham and even taking off himself for 15-yard first down gains.  But we all know that Seattle is based on defense and they are bringing back a hell of a defensive squad.  They just acquired stud DL Sheldon Richardson from the tanking New York Jets to add to the girth, quickness, and smarts of that defensive unit.
  • Cardinals:  There’s talk of the Cardinals making a comeback this year.  I don’t think so.  Much love and respect for Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer but their rookie years were back in 1955.  Some of Arizona’s players will be introduced from their old age home outside the stadium.  But then again they have one of the most dynamic players in the game at RB with David Johnson, a superb head coach and a defense that can win games by themselves at times.  If they stay healthy and stop aging then they have a chance.
  • Rams:  The other Los Angeles team went out and grabbed Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods to go along with speedster Tavon Austin.  With Todd Gurley in the backfield, it’s time for Jared Goff to show us what he’s got.  They have more weapons now and he has a year under his belt.  Keep it clean and let that strong defense led by their front four take care of business.
  • 49ers:  No one is giving the Niners any chance.  Neither am I for that matter but they won’t be as bad as people think.  They signed Pierre Garcon who is still an excellent receiver, Carlos Hyde is extremely underrated, the offensive line is very good and Brian Hoyer came into camp looking good and throwing well during the pre-season.  The major issue for San Francisco is their secondary.  You can pass all day long on the 49ers.  If Eric Reid wasn’t at Safety then San Fran would probably allow a record of points scored against.  The front 7 are pretty good and will have to become really good in order to protect the secondary from getting bombed.  With Kyle Shannahan and his offensively inclined brain, I think the Niners can score enough points to stay close in games.  No more 4 and 9ers!

AFC Playoff Teams: Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Raiders, Chiefs, and Ravens

NFC Playoff Teams: Eagles, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, Panthers, Cowboys

Super Bowl LII:  Seahawks defeat Steelers  (32-29) – Russell Wilson MVP

MVP:  Aaron Rodgers

OFF MVP: LeVeon Bell

DEF MVP: Khalil Mack

ROY: Dalvin Cook

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