2017 NFL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Eagles 9-7
The Philadelphia Eagles are a team that can go in either direction. Their Quarterback Carson Wentz has great potential, but the team around him still does not have enough talent to escape the middle of the pack. The Eagles need to get more out of their running game if they are to get into the playoffs. The Eagles also struggle on defense and will have trouble against teams with strong passing games. In the end, the Eagles will come close, but they need one more piece to get into the playoffs.
Todd Bowles-New York Jets
Jim Caldwell-Detroit Lions
John Fox-Chicago Bears
Jay Gruden-Washington Redskins
Marvin Lewis-Cincinnati Bengals
Chuck Pagano-Indianapolis Colts
Coaches who will be looking for work after the season
Dallas Cowboys 9-7
The six-game suspension for Ezekiel Elliott could not come at a worse time for the Dallas Cowboys, as some of their toughest games come early in the season. The Cowboys have also had significant losses on defense, setting the stage for what could be a major letdown after their 13-3 season in 2016. The Cowboys still have the best offensive line in the NFL, which will help them win games. However, it may be hard to expect Dak Prescott to equal his rookie stats, as he will not catch teams by surprise. In addition a first place schedule will all be factors as the Cowboys miss the playoffs.
New York Giants 11-5
Things are set up for the New York Giants to make a big run for the NFC Championship. The addition of Brandon Marshall gives the Giants one of the most dangerous receiver combinations. Marshall should open things up for Odell Beckham who could have the biggest year of his career. The offensive line is worrisome, but Eli Manning has always been good at finding a way to get the ball down the field. The Giants still need to find a running game to become a complete offense. On defense, the Giants are among the best teams in the NFL led by Landon Collins, who has developed into one of the premiere safeties.
Washington Redskins 5-11
The Washington Redskins have been stuck in a major rut the last two decades. Every time they appear to be ready to turn the corner they lose a few key players and have to start from square one. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is back thanks to the franchise tag, but it is clear he is unhappy with his contract status as he has been unable to work out a long term deal. In addition, the loss of their two best receivers will make it difficult for Cousins to get the ball down the field. Add in a mediocre defense and that all spells a last place season in Washington and a housecleaning at seasons end as they go back to square one.
Detroit Lions 9-7
The Detroit Lions have made Matthew Stafford the highest paid quarterback in the league. Although a solid quarterback, Stafford is not good enough to carry a team all by himself. The Lions do not have enough weapons around Matthew Stafford to go anywhere. In addition, the team has a mediocre defense, meaning the Lions will have their work cut out for them if they want to return to the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings 10-6*
The Minnesota Vikings got some bad news as they were forced to place Teddy Bridgewater on the Physically Unable to Perform list. This means the Vikings quarterback will miss at least the first six games of the season, as he recovers from a knee injury suffered last season. The Vikings defense should be able to keep them competitive as they have one of the best in the NFC, with a strong secondary led by Harrison Smith. The Vikings will make the playoffs, but unless Sam Bradford can put it together, they won't go much further than the Wild Card round.
Green Bay Packers 11-5
The Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers leading the way have won of the best offenses in the NFL. However, their defense leaves plenty to be desired as they have one of the weakest secondaries in the league. In most weeks, the Packers should be able to outscore their opponents on Rodgers passing alone. Once again, the Packers will be in the picture for the NFC Championship, but when they need to win that tough playoff game on the road, their lack of a strong pass defense will be their undoing.
Chicago Bears 4-12
The Chicago Bears are a straight up mess. After signing Mike Glennon to play quarterback, they traded up in the draft to pick up Mitchell Trubisky. Either one may be good, but the Bears are missing so many other pieces it is hard to imagine any success in 2017, as they don't have a strong running game and enough quality receivers to make a difference. With one of the worst defenses in the NFL, the Bears could be in the running for a top pick in the NFL Draft once again.
Atlanta Falcons 8-8
After suffering such a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl LI, it is hard not to imagine the Atlanta Falcons not having a Super Bowl hangover as this season begins. You don't just comeback from blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl. It is also hard to imagine Matt Ryan equaling what he did last season, when he won the NFL MVP and had a career best season. The Falcons will not make the playoffs this year and if things begin to snowball they could even fall all the way to last place.
Carolina Panthers 10-6*
Last year the Carolina Panthers were one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL as they posted a 6-10 record after going 15-1 with a trip to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. If the Panthers are to bounce back they are going to have to do a better job protecting Cam Newton, as the Carolina quarterback was brusied and battered all year in 2016. The Panthers also need a better pass defense if they are to get back to the top of the NFC. They should bounce back to make the playoffs, but they secondary help if they are to go to far in the postseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5
The pieces are coming together for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as Jameis Winston is getting better each season. Last year, they narrowly missed the playoffs with a 9-7 records. To help boost the offense, the Buccaneers signed Dasean Jackson, which gives Winston a big tall fast target to get the ball down the field. While Doug Martin will miss the start of the season with a suspension, his return and refocus on football should only help matters as the Buccaneers could make a serious run at the Super Bowl after ending a decade long playoff drought.
New Orleans Saints 6-10
Just call the New Orleans Saints the over the hill gang, as their core group of players are all in the twilight of their careers, especially with the addition of Running Back Adrian Peterson. At 38, Drew Brees is still one of the top passers in the NFL, but the Saints defense continues to be a major concern. Even if Brees was still in his prime he would have a tough time putting up enough points as the Saints will be allowing upwards to 30 points a game.
Arizona Cardinals 9-7
The Arizona Cardinals will go only as far as Carson Palmer can carry them. In what is likely his final season, Palmer must make the big plays if the Cardinals are to get back to the playoffs. The team has the pieces around him, as Larry Fitzgerald remains one of the top receivers, while David Johnson is developing into one of the top play makers in the backfield. In addition, Arizona has one of the league's top pass defenses led by Patrick Peterson. However, Palmer's knack for the back breaking turnover will come back to haunt the Cardinals again as they narrowly miss the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks 10-6
The window of opportunity is beginning to close for the Seattle Seahawks. If they want to win another Super Bowl, they are going to have to put it together soon. The Seahawks still have one of the top defenses in the NFL, led by Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman. However, their offense has a load of issues as their offensive line is one of the worst in the league. Last season Russell Wilson was on the run all season, if the Seahawks are to go far in the playoffs, they must find a way to protect their quarterback.
Los Angeles Rams 6-10
This will be a big season for Quarterback Jared Goff, who struggled magnificently in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams paid a heavy price to trade up and draft Goff with the first overall pick in 2016 and if he is to be the franchise quarterback the Rams are in search of he needs to show significant improvement. The Rams strength is in their front seven, led by Robert Quinn who if he were on a better team would get serious Defensive Player of the Year consideration. However, the Rams have little else to hang their hats on as they await the opening of their new stadium expected to open in 2020.
San Francisco 49ers 2-14
Instabillity is the sign of a terrible team. Over the last five years, no NFL team has been more unstabble than the San Francisco 49ers, who have their fourth different head coach in four seasons. The Niners are without a doubt starting from scratch with a new General Manager in Jon Lynch who has turned the coaching reins over to Kyle Shanahan. The team despretley needs a quarterback as they Brian Hoyer is not a long term solution. There is not much else to look at as they are several years away from being able to contend, though landing a franchise quarterback in the draft will certainly help and as one of the worst teams in the NFL there is no doubt that San Francisco will be in position at the draft.
New York Jets 1-15
On paper, the New York Jets could be one of the worst teams in the last two decades as their roster looks more like that of an expansion team than one that is trying to win games or compete for the playoffs. Their quarterback situation is a mess beyond repair with Josh McCown starting the season opener. The fact that Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg could not beat out McCown tells you those two don't have a future either. Add in no reliable receivers a bad line no running game and bad defense and you get a team that could possibly go winless as the Jets seem to be content with tanking the season for the number one pick.
New England Patriots 13-3
After winning their fifth Super Bowl with a dramatic comeback, the New England Patriots spent the entire off-season working on improving their team. With the addition of Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots now have one of the best secondaries in the league. The team is also quick to make adjustments as they acquired Phillip Dorsett to replace Julian Edelman who suffered a season ending knee injury in the pre-season. Meanwhile, Tom Brady continues to defy the calendar as he appears to be getting better with age, as he remains the best quarterback in the league at the age of 40.
Buffalo Bills 5-11
The last time the Buffalo Bills played in a postseason game, the world was taking a deep sigh of relief that the Y2K bug was all hype as everyone was getting used to writing the year 2000 on their checks. The drought does not appear to anywhere close to ending as the Bills appear to be starting from scratch again, trading several potential key players. The Bills have yet to find a reliable quarterback as Tyrod Taylor's lack of accuracy will never make him the type of player to build around. In addition, consent turnover at the coaching position has made it difficult for the Bills to formulate and coherent plan.
Miami Dolphins 7-9
Last year the Miami Dolphins made strides, making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. However, the decision to not send Quarterback Ryan Tannehill to get surgery has blown up in their face. Before even playing in the first preseason game, Tannehill's balky knee gave out, and now he is lost for the season. This caused the desperate Dolphins to sign Jay Cutler who was settling into retirement and preparing to work for Fox Sports. Even at his best Cutler is one hit away from crawling into the fetal position. This does not bold well for Miami, who has the pieces to make noise, but without a reliable quarterback will have another mediocre season.
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly have the weapons to make a Super Bowl run, but keeping Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been increasingly difficult. In each of the last two seasons, Big Ben has missed several games that have come back to haunt Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Once again, the Steelers will be one of the top teams in the AFC, with Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown driving the offensive attack. However, when those January games come, will Roethlisberger have enough left to get the Steelers over the hump?
Cincinnati Bengals 6-10
The Cincinnati Bengals are consistently one of the most undisciplined teams in the NFL, taking bad penalties that end up costing them wins. No player illustrates this more than Vontaze Burfict who by far is the dirtiest player in the NFL, and is once against suspended at the start of the season for a dirty hit in the preseason. Eventually management in Cincinnati has to get tired of the Bengals always self-destructing. Especially now that some of the players that helped them make the playoffs in years past are gone and the team appears to be heading into another rebuild down the road.
Baltimore Ravens 7-9
As the season starts for the Baltimore Ravens, the health of Joe Flacco is a serious concern as he missed most of the pre-season dealing with a sore back. The Ravens will go only as far as Flacco can take them, as they don't have a deep roster. In addition, a mediocre offensive line does bode well for Joe Flacco who is likely to take a lot of abuse. The Ravens defense is solid as usual, but it is hard to imagine them making a run at the playoffs with the team that is currently constructed.
Cleveland Browns 5-11
Last year at long last the Cleveland Browns hit rock bottom, posting a record of 1-15. Now the key for Cleveland is to remain patient and continue to make strong draft picks and in a few seasons, they could become playoff contenders. One player that certainly will make the Browns better is number one pick Myles Garrett who will quickly become a monster on the pass rush. Still, the Browns need to find a quarterback. They are rolling the dice by handing the job to Deshone Kizer at the start of the season. Kizer struggled last season at Notre Dame and likely won't be the long-term solution though he should be decent enough to make the Browns appear to be a better team.
Indianapolis Colts 5-11
As the season starts, things could not be bleaker for the Indianapolis Colts, as Andrew Luck is not ready to play after off-season shoulder surgery. The Colts only chance of making the playoffs is for Luck to carry them as the team has continually failed to find players to surround their elite quarterback. Nor more has this been more egregious than on the offensive line, which maybe the worst in the NFL. Add in a soft defense and you have the recipe for a long season in Indianapolis which will certainly lead into wholesale changes come February.
Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9
The Jacksonville Jaguars are assembling a nice talented defense, that could rank among the best in the NFL. However, their offense remains stuck in neutral Quarterback Blake Bortles appears to be regressing. The addition of Calais Campbell to the pass rush should be able to keep Jacksonville in most games, but unless Bortless figures out how to avoid the back breaking turnover the Jaguars are going to continue to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
Houston Texans 11-5
If only the Houston Texans had a capable offense, they could be a team that could go far in the playoffs. Even without three-time Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt the Texans had one of the best defenses in the league as Jadeveon Clowney was healthy and had the breakout season Houston had been waiting for. In addition, Whitney Mercilus is one of the best pass rushers in the league giving the Texans a front seven that could rank with some of the great units of all-time. Don't be shocked if by November Deshaun Watson is starting at quarterback which could be the spark the Texans are looking for to make a serious run.
Tennessee Titans 10-6*
Marcus Mariota is on the verge of becoming a star for the Tennessee Titans. In his third season, the former Heisman Trophy winner appears to have all the tools needed to be a successful quarterback in the NFL as he had the Titans on the verge last year, before a leg injury in Week 16. The Titans still need to make improvements on defense if they are to make a significant postseason run. However, with Mariota getting better every season it looks like the Titans should at least be in the running for a Wild Card spot in the AFC.
Los Angeles Chargers 7-9
What happens when a team moves to a city that don't want them? That is the stroy of the Los Angeles Chargers who may get a distintcly unwelcome feeling as they play in a soccer stadium until the new stadium they share with the Rams opens in 2020. The Chargers who were unabble to get a new stadium from San Diego exercised an option to move to LA, but will have a tough time winning fans over. Phillip Rivers will help at quarterback and Joey Bossa should help on defense, but the Chargers will need more to make the playoffs and win fan loyality.
Kansas City Chiefs 10-6
The Kansas City Chiefs have a solid defense, with one of the best secondaries in the NFL led by Eric Berry and Marcus Peters who can each turn a game around by taking the ball down the other side of the field. However, on offense the Chiefs are severely lacking as Alex Smith will never be more than a game manager who is able of keeping a game close, but not capable of making the big play to win. Making matters worse is the Chiefs running game has suffered a big blow with Spencer Ware suffering a season ending injury.
Oakland Raiders 11-5
Last season was a football revival for the Oakland Raiders, as Derek Carr had a breakout season at quarterback. With a solid line, solid running game thanks to the addition of Marshawn Lynch a talented receiving corps led by Amari Cooper the Raiders have all the weapons to be one of the top offenses in the league. This is matched by a strong defense led by Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. However, can a lame duck team on its way to Las Vegas in a few years really make a push playing in what could be an indifferent crowd at home, that is the challenge the Raiders face as they play in Oakland in 2017?
Denver Broncos 9-7
The Denver Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL with Von Miller hunting quarterbacks, and secondary that is rated the best in the league. However, their offense is severely lacking as they have had trouble replacing Peyton Manning. Hoping to bring back some of that Super Bowl magic, the Broncos have signed Brock Osweiler, but it is unlikely he can do enough to bring Denver back to the top of the AFC as the rest of the division has gotten stronger around them. The Broncos will battle, but won't score enough to get back in the playoffs as they fall just short again.
Coach of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Offensive Player of the Year
Tampa Bay Bucaneers
New England Patriots
New England Patriots
Predictions Made: September 4, 2016
Visit our Sponsors
Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties