Hi,everyone,and welcome to this year’s NFL Season Preview. We’ll preview every division,every team,and give you playoff predictions and even a prediction for who wins Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis this February. Here we go!
New England (13-3)
The Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl last season and are looking to try and get their sixth in Minneapolis. Tom Brady is still at the top of his game at age 40 and he’s got a system where the talent coming through thrives. New England is going to have to soldier on without Julian Edelman,who was injured in the preseason and out for this year. Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola will be asked to carry the load in his absence alongside newcomer Brandin Cooks. The run game will be presumably shared by Dion Lewis and James White. And the best weapon the team has is tight end Rob Gronkowski,who will try and stay healthy after injuries ended his 2016 season. Dwayne Allen is the team’s other tight end. Alan Branch and Malcom Brown anchor the Patriots’ defensive line with Dont’ A Hightower starring at linebacker. The secondary with Malcolm Butler,Patrick Chung,and Devin McCourty welcome Stephon Gilmore to give it a big boost after key departures in free agency. This team is always in the contender conversation and even without Edelman that isn’t changing.
The Bills are the lone team in all of the four major sports who haven’t made the playoffs in the 21st century and I’m sure their fans would love that streak to end one day. Buffalo has some good players on offense like LeSean McCoy,Charles Clay,and newly acquired Jordan Matthews for Tyrod Taylor to work with. Marcell Dareus,Shaq Lawson,and Kyle Williams make up a great defensive line and rookie Tre’ Davious White hopes to bolster the Buffalo secondary. I don’t think Taylor is the answer at quarterback for this team and I don’t know if they have enough weapons on both sides of the ball to get themselves in position to reach the postseason, I think they’ll win more games than expected,but that’s about it!
Last season the Dolphins made their first playoff appearance in nine seasons,but the quest to make their second consecutive appearance took a turn for the worst when their signal-caller Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending knee injury. Jay Cutler was signed to take the reigns and lead Miami back to postseason play. He has a great tailback in Jay Ajayi to carry the football very effectively and receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker to make plays. On defense,Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh lead a strong line up front while Kiko Alonzo stars the linebacking core. If Cutler can be effective and not be the interception machine he was in Chicago,then Miami has a chance to be back in the playoffs,but this is Cutler we’re talking about here. I see them being out of the playoff picture despite great play from notables like Ajayi and Landry.
N.Y. Jets (2-14)
This Jets squad looks like one that’s going to have a trying season. The offense has nobody of note other than tailback Matt Forte and starting quarterback Josh McCown,who at age 38 is a stop-gap for the next young quarterback to take over,that player is likely going to be drafted next spring with Christian Hackenberg struggling with the pro game. The defense,led by Sheldon Richardson,has some young studs there such as Jamal Adams at safety. Look for New York to be one of the teams who’ll be in line for the top pick in next year’s draft.
The Titans almost won this division last season and this year I think they do what they weren’t able to: Win the division. Marcus Mariota returns after succumbing to injury last season. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry lead the rushing attack while receivers Eric Decker,Harry Douglas,and rookie Corey Davis will look to give Mariota prime targets in the red zone. Tight end Delanie Walker will also be a big-time target as he has been the last couple seasons. Sylvester Williams anchors the Tennessee defensive line while linebackers Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard continue to be productive. Rookie Adoree’ Jackson joins the secondary along with Logan Ryan and Brice McCain. This team looks like they’re going to be very good and I think they win this division just as long as Mariota stays healthy and productive.
Last season the Texans were division champions and won a playoff game. This season it’s going to be more difficult with the team operating with a new quarterback. Tom Savage is currently the team’s starter,but how long will it be before Houston fans see Deshaun Watson under center? Whoever it is for the long haul,the Texans have great offensive players like tailback Lamar Miller,wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V. The defense continues to be stellar with J.J. Watt returning from injury a year ago and a linebacking core featuring Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. I think Houston’s success hinges on the play of the offense. Will they have consistency at quarterback? It’s hard to say,but other teams like the Titans who have a clear signal caller may be better this year. I think Houston comes close to a playoff berth,but not quite.
It’s a make or break season for Chuck Pagano as the Colts have been missing from the postseason the last three seasons. Andrew Luck is out with injury and could miss the beginning of the season, so Scott Tolzien will likely start in the interim. Frank Gore is still a productive back at age 34, but will need to rely on Ronnie Turbin to help carry the load. T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief will continue to be the big targets for the Colts’ offense. Defensively the Colts bring Malik Hooker aboard,the rookie joins Vontae Davis and Darius Butler in the secondary. I think with Luck out and the team being in a division that’s unpredictable and with the division in the competition getting better, it’s going to be tough for Indianapolis. I could be wrong,but I think it’s a season where the deck is stacked against them.
The Jaguars were far from an impressive squad last year and it’s a do-or-die year for Blake Bortles to prove he was worthy of the slot he was drafted in 2014. He has some good players to help him,such as Allen Burns and Allen Robinson,and Leonard Fournette joins a crowded backfield, but some are saying it’s time to give the keys to Chad Henne while the team gets set to try and get a quarterback in the draft next year. Defensively the Jags have some decent players like veteran defensive tackle Calais Campbell and youngsters Donte Fowler Jr, Myles Jack,and Jalen Ramsey. Can Jacksonville get it together after expectations from last season went sour? It’s not going to be easy,but it depends on Bortles’ play and if this young group can live up to expectations,otherwise,it’s Chad Henne’s job.
The Steelers are always a team that has it together. Sure,it’s been a while since their last title,but they’re always in the contender discussion. With great coaching from Mike Tomlin. Great leadership from ben Roethlisberger and great weapons like LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown have given them their place among the league’s best. Martavis Bryant is back from suspension and should provide a boost to that receiving core. Defensively this team still looks good with Cameron Heyward on the defensive line, linebackers Ryan Shazier,the longtime veteran James Harrison, and rookie T.J. Watt (yes,that’s J.J.’s brother) and the secondary which hopes to improve with Mike Mitchell and Artie Burns. I think Pittsburgh is always going to be in the conversation as a contender as long as they are as good as they have been. There always seems to be a chance with them.
The last couple of seasons have not been kind to the Ravens,but we’re about to see if this team can bounce back and make the playoffs again. Joe Flacco will look to lead an offense with tailbacks Terrance West and Danny Woodhead and veteran receivers Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. Defensively,Terrell Suggs continues to anchor the linebacking core,but one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank. The secondary is as strong as ever with Lardarius Webb,Eric Weddle,Jimmy Smith,and Brandon Carr. I think Baltimore is going to be a lot better. They have a good quarterback,they have a great defense as always,and they’re coached well. I think they’re a playoff team as long as Flacco is healthy.
Last season was not a good one for Cincinnati as they went 6-9-1 in 2016. Can Marvin Lewis’ boys prove that the season before was a fluke? They’ll have to do it with Andy Dalton having new weapons on offense such as Joe Mixon and John Ross,who joins A.J. Green as Dalton’s big targets to throw to, along with Tyler Eifert. The defense with Geno Atkins on the line, Vontaze Burfict at linebacker and Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones in the secondary hopes to improve. I think the Bengals will be a little better,but I don’t see a playoff spot in their sights,at least not this year. Also, with the group of hooligans that are here on the roster,something is bound to go awry.
Oh,the Browns, the team that continues to lose and lose a lot. They were 1-15 last season and in the draft selected Myles Garrett. He joins a defensive core headlined by linebacker Jamie Collins. The quarterback position always seems to be a problem in Cleveland. The team traded for Brock Osweiler,who was far from good in Houston,and have Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan on the roster as well as rookie DeShone Kizer. Receiver Corey Coleman and tight end David Njoku hope to be reliable weapons on offense while Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will carry the ball in the backfield. I think that the Browns are making better moves,but it will still be a trying season for them with being in a tough division combined with being inexperienced.
Last season the Raiders ended their 14-year playoff drought and were into the postseason,but their postseason dreams ended before they began with Derek Carr getting hurt before season’s end. This year,Carr and company hope to improve on what they’ve built. Marshawn Lynch has ended his retirement and is the team’s new star tailback. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are among the league’s best receiving duos. Cordarrelle Patterson was added for his special teams abilities,but can also be a threat on offense. Tight end Jared Cook gives Oakland an extra offensive weapon. The defense is led defensive end and Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. Bruce Irvin leads the linebackers and the secondary with Reggie Nelson,Karl Joseph,and Sean Smith looks to play efficiently. Many are feeling that the Raiders can be a Super Bowl contender and that feeling is shared with me. The only thing to wonder is if this will happen.
Last season was a difficult one for Denver,they didn’t get back to the postseason following a Super Bowl win. New head coach Vance Joseph will be tasked with getting his team to the playoffs and a possible title yet again. Trevor Siemian is the current Broncos signal caller with backfield mates C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles carrying the rock as well as receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The defense will continue to be a main calling card with Derek Wolfe anchoring the line and linebackers Von Miller,Shane Ray,and rookie DeMarcus Walker on the attack. The secondary is robust with talent such as Aqib Talib,and Chris Harris Jr. I think Denver does go playoff bound this year, I think last season was one of reorganization for them and I think there’s two or three more wins from last year in this team. They’re too good not to be in the playoffs again.
Kansas City (9-7)
Last season the Chiefs were division champions but fell to the Steelers in the playoffs. They’re hoping to repeat as division champions,but I think it’ll be tougher considering their offense lost a few weapons. They do have the veteran Alex Smith at quarterback and an emerging receiver in Tyreek Hill and a great tight end in Travis Kelce. The run game will suffer a little with the injury to Spencer Ware in the preseason,so C.J. Spiller and Charcandrick West will have to carry the load. The defense led by linebackers Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson will be missing Tamba Hali,who is on the PUP list due to knee issues. The secondary led by Eric Berry looks to continue to dominate along with Marcus Peters. I think Kansas City will have a challenge this year with being in a tough division just like last year,I do think they will vie for a playoff spot but will be just short of that.
L.A. Chargers (6-10)
The newly relocated Chargers have a lot of work to do in terms of winning over fans in their new home city and in terms of winning ball games. They do have great weapons on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers,Melvin Gordon,Antonio Gates,Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin form an offense that now has Mike Williams,the rookie receiver from Clemson. On defense,Joey Bosa is proving to be a great young player on that Los Angeles line. Casey Heyward and Jason Verrett headline a quality secondary. Some think the Chargers will be very good this year and that’s quite possible,but with the team being in a new city and atough division,I have them coming up falling short of projections and expectations.
The Cowboys took the league by storm en route to a division title. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were stellar in their rookie seasons and hope to continue that success into year two. Elliott will be suspended for six games (at press time),though,to start the season,leaving Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris to shoulder the load until he returns. Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley will be the guys to catch passes from Prescott as well as the elder statesman,Jason Witten. On defense,it’s Taco Sunday as rookie Taco Charlton beefs up the defensive line. Sean Lee headlines the linebackers and the secondary led by Orlando Scandrick adds rookie Chidobe Awuzie to the mix. I think Dallas is going to be very good even without Elliott’s services,but I don’t see them being a Super Bowl team. Some do,I just think they’re a year away.
N.Y. Giants (9-7)
The Giants got back to the postseason last year,but fell to the Packers after proving themselves unprepared for the postseason. Will they learn that going to Miami the week before isn’t a good idea? Will they even get back to the postseason. It’s possible! Eli Manning has his usual primary target in Odell Beckham,Jr. and the team has added Evan Engram to catch the football and veteran Brandon Marshall,who at age 33 is still looking for his first playoff trip. The defense is led by the explosive Jason Pierre-Paul on the defensive line as well as a great secondary with Eli Apple,Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins. I think it’s going to be tougher for New York to get back to the postseason,it can happen,but I think they fall short. It’s a competivie NFC,yo!
Carson Wentz had a pretty decent rookie season for the Eagles and he is now tasked to try and get the team back into the playoff picture. Helping him is what’s sure to be a good receiver core in Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Zach Ertz. Fletcher Cox is the Eagles’ top defensive lineman who gets some help from rookie Derek Barnett on that line as well as veteran Chris Long. The secondary led by Malcolm Jenkins hopes to improve with rookie Sidney Jones coming aboard. The big question mark is Philadelphia’s run game. Sure,they brought over LeGarrette Blount and drafted Donnel Pumphrey and still have Darren Sproles,but is it enough? I think the Eagles will have a tough time with being in a tough division and having such a young team.
Last season the Redskins missed the playoffs and are hoping to return this year. Kirk Cousins is still the starting quarterback,but one has to wonder if this is his last season in DC. His offensive weapons,however,aren’t what they were last season or even before. Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick are the most well-known receivers and Robert Kelley will likely be the starting tailback. Jordan Reed is the top pass catcher on the team and one of the league’s best tight ends. Jonathan Allen joins a who’s-who defensive line while Ryan Kerrigan headlines the linebacking core. Josh Norman looks to have a better season in the secondary as well. With the lack of weapons save for Reed on offense, it’s going to be tough for Washington this year. I don’t see a return trip to the postseason in 2017.
Tampa Bay (11-5)
Last season the Bucs showed some flashes of what they might be in the future, this season I think they show us more. Jameis Winston is coming into his own as a pro and is surrounded by some quality guys. Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers will anchor the run game and newly acquired DeSean Jackson and the talented Mike Evans give Winston reliable targets at receiver. Also new is rookie tight end O.J. Howard giving Tampa Bay a quality guy at that position,something they’ve lacked for years. The defensive line with Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers looks to crush opposing offenses. The secondary should be great with Vernon Hargreaves III,Brent Grimes and rookie Justin Evans. I think the Bucs have arrived and will be playoff bound this year. They have great weapons on offense and look like they’ll be much better.
The Falcons had a big lead in the Super Bowl only to let it slip away as well as their first-ever championship. Can they get back to the big game? They’ll try to in the league’s newest stadium with one of the league’s most effective quarterbacks in Matt Ryan. The running back tandem of DeVonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will continue to produce for Atlanta’s offense as well as the great receiver Julio Jones who continues to make amazing catches. Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu will also look to get targets from Ryan. Rookie Takkarist McKinley joins a deep line with Dontari Poe and Courtney Upshaw. Vic Beasley continues to be a great force at linebacker as well as Desmond Trufant and Ricardo Allen in the secondary. The Falcons are still a very good team,but I think they will have a little bit of a down season,especially in this stacked division.
Last season the Panthers floundered coming off of a Super Bowl appearance. Can they prove that the 2016 team was not the real them? Cam Newton and his offense will have to show that this is the case. He has a new weapon in the backfield in Christian McCaffrey who is not only a great runner but also can catch the football,he will be filling a tandem role with Jonathan Stewart at tailback. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess will welcome Curtis Samuel to the receiving core and Greg Olsen continues to be one of the league’s top tight ends. Their linebackers are top notch with Luke Kuechly,Thomas Davis,and Shaq Thompson and Julius Peppers returns to Carolina after eight years away to finish his great career. I think it’ll be tough for the Panthers to get into the playoffs being in this division which is ever-so tough with the Falcons and the ascending Buccaneers in it. They’ll be close,though.
New Orleans (5-11)
The Saints have had three striaght years with a 7-9 finish and are hoping to erase that trend in a wildly tough division. Drew Brees is in the sunset of his career and while he does have Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram in his backfield, he doesn’t really have anyone to throw to other than Coby Fleener. Defensively,Cameron Jordan continues to lead the way on the line for New Orleans while Marshon Lattimore joins a secondary with Kenny Vaccaro hoping to breathe new life into it. I think the Saints have their work cut out for them,but this division is already tough enough,too tough to make any noise this year, especially when they have no receiving core to speak of.
Green Bay (13-3)
The Packers won this division last year,but did not get back to the Super Bowl. Will they get past the conference championship game? Aaron Rodgers and company are hopeful they can get there. The run game is different now with Ty Montgomery as the feature back (I like a tailback that’s wearing #88), but the receivers look about the same with Jordy Nelson, DeVante Adams and Randall Cobb as the primary targets. Martellus Bennett comes over via free agency to give Green Bay a quality tight end. The defense continues to be led by Clay Matthews III at linebacker, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the secondary and new addition to the secondary in Kevin King and Josh Jones. This team isn’t as talented as they were in recent years,but the system they have in place is so good that the players there now can thrive in it. I see that being no different than in past years. This team always finds ways to stay competitive and in the playoff hunt.
Last season the Lions almost became division champions,but they did get a playoff berth,but fell in the Wild Card round. Can they get farther than last year? Matthew Stafford sure hopes so. He’ll have very good receivers in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. as well as a decent backfield with Ameer Abdullah and the versatile Theo Riddick. Eric Ebron is becoming a reliable target at tight end as well. The defensive line looks pretty good with the veteran Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah. Rookie Jarrad Davis hopes to be a force for the linebacking core and the secondary with Glover Quin and Darius Slay adds veteran Tavon Wilson and rookie Jalen Tabor to the mix. I think Detroit is better than people expect them to be and a return to the postseason is very possible. Plus I like their new uniforms.
Last season Teddy Bridgewater was out for the season due to injury and it seems that’s the case again this season. Sam Bradford has done a good job in his absence and will answer the call as Minnesota’s signal caller. He’s got a new backfield with Latavius Murray coming over from Oakland and rookie Dalvin Cook. Stefon Diggs is emerging as the Vikings’ top receiver,he along with Laquan Treadwell and Michael Floyd will be catching passes from Bradford as well as tight end Kyle Rudolph. Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith front a good secondary while Sharriff Floyd anchors the defensive line. I think the Vikings have something good brewing here,however,I think they’re in for a fight in a division with better teams like the Lions and Packers. I think they finish at 8-8 again this year.
The Bears were one of the NFL’s worst teams last season,and I don’t see them getting much better this year. When Mike Glennon,a man who has held a clipboard since 2014, is your starting quarterback and you have an aging Victor Cruz to throw to, it kinda tells me that this is a rebuilding process. Also,the rookie quarterback you traded up to get was unfamiliar with a hard-snap count before draft day. Sure,they have an exciting young tailback in Jordan Howard,but he’s the best player in a bad situation if you ask me. The defense is actually one of their better strengths and has potential to be better. Overall,though, I think the Bears will be among the league’s best rebuilding teams.
The Seahawks always seem to be a model of consistency and I think this season is no different. Russell Wilson is back to run the show in Seattle and joining him is Eddie Lacy in the backfield. Receivers Doug Baldwin,Jermaine Kearse,and Tyler Lockett will look forward to catching passes from Wilson as well as Jimmy Graham,the veteran tight end. The defense,still known as the Legion of Boom, will continue to try and live up to the name with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril anchoring the defensive line. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright at linebacker and the signature secondary of Richard Sherman,Kam Chancellor,Earl Thomas III,and Jeremy Lane. I think this team is going to be really good once again, it’s their division to lose,and they could once again be Super Bowl contenders.
The Cardinals were my pick to win it all last year and it didn’t go very well for them much last season. Can they rebound? I think so! Carson Palmer is on the sunset of his career at age 37,but is effective when healthy. He has a great backfield with David Johnson and Andre Ellington and the always productive Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver along with John Brown and a hopeful gem in rookie Chad Williams. Defensively the linebackers will continue to be hungry for offenses with Chandler Jones,Jarvis Jones and rookie Haasan Reddick. The secondary has one of the league’s best in Patrick Peterson as well as Antoine Bethea,Tyvon Branch,and the Honey Badger himself,Tyronn Mathieu. Arizona is still a loaded team and I think they’re going back to the postseason and finish jusy shy of a division crown this year.
L.A. Rams (6-10)
Last season,the Rams’ first in Los Angeles since 1994, didn’t go as hoped and ended at 4-12. Can Jared Goff and company improve to a better record? Is Goff himself going to prove to be the real deal? Todd Gurley hopes to bounce back from an underwhelming sophomore season. Goff does have great weapons in Tavon Austin and Sammy Watkins to throw to,but can those two stay healthy? Aaron Donald is currently holding out and some may fear that won’t end before the season begins. Alec Ogletree continues to lead the linebackers while Trumaine Johnson leads the secondary. I think the Rams will be a little better,but will struggle in many different areas. A six-win season seems about right.
San Francisco (4-12)
Last season was a disaster for the 49ers,but this year is a year where growing pains will be expected. Brian Hoyer has been tabbed to be the starter for this team with Carlos Hyde toting the rock in the backfield. It’s safe to say this team’s strength will be their defense with Navarro Bowman leading the way and young studs Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner,Solomon Thomas,and Reuben Foster hoping to be standout stars. There’s a reason Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch were given long-term deals,it’s because this process is going to take some time. There’s a very big chance that San Francisco gets past the three wins I’ve projected here,they could even double that. My thinking is that asking for six wins from a group that’s rebuilding.
AFC Wild Card Weekend
Oakland over Baltimore
Denver over Tennessee
NFC Wild Card Weekend
Dallas over Detroit
Arizona over Tampa Bay
AFC Divisional Playoff
New England over Denver
Oakland over Pittsburgh
NFC Divisional Playoff
Green Bay over Arizona
Seattle over Dallas
AFC Championship Game
New England over Oakland
Green Bay over Seattle
Super Bowl LII