The 2017 NFL season is finally upon us, so that can only mean one thing. It is time for our big NFL preview. Ticket King likes to turn to T.J. Bryce for his take on all things NFL. We’re holding him to these predictions, and will revisit this exhaustive list in January 2018.
Opening remarks from Mr. Bryce:
“As I examine the landscape of the NFL just before the start of the 2017 season, I see a stark contrast compared to the past several seasons. In recent years, the NFL has been ruled by mediocrity. This year, I see a clear difference between the good and the bad. Let’s begin with the AFC East.”
New England Patriots (12-4) – Did anyone really think I was going to pick any other team here? The Patriots will win the AFC East based on the overall weakness of the division, but they may not be as strong of a team as they were a year ago. I don’t care what anyone says or how well he takes care of himself, “Father Time” is undefeated, and he’s coming for Tom Brady. The Patriots will also be without their top receiver Julian Edelman, for the entire season. Guys may step up, but that’s a huge loss for New England.
Miami Dolphins (9-7) – Yes, Jay Cutler is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick, and yes, he fits this system better. However, the Dolphins Super Bowl aspirations will not come to be in 2017.
Buffalo Bills (6-10) – Tyrod Taylor is not the long term answer in Buffalo, and I predict that he struggles mightily through the 2017 season. The longest playoff drought in North American professional sports marches on.
New York Jets (0-16) – Yes, you see that right. 0-16. This may be the worst NFL team I have ever seen in my (young) life. The Jets won’t just lose every game. They are going to get blown out of the freaking building in at least twelve of them. Why? Their QB is 38 years old, and can claim just two victories in the last twenty-two starts. His best wideout has been on the team for about five minutes, and that guy’s biggest weapon (his speed) won’t be utilized by a QB that’s too old to throw it that far. If the Bills can manage to lose the opener, against these Jets, that will be the only victory for this hapless franchise.
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – The best offense in the AFC currently resides in Pittsburgh. All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell has ended his holdout and reported to the team. For what it’s worth, Some fans may hope that James Connor runs for 1,500 yards as the Steelers kick Bell out the front door. But Bell is still a Steeler, and he will play a part in this season for the team. My guess is he’ll play at least the first six weeks. Don’t be surprised if the team tries to move him before the trade deadline.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) – Okay, maybe we overreacted saying this was the best roster in the league a year ago. Still, they are not as bad as their 2016 record indicates. But is the team good enough to make the playoffs in 2017?
Baltimore Ravens (7-9) – The Ravens are going to struggle through another injury-plagued season, highlighted by Joe Flacco and his knee. They really need to focus on getting him healthy and making sure he stays that way.
Cleveland Browns (2-14)- Sorry, I think DeShone Kizer is going to be a terrible NFL quarterback, and that will show this season as the Browns struggle through yet another bad year.
Tennessee Titans (11-5)- The rise of Marcus Mariota is coming, if it didn’t start already. Mariota is healthy, and ready to lead the Titans back to the playoffs. This team plays classic smash-mouth football, a throwback to the days of yesteryear.
Houston Texans (8-8)- Yes the Texans defense may be Super Bowl ready, but their quarterback position isn’t. Tom Savage is just a placeholder, and I don’t think Deshaun Watson is going to be anything more than a below-average NFL starter.
Indianapolis Colts (8-8)- This will be a strange season for the Colts. They will dig themselves into an early hole while Andrew Luck gets healthy. The hole will become too deep to dig out of, but they will try. I think if they find themselves in too deep a hole, they should just send Luck home and concentrate on him being fully healthy for a return to the lineup in 2018.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)- The Jaguars are just bad, and Blake Bortles is on his way out the door. Moving along.
Oakland Raiders (14-2)- The Oakland Raiders are the best team in the AFC. Just let that sink in for a minute. The Raiders have some elite high impact players, and their depth is vastly improved from two years ago. Could this be the year the Raiders return to the Super Bowl?
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)- The Chiefs had a very unstable off season, but things appear to have calmed down. Alex Smith is just buying time for Pat Mahomes to learn the system, and the Chiefs will be good enough that he will sit the entire season.
Denver Broncos (6-10)- Towards the end of 2016, the fabled luck this franchise has enjoyed the last several seasons began to run out. With the luck gone, the holes in this roster, specifically at the quarterback position, will be exposed.
Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)- Another year, another good statistical season for Phillip Rivers, another missed playoff year for the franchise. Phillip Rivers is the Dan Marino of this generation.
Seeds: 1. Raiders 2. Steelers 3. Patriots 4. Titans 5. Chiefs 6. Dolphins
Wild Ward Weekend
Patriots vs. Dolphins- This is an “interesting” game, but one the Patriots win, 34-20.
Titans vs. Chiefs- Marcus Mariota makes his NFL playoff debut as the Titans roll on, 24-10.
Divisional Playoff Weekend
Steelers vs. Patriots- Big Ben gets one last crack at the Patriots, and it ends well for him. Steelers win 34-24.
Raiders vs. Titans- The new look Raiders make their debut as the big boys on the block in convincing fashion. One of the big blowouts of the playoffs. 38-17 Raiders.
Raiders vs. Steelers- This will be a very high scoring game as Derek Carr throws for five touchdowns and the Raiders win 38-31.
New York Giants (13-3) – Three years back I predicted the rise of the Giants. The Giants will get back to being the Giants, and win the NFC East with an elite pass rush and top rated passing game. This is Manning’s 14h season, and the clock it ticking. He may not put up 2015 numbers this season, but he won’t need to.
Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) – Carson Wentz is the real deal, and he’s part of a collection of elite young quarterbacks in this league. The Eagles continue to add pieces to support him, and it could get them back to the playoffs in 2017.
Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – There may be a number of Cowboys fans screaming at me through their computers right now. I’m just not sold on Dak Prescott. There was an element to his success in 2016 that a lot of people do not take into consideration. It’s called “shock value” and later on this season, I will explain further. Nobody expected Prescott to play a year ago, and nobody had any tape of him in a pro-style offense. The nature and style of his play came from his college years, just like all other QB’s that come into the league. Every team will be ready for him now. The Cowboys are about to find out that they have bet the house on a mediocre quarterback.
Washington Redskins (6-10) – Boy, what a mess this team made of themselves during the offseason. They were finally finding their way out of the wilderness. Daniel Snyder didn’t like the fact that he wasn’t the reason why. All I can say is “Yikes!” The drama will carry over into the regular season, as Cousins forces his way out the door. It’s “All Aboard” for a one-way trip to San Francisco for “Team Cousins.”
Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Aaron Rodgers enters the 2017 smoking hot, unlike a year ago, and is recommitted to his work ethic. This could very well be the year Aaron Rodgers finally goes an entire season without turning the ball over. Crazy as that sounds, Rodgers is prepped and ready, with lots of targets to throw to.
Minnesota Vikings (9-7) – It is no secret the Vikings brass has put Spielman and Zimmer on the hot seat. Based on how this team looks at the moment, the chances of Spielman and Zimmer still being there in 2018 are not great. The rumors are something like “Make the Super Bowl or you’re fired” for Spielman.
Detroit Lions (8-8) – Matthew Stafford is now the highest paid player in the NFL. Too bad it’s still the same old Lions. This team may be a spoiler for a game or two, but not much else will come from paying Stafford top dollar.
Chicago Bears (4-12) – The Bears are in the midst of a rebuild. They bet the house on Mitch Trubisky in the draft. That will pay off for them in the long run, but not in 2017.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) – This is a hot young team. I believe that Derek Carr and Jameis Winston are on their way to being the two best quarterbacks in the game at some point in the future.
Carolina Panthers (10-6) – The Panthers have been up and down the last few years. 10-6 may be their happy medium.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6) – The Falcons will still be a good team this year, but the biggest meltdown in sports history will affect them more than it won’t.
New Orleans Saints (7-9) – This team kind of frustrates me. They operate as if it still 2009. They need to let the bottom drop out, and start from zero. Their schedule in 2017 is tough. They face the Patriots, Packers, Buccaneers, and Dolphins, all in the first half of the season.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) – The Seahawks have really settled down as a solid, but not elite, team. That trend will continue in 2017. “Good, but not great.”
Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – The Cardinals are an old team on their last legs in 2017. Too bad it won’t end with Palmer and Fitzgerald riding off into the sunset as Super Bowl champions. When you look at their schedule, they could possibly pick up a couple more wins and make the playoffs as a Wild Card opponent, but don’t count on it.
Los Angeles Rams (5-11) – Jared Goff needs some stability, and now that they know who their head coach is going to be for the foreseeable future, perhaps he can get that stability. They won’t see the results this season, and I wonder how long until Todd Gurley wants out of Los Angeles, based on what we know about his personality.
San Francisco 49ers (2-14) – I think John Lynch will make for a good NFL general manager. I listened to him when he did play by play, and his grasp of the game makes me think he would fit perfectly as a “front office” executive. The 49ers may be bad now, but they won’t be bad forever.
Seeds: 1. Giants 2. Packers 3. Buccaneers 4. Seahawks 5. Panthers 6. Falcons
Wild Card Weekend
Buccaneers vs. Falcons – “Famous Jameis” makes his playoff debut in style, throwing for three touchdowns and leading the Buccaneers to 34-27 victory.
Seahawks vs. Panthers – This is the type of team that can go into Seattle and win a road game. Newton and his Panthers advance 24-16.
Divisional Playoff Weekend
Packers vs. Buccaneers- This is going to be a very good game. Home field advantage is what wins this one, and the Packers advance 35-28.
Giants vs. Panthers – One thing is for sure. These two teams are going to beat each other into oblivion in this one. We might see upwards of 10 penalties for late hits. 13-10 Giants.
Giants vs. Packers – I don’t think these Packers and their fans could take another conference championship loss. But it is what it is. The Giants advance to the Super Bowl 31-24.
Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffery/RB/Panthers- McCaffery will play a huge role in the Panthers return to the playoffs.
Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio/Raiders- Del Rio gets this award based on his ability to keep the Raiders focused despite all of the Las Vegas talk.
Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack/OLB/Raiders- Mack has his best season to date, leading the Raiders to the Super Bowl.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers/QB/Packers- Rodgers adds a third MVP award to his shelf, and has the best season statistically, of his career.
Giants vs. Raiders – The Super Bowl will be played in Minnesota this year. The hot young Raiders vs Eli and his band of angry Giants. I know the Raiders had a marvelous season, but this is the Super Bowl. Age and wisdom reign supreme in February. Prediction: 30-27 Giants.