The 2017 NFL season is primed to be a great one. Following blockbuster free agent signings and an incredible 2016 draft, this NFL season looks as if it will be one of the most exciting ones in a long time, as newly rebuilt and retooled teams look to make Super Bowl runs. This season will feature the expected success of the league’s mainstay powerhouses, such as current Super Bowl Champions the New England Patriots, as well as the rise of sleeper and surprise teams around the league, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans. That being said, there are many storylines that will shape the season, and will determine who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis this February.
The Patriots will win the AFC East, as they have for the past eight straight years. Although he just turned 40, Tom Brady does not look like he has lost a step at all. The team is loaded with a plethora of talent, much of which is returning from last year’s Super Bowl winning team. Though the team lost Julian Edelman, it is the best team in the league at finding diamonds in the rough to fill the void left by injured players. Plus, the acquisition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks should help offset the loss of Edelman. A 13-3 record is not out of reach, and though improbable, talks of the team going undefeated have not fallen on deaf ears.
The Miami Dolphins will finish behind them, at 10-6, on the heels of last season’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Though they lost quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the season, the Dolphins were able to lure Jay Cutler out of retirement to replace him. This reunited Cutler with the Dolphins’ coach Adam Gase, under whom Cutler had his best season as a professional football player. The Dolphins are loaded with talent, and have no reason not to make a wild card run.
The Buffalo Bills, under first-year Head Coach Sean McDermott, will finish third at 7-9. Though they have a very strong defense, an All-Pro running back in LeSean McCoy and a talented young quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, the Bills have a difficult schedule that may be too much to overcome.
The New York Jets will finish the season at 1-15, as a difficult schedule and lack of talent will have them playing to win a high draft pick, not the Super Bowl. Their lack of a legitimate starting quarterback, their decimated receiving corps and their lack of veteran leadership will be the team’s undoing.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will finish the season with the second seed in the AFC, winning the AFC North with a record of 13-3. The Steelers have a swarming young defense, and are led by the “Killer B’s” of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, three of the best players at their respective positions. Expect the Steelers’ offense to put up all-time great numbers.
The Cincinnati Bengals will finish second at 9-7. The Bengals had a disappointing 2016 campaign, finishing with a 6-9-1 record following a 12-4 record in 2015. The team was hit by the injury bug, so one can expect them to bounce back this season. Marvin Lewis’ job security most likely depends on this season, so look for his team to rally for him.
The Baltimore Ravens will finish the 2017 season third in the AFC North. However, they will have a respectable 9-7 record as well. It will not be enough to catapult them to a playoff appearance, as much of their season rests in injured quarterback Joe Flacco’s hands. However, after a strong offseason, they will compete for a wild card spot until the end of the season.
The Cleveland Browns round out the AFC North, and will finish with a 6-10 record. The team drafted very well, acquiring three first round picks. However, the team’s inexperience, along with the inexperience of rookie QB Deshone Kizer, will cause the Browns to have to wait at least one more year before they begin to challenge other teams in their division.
The Tennessee Titans will win the AFC South, and finish with a record of 10-6. The Titans had a surprisingly successful 9-7 season, and missed the playoffs by one game after QB Marcus Mariota injured himself in the season finale. They bolstered their roster and look primed to make a playoff run.
The Houston Texans will finish with a 9-7 record, good for second place. The abilities of QB Tom Savage will be put against those of rookie QB Deshaun Watson all season. The lack of a clear starting quarterback will prove to be a detriment to the Texans once again.
The Indianapolis Colts will finish at 8-8. While their offense will be extremely potent, their porous defense will prove to be a detriment, as usual, and will hold the team back another year into Andrew Luck’s prime. Finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars will finish with a 7-9 record. Their quarterback situation is also dicey, and though they are also a young and talented team, they will not have what it takes to make a run at the playoffs. Blake Bortles’ future rests on this season, and should he play with that in mind, the Jaguars may turn some heads.
The Oakland Raiders will win the AFC West with a 12-4 record. The Raiders held a lead in the division for most of last season until an injury to Derek Carr in week 16 proved to be too much to overcome. Carr was a legitimate MVP candidate, and it does not look like that will change. They also signed Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, possess one of the best offensive lines and wide receiving corps in football and have a good defense led by reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack.
The Kansas City Chiefs will be runners-up in the division and finish with an 12-4 record. A questionable wide receiving corps will be the only thing standing between the Chiefs and the Raiders.
The Los Angeles Chargers look to turn some heads after their move from San Diego this offseason and will do just that. Even though they will most likely not make the playoffs, the Chargers will challenge for a spot behind Philip Rivers. The injury bug is the only thing standing in their way this season.
The Denver Broncos will finish last in their division, but will repeat their 8-8 record from last season. The questions about quarterback and offensive line will have to be answered if the Broncos are to succeed with a difficult schedule.
The Green Bay Packers will win the NFC North, tying the New York Giants for the best record in the conference at 12-4. Aaron Rodgers led the NFL in touchdowns last season, and his offense only improved this offseason with the acquisition of tight end Martellus Bennett. The defense also improved drastically. Look for the Green Bay Packers to make a Super Bowl run.
The Detroit Lions will finish behind the Packers at 10-6. Behind a strong defense and potent offense led by Matthew Stafford, the Lions will challenge for an NFC wild card spot.
The Minnesota Vikings will finish close behind at 9-7, but questions on offense, namely the offensive line, will hold them out of a playoff spot.
The Chicago Bears will finish last in the division at 5-11. The defense is largely unproven, and despite having Jordan Howard in the backfield, the offense will have to improve leaps and bounds if the team is to be competitive.
The Giants will win a tight NFC East race and finish with a record of 12-4. The offense is expected to be fantastic, as is the defense. The Giants’ biggest opponents are their division rivals.
The Dallas Cowboys will finish close behind at 11-5. The Ezekiel Elliot suspension will play a small role into the two-win drop from last, however the defense will be the Achilles’ heel. The defense does not have much veteran talent, especially in the secondary. Look for this to hurt the team.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who had a fantastic offseason, will finish the season at 9-7. The defense and the play of Carson Wentz are the team’s two biggest question marks. While the team improved this offseason, it is hard to believe they will be better than the Giants or Cowboys.
Finally, the Washington Redskins will finish the season at 8-8. Kirk Cousins will play well, but the defense, and lack of wide receivers will hurt the team.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will, albeit barely, win the NFC South, finishing with an 11-5 record. The young team is loaded with talent behind Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy and Jameis Winston, and they are poised to make a playoff run.
The Atlanta Falcons will finish second in the division with an 11-5 record as well. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hold a tiebreaker. Super Bowl and MVP hangovers are real, especially for the losing teams. However, the Falcons will still have a great season behind their potent offense and swarming, young defense.
The Carolina Panthers will finish third at 9-7 behind another great Cam Newton odd-year performance, and Christian McCaffrey will emerge as a future star in this league. However, given the division they play in, more than nine wins will be hard to come by.
The New Orleans Saints will finish fourth at 8-8. The Saints traded away wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, but they will look to replace him with Michael Thomas. Any Drew Brees-led team will have a chance, especially when that team has Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram in the backfield. However, the division competition will be too much to overcome.
The Seattle Seahawks will finish first in the NFC West with an 11-5 record. Their already legendary defense improved this season with their signing of Sheldon Richardson. Their biggest question remains the offensive line, which was a major detriment to the team last season.
The Arizona Cardinals will finish second at 9-7. Behind star running back David Johnson, a strong defense, and a resurgent season from Carson Palmer, the team will compete for a wild card spot, but will ultimately fall short, due to the incredible competition around the league.
The Los Angeles Rams will finish third at 7-9 under new head coach, 31-year-old Sean McVay. The defense will outperform all expectations. However, it will not be enough to carry their offense, which will struggle in a division with Seattle’s and Arizona’s defenses.
The San Francisco 49ers will finish the first season in the Kyle Shanahan era at 4-12. Shanahan is a quarterback whisperer, but he does not have a quarterback to whisper to in San Francisco. Expect a strong season from running back Carlos Hyde, but do not expect much more.
The 2017 NFL season will be a great one. The storylines and the emergence of surprise teams will keep the fans interested and involved in what should be a great season.
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