The 2017 season has arrived. It is a time honored tradition that I post that I halfheartedly try to make a futile projection for the final results of the entire season. Here's how it turned out:
Who will be the kings of the north!? Part of me wants to predict Pittsburgh to have a rough season, but that’s probably just out of spite and all jinx/reverse-jinx rules require me to predict a sterling 12-4 record. Biases aside, their defense is a mix of solid veterans and young players coming into their own. They might be ready to make a leap. Offensively, they could be the class of the league as everyone’s dream of witnessing all of their firepower on the field at the same time might finally come true. But for how long?
The BENG-GALLLLS: The preseason was a mixed bag for the Orange Asian Tigers. I think they’ll be streaky on both sides of the ball and they’ll hover right around .500 plus or minus a game. As expected, the offensive line is going to take its lumps. They cut Eric Winston which means either he hit a wall skill-level-wise or they have confidence in the young talent. Regardless, the depth at OT looks a little scary. They’ve cycled new talent in at linebacker and I think it is going to take some time to gel. Burfict remains Burfict: a talented player that can’t control himself and is going to get legislated out of the league. In the end, they lose the tiebreaker to Tennessee and miss out on the playoffs. Don’t panic though Mr. Brown. Just give Marvin Lewis one more year to see this through. I don’t know if he can do it, but I think 2018 will be the peak potential for this core roster construction and Lewis's continuity probably stands a better chance of making a run than a new coaching regime.
Baltimore has endured one downer headline after another this offseason. I don’t expect it to totally weigh them down. It never does, but looking at their offensive talent I just can't figure out how it adds up to a playoff team.
Cleveland decided to take an alternative approach to their front office two years back and it appears to be working. As Roethlisberger becomes increasingly disinterested in football and Joe Flacco begins to deal with a bulky back, this division might be primed to be flipped on its head sometime soon. But not yet.
Much like Pittsburgh’s offense, the tantalizing vision of a Clowney/Watt-studded defensive unit might actually come to fruition this season. But for how long? I say the defense propels the team to wins as the offense does just enough to retain the AFC South crown.
New England’s reign continues. Salty Jay Cutler keeps Miami at least playoff relevant only to fall short down the stretch. Buffalo is rebuilding but not quite as far along in dismantling their team as New York. Josh McCown spitefully stays healthy long enough to nudge the Jets up the 2018 draft board a few slots.
KC surprises a little bit here. Alex Smith does just enough to muffle jeers urging his replacement. We’ll get a look at Maholmes next year. Oakland’s defense isn’t quite good enough to earn them a playoff bye, but hopefully they at least get a shot at taking their QB into the postseason this year. Denver’s run defense should bounce back a little, but the offense still won’t quite be good enough. The Chargers have an interesting roster, but they once again appear snake-bitten.
Remember the narrative at this time last year about Aaron Rodgers maybe not being a good quarterback anymore? It’s hard to pick anyone other than Green Bay here. If Minnesota’s defense stays healthy, they should hang around enough to at least force the Packers to play out the season. Detroit’s defense appears to be light on star talent and most of their better players are banged up heading into the season. Chicago was scrappy last year, but it didn’t show up in their win total. Their quarterbacks will struggle enough to prevent seeing much of an improvement this year.
This is one of the few divisions where you could make a case for just about any finishing order from top to bottom. Atlanta’s roster probably warrants an 11 or 12-win season, but I docked them a few wins for the Super Bowl hangover effect. Tampa Bay feels like the trendy "their free agent signings make so much sense, they are going to take the next step" team that annually never quite pans out. I think it will be one more year before they turn the corner. Carolina’s defense should be good and everyone loves the idea of Christian McCaffrey in their offense. I’m skeptical they’re going to get enough out of Cam Newton this year to break .500. He’ll rebound next year, but he’ll struggle with consistency as he attempts to finish his recovery from shoulder surgery while playing the first half of the season. With Jeff Fisher out of the league, Sean Peyton is the new 7-9 bull $%!^ coach. Is this the last year for the Brees/Peyton era in N.O.? Is this the sunset of Adrian Peterson’s career? There might be intrigue in New Orleans even if they don’t have a good year.
Another toss up division. New York has the best defense, Dallas has the best offense, and Philadelphia is somewhere in between. Kirk Cousins isn’t the real deal, but he’s good enough to sniff 8-8.
Seattle did just enough to fix their O-line to run away with this division. Their defense could be the best in the league. Something feels off with Arizona this year. They had too much turnover on defense and their offense seems stale. A resurgent Tyrann Mathieu and one last hurrah for Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald propel them to 9 wins, but they fall short of the playoffs. The Rams improve on their 2016 record with added talent on offense and Wade Phillips taking over their defense. Kyle Shanahan takes over in San Francisco and manages to double their win total.
Green Bay and Seattle play in week 1 of the season and they appear on a collision course for the NFC title game. Minnesota ousts N.Y. while Atlanta fends off the upstart Eagles. The 1 and 2 seeds take care of business in round 3, and the Seahawks defense proves to be too much for the Packers to make a return trip to the Super Bowl (not in real life. Just in my world of make-believe predictions).
Tennessee makes it to the dance but exits early at the hands of Kansas City. Oakland gets a rematch in Houston. With Derek Car at the helm, the Raiders come out on top this time around. Oakland continues it’s revenge tour, avenging the tuck rule game in New England. Kansas City upsets Pittsburgh to set up an AFC West showdown in the AFC championship. Wait a minute, I picked K.C. to go to the Super Bowl last year too. It turns out I was one year early.
Might as well run back my entire 2016 take: Seattle bludgeons Kansas City in the Super Bowl 42-27.
Mark it all down in ink. That’s all for now. Enjoy week 1!