By Andrew De Fazio for TonySoftli.com
With week 1 of the NFL preseason underway, below are my 2017 divisional predictions for this upcoming season.
1. 14-2 New England Patriots
2. 6-10 Miami Dolphins
3. 5-11 Buffalo Bills
4. 1-15 New York Jets
The New England Patriots have pretty much dominated the AFC East since the beginning of the millennium. With the additions they have made to an already talented roster, they should have no problem winning the division crown.
As for the Bills, and Dolphins, they have talent on their respective rosters, but not a quarterback that can compete against Tom Brady. Jets meanwhile are simply not a good football team and I not only expect them to finish in the bottom of the East but in the basement of the NFL.
- 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers
- 9-7 Cincinnati Bengals
- 8-8 Baltimore Ravens
- 3-13 Cleveland Browns
With one of the best offenses in the NFL and a rising defense, I expect Pittsburgh to take the division crown for a second straight year. The Bengals and Ravens will be competitive this year but unfortunately I expect to fall short of a wild card spot. The Browns are currently rebuilding their roster so I expect them to be a couple years away from becoming a competitive force in the north.
- 10-6 Houston Texans
- *10-6 Tennessee Titans (Wild card team)
- 7-9 Indianapolis Colts
- 5-11 Jacksonville Jaguars
After managing to pull off a division crown last year with a 9-7 record, I expect the Texans to improve based on the return of JJ Watt and the selection of Deshaun Watson. These two players make the Texans a threat to potentially lead to a playoff push in the AFC.
While the Texans are a promising team in the South, the Titans could make some serious noise in the South along with the AFC as a whole. Going into this season, I have them taking one of the wild card spots in the AFC. With Marcus Mariota and their stacked offense, along with the pieces they have on defense, they could be a force to be recon with this season.
As much as I like the Colts, the uncertainty surrounding Andrew Luck with regards to his shoulder is concerning. If he is unable to play the first few games this season, it could have a dramatic affect on their win loss record.
When looking at the Jaguars, the talent surrounding Bortles is pleasing. However, I am hard press to believe that Bortles can become effective and consistent quarterback at this point in his career.
- 10-6 Oakland Raiders
- *10-6 Los Angeles Chargers (Wild card team)
- 9-7 Kansas City Chiefs
- 8-8 Denver Broncos
I truly believe that the AFC West this year will be a blood bath. All four teams have the talent to take the West crown. Having said that I feel as though Oakland will win the division and the Chargers will take one of the wild card spots. This being due in part to the players they have at quarterback: Derek Carr of the Raiders and Philip Rivers of the Chargers. They are much superior in comparison to Alex Smith and Trevor Siemian. Along with this, the surrounding talent that both Oakland and Los Angeles possess on the offensive and defensive side of the ball make them favorites to advance out of the west.
- 10-6 Philadelphia Eagles
- *10-6 Dallas Cowboys (Wild card team)
- 9-7 New York Giants
- 6-10 Washington Redskins
For the first time since 2013 the Eagles will finally take back the NFC East. The additions of Alshon Jeffery, Legarette Blount, and Torrey Smith gives Carson Wentz a variety of options to choose from in there passing game. With their talented offensive line and defense in general, they could be a tough play for any team in this division along with the NFC as a whole.
As for the Dallas Cowboys I expect some regression out of this team compared to last year. They lost quite a few players such as Ronald Leary, Barry church, and Morris Claiborne. Losing these pieces along with a tough schedule (10th hardest) could make it difficult for the Cowboys to repeat last year’s glory. Having said this I do feel that they have enough pieces in place to finish as one of the wild card teams in the NFC.
When looking at the Giants I expect them to be competitive in the East. However with the rise of the Eagles and the Cowboys still being talented in my eyes, I expect them to just miss out on a final wild card spot in the NFC.
Although I do like Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, I don’t trust their ability to establish a run game and I need to see more consistency out of their defense for me to buy into the Redskins as a whole.
- 12-4 Green Bay Packers
- 9-7 Minnesota Vikings
- 6-10 Detroit Lions
- 2-14 Chicago Bears
With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, I expect the Packers to once again take the division crown. I personally like the Vikings, especially on defense, but their offensive line still concerns me. They will be competitive this season, but end up just missing out on a wildcard spot.
When looking at the Lions I expect them to decline this year. I feel as though the talent they posses doesn’t match the record they had last season. As for the Bears I feel that they will be in the basement of the NFC as they are a young team that is building to eventually become a winner.
- 11-5 Atlanta Falcons
- 9-7 Carolina Panthers
- 7-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 7-9 New Orleans Saints
Although the loss of Kyle Shanahan may hurt the Atlanta Falcons, Steve Sarkisian is no slouch and should contribute to the success of this offense. Also the addition of Dontari Poe, Tak McKinley and the return of Desmond Trufant should help this defense in a big way. Ultimately I expect them to have a successful season and repeat as division champions.
When analyzing the Carolina Panthers, an easier schedule along with the addition of Christian McCaffrey should make this team as a whole much better and make life easier for Cam Newton. Having said that I have them just missing out on a wild card spot.
As for the Buccaneers and Saints, I love the talent that both teams have on offense. However I have questions as to whether or not they protect Winston and Brees. Along with this they have concerns as to whether or not their defenses can hold their own as they are still young and developing.
- 12-4 Seattle Seahawks
- *11-5 Arizona Cardinals (Wild card team)
- 5-11 Los Angeles Rams
- 4-12 San Francisco 49ers
After a down year for the Seahawks I expect them to be much improved. One of the biggest problems for the Seahawks was that they were not a balanced offense. With the addition of a rejuvenated Eddie Lacy along with CJ Prosise and Thomas Rawls, the Seahawks have the ability to go back to their bread and butter. This being the ability to run the ball and use play action passes. This gives Russell Wilson the ability to make plays outside the pocket in which he excels in. The Defense should be the same as usual as they have studs on all three levels. The return of Earl Thomas should lead to offenses struggling to move the ball against them.
When looking at the Arizona Cardinals and the talent they have on offense and defense, it does not measure up to the 7-8-1 record they posted last season. I expect the offense to be more balanced and prone to less turnovers. Along with this I expect a Cardinals defense that is a sack and turnover machine. As a result of this they will be on of the wild card teams in the NFC.
As for the Rams and 49ers, I just don’t feel as though they are at the level of the Seahawks and Cardinals. Both teams are currently under construction and I don’t expect them to make much noise in the NFC West.
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