NFL Season Preview + Predictions
It’s Wednesday, September 6, 2017, and tomorrow marks the official start of the 2017 NFL Season. Now, I am not the biggest fan of football, it is my third favorite sport behind Baseball and Basketball. This season has the potential to be a great one, with great competition and greater narratives. I think that the season’s best stories reside in Dallas and in New England. It will be interesting to see if Tom Brady and a revamped, stacked roster can repeat as Super Bowl Champions.
After winning Super Bowl 51 in stunning fashion, the New England Patriots knew that they couldn’t become complacent and they upgraded the team significantly in the offseason. The team acquired Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, who will both help each side of the ball significantly. The duo of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore should terrify opposing quarterbacks, and Brandin Cooks is the most explosive player Tom Brady has had since Randy Moss. Bill Belichick is still the best coach in football and will continue to assert his dominance across the league.
In my opinion, the second best team in the AFC is the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I think that their championship window is closing fast. The team goes as its big three goes. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell are as good a trio that the NFL has to offer. The problem with the Steelers right now though, lies in Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has not played in more than 14 games each of the last two years, and it is likely he will not start all 16 games this year as well. Le’Veon Bell just ended his holdout, and while he will be ready to start in game 1, I am not sure if he will be as effective as possibly until at least game 4. I think that missing most of the preseason will slow down Bell’s production for the start of the season, because you can’t simulate NFL games from a gym, so I simply do not think he will be as good as he can be until at least game 4. However, the Steelers will also have Martavis Bryant back this season, and he is as good a no. 2 receiver that the league can offer.
In the NFC, I think that it comes down to three teams, the Packers, the Giants, and the Seahawks. The packers have Aaron Rodgers and his collection of receivers, but they will also have a full season of Ty Montgomery as the starting running back. I think that having Montgomery in the backfield for the whole year could be an interesting situation for the packers, because not only has he proven himself as a solid runner, he averaged 5.9 YPC in 2016, but he will also be able to catch passes out of the backfield effectively, which will stretch defenses even more and allow Rodgers to maneuver around the pocket more freely.
The Giants still have Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning as the centerpieces of the offense, but also went out and added Brandon Marshall to the receiving core. I think the addition of Marshall will prove to be very impactful not only on the field, but also off the field. Brandon Marshall has been in the league for a long time and will hopefully be able to turn Odell Beckham into a more mature player. He will also help spread defenses thin as well. I think that having him on the field will benefit Sterling Shepard the most. I think that having another top-level receiver to the offense will draw more attention away from Shepard, who had a very solid year last year, hauling in 65 catches for 683 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Seahawks still have a very intimidating defense, to complement an offense that seems to get better with each season. They just recently traded for Sheldon Richardson who will help on the defensive line alongside Michael Bennet. The team also still has Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. Russell Wilson still has plenty of targets on offense. Doug Baldwin will be back and this year he will hopefully have a healthy Tyler Lockett on the other side of the field. I think that the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC. They have so much talent on both sides of the ball it is hard for me to imagine another team that could beat them in the NFC.
Other aspects of the season that I am excited to see include the 49ers new offense, and how their young defense changes under new management this year. Reuben Foster looks like he could be the biggest steal of the draft, and the team still has a very young defensive line. I am also interested in seeing how the Ezekiel Elliott situation plays out in Dallas. As of right now, he is still suspended for six games, but he will be allowed to play in week 1. I think that his presence is very important for the offense and without him, the play of Dak Prescott should become more dependent on vertical passing as opposed to play-action. I think that without Zeke, the team will struggle, but once he comes back, the team will secure a wild-card spot.
My preseason predictions for this year are that the Seahawks will win the NFC, and the Patriots will win the AFC. The Patriots will repeat as Super Bowl Champions. I think that Reuben Foster will win Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Leonard Fournette will win Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Aaron Rodgers will win MVP.