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Old 09-05-2017, 05:36 PM   #1
Anthony
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Cool Anthony's 2017 NFL Preview

Predicted records in parentheses


AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-3):
Have the easiest path to the playoffs of any team, but must take 88-percentage-point jump in strength of schedule from what they played last year based on last year's records, and lost some key players, most notably Julian Edelman, in the lovely preseason. They also did not have a pick until the third round of the 2016 draft - and only one team lacking a first- or second-round draft choice has ever won the Super Bowl that year (the '02 Buccaneers).

MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8): The two Jays - Cutler and Ayaji - will shine on offense, but porous defense (29th in 2016), especially against the run (30th), and 92-pct.-point rise in SOS, the league's sharpest this year, present problems.

BUFFALO BILLS (6-10): Remember when Marc Trestman was the Susan Lucci of the NFL - always rumored to be getting hired to a head-coaching job, but was never hired for the longest time until he actually was and lasted two years, going 13-19? Look for Sean McDermott to follow the same script.

NEW YORK JETS (1-15): That's the way they're drawing it up.


AFC NORTH

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13-3):
They get the Patriots at home again in the regular season - and if they have a healthy Big Ben in that game (they didn't last year), that, plus their 41-point drop in strength of schedule, making it a staggering 129-point swing in their favor, they get New England at home in the playoffs as well, and that should send them to Super Bowl LII, where they will be favored to win, because no NFC team has what the top three or even four teams in the AFC have to offer.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6): Throw out last year's injury-plagued nightmare - but Marvin Lewis' contract was not extended, so if he goes one and done in the playoffs again this year, in the words of Mike Goldberg, "It's all over!"

BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-7): Joe Flacco, a 10th-year pro, has the body of a 15th-year player, and their inability to beat the Bengals, to whom they have lost six of their last seven, could be what keeps them out of the playoffs for the third straight year.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (2-14): At least they will actually finish ahead of somebody outright for the first time since 2014.


AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS (9-7):
Might be stuck on 9-7 for a while, until DeShaun Watson is ready to take over - but that record has been good enough to win this division the last two years, and is liable to be good enough yet again.

TENNESSEE TITANS (7-8-1): With overtime shortened from 15 minutes to 10 starting this year, quite a few games will end in a tie. But after zooming from 3-13 in 2015 to 9-7 last year, The Team That Should Be Known As The Nashville Oilers won't sneak up on anybody this year - and even that 9-7 finish was tainted because it included a Week 17 win over the Texans, who had already clinched the division and had nothing to play for.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (7-9): In the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty over Andrew Luck, it's hard to pick them for anything higher.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-10-1): Unless Tom Coughlin signs Colin Kaepernick (unlikely), the starting QB job will probably go back and forth between Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, who are 29-69 between them. But rookie RB Leonard Fournette and a defense that ranked sixth in the league a year ago, plus league's biggest drop in strength of schedule (last year's opponents went.527 in 2016, their 2017 foes .439 in '16) could be enough for what would be their best finish since 2010.


AFC WEST

OAKLAND RAIDERS (12-4):
Would have won the division last year had Derek Carr not broken his ankle in Week 16. But even if they win it this time around they face a huge obstacle in the playoffs from the likely 3 seed behind Pittsburgh and New England: Since 2012, they are 1-10 on the road at northern, outdoor sites in November or later.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4-1): Andy Reid is almost as good as the best head coaches around, Alex Smith is almost as good as the best quarterbacks around, Travis Kelce is almost as good as Rob Gronkowski, you get the idea.

DENVER BRONCOS (7-8-1): The smart money says that the just-reacquired Brock Osweiler will win the starting quarterback job back from the talent-challenged Trevor Siemian by mid-season. But it's hard to see them seriously threatening the top pair with either of them.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (6-10): And only even this many wins because of their schedule.


NFC EAST

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-5-1):
Finally rectified their two biggest problems by signing first Torrey Smith and then LeGarrette Blount. But they're the NFC's Raiders - recently owned by both the Packers and Seahawks, who also have huge advantages in playoff experience.

DALLAS COWBOYS (10-5-1): And they're the NFC's Titans - they won't sneak up on anybody this year either. And they will open the season with several players out with either injuries or suspensions, including Ezekiel Elliott, maybe beginning at the start of the season, maybe later.

NEW YORK GIANTS (10-6): Ben McAdoo earned the respect of the league by going 11-5 and to the playoffs in his rookie year, but 29th-ranked running game lost its leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, to Dancing With The Stars of all things. They'll make it what could prove to an anticlimactic three-way race, in that at least two, and maybe even all three, could make the playoffs.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8-8): Lost both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, where they did pick up Terrelle Pryor, so things might not change much in the passing game. Will be a tough out for just about every non-division opponent, but a notch below these in the division.


NFC NORTH

GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-6):
So long as they have Aaron Rodgers, they have a shot at the Super Bowl, no matter how bad their defense is - and it was pretty bad a year ago (22nd overall and 31st against the pass). Getting main conference rival Seattle at home in the season opener (Seahawks haven't won at Lambeau since 1999) sure won't hurt.

DETROIT LIONS (8-8): There is a reason why they haven't won a division title since 1993: You have to go all the way back to 1998 to find the last time they finished in the top half of the league in rushing offense. Also running back isn't their only gaping hole: Their secondary is coming off a season in which it allowed the highest completion percentage in NFL history (72.7). Matthew Stafford can only take them so far.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-8-1): Sam Bradford has still never had an eight (or more)-win season, as Shaun Hill started the Week 1 win at Tennessee last year, and 8-8 final record following a 5-0 start suggests possible stamina issues. 2016 top draftee WR Laquon Treadwell was a major disappointment.

CHICAGO BEARS (4-11-1): Mitchell Trubisky won't have to be much to overhaul Mike Glennon, who was 5-13 as a starter with Tampa Bay, for the starting job - and waxing nostalgic, Chicago had three four-win seasons over a four-year span from 1972 through 1975, including four wins and a tie (!) in '72.


NFC SOUTH

CAROLINA PANTHERS (10-6):
Throw out last year because of the Super Bowl Runner-Up Jinx - and rookie Christian McCaffrey just might be the best white running back since ...?

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-6-1): The NFC's other pundit's darlings besides the Giants. But defense can't stop anything unless it improves from last year's twin 22nd league rankings against both the run and pass - and DeSean Jackson's arrival will only put even more pressure on it.

ATLANTA FALCONS (7-8-1): The Super Bowl Runner-Up Jinx is doubly deadly when it strikes a team from this division, where only one team has ever recorded back-to-back division titles - and in even that case the exception proves the rule, as that involved Carolina's three straight from 2013 through 2015, the second of which saw the Panthers go 7-8-1. And that wasn't just any Super Bowl Runner-Up finish they pulled off.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-9): This fourth consecutive 7-9 season should cost Sean Payton his job.


NFC WEST

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-6):
Like the Packers, who they figure to battle for the conference championship, they are not a great team. They are a great home team. That's why they won't win the Super Bowl even if they get there.

ARIZONA CARDINALS (9-7): If Carson Palmer can manage to stay healthy, he and his deep-threat-rich receiving corps plus consensus #1 fantasy running back David Johnson alone are enough to make them one of as many as eight teams who would be no great shock if they show up under the NFC banner at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on February 4.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (3-12-1): The Shanahans and the Grudens are getting to be the NFL's version of the Bushes and the Clintons. Enough already. And Brian Hoyer?

LOS ANGELES RAMS (2-13-1): 4-12 last year, and you didn't have a first-round pick in the draft, and your quarterback enters the season as a maiden - he's 0-7 as a starter. That is the very definition of hopelessness.


PLAYOFFS (Home teams in CAPS):

AFC Wild Card: OAKLAND over Cincinnati
........................... Kansas City over HOUSTON

NFC Wild Card: CAROLINA over N.Y. Giants
........................... SEATTLE over Dallas

AFC Semifinals: PITTSBURGH over Kansas City
............................ NEW ENGLAND over Oakland

NFC Semifinals: GREEN BAY over Carolina
............................ Seattle over PHILADELPHIA

AFC Championship: PITTSBURGH over New England

NFC Championship: GREEN BAY over Seattle

Super Bowl LII: Pittsburgh over Green Bay
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Last edited by Anthony; 09-05-2017 at 06:29 PM.
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