NFL 2017 Predictions

With the start of NFL training camp, it is time to make our predictions for the upcoming season. Who do we think will win each division, make the playoffs and then win it all? As with all our predictions, here at USKSports we do not predict record.

Team Bolded = Division winner
Team Italicised = Wildcard
TeamĀ Underlined = Top 5 Draft pick in 2018.

AFC East
New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills
New York Jets

Fairly simple to predict the AFC East. Patriots are undisputed kings while they have Brady and/or Belicheck. The defending Super Bowl Champions, keep their Division crown. Dolphins have a good year with Ajayi and Tannehill. Bills rebuild under McDermott begins and gets good results from his defense. Jets struggle under Bowles with No QB, aging star players and a team that is seemingly going nowhere.

AFC North
Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

Steelers have the best team in the AFC North. They will win the division if they keep Roethlisberger/Brown/Bell playing for 16 games. Flacco is too inconsistent for the Ravens at QB for them to keep up with The Steelers, his performance will dictate their success. Bengals have purged talent after losing complimentary pieces to AJ Green, it will be another year in transition and maybe a fresh start at Head Coach could benefit them. The Browns improve with their young team a year older and 4 blue chip prospects (Garrett, Peppers, Njoku and Kizer) anchoring both sides of the ball. They are still 2 years away from being a position to challenge, this year is about growth for the much maligned franchise.

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville Jaguars

Texans have the best defence in the division. Clowney and Watt together will frighten teams if they both stay up for 16 games. Watson could provide a spark, enough to win the division. Andrew Luck will be key for the Colts. If he can play 13 games then they will have enough to get in the play-offs, competing with Miami for the final wildcard. They seem to understand they need to keep Luck protected. Titans get close but Luck pulls the Colts away from them. A ground and pound team that need another year to take them to the next level. 2018 will be a big year for The Titans. Jaguars disappointed us all last year. They were meant to hit the next level but they fell on their faces. I’m not falling for the Jaguars this year. In an opposite way to the Patriots, they need to show they are not a basement team in the AFC South.

AFC West
Oakland Raiders
Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos
Los Angeles Chargers

With Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and great roster. They are a number 1/2 Seed, competing with New England. They should win the division comfortably if Carr plays 16 games. The Chiefs get into the play-offs as the 5th seed. Another underrated but good team that are dismissed due to their style of play. Alex Smith has the player around him. The Broncos finish 3rd and miss the play-offs. They still have a great defence and will be in the discussion for a wildcard place late in the year. The inexperience at QB could hurt them as I don’t believe Siemian or Lynch could pave over any offensive cracks, with a new head coach. Chargers have the foundation of a good team but always seem to be hampered by injuries. Rivers is a great and criminally underrated QB but the upheaval of the off-season and playing in a 30,000 seater stadium in a city that didn’t really have any affinity to the Chargers will make it seem like they have 16 away games.

AFC Play-offs
New England Patriots
Oakland Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers
Houston Texans
Kansas City Chiefs
Indianapolis Colts

NFC East
New York Giants
Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

Always a tough division to predict. The NFC East is always a wild, vicious dogfight with 4 historic franchises. Giants to win the division, strong offense, a good defence and the only thing that could doom them in erratic QB play, which is possible. The Cowboys will be good again but teams have had 6 months to watch film on Dak Prescott, he will be the key. Elliot will be an MVP candidate behind their O-Line, which would be enough to carry them into the play-offs. I debated between the Eagles and Redskins, they are similar teams, they will be close but The Eagles edge it, neither are play-off teams. Wentz taking a step forward is the difference. Cousins is unsettled and a long term deal would swap them.

NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears

Packers will win the division. Aaron Rodgers = Division titles. It is that simple. They have a team that is capable of making a deep run if they stay healthy. If we get the Stafford from last year then it could be a close race between The Lions and The Packers. The Vikings have uncertainty at QB for at least 2 years. Bridgewater won’t be rushed back until 2018, and there is no guarantee he returns to the level he was heading too, so they will go with Sam Bradford again. The Bears are not a good team. Glennon/Trubisky will add some intrigue but there is too much for them to overcome. Bears remain the basement and pick up another top 5 prospect in the 2018 Draft.

NFC South
Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints

Panthers have started to help Cam Newton. McCaffrey is a perfect fit for The Panthers offense and will have a great impact as a rookie. He could be a contender for Offensive Rookie of The Year. The Falcons have a tough task to overcome their Super Bowl hangover, having given up a 25 point lead (insert 28-3 here) in the biggest game on the planet. How the respond will be the biggest storyline, it may affect them during the season but not enough to keep them out of the play-offs with Julio Jones and 2016 MVP, Matt Ryan and a defence that has a point to prove. The Bucs, take another step forward, They will be on the cusp of the Wildcard but the quality of The Cowboys and The Falcons will keep them out but a good season for a team ready to contend. The Saints are in a tough division. This is not a knock on them. They are a good team but the three teams in their division are better. Drew Brees will keep them relevant but they will finish last in a tough division.

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks
Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers

The NFC West is a mess. The Seahawks win at a canter. They are the superior team to every team in the West. The Cardinals are aging, all or nothing team that don’t have enough substance to compete with The Seahawks. The second best team in the division but a long way off Seattle. The Rams, they always have a knack of knocking off the Seahawks, a dominate defense that needs a competent offense to contend, we’ve seen the formula work in Denver. The Youngest head coach in NFL history, Sean McVay, has work to do with Jared Goff. That is where the hopes of LA lie, which is why they are 3rd. The 49ers are in full rebuild mode, a clever draft day trade for extra picks, not reaching on a QB and a GM and Headcoach with 6 year deals. Patience is now the game in SF. Another year in the basement in order to help re-fill holes in the draft.

NFC Playoffs
Green Bay Packers
Seattle Seahawks
New York Giants
Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Cowboys.

Do you agree with where we’ve put your favourite team? Which team will win it all? Join the discussion below and follow @USKSports on twitter.


NFL Play-off Revision?

Imagine a world where the NFL resembles the NBA, ok so not that hard to imagine, but a world where the NFL has two conferences East and West, not AFC and NFC. Two 16 team conferences to decide the NFL play-offs, rather than the system they have now. Where you have 6 teams, 4 division winners and 2 wild cards in each conference. It will be based purely on who has the best records in the NFL. Finished 3rd in your division at 10-6 but still missed the play-offs because the AFC South winners won 8 games? Congratulations this system is for you. But the question is, Will it work? Is it worth it? and Would it be better than the existing system?

The hard part comes in splitting the NFL into East and West because of the existing divisions. This will ignore the AFC and NFC split because of geography and the hardest thing to do will be the split up historic rivalries, such as the the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East. So let us look at the map of NFL teams.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 16.32.09

Where we encounter problem number 1. It is East dominated. Finding the split will be the challenge. A North/South split would be easier but let’s split the NFL like the NBA. East and West. If we take the logical seam given to us from Louisiana and west to California that leaves us with 12 teams in the West, which we can’t have since we are aiming to split this 16/16 but those 12 teams can be locked into the West.

West: Rams, Raiders, Chargers, 49ers, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys, Chiefs, Saints, Seahawks and Vikings.

Logically, we would have to put in the next 4 teams that are the most western. Which would be the Packers, Bears, Titans and Colts. The Colts are already illogically placed in the AFC South but if we take these four to fill out the Western Conference of the NFL.

1. LA Rams
2. LA Chargers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Oakland Raiders
7. Denver Broncos
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Houston Texans
10. New Orleans Saints
11. Kansas City Chiefs
12. Minnesota Vikings
13. Green Bay Packers
14. Chicago Bears
15. Tennessee Titans
16. Indianapolis Colts.

The bottom 5 teams feel out of place. They are colder weather teams that don’t fit with the hot weather of the Western Conference. They feel out of place because the NFL is so eastern dominated. It would break up the Cowboys from their 3 biggest rivals but they would play their historic rival, The 49ers, more regularly. The Lions would lose their three division rivals. The Jacksonville Jaguars would lose 3 also. Which leaves us with…

NFL Eastern Conference:
1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets
3. New York Giants
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Philadelphia Eagles
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Washington Redskins
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Detroit Lions
11. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Jacksonville Jaguars
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Atlanta Falcons.

So with this new split, We have 6 teams qualify from each conference (No extra games will be played). Working the same way as the existing play-offs. So how would the play-offs have looked with this new format (Based on last seasons record)

1. Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) Tiebreaker over the Raiders
3. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
4. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
5. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
6. Titans/Broncos/Texans (9-7)

1. New England Patriots (14-2)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) Won the Tiebreaker w/ victory over The Giants
3. New York Giants (11-5)
4. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
5. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
6. Detroit Lions (9-7)

It was just a re-shuffling of the existing teams in the play-offs with potentially just one team different, dependent on tiebreakers, but it would certainly make for some interesting play-off games. For the sake of argument let’s say the Texans are the team that get in as they were in the play-offs last year.

6 Lions @ 3 Giants
5 Dolphins @ 4 Falcons
6 Texans @ 3 Raiders
5 Packers @ 4 Seahawks

The Texans Vs The Raiders happened last year but Packers are given a second chance against The Seahawks after their Play-off collapse. The East provides two matchup that are never going to happen outside a Super Bowl in the post season. Assuming we go with highest seed winning. We get divisional games of:

4 Falcons @ 1 Patriots
3 Giants @ 2 Steelers
4 Seahawks @ 1 Cowboys
3 Raiders @ 2 Chiefs

Raiders and Chiefs happens twice a year. Giants Vs Steelers in the play-offs, that would be a great matchup. A repeat of Super Bowl 51, yes please and Seahawks Vs Cowboys would be intriguing. You can assume what happens from here. Steelers @ Patriots in a repeat of the AFC Championship and Chiefs @ Cowboys. That is based purely on records from last year and I am sure that it would provide some seldom seen but widely wanted play-off match ups.

Is it better than the existing system? In the short term, probably not. Long term would probably be more interesting with teams split into divisions with the NBA style play-offs but no guarantees for division winners. Every system has it’s flaws but the NFL system works for the league.