NFL 2017 Season Predictions

Bay Area Teams

First, predictions for both Bay Area teams:

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Oakland Raiders: 10-6

The Raiders are going to win games with their offense, and lose them because of their defense. I don’t think they’ll necessarily be worse than last year, but they probably won’t go 12-4. They got to beat up on the AFC South and defenses weren’t quite as prepared for their lethal offense. This season they have a more balanced schedule and teams have a better idea of what to prepare for.

 

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San Francisco 49ers: 5-11

The 49ers will almost certainly win more than 2 games this year. Mostly because they have 4 games against the AFC South. They also still get to play the Rams twice. The one thing not in their favor is they don’t get that late Monday Night game. Either way, this team might be somewhat competent this year and it’ll work out in their favor a few times.

Division Winners

AFC

AFC East – New England Patriots

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Boring pick, but it’s the only reasonable one.

 

AFC North – Pittsburgh Steelers

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It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bengals or Ravens win the division, especially with Ben Roethlisberger seemingly having one foot out the door, but with Joe Flacco just coming back from injury, and a number of other Ravens players dealing with injuries, plus the Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict being suspended, no one else in the division seems to be in an advantageous position to sneak up on the Steelers.

 

AFC South – Houston Texans

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Somebody has to win this division and if Andrew Luck doesn’t come back early in the season at full health, we can cross the Colts off. I’m not falling for the Jaguars again, no matter how great I think Leonard Fournette is. The Titans seem to have the best chance to beat the Texans for the top spot, but if the Texans were able to win this division with Brock Osweiler last year, I have no doubts they can do it again with DeShawn Watson or Tom Savage.

AFC West – Oakland Raiders

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The Broncos’ haven’t improved. The Chargers aren’t going to be significantly better than they were last year. The Chiefs might win it again, but I’m not sold on Alex Smith’s continued success. I think the Raiders might struggle a little more this year than last year, but they’re still the most likely to win the division.

 

NFC

NFC East – New York Giants

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It’s unclear how many games Ezekiel Elliot will end up playing, but I think the Cowboys will take a big step back this year. The Giants, on the other hand, have paired quite possible the best receiver in the league, Odell Beckham, with another awesome receiver, Brandon Marshall. Eli will find ways to pass to the defense anyway, but I think he’ll still find ways to take advantage of these two at his disposal.

 

NFC North – Green Bay Packers

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It’s the safe pick, but that’s because no one else in the division is a totally solid team. The Vikings have lost an all-time great running back, and still have Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback. We know what Matthew Stafford and the Lions are. The Bears will be less depressing than they have been the past few years. This is one of the few divisions I would be shocked to see any other team win.

 

NFC South – Carolina Panthers

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It wouldn’t shock me if any of the four teams won this division. They all have legitimate starting quarterbacks, which is more than I can say for most teams in the league. I think Cam Newton having both Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey on the roster will mean he might not have to completely carry the offense. I don’t think they go 15-1 again, but I think this season, people remember how they did and how Cam won

 

NFC West – Seattle Seahawks

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The Seahawks will be good. The Carson Palmer is probably done, so the Cardinals probably won’t be great. The Rams and 49ers will probably be a little better than they were last year, but still not good. So the Seahawks, who might be the best team in the NFC, and might just be a pretty good team, should probably win this division.

 

Conference Champions

AFC – New England Patriots

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I would love for it to be pretty much ANY other AFC team. But this just doesn’t feel like the year another team breaks through and the other teams that might usually have a shot like the Steelers or Ravens, don’t seem to be in a place to win it. So yeah, the Patriots will probably be in the Super Bowl.

 

NFC – New York Giants

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I think the Packers are probably the better team, but their best receivers always seem to have trouble getting through the season. As much as Brady vs. Rodgers in the Super Bowl would be awesome, if the Giants beat the Patriots again, that would just be the best.

 

Super Bowl Champion

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This isn’t the most likely outcome, but it would just be so damn funny.

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Super Bowl 51 Prediction

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Photo by Kevin Cox/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots

I think these teams are generally pretty evenly matched. The Patriots, despite not having  a great defense, are a great all-around team and the Falcons have the best offense in the NFL. Ultimately, I think the Patriots will win because they’ve been able to win so much without Gronk and the Falcons will have a tough time with the injuries to Julio Jones and Alex Mack. Also, the Falcons are still the Falcons and the Patriots have so much Super Bowl experience. But, I would not be totally shocked if the Falcons win, given that they are such a great team.

Prediction: Patriots win

NFL Conference Championship Predictions

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Photo by Kevin Cox/Getty Images

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons

Sunday January 22 at 12:05pm PST

Logically, the Falcons should win. They’re the better team overall on offense and defense than the Packers. The problem is, they’re the Falcons. Despite the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs have broken curses this year, I wouldn’t put my money on the Falcons overcoming a curse AND beating Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons have the talent to win, but I just can’t bring myself to pick them.

Prediction: Packers win

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Photo by Stew Milne/USA Today

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots

Sunday January 22 at 3:40pm PST

Neither the Patriots nor the Steelers looked great last year. The Patriots had trouble against the terrible Texans, but the Steelers couldn’t even score a touchdown. On the other hand, this week both teams will facing worse defenses, but much better offenses. My guess is it will be a close one, but I’m more confident in the Patriots. Ben Roethlisberger can be inconsistent and a decent portion of the Steelers’ roster might have the flu. The Steelers certainly have a chance to win, but the Patriots seem like the more likely AFC Champion.

Prediction: Patriots win

NFL Divisional Round Predictions

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Photo by Otto Gruel Jr. of Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

Saturday January 14 at 1:35pm PST

I want to believe in the Falcons, and I don’t want to believe that the Seahawks are back. But, I just can’t bring myself to feel confident in the Falcons, and the Seahawks have been there. On the other hand, the Seahawks haven’t been great on the road this year. Yet, one of their three road wins was against the Patriots, so maybe they’ll get up for a big game. The Seahawks beat the Falcons in Seattle in Week 6 26-24, but the game ended in a controversial Pass Interference no-call. Considering the Falcons offense will be going up against the Seahawks defense on the road without Earl Thomas, I think the Falcons have a good chance to win. But still think they can find a way to blow it. I’ll say Falcons win this, but don’t feel super confident.

Prediction: Falcons win

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Photo by Brett Coomer

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Saturday January 14 at 5:15pm PST

In Week 3, The Patriots beat the Texans 27-0 with Jacoby Brissett. This time they’ll have Tom Brady (although I’d be surprised if he played the entire game).

Prediction: Patriots win

 

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Photo by Danny Medley of USA Today

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday January 15 at 10:05am PST

This game isn’t the only one that could go either way. But, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this is actually a blowout either way. The Chiefs have been the more consistent team, by far, but lost to the Steelers 43-14 in Pittsburgh in Week 4. The Chiefs have the better defense, but the Steelers’ offensive ceiling is so much higher than the Chiefs, it’s likely the Chiefs just won’t be able to score nearly enough to keep up, assuming Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and effective. The Chiefs definitely have a chance, but I think the Steelers are more likely to get the win.

Prediction: Steelers win

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Photo by Andrew Weber of USA Today

Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys

Sunday January 15 at 1:40pm PST

The Cowboys definitely had the better regular season, and beat the Packers 30-16 in Week 6 in Green Bay. That said, I fear the Cowboys should’ve gone back to Tony Romo as soon as he came back from injury. Dak Prescott has had an incredible rookie season and will likely be the quarterback of the future for the Cowboys, but this could be a tough game for the Cowboys to have to lean on two rookies in Dak and Ezekiel Elliot to carry their offense. Maybe the rookies will rise to the occasion (and maybe Dez will have a great game), especially since the Packers’ defense isn’t great. But, I’ll lean towards Aaron Rodgers finding a way to win this game for the Packers against a rookie QB.

Prediction: Packers win

NFL Conference Championship Predictions

NFL 2015 Season Conference Championships

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From SBNation.com

(Stats from pro-football-reference.com)

AFC Championship Game

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Photo by Stew Milne/USA Today

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Sunday January 24 at 12:05 PST (3:05 EST)

There are plenty of melodramatic things to say about what might be the last time Peyton Manning and Tom Brady compete in an NFL game, but the real competition in this game is the Brady/Gronk duo vs. the Broncos‘ defense. The Broncos’ defense has been great, and the Patriots have had trouble running the ball. So, I suspect the Broncos’ defense will have to find a way to keep Brady from getting the ball to Gronkowski if they want to win this. That said, I really hope Peyton can pull off a fantastic performance, but even in his prime, he has rarely been a great post-season quarterback. Another ting to keep in mind: the Patriots have had trouble playing in Denver in recent years. The Patriots lost in Denver this season on November 29, 2015 and lost their last playoff game in Denver on January 19, 2014. I think this will be a close game, but the Broncos just won’t be able to put enough points on the board to keep up with the Patriots.

Prediction: Patriots win

NFC Championship Game

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

Sunday January 24 at 3:40 PST (6:40 EST)

This is, by far, the toughest game to predict of this post-season. Partly because I really like both teams, and mostly because both of these teams have been fantastic this season. The records speak for themselves, the Panthers‘ 15-1 record speaks for itself. Their only loss coming against the Falcons, which was clearly a fluke. The Cardinals have also had some funky losses: losing first to the Rams, then losing to a Pittsburgh Steelers team with Landry Jones at quarterback, and ending the regular season with a 36-6 loss to the Seahawks. The Cardinals and Panthers last met in the first round of the playoffs last year on January 3, 2015 in Charlotte. The Panthers won, but Ryan Lindley played quarterback for the Cardinals, in place of an injured Carson Palmer. Thankfully, Palmer will be available to play this time. Both Palmer and Carolina’s quarterback, Cam Newton, have had unbelievable seasons. I worry that Palmer’s finger is still injured, which may have led to his struggles in their game last weekend against the Packers. While Cam has been stellar, the rest of the Panthers’ offense isn’t quite as consistent as the Cardinals, who have Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Ellington, and Troy Niklas. The Panthers are totally reliant on Cam on offense. On the flipside, the Panthers’ defense is superior to the Cardinals’. Both Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have had fantastic seasons. I can see either of these teams winning, but give the slight edge to the Panthers, as I think Cam has proven to be a better playoff quarterback, even if there isn’t much of a sample size.

Prediction: Panthers win

NFL Division Series Predictions

NFL 2015 Season Division Series

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(Stats from pro-football-reference.com)

AFC Matchups

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Photo by Charles Krupka

Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots

Saturday January 16 at 1:35pm PST (4:35pm EST)

The Kansas City Chiefs have won 11 in a row now, including their first playoff win since their January 16, 1994 win over the Houston Oilers. The Patriots, on the other hand, won only two of their last six games of the 2015 season. It’s entirely possible that, given the Patriots’ capabilities in gamesmanship, they may have been jockeying for the 2-seed to avoid the Steelers. But, in any case, going 2-4 to end the season doesn’t look great heading into the playoffs. The team will have the dynamic duo of Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady, likely in good health. Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson (yup) and James White should be able to help them run. If Julian Edelman can play too, the Patriots will be close enough to their early season offense to win this. If Jeremy Maclin can’t play, that will certain hurt the Chiefs. But Alex Smith has been winning with Travis Kelce, Spencer Ware, Chris Conley, Knile Davis, and other members of a The Chiefs surprisingly effective offense. I would like to see the Chiefs pull off an upset here. But, as we saw with the Washington professional football team, the playoffs tend to expose teams that haven’t beaten great teams. The Chiefs brutalized the Texans, but their only wins over a other teams with winning records this season were against a Landry Jones-led Pittsburgh team on October  25, 2015 and, of course, their season opener against the Houston Texans. I have a feeling the Patriots will prove they’re back and end the Chiefs streak on Saturday.

Prediction: Patriots win

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Photo by Ron Chenoy/USA Today

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos

Sunday January 17 at 1:40pm PST (4:40pm EST)

There are so many variables to consider here. Can Peyton Manning play a full playoff game against a good team? He might be able to pull it off on two weeks rest. Will Ben Roethlisberger be cleared to play? If so, can he? And the questions aren’t just at quarterback, will the Steelers also be without their stars Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams after Brown suffered a concussion and Williams’ current foot injury? Beyond Manning, the biggest question for the Broncos is whether or not their defense can perform at their early season levels. DeMarcus Ware‘s status and overall health will certainly be a factor. While the Steelers’ were billed as the most-feared Wild Card AFC team coming into the playoffs, they may just be too banged up to make it out of this round.

Prediction: Broncos win

NFC Matchups

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Photo by Mike Roemer/USA Today

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals

Saturday January 16 at 5:15pm PST (8:15pm EST)

Are the Packers back? After a rough first quarter, they seemed to have no problem exposing a Washington team that, much like the Texans, just happened to be the team that won their division. It’s tough to say if the Packers are actually back to being able to perform at the level they could in the first 6 games of the season, or if they were simply able to exploit an easy opponent and their just a better-than-average team. Better-than-average certainly won’t be able to beat the Cardinals. That’s not to say the Cardinals didn’t have a bizarre ending to their own season. While the December 27 matchup between the Cardinals and Packers was a 38-8 blowout by Arizona, the Cardinals saw a similar fate against the Seahawks, who beat them 36-6. It’s possible this Arizona team saw no real reason to try (or expose anything in their playbook), considering they likely knew they would be the 2-seed. Nonetheless, it was a weird note to end such a great season on. As we saw with the January 10 Wild Card matchup between the Seahawks and the Vikings, I think despite a regular season blowout, this ends up a much closer game, but still a victory to the previous winner, in this case, the Cardinals (although probably not quite the same circumstances).

Prediction: Cardinals win

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Photo by Bob Donnan/USA Today

Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers

Sunday January 17 at 10:05am PST (1:05pm EST)

The Seahawks had to overcome a lot of disadvantages in their Wild Card matchup with the Vikings: an early away game in extreme weather, without Marshawn Lynch. But they got the ultimate stroke of luck when it really mattered on a missed 27-yard field goal. This weekend they’ll see another early away game, but likely mild weather. Their third away game in a row might be a bit much and Lynch’s status is unknown. But, overall, this matchup will likely be a better indication of who the better team is, this week at least. In their October 18, 2015 matchup, The Panthers came from behind in the 4th quarter and we able to beat the Seahawks 27-23. Despite last year’s playoff matchup between these teams, the teams have generally been close since Cam Newton and Russell Wilson have been the quarterbacks for these teams, despite the Seahawks winning most of the games. Cam has been unbelievable this year, and could be the league MVP. Wilson may not have been as impressive early in the season, but has been fantastic in the last couple months and has clearly proven himself in the playoffs. I can see this going either way, but find myself doubting the Seahawks just a little bit, as they may have a limited offense going up against Carolina’s excellent defense. Regardless, this should be an exciting and competitive game.

Prediction: Panthers win