Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2017 NFL Predictions: Praying For Unpredictability

Just Give In
Every NFL season, to me, is akin to Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.

We have such hopes, you see. This will be the year when the fantasy picks work out. This will be the year where the Eagles don't derp all over themselves in winnable games. The year where you don't feel buyer's remorse for caring about the game, the year when you have the discipline to not watch any pre or post-game show, the year that Roger Goodell has the good sense to go hide in a back room and cash his obscene checks.

Which, of course, isn't how it ever works out.

How it works out is the Patriots will run roughshod over their short bus division. How it works is that some NFL South team will rise up and smack everyone else around. How it works is that the teams that are fun to watch will suffer injuries that limit their QBs ability to do cool things, the guys that you went all-in for will fail in fantasy, and the picks will go sidewise on missed field goals and last-minute suck-out covers.

There are three parts to the NFL season for me; my real team, my fantasy teams, and my picks. Going 0-for-3 seems unlikely, and yet it happens all too frequently. But since that was last year, and hope springs eternal... let's get to the picks!

AFC East

New England 13-3
Miami 9-7
Buffalo 6-10
New York 3-13

Let's just tell the Patriots that they've clinched the division already, so they can start resting starters and be ready for the three games a year that they care about... If you are looking for hope, Tom Brady is 40 and wasn't good in 2.5 of 3 playoff games last year. Which means they could be paper tigers, but no one will know that until January... Miami is the only other team with a semblance of a clue here, and Jay Cutler will be better than expected, but in any other division, they'd be under .500... RB Jay Ajayi is overrated due to a couple of stat monster games against bad teams, but it's not as if the schedule doesn't have bad teams... Buffalo will be the second straight year in which Jordan Matthews will be an overmatched and injured WR1... New York is pretty much trying to lose games, which means they will win just enough to screw themselves up. What a train wreck of a franchise and division.

AFC North

Pittsburgh 11-5
Cincinnati 10-6 * (WC)
Cleveland 7-9
Baltimore 6-10

If the Steelers could ever get their offensive stars on the field at the same time, they'd be dangerous, but since they won't, there's no chance that they'll have home field in the playoffs, and QB Ben Roethlisberger isn't good on the road anymore... I have no idea what needs to occur for the Bengals to change their coaching or GM situation, so as always, bet on stasis... Cleveland will actually win some close games this year, excite their fan base far too much, have some promise from their rookie QB, then watch it all go to hell when some catastrophic injury occurs... Baltimore might have the worst offensive line in the conference, and that's not a good thing to have when your QB is injury-prone and stationary.

AFC South

Tennessee 10-6
Houston 9-7
Indianapolis 7-9
Jacksonville 5-11

This division might not be a total dumpster fire anymore... Tennessee has given QB Marcus Mariota some weapons, but the defense isn't quite ready for it... Houston should be better than this, but it's time for the defense to regress, RB Lamar Miller isn't very good, and the QBs will turn it over. But they'll compete for the wild card... Indy could really fall off the table if QB Andrew Luck is out for any amount of time, but the line is better than it used to be, and the WRs are still top-notch... I don't understand why Jacksonville has fans. Honestly, people, Netflix exists, and so does porn. Both have to be a better way to spend your time than watching a no-hope franchise lose double digit games every year. But at least this year, we'll get Angry Tom Coughlin reaction shots.

AFC West

Oakland 10-6
Kansas City 10-6 (WC)
Denver 7-9
Los Angeles 5-11

Last year's fun division will be a little less so, but still the most entertaining one in the conference... Oakland's offensive line is the second-best in the league, which will help RB Marshawn Lynch still look viable... Kansas City's decision to let go of WR Jeremy Maclin will make life way too difficult on QB Alex Smith, who will be looking over his shoulder at Pat Mahomes... Denver's continuing adventures at QB and decision to go cheap in the defensive secondary won't end well... I'm looking forward to both Los Angeles teams stinking up the place for years, just so we can see empty stands prior to new stadiums. That'll be fun. As for the Chargers, the talent is better than 5-11, but the lack of home field and middling defense will keep them back.

NFC East

Dallas 10-6
Philadelphia 9-7
New York 7-9
Washington 5-11

Dallas will regress hard, but the offensive line will keep them from sliding out of the playoffs. Zeke Elliott's suspension situation really doesn't impact this, because 2nd and 5 isn't that different from 2nd and 3... Philly might actually be the best team in this division, but the schedule is brutal, the RBs are middling at best, and second-year QBs aren't quite ready to win divisions yet... New York's offensive line makes QB Eli Manning a short range only passer, and their run offense is even worth than their pass blocking... DC should be better than this, but front office instability has a way of undermining middling QB play.

NFC North

Green Bay 11-5
Detroit 10-6 *
Minnesota 8-8
Chicago 5-11

Green Bay's defense is a little better this year, because it couldn't be worse, and I believe in RB Ty Montgomery... Detroit is, like Green Bay, pissing away the prime years of the best quarterback in franchise history, but since Matt Stafford doesn't overwhelm anyone, it doesn't seem as big of a tragedy... Minnesota is the perfect Sam Bradford team, in that they'll compete and seem OK, but won't get over the hump for reasons that won't resolve the question of whether Bradford, or the team, is any good or not... Chicago has a great RB, some players on defense, and 1-2 years before any of this matters.

NFC South

Tampa 10-6
Atlanta 9-7 *
Carolina 8-8
New Orleans 5-11

It's Tampa's turn to win the division that always turns over, and while QB Jamesis Winston has accuracy issues, the WRs are too good to let that stop them... Atlanta would have won this division if it had simply run the football in the second half of the Super Bowl last year, but hangovers are an absolute killing problem... Carolina could be better than this if the offense can adapt to a new world of Cam Newton not being the power RB, but I have my doubts... New Orleans is in the realm of aging QB who isn't good on the road any more, and the home field advantage has also dropped off in recent years. It's not outside of the realm of possibility that Brees gets hurt and this team is the worst in the league.

NFC West

Seattle 11-5
Arizona 9-7
San Francisco 6-10
Los Angeles 5-11

Still not a great offensive line, but QB Russell Wilson is healthy again, and the defense is still solid... Arizona is trying to get a bounce back year out of a QB (Carson Palmer) who is aging, has a bad offensive line, and has suffered season-ending injuries before... San Francisco might be the best bad team in the league, and after last year's tire fire, it will feel like vintage Montana to Rice... QB Jared Goff will be out of the league by 2020, because he's terrible, and the LA management will want to stop wasting years of good defense. Goff is so bad, I think he's ruined RB Todd Gurley.

Playoffs

Oakland over Cincy, Kansas City over Tennessee
Dallas over Atlanta, Tampa over Detroit

New England over Kansas City, Pittsburgh over Oakland
Seattle over Dallas, Green Bay over Tampa

Seattle over Green Bay
New England over Pittsburgh

New England over Seattle


Awards

MVP: Tom Brady
Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey
Defensive POTY: Khalil Mack
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick

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