Sal's Crystal Ball: 2017 NFL predictions

Picks for the playoffs, Super Bowl, and award winners for the 2017 season

Sal Capaccio
September 09, 2017 - 2:41 pm

Training camps are over, preseason games are in the books, rosters are set at 53, and the NFL season is ready to kickoff.  

Of course that means I’ll tell you - precisely - everything that’s going to happen leading up to, and including Super Bowl LII (in Minnesota, by the way). Just read it below, then feel free to kick back, relax, and watch the Bills and the rest of the games stress-free knowing what’s going to happen.

Just don’t blame me if I’m totally and completely wrong……..
2017 Division Winners and Wild Cards
AFC East - Patriots
There’s no way anyone can reasonable look at this division and think it’s not still Tom Brady’s to lose, right? Unless you think Tommy Boy is going to hit that preverbal 40-year old quarterback wall and drastically decline? But even if that happens, the rest of the division has serious questions. The Dolphins, who made the playoffs a year ago, have to turn to Jay Cutler at quarterback. He’s 17-29 as a starter over the past four years. The Bills are in transition with an almost complete roster overhaul and still plenty of questions about Tyrod Taylor, not to mention a wide receiver group without Sammy Watkins. And the Jets are, well, you know…..

AFC North - Steelers
Maybe they really do feel Ben Roethlisberger has only one year left? Or if they don’t, they at least see their window of opportunity with him under center closing rapidly, because Pittsburgh has loaded up for the season. They’ve made some moves usually a bit of character for them, including signing cornerback Joe Haden to a three-year, $27 million deal, biting the $12.1 million franchise tag bullet for Le’Veon Bell, and shelling out another $68 million to Antonio Brown on a four-year extension. No one’s going to confuse their defense with the Steel Curtain of the 1970’s, but as long as Big Ben stays healthy they’ll be able to outscore almost anyone. The Ravens defense is going to be nasty.  One of the best in the league. But they have little firepower on offense. The Bengals will be better than they were last year, but still not talented enough to compete for 17 weeks with Pittsburgh. The Browns are making strides. But they stripped down so much a couple years ago they’re still going to be at the bottom here for at least another year.

AFC South - Titans
Tom Savage. Blake Bortles. A huge asterisk next to Andrew Luck. All that adds up to Marcus Mariota and the Titans. That offense is rich with talent and should be fun to watch. The only thing that could hold it back is their own coach, Mike Mularkey. The Texans and Jaguars defenses will challenge that Tennessee offense, but there’s no way either of those teams’ offenses will be able to keep up when it’s all said and done. The Colts are a mess, even with Luck. There are still major issues on the offensive and across their defense. And who knows when Luck will be back? They’re already giving everyone else a head start with him possibly missing the first several weeks.

AFC West - Raiders
The Raiders might have to win every game they play 35-30.  But here’s the thing - they just might do that. This team has a tremendous offense. It will score a ton of points. But the defense is going to have to hope and pray most weeks. There will be plenty of shootouts. I could make a case for almost any team in this division to win it, and I’m pretty confident at least one wild card team will come from this division. But the Broncos have no real quarterback or running game to scare defenses. The Chargers are actually a fairly well-balanced team, but there’s always something that holds them back. Often it’s injuries, and they are already dealing with several, including their top two draft choices, wide receiver Mike Williams (week-to-week) and guard Forrest Lamp (out for the season). With Alex Smith at quarterback the Chiefs will look to win close games as they usually do. But cutting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin then losing running back Spencer Ware for the season will hurt the offense’s ability to score and keep up. So I’ll go with the best offense with the young quarterback and all those weapons.

AFC Wild Card - Chiefs
AFC Wild Card - Ravens

NFC East - Giants
The Giants have one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL coming into 2017. And that could very well be the difference in a division with solid quarterbacks and/or offensive weapons all around. I like Carson Wentz and think he’ll be a good quarterback in the NFL, but he’s not good enough yet to carry an Eagles offense that still has questions about its run game and defense. Kirk Cousins will have another good year throwing the football, but they’ll have problems stopping teams, as usual. Defensive coordinators have now had a full offseason to get a look at Dak Prescott. That will make it a little more challenging on him and the Cowboys. And the Dallas defense isn’t good enough to compensate for any regression by the offense.

NFC North - Vikings
I’m going out on a bit of a limb here since most will pick the Packers. Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers and certainly the roster and coaching to win this division, but they had a lot of issues stopping the pass last year. The Vikings have underrated weapons on offense to go with a full year of Sam Bradford working with them, and the best defense in the division. They’re best equipped to stop Rodgers. I actually like the Lions to be in the mix with both the Vikings and Packers all season, but just not enough on defense to win the division. The Bears are in full transition mode and won’t be a factor.

NFC South - Buccaneers
In a division loaded with quarterbacks, Jameis Winston might have the best chance to succeed in 2017. Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan.  Easily the best group of quarterbacks for any one division. The Bucs skill positions are, collectively, some of the best in the league overall. And they’ll need them because the defense let them down several times last year. But, that’s not going to deter me from taking them to win this division since all of the other teams also have areas of concern. Some are questioning the Saints offense (believe it or not), but the defense has been a liability the last few years, as well. Newton had a serious dropoff in 2016 and there are some injury concerns with him headed into the season. The Falcons are the defending conference champs and still have Matt Ryan and a potent offense. They also still have a defense that allowed 30 or more points six times last year and 26 or more points TEN times!

NFC West - Seahawks
Seattle has their best defensive talent since they won the Super Bowl in 2013. And that’s saying something. It’s saying enough to win the division that has two teams not nearly close enough in the Rams and 49ers, and a Cardinals team that has talent but age and heath concerns on offense.  

NFC Wild Card - Cowboys
NFC Wild Card - Packers

AFC Championship Game - Patriots over Raiders
NFC Championship Game - Seahawks over Giants

Super Bowl LII - Seahawks over Patriots

2017 Award Winners

NFL MVP - Aaron Rodgers - quarterback - Packers
Offensive Player of the Year - David Johnson - RB - Cardinals
Defensive Player of the Year - Khalil Mack - DE/LB - Raiders
Offensive Rookie of the Year - Christian McCaffrey - RB - Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year - Jamal Adams - S - N.Y. Jets
Coach of the Year - Mike Zimmer - Vikings
Comeback Player of Year - J.J. Watt - DE - Texans

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