Yeah, Trump is still President; Kim Jong Un continues to launch test-missiles; and it’s quite obvious racism still exists in our great country. But hey, football is back! So stop twiddling those thumbs, close that CNN article, and get to the nearest television, stat!
The NFL’s 2017 regular season is set to kickoff tonight, as the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs. But before all the fun gets underway, here’s what you should expect from the 2017 season as a whole.
The Patriots were really good last year: they went 14-1 (including playoffs) with Tom Brady under center and erased a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl. They may be ev better this year: they added Brandin Cooks, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, David Harris, and Stephon Gilmore. Buckle yourself up for a whole lot more Patriots wins.
The team (or more accurately: man) who poses the best threat to New England repeating as champs is the Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers). In the second-half of the 2016 season, Aaron Rodgers showed us a whole new level of QB-play we didn’t think possible. The two-time NFL MVP threw 18 TDs and zero interceptions over the final seven games of the year, posting an incredible 120.0 passer rating in that span. That kind of play from the game’s most crucial position is more than enough to keep your team in any game. If the Packers don’t want to rely solely on the heroics of Rodgers in 2017, they’ll need Davon House to be a difference-maker in a secondary that finished second-worst against the pass in 2016.
If Ezekiel Elliott is granted his temporary restraining order from the NFL and is eligible to play all of the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys will serve as the NFL’s 1b option to take down the Pats. Dak Prescott has shown the poise of a ten-year veteran, and the offensive line in front of him will still be dominant in spite of losing Doug Free and Ronald Leary. However, Zeke’s status is very uncertain at this point. (More details on that below.)
Though Pittsburgh may be the safer choice in the AFC to knockoff New England, they’ve proved time and again they are incapable of beating the Patriots. Dating back to 2005, the Steelers have lost 11 of their last 14 meetings with the Pats (including playoffs). While a healthy/reinstated quartet of Killer Bs (Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant) is awfully tempting, we see the Oakland Raiders being the AFC’s best option against Bill Belichick and company.
Derek Carr was putting up MVP-like numbers last season before getting injured in Week 16 — 3,937 passing yards, 28 TDs, and just six INTs — and now has an improved arsenal with Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook signing with the Raiders in the offseason. Though the Raider defense leaves a lot to be desired, 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack is a special player who can alter the outcome of any game on any given play. Add in the additions of first-round pick Gareon Conley and third-round pick Eddie Vanderdoes, and Jack Del Rio will have a little more to work with on the defensive side.
In 13 of the last 14 seasons, at least one team has gone from worst to first in their division. It’s happened in the NFC East in four of the last five seasons. The Eagles could certainly make it five of six, but their path (Cowboys and Giants) is much more difficult than what the Panthers face.
Carolina still has a very good front-seven, and drafting Christian McCaffrey brings a ton of explosiveness back to an offense that struggled last season (19th in total offense). The Falcon offense will take a slight step back without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays; and in spite of all their offseason hype, the Bucs have not looked overly impressive in the preseason.
Several teams are likely to stumble out of the starter’s gate this season, but none will stumble for quite so long — or quite so spectacularly — as the Jets. New York plays its first two games on the road against the Bills and the Raiders before returning home to face the Dolphins and Jags. The Jets may not go 0-16 this season, but we’re betting they’ll begin their march towards mediocrity with an 0-4 record.
To clarify, this based on percentage of seats filled, not the total number of people at the games — the Chargers would be the runaway favorites in that case, playing in the 27,000 –seat StubHub Center.
The Raiders have not been able to reach 87-percent capacity in the Oakland Coliseum since 2011. Making matters worse, the team has announced it’s relocating, leading the mayor of Oakland to state, “I don’t want them here.” Be on the lookout for television blackouts in 2017.
We’re betting big on Philadelphia. The Eagles won’t be horrible this season, but they have the misfortune of playing in a no-nonsense town famous for booing Santa Claus. Expect the boo birds to make some serious noise during Week 3 against the Giants.
Tom Brady’s jersey is a lot like Tom Brady himself: it’s just as popular with men as it is with women. That’s one reason (along with the Patriots’ continued dominance), why you can expect to see plenty of red, white, and blue #12 jerseys at your local sporting-goods store in 2017.
The NFL should enjoy a new era of stability after the Raiders finally relocate to Las Vegas. If another franchise packs up in the middle of the night a la the Colts, it will be the Bills. New Era Field is badly in need of renovations, and the franchise has experimented with playing regular-season games in Toronto in the past. A trip across the border (north or south) is not out of the question.
According to Spotrac, 66 players were suspended last year for a total of 319 games. That was up from 2015 (61 suspensions) and way up from 2014 (50) and 2013 (43). That trend is going to continue; we haven’t even finished Week 1 and already 32 players have been banished for anywhere from one to a full 16 games (Baltimore’s Darren Waller). With new guidelines on dangerous hits, Draconian justice for repeat offenders, and very little tolerance for drug use (performance-enhancing or otherwise), this should be the first season with 70-plus suspensions.
Substance abuse (non-PEDs): 34.5
Performance enhancing drugs/supplements: 23.5
On-field actions (illegal hits, etc.): 4.5
Assault/off-field violence: 2.5
Other criminal activity & personal conduct (DUIs etc.): 9.5
You may be convinced Elliott committed the allegations against him, or you may not. But neither your opinion on that, nor the opinion of the appeals court, matters at this juncture. Elliott’s appeal hinges on whether the process the league followed in handing down the suspension was fundamentally fair — more specifically, how it handled and disclosed the relevant evidence. The DeflateGate appeal — while it focused on different aspects of the suspension process — was also argued on procedural-fairness grounds. The NFL’s victory in that appeal set a precedent that the league has a broad discretion to handle investigations and suspension-decisions as it sees fit.
Full disclosure: I’m not a lawyer. Fuller disclosure: I used to be a lawyer. Fullest disclosure: I wasn’t very good at it.
Zeke is going to miss six games in all likelihood (see above). When the suspension starts depends on whether his temporary restraining order is granted. Unless the suspension starts in Week 13 or later, Elliott will be eligible to play in ten regular-season games this year. Barring some insane, MVP-type run from Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are going to be fighting tooth-and-nail for a playoff spot when Elliott returns, meaning a Week 17 vacation is not on the schedule.
If Elliott’s TRO is granted, there’s a good chance that he’s allowed to play while his next appeal is ongoing. Just like with DeflateGate, that would lead to a good chance Elliott’s suspension is effectively postponed until next season — in whole or in part.
Snead and Strong have already been fined for substance-abuse issues, but you just know that Beckham is going to get in hot water at some point this season after celebrating one of his many touchdowns. The flamboyant wideout can’t help himself, even if it takes a big bite out of his take-Home pay.
Get ready for plenty of fireworks during Week 7 when Vontaze Burfict and the Bengals charge into Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The hard-hitting linebacker injured Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, and Antonio Brown during an explosive game in 2015, and has been stirring things up on social media and in the press ever since.
The NFL has been cracking down on excessive celebrations for years now, and it’s only a matter of time before the Colts’ horse-powered mascot gets tossed for his exaggerated pelvic thrusts. That kind of behaviour might be fine on the farm where he was raised, but it has no place in an NFL stadium.
It’s been said that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. That’s good news for Todd Bowles, because he’ll likely have to make it in another NFL city before the season is done. The franchise is in lose-now mode, and Bowles will be the fall guy when the Jets invariably crash and burn.
We may never see another post-game rant like the epic tirades delivered by Jim Mora and Dennis Green, but if we do, it will most likely come from the mouth of John Harbaugh. Jim’s big brother is known for his fiery temperament and has a long history of throwing ridiculously over-the-top temper tantrums.
I’m no weatherman, but I can probably predict the weather just as accurately. Hurricane Irma has already postponed one game, while Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Katia are following in Irma’s path. With the two extra storms potentially heading for the Atlantic coast, some Week 2 games may also need rescheduling.
This is the reason professional athletes should not just “stick to sports.” In a truly amazing effort, JJ Watt has successfully used his platform to raise nearly $29 million (and counting) to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
Rumors are swirling that the NFL is in talks with Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake to headline the Super Bowl LII halftime show as a joint performance at US Bank Stadium. It would mark JT’s first halftime show appearance since Super Bowl XXXVIII, when he infamously pulled down Janet Jackson’s top in what was coined a “wardrobe malfunction.”
The NFL is obviously not concerned with taking the safe route anymore, considering they had Lady Gaga perform last year. It appears the league is going for entertainment value now, meaning the rest of the world’s top artists round out the early favorites.
It’s hard to remember a season in which a player hasn’t injured himself while celebrating a big play. Who can forget when Lions’ linebacker Stephen Tulloch shredded his ACL while celebrating a sack in 2014? Or how about when Washington Redskins’ cornerback DeAngelo Hall suffered back spasms while jumping up and down during a game in 2009? Celebration-related injuries are a painful – and often hilarious – fact of life in the NFL.
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