Your Guide to the 2017 NFL Season

Max says things he thinks… and probably will be wrong (again)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

There was no chance anyone could beat the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. They were coming off a blowout Super Bowl win and were only getting better with experience. Yet the Patriots knocked them off in Super Bowl XLIV.

There was no team near the New England Patriots in 2015. Everyone thought they were too good for the rest of the league. Yet the Panthers became the alpha dogs, going 15-1, and the Pats didn’t even make it to the Super Bowl, losing to the eventual champions, the Denver Broncos.

Then, one year later, the Carolina Panthers were the alpha dogs. Everyone put their money on the top defense led by reigning MVP Cam Newton. Who could stop them?

Well, it turns out everyone could. They went 6-10 while the Deflategate-hampered Pats blew through the competition on their way to a Super Bowl victory.

And here we are today: the Pats sit as defending champs and alpha dogs and are overwhelmingly favored to win it all. So before we go on and crown them repeat champions, let’s remember history and consider there’s always someone waiting to knock off the preseason favorite.

Going into the season, the Patriots added some star players, wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, so as far as repeats go, things look good. However, they lost running back LeGarrette Blount, and Tom Brady has hit the age of 40, so there are signs of decay in Foxborough. Outside of them in the AFC East, the Dolphins are good, but not great, the Bills aren’t worth talking about, and the Jets would be lucky to win three games.

The Steelers are an interesting challenger, but their defense is vulnerable, and Belichick knows this team too well to lose to them in the playoffs.

The Titans are the exciting team in the South; they come off a fringe-playoff season and head into 2017 with a second-place schedule with a young improving quarterback, Marcus Mariota, and a proven running back, DeMarco Murray. Still, this team isn’t developed enough to challenge the Patriots in crunch time.

Next, we move on to the Raiders in the West (the Chiefs are too conservative, the Chargers are old/hurt, the Broncos are closer to top five pick than a division title), who could have challenged New England last year had quarterback Derek Carr not suffered a season-ending injury before the playoffs. With Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to go to Oakland’s backfield, things are looking up for them.

With the Colts hampered, the Ravens and Bengals hampered, and a transitioning Broncos offense, the Chiefs should be able to sneak into the playoffs in a Wild Card spot, but they aren’t a real threat to the Patriots.

In the NFC, the Giants and Cowboys each make a strong case for the top spot in the East. The Giants added some firepower with wide receiver Brandon Marshall, making the trip from the other locker room to join the successful team in New Meadows. Dallas’s young star quarterback, Dak Prescott, has a year more of experience, but the loss of cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Barry Church will hamper their secondary, making it tough for them to repeat their 2016 success. The Giants have the edge in this division.

Speaking of the Packers, they didn’t get much better. They probably will barely use tight end Martellus Bennett, who they added this offseason, and their defense is still a bit of a mess. But they have arguably the most talented quarterback in history, Aaron Rodgers, so they’ll win their division and contend nonetheless.

In the South, the Falcons are coming off a surprise breakout season, but now they’ve lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and they still lack defensive talent. The Panthers, on the other hand, drafted running back Christian McCaffrey out of Stanford, and they still possess one of the best defenses in the league, as well as former MVP quarterback Cam Newton. They won’t go 15-1 like they did in 2015, but a bounce back is in order and so is a Super Bowl hangover for Atlanta. Edge goes to Carolina.

The Seahawks will win the West, but it won’t be pretty behind an unstable offensive line and offensive weapons. The rest of this division is either old or terrible, so even with Seattle’s struggles, this appears to be a safe bet.

So now things look something like this:


1. New England Patriots

2. Oakland Raiders

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Tennessee Titans

5. Miami Dolphins

6. Kansas City Chiefs


1. New York Giants

2. Green Bay Packers

3. Carolina Panthers

4. Seattle Seahawks

5. Dallas Cowboys

6. Atlanta Falcons

The Patriots are just better than every team in the AFC by a lot. They’re going to another Super Bowl.

The NFC will be much more interesting as the Giants are an unintimidating #1 seed, and the conference powerhouse Seahawks fizzle a bit to the #4 seed. The Seahawks versus the Cowboys should make for an interesting first round, but the Seahawks should prevail as the Cowboys lack a strong pass rush and have a very weak secondary, and the Seahawks haven’t lost a home playoff game in the Russell Wilson era (5-0). The Panthers and Falcons will feature no love lost as these two division foes go at it. Carolina should be able to win with home field advantage and a powerful defense that Atlanta will struggle against without Kyle Shanahan on the Falcons’s sideline.

From that point, I’ll pick against Eli Manning any day (he won’t become elite a third time), especially against a defense that will pressure him a lot and lock down his top targets. Seattle’s offensive line may be spotty, but the Giants’s lack of linebacker talent will allow Russell Wilson to scramble and dump down all day. On the other side of the NFC, Aaron Rodgers should catch fire as usual in the playoffs and blow past both the Panthers and Seahawks, as he’ll be playing in the comfy freezing temperatures of Lambeau Field.

Then, on to the Super Bowl!

Brady versus Rodgers is the marquee matchup of a lifetime, and this Super Bowl won’t disappoint. While Rodgers is the superior talent, at the end of the day, the superior roster and personnel will prevail as New England’s weapons on offense, playmakers on defense, and masterminds on the sideline will prove to be too much for Rodgers to carry the team any longer.

So, remember when I said we shouldn’t just write off everyone else and pick the repeat? This is one of those special cases. The last team to repeat was the Patriots back in the 2004 season, and now Brady and Belichick will do it again, earning their sixth ring and further cementing themselves as the best quarterback and coach of all time.

Full Predictions:

Wild Card Round

Steelers def. Chiefs

Titans def. Dolphins

Seahawks def. Cowboys

Panthers def. Falcons

Divisional Round

Patriots def. Titans

Steelers def. Raiders

Seahawks def. Giants

Packers def. Panthers

Conference Championship

Patriots def. Steelers

Packers def. Seahawks

Super Bowl

Patriots def. Packers, 31-27