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2017 NFL Crystal Ball Predictions

Temperatures are dropping, there is a chill in the air. That means one thing. Football season is finally here! As I look in the crystal ball I see some interesting predictions when it comes to the upcoming season. Some could considered “chalk”, while others bold. Last year’s predictions weren’t too bad, which you could read here.

Put on some eye black and do some stretches, because here we go…


Derek Carr – Raiders

Before his season ended last year to a fibula fracture, Carr was leading the Raiders into the playoffs and they were looking to be a dangerous team, He has elevated his game to another level in the short time that he has been in the league. With Amari Cooper establishing himself as his most reliable target, and Michael Crabtree his leading redone threat, Carr has a chance to be even better than last year with an array of weapons including Marshawn Lynch attempting to lead the running game, in turn taking some pressure off of Carr. Runner-up: Aaron Rodgers – Packers.

NFC Offensive Player of the Year

Christian McCaffery – Panthers

There is something to all the news coming out of Carolina in reference to the rookie running back McCaffery out of Stanford. He was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy last year and I think his skill set was a perfect match for the offense for the Panthers. He gives Cam Newton not only someone new to hand the ball off to, but more importantly, he presents a scary good ball catcher who can take it the distance on any given play. I can see McCaffery starting off very hot before tapering off near the end of the season, but his numbers could be something special. Runner-up: David Johnson – Cardinals.

AFC Offensive Player of the Year

Antonio Brown – Steelers

He was my pick for this award last season, and there is nothing to change that for this year. He is as dependable as they come, as Brown has not missed a game to injury in four years, and in that time has the most receptions and touchdowns in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to man should continue to lead the Steelers on a deep run. How deep? Find out more later. Runner-up: Tyreek Hill – Chiefs. 

NFC Defensive Player of the Year

Aaron Donald – Rams

Last year he was my runner-up pick, and I don’t mean to go to the well here, but he is as good as they come at his position. Despite not showing up to the team yet, they will meet in an agreement and the Rams will wonder why they undervalued such a great player.  As murky as the rest of the Rams football team may be, putting Donald in a defense ran by Wade Phillips only makes him that much better. Runner-up: Tyrann Mathieu – Cardinals

AFC Defensive Player of the Year

Joey Bosa – Chargers

This guy was a beast last year on defense, and this year he will put himself in the category of  the “must-watch” football players in the NFL. He is an attacker, and will wreak absolute havoc on quarterbacks this year. There was a reason why he was a top pick in last season’s draft, and he will pay off for the Chargers. Runner-up: JJ Watt – Texans


Offensive Rookie Of the Year

Christian McCaffery – Panthers

Yep. Two awards on my list for McCaffery. He just adds such a different dynamic to this Panthers offense and teams will have to try to key in on him as he lines up everywhere on the field. The problem is, they have to actually catch him.  Runner-up: OJ Howard – Buccaneers.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Derek Barnett – Eagles

I have a gut feeling that this guy is going to shock the city of Philadelphia and the entire NFL. I am not sure if anyone was really head over heels about the pick at the time, but when you look at the defensive front of the Eagles, Barnett is set up pretty well to have plenty of opportunities to make noise in opposing team’s backfields. We all heard about Barnett breaking Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee, but wouldn’t it be something if he becomes the best defensive end Philadelphia has had since the Minister of Defense himself? Runner-up: Reuben Foster – 49ers.

NFL Comeback Player of the Year

Jay Cutler – Dolphins

Not only was he hurt last season but he had a set of headphones and a microphone in his sights. That was until the Dolphins called him a few weeks ago following the injury to Ryan Tannehill. Cutler is teamed up with his former offensive coordinator Adam Gase, and he has very formidable weapons at his disposal in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Julius Thomas, Kenny Stills, and running back Jay Ajai. Cutler has a chance to really have a nice season as the Dolphins hope to compete for a playoff spot. Runner-up: Marshawn Lynch – Raiders

NFL Coach of the Year

Mike Mularkey – Titans

In what is predicted to be somewhat of a weak division, the Titans should be able to take the AFC South in 2017. That’s not the impressive part. They have become a popular pick to go deep and possible contend for a Super Bowl thanks to their tough defense, and their well run offense led by Marcus Mariota and Demarco Murray. Mularkey helped improved a three win team into an eight win group last year and the needle is pointing up. Brought in as an interim coach following the release of Mike Munchak near the end of the 2015 campaign, the Titans hired Mularkey to be the full time coach following the year, and the more will prove to be the right one. Runner-up: Adam Gase – Dolphins.

Most Improved Team

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers finished 5-11 last season and left San Diego. As strange as it is to say the Los Angeles Chargers, leaving a market that  wouldn’t support the team’s requests for a better stadium and facilities is a good thing. The team was decimated with injuries last year, but Keenan Allen returns healthy, Joey Bosa and Casey Hayward lead the defense, and the reemergence of Melvin Gordon last year gives the Chargers a chance to steadily improve over last season’s disappointing record which resulted in the firing of coach Mike McCoy and the hiring of Anthony Lynn, the former Bills assistant coach.

Breakout Player

Isiah Crowell – Browns

Forget the he plays on the Browns. Remember when Maurice Jones-Drew played on some horrific Jaguars teams years ago? Yeah, it’s like that. Crowell is a very nice back who can do it all. Last year he had just under 1,000 yards while scoring nine touchdowns. He also caught 40 passes for over 300 yards. With another season of instability at quarterback in Cleveland, Crowell will be asked to do more and he should have nice production for what should be an improved team. Runner-up: JJ Nelson – Cardinals

Best Free Agent Signing

Martellius Bennett – Packers

What Bennett was able to do in the absence of Rob Gronkowksi last year for the Patriots was outstanding, so when the team let him go, he joined the Packers who have a pretty prolific offense of their own. Aaron Rodgers now has a very nice security blanket in the middle of the field, (no disrespect to Jared Cook), but Bennett, even at age 30, is a significant upgrade for the Packers at the tight end position. I can see Bennett taking many red zone targets away from the talented wideouts there and possibly getting into the double digits in touchdowns this year.

Now for the flip side of things…


NFL Bust of the Year

Terrell Pryor – Redskins

I do not like the Redskins situation right now. Following the weird and crazy firing of the team’s general manager Scot McCloughan this offseason, the team also lost offensive coordinator Sean McVay to the Rams. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon were given walking papers and the team brought in Pryor, a converted wideout who broke out with a good 2016 season with the Browns. The team is counting on him to repeat that performance, but I have my doubts. Now that teams have a book on Pryor, who also has an unhappy quarterback throwing to him, if things start off poorly for Washington, it could be a very long year for Pryor which will bring up plenty of questions from the fan base regarding their team’s moves.

First Coach To Get Fired

Chuck Pagano – Colts

Things are already a mess coming out of camp with the uncertainty of the health of Andrew Luck, the swinging door of players coming and going, (some by early retirement, see Pat McAfee), and aside from draft pick safety Malik Hooker, no improvements seem to be visible on the roster. The Colts look to be stuck in neutral while their young talent is being wasted during their early peak years. Because of this, Chuck Pagano will sadly catch the brunt of the failure and be the first head coach on the chopping block.

The Sophomore Slumper

Dak Prescott – Cowboys

It’s not that I think Prescott is not a good quarterback. He seems to have a pretty good feel for the game despite initially not being named the starter until late preseason last year. After having such immediate success and leading his team to a 13 win season and a playoff appearance, it’s hard to imagine Prescott improving upon that. Faced with failure and adversity, (especially since his mid-drift shirt wearing running back is out for six games), Prescott will have his back against the wall and struggle a bit. I still think the Cowboys will be a little dangerous, but Dak comes down to Earth hard.

Most Disappointing Team

The Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Reid has a tough road this season, and it begins against the defending world champion Patriots. There is an awkward situation at quarterback with Alex Smith looking over his shoulder at first round pick Patrick Mahomes. The running back situation took a hit when Spencer Ware went down with a season ending injury, and the division appears to be much tougher this year. I can easily see the Chiefs having a very slow start, which isn’t unlike an Andy Reid team, but they may not recover in time.

Division and Playoff Predictions

(Playoff teams underlined)

NFC EastGiants 10-6, Eagles 9-7, Cowboys 8-8, Redskins 6-10

NFC NorthPackers 12-4,  Vikings 9-7, Lions 7-9, Bears 3-13

NFC South: Panthers 10-6, Falcons 10-6, Buccaneers 9-7, Saints 8-8

NFC West: Seahawks 12-4,Cardinals 8-8, Rams 6-10, 49ers 5-11


AFC East: Patriots 11-5, Dolphins 9-7, Bills 5-11, Jets 2-14

AFC North: Steelers 11-5, Bengals 10-6,  Ravens 6-10, Browns 4-12

AFC South: Titans 10-6, Texans 9-7, Colts 7-9, Jaguars 4-12

AFC West: Oakland 12-4, Chargers 9-7, Chiefs 8-8, Broncos 7-9


NFC Champions: Seahawks over Packers

AFC Champions: Steelers over Titans

Super Bowl 52

Steelers 21, Seahawks 20

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