PHOENIX, September 6, 2017 — Six months after the Vince Lombardi Trophy was last hoisted, NFL magic returns. The miserable monster known as Offseason is over. Life begins again. Predictions are often proven wrong the moment the first week of football ends. Nevertheless, the exercise is fun. Here are CDN’s predictions for the 2017 NFL season.
New York Giants 10-6 — The Giants are not a juggernaut, but they will be playing in the NFC Least. Eli Manning can still sling it, and the rest of the division is a mess.
Dallas Cowboys 8-8 — The Cowboys were expected to take a step back after their magical run last year, but the six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott combined with a much tougher schedule will sink them.
Washington Redskins 6-10 — Kirk Cousins is better than average, but the team around him is a mess.
Philadelphia Eagles 4-12 — The Eagles are not as bad as their record, but a brutal schedule will do them in. Carson Wentz has serious buzz in Philadelphia, but nothing about last year says that buzz is warranted.
Green Bay Packers 13-3 — Aaron Rodgers is still that good, and much of his division competition is still that bad.
Detroit Lions 10-6 — Matthew Stafford is now the highest player in football and Jim Caldwell teams tend to overachieve an compete hard. The Lions are a good team but not an elite team.
Chicago Bears 4-12 — The Bears will be starting rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Ask Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning about their first season records. Actually, do not. John Fox deserves time to turn the team around, but he may not get it.
Minnesota Vikings 4-12 — Mike Zimmer is a very good coach, but this team just has too many holes at too many positions. The defense is not what it was a couple years ago and Sam Bradford will not get the help he needs on offense anywhere.
New Orleans Saints 12-4 — Drew Brees is as good as ever, but Sean Payton has not been able to get him help on defense. The Saints benefit from the easiest schedule in the division while the other good teams all beat each other up.
Atlanta Falcons 10-6 — Super Bowl hangovers hurt, and the Falcons will step back a bit this year. They have a tough division and a tough schedule
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6 — The Buccaneers are on the rise and Jameis Winston is growing. The defense is vastly improved, but the Buccaneers are a year away from being great.
Carolina Panthers 10-6 — After an off year, Cam Newton will rebound. Ron Rivera knows how to motivate his players, and they will need every bit of fight to last in their tough division.
Arizona Cardinals 14-2 — The offense took last year off but looked explosive in the preseason. Bruce Arians knows this may be the last ride for Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. They are not the best team, but their schedule is very favorable.
Seattle Seahawks 12-4 — They may now have the league’s best defense with the addition of Sheldon Richardson. But they have a slightly tougher schedule than their division counterparts.
St Louis Rams 8-8 — The defense will again excel if Aaron Donald ends his holdout, but Jared Goff has not shown he can get the offense to the level worthy of a number one draft pick in a brutal division. The Rams have a tough schedule in a tough division, but they should be competing deep in the playoffs in one or at most two years. But not this year.
San Francisco 49ers 3-13 — They are a bad team playing in a very good division. They need help in so many areas.
New England Patriots 10-6 — On paper some experts have the Patriots going 16-0, but this normally weak division is improved. The loss of Julian Edelman will hurt, and the Patriots will get the best of every team every week.
Buffalo Bills 8-8 — The longest playoff drought finally ends. It will be ugly and requires being the lucky recipient of a miserable conference, but Buffalo fans will take it. The defense will give their New England rivals all they can handle. But all this team’s efforts will ultimately fall short due to continuing uncertainty at the quarterback position.
Miami Dolphins 7-9 — Ryan Tannehill is out for the season and Jay Cutler is out of retirement. At the end of the year Tannehill will be back and Cutler will be back in retirement. Cutler can play, but his attitude does not inspire teammates.
New York Jets 1-15 — They really are that bad and seem to be conducting a fire sale. Unlike the NBA, the NFL has never been known for tanking. Time will tell if the Jets are starting a trend that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must immediately stop.
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4 — They should steamroll over weaker division opponents as Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger are in “Super Bowl or Bust” mode. Big Ben’s teammates desperately want to send him out on top as he did for Jerome Bettis in 2005.
Baltimore Ravens 7-9 — Joe Flacco is not 100 percent healthy and John Harbaugh has maximized as much as he could over the last few years out of teams that are a shell of the 2012 team that won it all.
Cincinnati Bengals 7-9 — Vontaze Burfect has been suspended again for three games, and Marvin Lewis saw a major drop off on offense when Hue Jackson left. Lewis deserves time to turn things around after four straight playoff seasons before last year, but perhaps he has gotten everything he could have got out of his band of misfits.
Cleveland Browns 5-11 — The Browns will not be the same 1-15 joke they were last year. They are starting rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. But if he can lay, the team will slowly improve. Hue Jackson knows how to develop quarterbacks.
Tennessee Titans 7-9 — The Titans are a much improved team, but they have a brutal schedule. Their division is so wretched that they could become the second team in NFL history to win their division and make the playoffs despite a losing record.
Houston Texans 6-10 — Ask New Orleans how tough it is to concentrate on football in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Harvey has devastated Houston, and they do not have an emotional leader at the quarterback position. J.J. Watt cannot do it all himself, and even he is not the defensive player he was two years ago.
Jacksonville Jaguars 6-10 — Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin will turn this team around, but Blake Bortles throws too many interceptions for anyone to trust him to be the hero. Jacksonville has a tough schedule this season. But by next year, this team could be quite good, especially if Bortles finally gets it right.
Indianapolis Colts 6-10 — Andrew Luck is injured and Chuck Pagano is likely to be fired at the end of the season.
Oakland Raiders 13-3 — The Raiders may not be the best team in their division, and their secondary is a major concern. They may lose their opening game on the road, but Derek Carr is only going to get better. Now he has Marshawn Lynch to take off some of the pressure. If the defense somehow gets it together, the Raiders will be scary.
Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 — Kansas City has a ferocious defense, and the often-criticized Alex Smith does not lose games. The big problem for the Chiefs is their brutal schedule. They can win the division, but would need everything to go right.
Denver Broncos 7-9 — Quarterback is a question mark, with Paxton Lynch injured and a desperate John Elway bringing back Brock Osweiler to back up Trevor Siemian. The defense still has Von Miller, but trading away T.J. Ward has upset the locker room. The biggest loss for Denver is Wade Phillips, who is leaving to join the Rams.
Los Angeles Chargers 6-10 — Some experts are excited about Philip Rivers and the offense, but the Chargers will be playing in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium. Unless they win early and often, Los Angeles fans will ignore them and chase them back to San Diego. In the tough AFC West and with a rookie head coach, the Chargers run the risk of having more fans of the visiting team in the stands their supposed home games. Last year Cleveland was 0-14 before getting their lone win hosting the Lightning Bolts. This year the 0-14 Jets will do the same. Different city, same Chargers.
1) Cardinals 14-2
2) Packers 13-3
3) Saints 12-4
4) Giants 10-6
5) Seahawks 12-4
6) Lions/Falcons/Buccaneers/Panthers 10-6 (You can figure out the tie-breaker on your own)
The Seahawks have the talent on defense to run the table on the road. Both the Giants and Saints could flame out at home. Aaron Rodgers is on a mission. If you have to play a playoff road game, the relatively mild Arizona winter would allow the Green Bay offense to roll. At home, Green Bay could get revenge on Seattle. If Dom Capers can right the defense, the Packers should be back in the Big Show.
1) Raiders 13-3
2) Steelers 12-4
3) Patriots 10-6
4) Titans 7-9
5) Chiefs 10-6
6) Bills 8-8
The Raiders are vulnerable, but the Patriots and Steelers will beat each other up. The Titans could stun the Chiefs, but the Raiders have enough firepower at home to dispatch either of them. Without home field, the Raiders lack the defense to win on the road. They can win two shootouts at home to get to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLII: The Patriots and Seahawks are the two best teams and the Cardinals will have the best record, but the Raiders and Packers will be the ones in the big game. These teams are led by top shelf quarterbacks. Whoever can get the slightest help on defense will win it all.