Four Downs – July 31st: Making some early NFL predictions

Training camps are underway which means the NFL preseason is almost here! Before the Cardinals and Cowboys get things started on Thursday night, here’s a four-pack of what I think will happen in 2017-18. I’ve probably mentioned at few of these in previous blogs but here I’ll go in-depth:

FIRST DOWN: The New England Patriots will once again go undefeated in the regular season.

Hey they did it in 2008, why not again this season? After battling back from a 28-3 third quarter deficit to win Super Bowl LI in overtime, I have to believe the Pats’ momentum will continue into the regular season. In the offseason they made some key personnel changes:
RB: Mike Gillislee (from Buffalo) and Rex Burkhead (from Cincinnati) for LaGarrette Blount (went to Philadelphia)
WR: Brandin Cooks (from New Orleans)
TE: Dwayne Allen (from Indianapolis) for Martellus Bennett (went to Green Bay)
DE: Kony Ealy (from Carolina)
CB: Stephon Gilmore (from Buffalo) for Logan Ryan (went to Tennessee)

To sum it up, they acquired more running back depth, an elite wide receiver, a very solid backup tight end, an underrated defensive end, and a shutdown cornerback.

Oh yeah…and New England gets the best tight end in the league, (former UofA standout) Rob Gronkowski, back after missing the last half of the 2016 regular season and playoffs.

Rob Gronkowski

This roster is EASILY the best in the league and I’m not sure anyone else’s is close.


Taking a look at the schedule, here are the tough road games:
Week 2: at New Orleans
Week 5: at Tampa Bay
Week 10: at Denver
Week 11: at Oakland (in Mexico City)
Week 14: at Miami
Week 15: at Pittsburgh

I can make an argument for 2-3 losses at most…but I believe Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are so focused to cement their legacy as the greatest dynasty in NFL history that another undefeated season is coming. And this time…they won’t have to face a hungry Giants team in the Super Bowl.


SECOND DOWN: The Dallas Cowboys will regress, miss the playoffs, and cost Jason Garrett his head coaching job.

Sorry Cowboys fans…the truth hurts sometimes. The sophomore slump will be a factor for 2016 Rookie of the Year, QB Dak Prescott and runner-up, RB Ezekiel Elliott. Unfortunately Elliott can’t keep his nose out of trouble and a multiple game suspension might be coming.

Looking at the schedule…don’t underestimate the possibility of an 0-3 start (especially if Elliott is suspended) with games against the Giants, at the Broncos, and at the Cardinals.

Three straight home games between Weeks 11-13 give them a chance to right the ship but they close at the Giants, at the Raiders, home against the Seahawks, and at the Eagles.

I’ll say 8-8, no playoffs, and owner / GM Jerry Jones will be looking for a new head coach come January.

jason-garrett-cowboys-spike-01-17-16


THIRD DOWN: The AFC South will be the most competitive division in the league with all four teams mathematically alive to win at the start of December.

According to BetOnline.ag, the Texans and Titans are both 2-1 to win the AFC South title with the Colts at 2.2-1 and the Jaguars at 6-1. But as I discussed several weeks ago in my Over/Under Wins article, Jacksonville has a MUCH improved defense and if Blake Bortles can throw the ball more to his own team than the opponent, this team is very interesting. Their odds should be closer to the other three teams.

Houston has major QB issues and unless rookie QB Deshaun Watson is this year’s Dak Prescott, the Texans might struggle to move the ball effectively through the air. A healthy J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney arguably gives the Texans the best defensive line tandem in the league…but the loss of underrated #1 CB A.J. Bouye (to the Jaguars) really hurts. A record between 7-9 and 9-7 seems most probable.

Tennessee is the popular pro football pundits sleeper in 2017. A balanced offense led by former NFL rushing champion, DeMarco Murray, and 2015 & 2016 Heisman Trophy winners, QB Marcus Mariota and RB Derrick Henry should keep the Titans in just about every game. Adding veteran WR Eric Decker and top-ten draft pick Corey Davis addressed the Titans’ biggest offseason need. Assuming Mariota stays healthy (unlike the end of last season), I expect Tennessee to win 9-10 games and be a strong AFC playoff contender.

afcsouth

Indianapolis might be in deep trouble if QB Andrew Luck’s shoulder woes don’t improve. The offensive line isn’t great and if they can’t get off to a 3-0 start (with games at the lowly Rams and home against the Cardinals and Browns), coach Chuck Pagano may not make it to November. As they look to be rebuilding a bit, a 7 or 8 win season appears most likely barring Luck’s health.

Jacksonville’s first 10 games are fairly favorable so it wouldn’t be an impossible dream to imagine the Jaguars at 7-3 coming into Arizona on Thanksgiving weekend. Well…that might be asking too much. Either way, I’m thinking the Jags are a year away and should finish 2017 with 6-8 wins total.

Give me Tennessee as the favorite but I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these four teams play a home game in the Wild Card round.

FOURTH DOWN: The NFC West will have completed its transformation from the strongest division in football several years ago to the weakest in 2017.

In 2013, Seattle won the West at 13-3 followed by San Francisco at 12-4, Arizona at 10-6, and (then) St. Louis at 7-9. Since then the division has been in a major slide and this year profiles to be the worst in football.

Seattle has run into salary cap issues since their back-to-back Super Bowl run several years ago. QB Russell Wilson is still the face of the franchise but the talent around him has diminished.

The Cardinals are aging and despite having star RB David Johnson and future Hall-of-Famer WR Larry Fitzgerald, they look to be the definition of an average team on paper.

nfcwest

Los Angeles and San Francisco are in the midst of major rebuilding processes and appear to be at least two years away from achieving a .500 season.

It’s conceivable, based on the talent drop-off, that the NFC West might see close to a repeat of 2010, where each team won between 5 and 7 games. While that might be a bit drastic, an 8-8 Seattle or Arizona might have a chance at capturing the NFC’s #4 seed with a division title.

 

To read previous entries of my blog, click here. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @eacohen83.

 

6 thoughts on “Four Downs – July 31st: Making some early NFL predictions

  1. I put a bet on the Patriots going over 13.5 wins. I don’t think the Patriots go 16-0 but 15-1 or 14-2 is very likely.

    Agree with you that the Cowboys take some steps back with their losses on defense and the rest of the league with a lot of pro tape on Dak and Zeke. 9-7 would be my guess.

    I like the Titans a lot to win the division but in Vegas at 6/1 a bet on the Jags might be worth it for that value with the lack of good teams in that division. Every teams is average.

    Cardinals and Seahawks still have too much talent right now to go 8-8. Not sure how you can say the Cardinals are average. They have a middle of the road o-line but above average WRs, perhaps the best RB in the game, a good QB, a secondary that has two of the best in the league at their position and now Williams should be a decent 2nd CB. The LBs are among the best in the NFL. D Line has some question marks without Campbell but there is talent there.

    I do worry though about the team getting too upset if something doesnt break their way like last year vs the Patriots and the comments by Palmer about wanting to be under the radar. Also BA thinks he is too smart sometimes with his playcalling. But with BA Palmer and Fitz likely all done after this year I expect big things this year.

    Like

    1. Smart bet on the Pats – seems like easy money if Brady stays healthy. As for the Cards, I’m just not a Palmer fan at this stage of his career and I truly believe the lack of QB talent in the Cardinals organization will hold them back from reaching their potential.

      Like

      1. If Palmer and Stanton stink up the joint this year put in Patrick Peterson in at CB and QB. Has the arm to do it and can move around the pocket or being a good running QB just like Brandon Dawkins.

        Like

    1. Do they really work in college though? Lots of teams have won lots of games with gimmicks and some teams like Clemson and Ohio State have won titles with elements of the spread and read option, but a true spread or read option team hasn’t won the title.

      My comments on Peterson were 98% joking.

      Like

      1. Palmer will hold up just fine. If anything team should be concerned with the Depth at the WR position (aka) needing a HEALTHY John Brown who can stretch the field.. and also concerning issues in the secondary opposite of PP. D-line if anything will take a step forward and be better without Campbell. Only question mark is Leadership on that front line…

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s