100% accurate NFL preview – AFC

East
New England Patriots: Julian Edelman’s preseason ACL injury may look like a bad omen for the Pats but let’s not get cute here; they are still the heavy favorites to come out of the AFC. Brady and Belichick remain ageless wonders, Gronk looks healthy and driven and Brandin Cooks is the shiny new toy just waiting to be unleashed on opposing secondaries. I don’t think this team will go undefeated on the tenth anniversary of their infamous 2007 season, but personal bias aside, you couldn’t make a safer bet for Super Bowl LII. Projected Record: 13-3
Miami Dolphins: Love, love, love the Jay Cutler signing, who despite the persistent attitude problem has found previous success in Chicago with head coach Adam Gase. This is going to be one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, with an elite offensive line busting plenty of holes for rising star Jay Ajayi and Cutler’s big arm turning athletic freak DeVante Parker into something of a Calvin Johnson-lite. Unfortunately, problems on the defensive side of the ball like a weak secondary and a 100-year-old franchise DE in Cameron Wake will dampen Miami’s potential. Projected Record: 9-7
Buffalo Bills: If football was basketball and a single star was able to elevate a team to victory, LeSean McCoy might at least be able to make the Bills respectable. Shady is a joy to watch and a future Hall of Famer if he has just a few more healthy seasons but that’s about all Buffalo fans will have to look forward to in 2017. The secondary is unproven and the Bills are paper-thin at several key positions. It would take a miracle like Tyrod Taylor morphing into prime Mike Vick (not impossible but don’t bet on it) for this team to even sniff the postseason. Projected Record: 5-11
New York Jets: It feels almost crude to root against the Jets at this point, like cheering for a pro athlete in a pickup game against a bunch of middle schoolers. They’ve got a platoon of zeroes at QB plus an OL that could quickly turn them into negatives, and that right there is enough to guarantee a lack of success. At least Jamal Adams, the rookie safety out of LSU, looks like a future star. Projected Record: 2-14
North
Pittsburgh Steelers: A fully healthy Steelers offense with Martavis Bryant back from suspension should scare everybody in the league. Unfortunately, health has never been a guarantee for Ben Roethlisberger, and that’s not about to change now that he’s 35. Pittsburgh’s secondary is composed of both the very young (Artie Burns) and the decrepit (James Harrison), so expect a lot of shootouts. Sexy as they are, the Steelers are no juggernaut. Projected Record: 11-5
Cleveland Browns: Hey the Cubs won it all last year, why can’t the Browns have an end to their futility? Cleveland won’t win the Super Bowl but they will shock the world and contend for their first playoff spot since 2002. Terrelle Pryor is a late bloomer but I firmly believe he will emerge as one of the top WRs in the league, and he and the elite OL will help rookie QB DeShone Kizer become 2017’s Dak Prescott. DE Myles Garrett is also my pick for DROY. Projected Record: 9-7
Baltimore Ravens: Do you realize that the Ravens have led the NFL in pass attempts in each of the past two seasons? Totally unexpected, although I guess volume doesn’t equal efficiency. Baltimore’s defense looks stingy as ever and Danny Woodhead is a nice weapon to add to a solid if unspectacular passing game but I can’t see the Ravens doing much more than treading water. Projected Record: 7-9
Cincinnati Bengals: There is certainly talent on the Bengals roster. Andy Dalton is perpetually underrated, A.J. Green is a top-three receiver when healthy, and rookie Joe Mixon should be an absolute stud when he inevitably wins the starting job from incumbent plodder Jeremy Hill. The problems are injuries (nearly all of the team’s impact players have checkered pasts) and a questionable line that must deal with the loss of two veteran starters. Projected Record: 7-9

South
Houston Texans: Can you imagine how good the Texans would be if they had a decent QB? You have to think that there’s nowhere to go but up from human tackling dummy Brock Osweiler, but the guy who took over the Pewter City gym — Tom Savage — is a total unknown. Thankfully, Houston’s defense should be the best in the league behind a resurgent J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney finally realizing his prodigious potential. The talented RB tandem of Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman will take some playmaking pressure off Savage as well. Projected Record: 10-6
Tennessee Titans: If you want a team that could blow up and become an overnight contender, look no further than the Titans. With one of the best receiving corps in the league at his disposal and two years under his belt, Marcus Mariota will become a legit superstar. As everything stands now, Tennessee’s projected weak secondary keeps them out of the realm of the elite, but preseason defensive predictions are notoriously unreliable. Projected Record: 10-6
Indianapolis Colts: Nobody has any idea how the Colts will do because nobody has any idea what is going on with Andrew Luck. If he comes back early and looking like the best version of himself, Indy could make a playoff run. If he misses a good portion of the year, then Jacoby Brissett trade be damned they could bottom out the division. We’ll split the difference. Projected Record: 6-10
Jacksonville Jaguars: For a while there it looked like the Jags had the positive momentum needed to finally escape their last decade of futility, but Blake “Garbage Time” Bortles and the underperforming defense had something to say about that. Jacksonville made moves to address some of the issues in the secondary and they remain talented at every skill position sans QB, but 2017 will ultimately be another lost year in Jacksonville. Projected Record: 5-11
West
Oakland Raiders: It’s an exciting time to be a Raiders fan! Derek Carr no longer gets to hold the title of highest paid player in the league but he will continue to demonstrate why he is one of the game’s best young QBs. Khalil Mack has a great chance to repeat as DPOY. But the difference-maker will be Marshawn Lynch, who returns to football after a year’s hiatus. If Beast Mode can regain anything his old Seattle form, the Raiders will be the best bet to unseat the Pats in the AFC. Projected Record: 12-4
Kansas City Chiefs: I’m still not sure how the Chiefs managed to win 12 games last year but I can guarantee it won’t happen again in 2017. The defense, though consistently excellent, has to have a regression to the mean in their absurdly high takeaway rate, and that will mean more pressure on an underwhelming offense. Alex Smith will never be great (dude is already 33!) and I don’t believe Tyreek Hill is the guy to end KC’s streak of hapless WRs. Spencer Ware’s injury also leaves the RB corps painfully thin. Projected Record: 9-7
Los Angeles Chargers: On paper the Chargers look stacked. Perennially underrated great Philip Rivers has the best receivers of his career, Melvin Gordon might lead the league in rushing and Joey Bosa is a nice dark horse to take the sacks crown. So what’s the problem? LA’s O-line is a patchwork collection of unproven talent and past-their-prime vets and there are a lot of injury risks on the roster. Projected Record: 8-8
Denver Broncos: I swear I’m not saying this just because Joe is a Broncos fan. By all accounts this team is a great bounceback candidate; you can never count a team out when their defense is this good and the tandem of C.J. Anderson and a (hopefully) healthy Jamaal Charles behind a retooled offensive line will be good for plenty of yards. I just don’t think Trevor Siemian is the answer to the team’s quarterback woes, not to mention Denver faces a brutal schedule. Projected Record: 7-9

Post Author: tucollegian