With the NFL season quickly approaching, fan excitement is at its peak. Every year, there are several teams that surpass expectations, but there are also several teams that fall flat. Making win-loss predictions is tough. Some of these predictions will be right. Most of them will be wrong. Let’s do it anyway.
New England Patriots – 13-3
I wanted to go 14-2 or 15-1 here, but 13-3 is the safe play. The Patriots are loaded on both offense and defense and should be the best team in the NFL.
Miami Dolphins – 6-10
With a 24th ranked offense and 29th ranked defense, the Dolphins’ 2016 season feels fraudulent. They also allowed more points than they scored last season, making them a clear regression candidate. The addition of Jay Cutler doesn’t help either.
Buffalo Bills – 5-11
After trading #1 wide receiver Sammy Watkins, 2016 second rounder Reggie Ragland, and top cornerback Ronald Darby, it’s apparent the Bills are planning on winning more in the future than the present. Sean McDermott may surpass expectations, but I will have to see it to believe it.
New York Jets – 1-15
The Jets stink. Their starting quarterback is Josh McCown who started for the 2-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, the 3-13 Cleveland Browns in 2015, and the 1-15 Browns in 2016. With wide receivers unknown to the world ONE year ago, the Jets offense will be historically bad, and so will the team.
Baltimore Ravens – 8-8
The Ravens’ defense is stacked on paper and has looked really good in preseason. But with a bad running back corps, underwhelming wide receivers and a subpar quarterback, the offense will hold this team back.
Cincinnati Bengals – 8-8
After an injury-riddled 2016 campaign, the Bengals are primed to bounce back. However, uncertainty with the offensive line and head case Vontaze Burfict will prevent the team from bouncing all the way back into the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns – 4-12
Things are certainly looking up in Cleveland. Their second round draft pick DeShone Kizer will start at quarterback, and fellow rookies Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers have been impressive. The Browns will be much more competitive than they were last year, but it will take them another year to learn how to win in this league.
Pittsburgh Steelers – 11-5
With a high-powered offense and an improving defense, I really wanted to slate the Steelers for 12 or 13 wins. However, the Steelers seem like a yearly lock to have some injuries and underwhelm in a game or two, so I’ll play it safe.
Indianapolis Colts – 7-9
Andrew Luck’s health is uncertain and so are my feelings on this team. This roster is definitely better than it was last year, but if Luck misses significant time, it won’t show up on their win-loss record.
Houston Texans – 9-7
With JJ Watt’s return to the team, the Texans defense looks fantastic on paper. The linebackers are stacked, cornerbacks are loaded, and defensive line is improving. The offense, on the other hand, may not be. Deshaun Watson wasn’t very impressive in the preseason, and Tom Savage can only do so much. A playoff berth will still be viable for this team, though.
Tennessee Titans – 11-5
The Titans are primed for a breakout year in 2017. They have their franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, a pair of talented running backs, and a decent defense. Perhaps the team won’t live up to the preseason hype, but it feels time for the Titans to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Jacksonville Jaguars – 5-11
Blake Bortles stinks. That’s the truth, and the Jags are finally figuring it out. Although he was able to secure his starting job for Week 1, it will be surprising if he holds onto it for the whole season. While the defense is loaded with Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell, and more, the porous QB situation will kill this team.
Denver Broncos – 9-7
The Broncos’ defense looked as dominant as ever in the preseason, and new head coach Vance Joseph must have something to do with that. Trevor Siemian was able to keep his starting job and should improve this upcoming season. A tough schedule will prevent the Broncos’ record from improving despite the team making strides.
Kansas City Chiefs – 10-6
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Chiefs this year. They may have a franchise quarterback waiting in the wings in Patrick Mahomes II, and the defense is healthy heading into 2017. However, like the Broncos, a brutal schedule will make the Chiefs look worse than they actually are.
Los Angeles Chargers – 8-8
After two really disappointing seasons in a row, it has to be time for the Chargers to bounce back right? Well, to a certain extent. The Chargers have a talented roster featuring Philip Rivers, Joey Bosa, Melvin Gordon and more. Injuries to their 2017 draft class make it tough to go all-in on this team, though.
Oakland Raiders – 10-6
The Raiders were an outstanding 8-1 in games decided by 7 or less points last year. Were they really good or really lucky? This year will reveal the truth as the schedule gets even tougher for the men in silver and black. Regardless, they should be a winning football team.
Dallas Cowboys – 10-6
Despite the suspension to star running back Ezekiel Elliott, I’m still putting faith in the Cowboys. Dak Prescott looked great in the preseason and looks like much more than a flash in the pan. The schedule is tougher and their record will reflect that, but Dak should lead the team back to the playoffs.
New York Giants – 10-6
This might be my most unsure prediction. While the Giants are stacked on paper, they underwhelmed in the preseason and could fall flat in the regular season as well. The depth on this team isn’t great, and the locker room personalities aren’t inspiring either. I think the Giants will live up to expectations, but it certainly would not shock me if they didn’t.
Washington Redskins – 7-9
I know the record may not indicate this, but I actually like the Redskins this year. Their roster has a fair share amount of talent, and Jay Gruden has proven he’s a good coach in this league. However, the Kirk Cousins contract drama and a harsh schedule make it hard to pick the Redskins for more than 7 wins.
Philadelphia Eagles – 9-7
I really, really wanted to pick the Eagles to win 10 games here. Their defense is absolutely stacked, and they have an ascending quarterback at the helm. What they don’t have is a good running back corps and wide receiver/cornerback depth. If the Eagles stay healthy, they’ll win 10+ games. I just can’t predict that today.
Green Bay Packers – 12-4
Despite underwhelming in the 2016 season, the Packers should dominate in 2017. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a top-2 QB in the league and has a bevy of talent to throw to. The defense is improving and will make an impact as well.
Chicago Bears – 4-12
My win-loss projection for the Bears’ doesn’t do them justice. There is talent on this team. The defense features second-year player Leonard Floyd, rising star Eddie Goldman, and more. However, below average quarterbacks and wide receivers will hold this team back.
Detroit Lions – 7-9
The Lions are a clear regression candidate for 2017. They had a negative point differential in 2016 and failed to beat one team over .500. Moreover, their offseason improvements were minimal, and they have a history of falling flat after a winning season.
Minnesota Vikings – 8-8
I actually liked what the Vikings did in the offseason. They improved their offensive line and added a young, dynamic running back. However, the schedule is tougher this year, and it’s hard to expect the defense to maintain its Top 3 status.
Atlanta Falcons – 10-6
I’m going to play it safe with the Falcons. They are more talented than they were in 2016 and lost almost nothing in free agency, but you can’t help but wonder if they suffer from a Super Bowl hangover.
New Orleans Saints – 7-9
New year, same Saints. Sure, the running game will be a little better, and the defense should slightly improve. But with a tougher schedule and a worse receiving corps, I can’t predict a record other than 7-9 for New Orleans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 10-6
Like the Tennessee Titans, the Tampa Bay Bucs are a preseason hype team. Their showcase on Hard Knocks has been entertaining, but their preseason performances have not been. They still have some kinks to work out, but the Bucs are a definite playoff contender.
Carolina Panthers – 10-6
Look out; the Carolina Panthers will bounce back in 2017. Finishing last in the NFC South last year gives the Panthers a more favorable schedule than its division counterparts. Furthermore, first round pick Christian McCaffrey looks primed for a nice rookie year. This team is a textbook worst-to-first candidate.
Seattle Seahawks – 10-6
The Seahawks are a 10 win team at this point. They still have talented players like Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and more, but haven’t supplied those guys with great teammates in a while. Until they do, the Seahawks won’t return to being an NFC powerhouse.
San Francisco 49ers – 4-12
With two first round picks this year and a new head coach, optimism is high in San Francisco. Perhaps a bit too high. The 49ers starting quarterback is Brian Hoyer, and their roster is still below average. This team is still a year or two away.
Arizona Cardinals – 8-8
The Cardinals are the only team that can challenge the Seahawks for this division, but I can’t go all in. The team lost Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Kevin Minter, and more in free agency. While they added some intriguing rookies, the free agent losses will be felt.
Los Angeles Rams – 5-11
I have no idea how the Rams will do this year. Jared Goff showed promise in his Week 2 preseason game against the Raiders, but then looked terrible the week after. Todd Gurley looked fantastic in 2015 but then looked awful in 2016. Hopefully new head coach Sean McVay will fix the consistency issues, but I will have to wait and see.
Again, most of these predictions will be wrong. Two or three teams I have being really good will disappoint. A couple teams I have being awful will surprise. This is the fun thing about the NFL. We never know what’s truly going to happen from year to year. What we do know, however, is that we’ll enjoy whatever does.