IN the week leading up to kickoff for the 2017 NFL season, it’s time to break down each of the 32 teams preparing for the upcoming season. As we hurtle closer each day to the season opener check out the division by division primers to find out where your team is heading in the upcoming season!
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The 2017 Baltimore Ravens Will…
…REMAIN a non-playoff team in 2017. As good as their defensive unit looks their offense can’t do enough to help the Ravens contend. A banged up Joe Flacco will struggle to put points on the board, even though they only need to gain a few first downs for Justin Tucker’s ridiculous range to kick in. An overall lack of star power also hinders their chance of getting through the AFC.
Breakout Candidate: Breshad Perriman, WR
A speedy trio at receiver with Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman gives the Ravens OK pass catchers for Flacco. The presence of the first two should help defenses deter attention away from Perriman and help him make the next step in year two of his pro career.
Image from baltimoresun.com
MVP: C.J. Mosley, LB
SPOILER alert the Baltimore defense is their strength this year and Mosley is buoying that group. Sure he has the likes of Eric Weddle and Brandon Williams supporting him, but after earning his second Pro Bowl nod in three seasons, the Ravens linebacker is atop the food chain.
A tough start to the season will tell us all we need to know about the Ravens. I don’t think they are breaking their multi-year playoff drought anytime soon as health is a concern for some important players and little depth on offer to help should shit hit the fan. Things could go wrong quickly, but their defense is too good for them not to win a minimum five or six games.
The 2017 Cincinnati Bengals Will…
…CONTINUE to slide. The talented roster in the early parts in the decade is starting to experience their inevitable fall after losing some key players in the offseason coupled with some gaping holes in their squad. Andy Dalton is still an above average quarterback though and anytime you have this guy on your team, good things should happen.
Breakout Candidate: Jake Fisher, OT
WITH Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler gone the offensive line could suffer and make life harder for Dalton. Enter Jake Fisher, who after playing multiple positions throughout his 29 game career looks set to become a full-time right tackle. Fisher will be able to devote his attention solely to this position and thus help to keep Dalton upright.
MVP: A.J. Green, WR
FOR the first time in his career A.J. had fewer than 1,000 yards (964) for a season last year. Oh, I should mention that he missed six games and finished second in yards per game behind Julio Jones. So yeah, Green is still pretty good at football and as long as a quarterback can get the ball in his hands he will be one of the best receivers in the league.
THE Bengals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010 last year. While there is still talent at the top of the list I don’t think they have the team necessary to find their way back into the postseason just yet. Instead, Bengals fans will have to settle for enjoying the Dalton to Green highlights and hope their talented group of rookies (Joe Mixon, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis and John Ross) can fast track their rebuild.
Image from fanragsports.com
The 2017 Cleveland Browns Will…
…BE better than you expect. This might not come to a shock for some, with another influx of draft talent and smart purchases by the Browns (wait…what?) in the offseason. Cleveland could even cause a few upsets to higher ranked squads this season but don’t go buying your tickets to see them in the playoffs just yet.
Breakout Candidate: Isaiah Crowell, RB
A season ago Duke Johnson was the running back many predicted to break out for the Browns. Instead, Crowell helped himself to the majority of the carries and rushed for 952 yards and seven scores. With Cleveland investing in more offensive line talent to bolster the run, Crowell will yet again be in for more career highs in 2017.
MVP: Joe Thomas, OT
EVER since being the third overall pick in 2007 draft, Joe Thomas has done his best to try and help Cleveland stay relevant. With 10 straight Pro Bowl selections and having never missed a game in his career to date, Thomas will go down as one of the greatest tackles the game has ever seen. Hopefully, he can experience a few more W’s before his time is done.
Image from ftw.usatoday.com
LET’S not overreact this is still the Browns. Putting their faith in a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer will have its ups and downs and there are still holes in the depth chart. Although a young group of players with one of the best offensive lines in the league should see their offense replicate something that looks like a good NFL team. Defensively is where the team will struggle, even with the addition of No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. There is hope though, something Browns fans haven’t had for a long time.
The 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers Will…
…HAVE their last chance at a SuperBowl. Not ever, but with Ben Roethlisberger edging towards retirement and most of their stars in their prime the time is now for the Steelers to hoist the Lombardi trophy. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night and I expect to see a rematch of last years AFC Championship game.
Breakout Candidate: Bud Dupree, LB
I’M not including Martavius Bryant in these discussions because we already know of his talents. Instead, I’m focusing on a young member of Pittsburgh’s front seven in Dupree, who, despite an injury interrupted season last year has shown that he can develop into their pass rusher of the future. Don’t believe he can get the quarterback? Just ask Matt Moore.
MVP: Le’Veon Bell, RB
FOR a moment forget the contractual issues, forget the injuries and forget the suspensions. Bell is the best back in the league and his multi-dimensional talent allows Pittsburgh’s offense to be good as long as their quarterback has an arm and hands to give the ball to Bell. If he in uniform on day one of the regular season, don’t rule him out as a sneaky MVP chance.
THE Steelers could get another win or two on their resume, but with Big Ben ageing they will look at the bigger picture and focus on the health of their players. J.J. Watt’s younger brother T.J. has shown in the preseason he can give QB’s as many nightmares as his big bro and despite interrupted starts to the season, I think their defense will be fine. The big question mark remains Bell’s contract and Roethlisberger’s health. Sort out those two issues and you have a championship calibre team.
Banner from thegamehaus.com