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 Chicago Bears Will…
…ONCE again struggle. A revamped passing game might sound like a good thing, but on further reflection, I’m not so sure. Glennon/Trunisky heaving catches to Zach Miller, Kevin White, Marcus Wheaton and Kendall Wright doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for success. Not all offensive hope is lost though with sophomore back Jordan Howard showing his chops in the big league last year. An injury prone defense that lacks star power translates to more issues as well.
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Breakout Candidate: Kevin White, WR
IT’S time. Kevin White has flirted with success ever since the Bears spent a first rounder on him in 2015. He missed his rookie season and recorded a measly 19 receptions for 187 yards last year. With a lack of prominent red zone targets/optimal pass catchers, White needs to step up if the Bears are going to avoid another disastrous year.
MVP: Kyle Long, RG
GOOD news for Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky’s health, their best player can be found on the O-line. Multiple injuries derailed his 2016 campaign, but if healthy there isn’t any reason that Long won’t be recording his fourth Pro Bowl nod later this season.
THE battle over who will start more games in 2017 at quarterback is one that has NFL fans divided. Glennon and Trubisky will both likely see snaps next season, but regardless of who is slinging the passes, I don’t see Chicago causing opponents too many headaches. Leonard Floyd can become a double digit sack guy and Prince Amukamara can help their secondary woes, but all signs point to another high draft pick and down season for the Bears.
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The 2017 Detroit Lions Will…
…GO as far as Matthew Stafford’s arm can take them. He has decent pass catchers, but the Lions continue to search for a healthy running game to compliment his passing skills. Jarrad Davis’ arrival is nice with the rookie ready to make an impact from day one, but aside from Ziggy Ansah, Detroit has no pass rushers to worry other teams.
Breakout Candidate: Ameer Abdullah, RB
I’M taking the easy out here with Abdullah slated to make a jump in season 2017. The only reason he hasn’t ‘broken out’ yet has been because of injuries with Abdullah managing just two games last year. He has showcased his speed and craftiness in limited action so far and Detroit will be banking on his output helping to ease the offensive load in Stafford.
MVP: Matthew Stafford, QB
NO need to overthink this one. Ansah is a pass rushing beast with 32 career sacks to date, but thanks to the lack of support around him, defenses will find a way to stop him. Matthew Stafford, on the other hand, responded to playing without Calvin Johnson for the first time in his career by throwing over 4,000 yards and throwing just 10 picks. Only three other QB’s had as many yards and less than 10 interceptions, highlighting why Stafford is now the highest paid man in NFL history.
A mirror season from a year ago for the Lions is highly likely. Stafford will excel, receivers will look good, running backs will be their offensive downfall and the defense, yuk. There is some talent on the roster to suggest they will make a playoff push, but a tough first month of the season will see them playing catch up all year.
Green Bay Packers
The 2017 Green Bay Packers Will…
…PROBABLY win the NFC. For years head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have been a lethal combo and showcased just how good they are by going close again in 2016. They are full of flexible playmakers on both sides of the ball and will likely cause plenty of headaches for defenses thanks to their shootout style of play.
Breakout Candidate: Damarious Randall, CB
WITH HaHa Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett forming one of the best safety tandems in the league and the front seven established cornerback is the last piece of the puzzle. He could have made the jump last season if it wasn’t for a niggling groin injury, but with Micah Hyde now in Buffalo, a role is Randall’s for the taking.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB
NOT only is Aaron Rodgers the Packers MVP, he could turn in a league MVP performance this season. He was close to winning the award last year even though Green Bay got off to an awful start and he showcased exactly why he is one of the greatest in the playoffs. All hail Aaron Rodgers.
LAST season Green Bay won their final six games to emerge as a playoff team in the NFC. This season I’m anticipating a much faster start and as a result, a much better record too. One of the most complete rosters in football coupled with one of the best quarterbacks, led by one of the leagues best coaches. If healthy the Packers are likely to be SuperBowl bound.
The 2017 Minnesota Vikings Will…
…SURPRISE people and make the playoffs. Even with their starting quarterback going down before the season and their kicker failing in epic fashion the Vikings managed a .500 season. With a full offseason to better prepare their offense and their star studded secondary ready to keep wreaking havoc, I’m all aboard the Minnesota train.
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Breakout Candidate: Mackensie Alexander, CB
BURIED behind a position of depth so far Mackensie Alexander didn’t shine in his first year of pro football. With Captain Munnerlyn gone now though, Alexander (who was drafted as his potential successor) will get the snap count to determine whether is the real deal or not. My guess is he steps up and begins to emerge as a quality starter.
MVP: Xavier Rhodes, CB
UNDERSTANDABLY, the Vikings rewarded Rhodes for his incredible season as a shutdown corner by making him one of the highest paid players at his position. His 5yr/$70mil extension is a testament to his ability to shut down dangerous receivers with the likes of Kelvin Benjamin and Odell Beckham struggling against him last season as he helped lead the dominant Minnesota defense. Expect more of the same this season.
NINE wins is very achievable for this squad and I’m hedging slightly, with the likelihood of them recording double digit W’s in my eyes. They will have to perform on the road and the emergence of guys like Dalvin Cook and Danielle Hunter coupled with their other talented guys performing at a similar level will see them make the postseason this year and potentially win a playoff game.
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