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!
IF you like what you read be sure to check out more SportsbyFry articles by hitting this link. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest NFL article and follow our fan pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to never miss a minute of the action!
The 2017 Atlanta Falcons Will…
…NOT fall off as much as everyone thinks. Their offense was all sorts of record breaking last year and the young defense grew as well. With a rather similar squad returning to avenge their historic SuperBowl fade out, despite new personnel on the sidelines, the Falcons are once again poised to claim the NFC South.
Breakout Candidate: Grady Jarrett, DT
WE may have already seen Jarrett breakout after his dominant SuperBowl performance. If the Falcons remembered to run the ball he would likely own an MVP trophy after making Tom Brady’s life hell recording three sacks in SuperBowl LI. That matched Jarrett’s regular season total and with Dontari Poe now next to him his stock is definitely on the rise.
MVP: Julio Jones, WR
ONE of the most physically imposing players in the NFL last year took his game to even greater heights. Even in a balanced offensive attack, Julio Jones recorded over 1,400 receiving yards last year highlighted by his phenomenal Week 4 game against the Panthers when he raked in a franchise record 300 yards. Expect more eye boggling stats from the wideout in 2017.
REPEATING an 11-5 season is likely for Dan Quinn’s men this season, even though they face a testing schedule. A smooth run home should see the W’s pile up and even though Matt Ryan will find it hard to replicate his MVP season if the defense takes another step Atlanta will be sitting pretty.
The 2017 Carolina Panthers Will…
…SURGE back into the playoff picture…..if Cam Newton plays smart. The 2015 MVP had a career worst season last year and as a result, the Panthers regressed from 15-1 to a 6-10 record. He needs to use his new offensive weapons to his advantage and make smart runs to avoid making his health the talking point in Carolina. The defense should be better with a healthy Keuchly and a secondary with another year’s experience under it’s belt.
Image from catcrave.com
Breakout Candidate: James Bradberry, CB
BRADBERRY stepped into fill the role left by Josh Norman in his rookie campaign and performed solidly. The Panthers new #24 steadily improved with each passing game and has the potential to be the next star shutdown corner in the NFC.
MVP: Luke Kuechly, LB
NEWTON is unlucky to not claim this honour, but last year it was clear how much the Panthers relied on Luke Kueckly. With the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year suffering concussion issues, the defense was woeful, after being a strength of the dominant Carolina teams in the past few seasons. If healthy the middle linebacker remains the most important Panther on the field.
EVEN with a new defensive co-ordinator, the Panthers group will be much better than in 2016. That should help them open the season with a couple of wins before their Week 4 match against the reigning SuperBowl champs. The playoff hopes will come down to how they play against their division rivals, with a wildcard spot up for grabs if they can produce.
Image from islandpacket.com
New Orleans Saints
The 2017 New Orleans Saints Will…
…FINALLY break their three straight seasons of 7-9. Instead, this time I’m predicting them to finish at .500 with the never ageing Drew Brees slinging 5,000 yards worth of offense an annual staple. Another draft group will help the young defense trend upwards and give Saints fans some hope that they can stop teams from scoring.
Breakout Candidate: Coby Fleener, TE
HE’S no Jimmy Graham, but Coby Fleener is better than 50 receptions, 600 yards and three scores that he produced last year. His chemistry with the QB has improved, the teams receiving leader Brandin Cooks is no longer in uniform and Willie Snead is also suspended for the first three games. Add that all together and you get a better 2017 from Fleener.
MVP: Drew Brees, QB
NO doubt about it Drew Brees is the best New Orleans Saint on their roster. The 38-year old has helped the Saints tread water and avoid falling off a cliff with a woeful defense in the past few years. One of these days he will start to show signs of decline. Until then, Brees is the man in New Orleans.
IN one of the toughest divisions in football, the Saints aren’t ready to boost their way up the standings just yet. They could go on a playoff hunt should they survive an early brutal slate that could see them lose six of their first eight. I still have them as the fourth best team in the division for the upcoming season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Will…
…BE gunnin’ for postseason or bust. They are in the best situation they have been in years to make the playoffs after a nine-year absence. With Jameis Winston a future MVP talent and the Gerald McCoy led defense growing the Bucs are a team worthy of double digit wins.
Breakout Candidate: Noah Spence, DE
A colourful college career hurt his draft stock, but that suited Tampa Bay just fine. The former Buckeye turned Hilltopper had an impressive rookie campaign and looks ready to take full-time duties as a Buccaneer’s pass rusher. His 22 tackles and 5.5 sacks are a good launching pad for Spence to be better in year two.
Image from sportstalkflorida.com
MVP: Gerald McCoy, DT
WITH Spence causing havoc on the right, Gerald McCoy is free to chalk up his usual eight sacks, 30 tackles and a handful of defended passes. The star of the Bucs defense, McCoy has been stellar racking up five straight Pro Bowl nods and the star defensive tackle should make it six this year.
LIKE the other playoff hopefuls in the division their postseason dreams will come down to the matches against each other. With three of their last four at home combined with a cruisy start, Tampa Bay could go on to win 12-13 games. If the defense can hold up their end of the bargain then Winston will take care of the rest.
Banner from thegamehaus.com