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 Denver Broncos Will…
…WIN the division if Trevor Siemian is competent. We all know about their juggernaut defense and how they can win games on that side of the ball along thanks to Von Miller and the ‘No Fly Zone’. The Broncos are handicapped by the QB play though and with a revamped coaching staff plus another year’s experience for Siemian, they should return to the postseason.
Breakout Candidate: C.J. Anderson, RB
ANDERSON isn’t stupid, he knows his days are numbered with the likes of Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles breathing down his neck. He has regressed in each of his past three years, with injuries a factor last year. I’m tipping him to rise up amongst the pressure on his performance and rush for close to 1,000 yards and 10 scores.
MVP: Von Miller, LB
COMING in 2nd overall in the annual top 100 rankings this year, there may be no defender in the game better than Miller. In his six seasons of NFL action, he has chalked up quite the resume with five Pro Bowl selections, a SuperBowl MVP award and 73.5 sacks in 88 career games. Expect him to chalk up double digit sack numbers again for Denver and spearhead their dominant defensive unit.
Image from broncoswire.usatoday.com
THE premier defense is a large reason for the 10 wins with the Broncos owning a 9-0 record over the past two seasons in games when they have at least one defensive touchdown. A solid ground game and competent receivers make Siemian’s job easier and after they find their mojo expect them to go on a tear in the latter half of the year with the division banner potentially up for grabs in Week 17 against the Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs
The 2017 Kansas City Chiefs Will…
…NOT make the playoffs. Unfortunately somehow has to miss out in the stacked AFC West and even though head coach Andy Reid has steered them to the postseason with regularity, this is the year they miss out. I don’t have a lot of faith in the receiving group surrounding 34-year old Alex Smith and that could prove to be their Achilles heel.
Breakout Candidate: Chris Jones, DL
FOR the defense to take another stride forward they need to lean on Chris Jones in his sophomore season. He didn’t post the best numbers in his first pro year, but he will be relied upon a lot more with Dontari Poe gone and a healthy Justin Houston in the front seven as well. Still, at the age of 22 Jones can help to stop the run and emerge as a legit pass rushing threat. from chiefswire.usatoday.com
MVP: Eric Berry, FS
ANCHORING the Chiefs secondary, Eric Berry has established himself as one of the best safeties in the entire league. He has averaged over 70 tackles and three picks in his first five full seasons and showcased his playmaking ability with a game winning interception against Atlanta in Week 13 on a two point conversion that he returned to theend zonee to win the game. Berry is the real deal.
THEIR schedule remains quite tough with games against non-division foes Houston, Pittsburgh, New England, Denver and Philadelphia all potential losses. Don’t be surprised if they drop a game or two against the likes of Denver or Oakland at home and finish closer to .500 with an Alex Smith trade gaining momentum as the year progresses.
Los Angeles Chargers
The 2017 Los Angeles Chargers Will…
…MAKE LA fans glad to have a football team. The Rams aren’t exactly world beaters, and while the Chargers won’t be SuperBowl champs they will hover around .500 with the win hungry Los Angeles fans happy for football to be back. Many are hoping they can go from last to first in the AFC West with plenty of stars on the roster, yet I think they will need to find their feet in their first season at their new home.
Image from chargerswire.usatoday.com
Breakout Candidate: Hunter Henry, TE
HENRY is the tight end heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. He showed his talents in year one by leading the Chargers in touchdowns with eight red zone receptions and close to 500 yards. With Gates now 37, Henry should get even more touches in 2017.
MVP: Philip Rivers, QB
SIX Pro Bowl selections and 45,000 passing yards in 13 seasons have made Philip Rivers one of our generations greatest quarterbacks. There is a likelihood that this will be one of the last dominant seasons from Rivers as age starts to take its toll, but every snap he takes in the meantime will be a good one for LA.
THERE are plenty of playmakers on the Chargers offense, but they can’t seem to stay on the field together for long stints. Joey Bosa is on his way to being the best pass rusher in the entire NFL and the likes of Melvin Gordon, Casey Hayward and Mike Wallace can help bring in the next gen that will hopefully lead to more wins. A winning record isn’t out of reach with games against the Jets, Browns, Bills and Dolphins all winnable.
The 2017 Oakland Raiders Will…
…RECAPTURE the AFC West crown. Despite making the playoffs for the first time since 2002, last year ended on a sour note with back-to-back losses after Derek Carr’s leg injury. This year they are bolstered by the return of their QB as well as one of the best defensive players in the game Khalil Mack. Throw that in with the up and coming Amari Cooper at receiver, veteran secondary and the arrival of ‘Beast Mode’, Oakland fans are dreaming big.
Breakout Candidate: Vadal Alexander, G
ALEXANDER showed some real promise towards the end of 2016 on the offensive line for Oakland. They have a gaping hole at right tackle with Austin Howard injured with Marshall Newhouse and Alexander the likely replacements. Newhouse may get the start day one, but don’t be surprised if he loses his gig to the 2nd year pro after a few games.
MVP: Derek Carr, QB
WHEN Carr went down last season, so did the SuperBowl hopes for the Raiders. With a healthy season up for grabs and one of the leagues best O-lines protecting him, there’s no reason that Carr couldn’t make his third straight Pro Bowl and be an MVP candidate. As long as Carr is under center Oakland can have their sights set on a SuperBowl.
IF Oakland is going to be serious about winning it all then a fast start is a must. Games at the Titans, Redskins and Broncos in the first seven will determine how serious they are. If their middle coverage can match the pass rushing talent and Amari Cooper takes another step they could find themselves competing for a spot in the SuperBowl come AFC Championship time.
Banner from steelcityunderground.com