The NFL has a lot of active streaks worth following, involving both individuals and teams. Some are positive, while others are of the drought variety – like the Bills’ span of 17 years without a playoff berth. This season, we could see a handful of impressive runs come to a halt.
Though you shouldn’t expect to see Eli Manning end his reign as the NFL’s ironman, these eight streaks could be snapped in 2017.
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Titans’ eight-year playoff drought
The Titans haven’t been to the playoffs since 2008, which is the fifth-longest drought in the NFL. Additionally, it’s the longest in team history, which means the Titans have never been this bad for this long. That streak will end this season after Tennessee just barely missed out on the playoffs last year.
With Marcus Mariota at the helm, the Titans are one of the most intriguing and exciting teams in the league. He’s a budding star at quarterback, and with the offense revamped to give him support in the passing game he’s sure to take another step in the right direction.
Corey Davis is going to bring a much-needed physical presence on the outside, giving Mariota a big-bodied receiver to target. Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor will also help as playmakers in the passing game.
On defense, the Titans added instant-impact players in Adoree’ Jackson, Johnathan Cyprien and Logan Ryan. They’ll improve what was a terrible secondary in 2016, helping to put Tennessee back in the playoffs.
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Texans’ back-to-back division crowns
The Colts owned the AFC South for more than a decade, but the Texans have since taken the reins of the division with back-to-back first-place finishes. Granted, they did so with just nine wins each season, but they still reside atop the division. Don’t expect the same in 2017 with the rest of the AFC South catching up to Houston.
Don’t get me wrong: The Texans are legitimate contenders. However, they have a shaky situation at quarterback, and the Colts and Titans don’t. Both of those teams will be significantly better this season and have a good chance to unseat the Texans for the division crown.
It won’t be easy with Houston’s dominant defense and playmakers on offense, but the Texans have to prove they’re stable at quarterback, which they aren’t with Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson. This division could get extremely interesting.
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Andrew Luck’s streak of 23 games in a row with a TD pass (18th-longest ever)
Drew Brees owns the longest streak in NFL history of games with at least one touchdown pass at 54. Luck has a long way to go to catch him, but don't expect the Colts QB to even make it to 40.
Indianapolis has a tough schedule next season against defense-first teams, including two games against the Texans and meetings with the Cardinals, Seahawks, Jaguars, Broncos and Ravens. All of those games could bring an end to Luck’s streak, given their strength in the secondary.
The Colts also drafted Marlon Mack, who’s a home run threat at running back. That’s something they haven’t had in some time, bringing a different dynamic to the offense. He can score from anywhere on the field, which could take away from Luck’s touchdown numbers.
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Patriots’ six straight years in AFC title game
The Patriots have been the model of consistency for the past decade-plus, particularly in the last six years. They’ve reached the AFC Championship game each season since 2011, making it to the Super Bowl three times. That’s a remarkable streak, and many believe it’ll continue now that they’ve reloaded with the likes of Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee and Kony Ealy.
Just don’t take that to the bank quite yet. The Patriots are outstanding, but competition in the AFC is going to be at a very high level this season. The Steelers, Raiders, Chiefs, Texans and Colts are all much-improved over 2016 and have a decent chance to knock off the unbeatable Patriots.
I’m not here to say it will happen – Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have showed no signs of slowing down – but there is a decent chance one of those five teams takes down New England before it makes it to the AFC championship game.
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Chiefs’ 11-game winning streak vs. AFC West
From 2013-15, the Colts absolutely owned the AFC South. They set an NFL record with 16 straight wins against divisional opponents, a streak that shockingly came to an end against the woeful Jaguars. The Chiefs are rapidly approaching that record and can surpass it in 2017 by once again sweeping the AFC West, just as they did last year. However, that won’t happen.
The AFC West is probably the strongest division in all of football, boasting three Super Bowl-caliber teams and a Chargers squad that’s endured some bad luck in recent years. There’s absolutely no chance that the Chiefs, as good as they are, finish the year undefeated against the AFC West once again. In fact, expect them to lose at least two divisional games, possibly three.
The Raiders and Broncos are both really solid teams with the former likely to contend for a Super Bowl. The Chargers, with a revamped defense and Mike Williams added on offense, should also approach .500. The Chiefs will most likely make the playoffs, but dominating the AFC West won’t be as easy as it’s been the past few years.
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Julio Jones averaging 100 yards per game for four straight seasons
The Falcons have the most prolific offense in the NFL – more so than the Patriots’ unit. Not only do they have an outstanding aerial attack, but their backfield duo of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman could just be the best in the NFL.
That being said, the Falcons could turn to the running game more often in 2017, given the dominance they saw from their running backs down the stretch last season. From Week 15 on, Atlanta averaged 141 rushing yards per game, including the playoffs. Jones, on the other hand, averaged only 76 yards in his last four games of the regular season.
Still good numbers, but the Falcons are realizing that they don’t need the offense to run through Jones in order to have success. Granted, he was battling an injury down the stretch and missed Weeks 14 and 15 in the middle of those four games, but the Falcons now understand how great their rushing attack can be.
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Nine years in a row with a rookie starter at QB in Week 1
Since 2008, the NFL has seen a rookie quarterback start in Week 1 of every season. In six of those years, two rookies were under center in the season opener. The 2017 draft was considered extremely weak at quarterback, and that will lead to this incredible streak being snapped.
Mitchell Trubisky has Mike Glennon to beat out in Chicago, Alex Smith will remain the starter over Patrick Mahomes for at least one more year in Kansas City, and Deshaun Watson has a lot of work to do before he’s crowned the starter in Houston. Trubisky and Watson likely will start at some point this season, but it won’t be in Week 1.
All indications out of Houston are that this is Tom Savage’s job to lose. He has experience and an understanding of Houston's offense that Watson doesn’t have just yet. That gives him an edge over Watson, which will be hard for him to overcome in the next few months.
You may be wondering about DeShone Kizer in Cleveland. He’s in a similar boat. The Browns aren’t set at quarterback, but Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler both have a better chance to start Week 1 than Kizer simply based on experience.
Drew Brees leading the NFL in passing yards for three straight years
For the past three years, only one player has led the league in passing yards. His name is Drew Brees, and he plays in the most prolific offense in the NFL. It’s one of the most impressive streaks in the NFL, but it’ll most likely end in 2017 for a handful of reasons.
First and foremost, the Saints are loaded at running back, and that’s no coincidence. Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara were both added to a backfield that already featured Mark Ingram. The Saints are going to do their best to take pressure off of their 38-year-old quarterback, reducing his pass attempts.
Second, the Saints’ defense is better than it’s been the past few years. That means the offense will be playing catch-up less often, allowing the Saints to run the ball throughout the game.
Finally, there are a whole bunch of candidates to unseat Brees. Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady – now that he’s slated to play all 16 games – are all in high-powered, pass-first offenses that should rack up big yardage through the air.