Oddsmakers have the 2017 NFL win totals out following the draft, so we make early over/under predictions for all 32 teams.
While the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons competed in an unforgettable Super Bowl LI, 30 other NFL teams were already looking ahead to the offseason. NFL free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft offered hope and promise for better things next year. The Pats and Falcons soon joined those teams in looking ahead to the 2017 NFL season.
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Now, the majority of the offseason hullabaloo in terms of personnel has subsided. The destinations for most big names in free agency and for all 253 draft selections have been determined. Thus, it’s time to really start looking ahead to the 2017 campaign — at least as best as we can.
Following the draft, oddsmakers began to truly look ahead to the 2017 NFL season as well. Among those odds were the release of the over/under win totals for all 32 teams from South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. These are always fun to see and, of course, vary depending on sportsbooks. What’s more, the totals are often inflated or deflated based on the national popularity of teams. After all, more fans are going to bet normal lines for popular teams, thus increasing the risk for the books.
As far as we’re concerned, though, we can only look at the numbers given. It’s still early in the offseason. OTAs, rookie mini-camp and then of course training camp and the preseason are all still ahead. Subsequently, injuries, position battles and so on still need to be decided. With that said, it never hurts to take an early look at the league.
Though they’ll inevitably change throughout the offseason (and will be revisited closer to the start of the season) here are early 2017 NFL predictions on over/under win totals for all 32 teams.
(Note: The number next to the team is the total given by the oddsmakers. The prediction for over/unders will be at after a breakdown of each group.)
Aug 19, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) calls out the cadence as running back David Johnson (31) listens during the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals — 7.5
When you hear a lot of people talk about the Arizona Cardinals, you see the terms “aging” and “end of the road” thrown around quite a bit, especially when trying to explain a disappointing 7-8-1 record in the 2016 season. Those terms are not entirely untrue when describing this team. After all, both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are nearing their retirement. However, it’s a bit misleading to say that was the reason for their letdown a year ago.
The Cardinals were one of the most injured teams in the league a season ago, particularly on the offensive line. While that makes what David Johnson accomplished that much more impressive, it’s not beneficial for an older quarterback like Palmer. Now the line is back healthy and the offense still has numerous explosive components that shouldn’t be discounted. Johnson is chief among them, who can effectively lead the way for the unit both with carries and as a pass-catcher.
Meanwhile, the Arizona defense has undergone quite a bit of turnover with Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson and Kevin Minter all leaving. However, the Cards locked up Chandler Jones and added two immediate and versatile starters in the draft with Haason Reddick and Budda Baker. At full strength, this defense should be one of the more complex and also lethal units.
Put simply, 2016 appears to be an aberration in my eyes for Arizona. They’re going to come back back and should be able to compete to win the NFC West.
Jan 14, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) celebrates with quarterback Matt Ryan (2) after scoring a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter in the NFC Divisional playoff at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons — 10
Looking strictly at personnel, it’s hard to think that the Atlanta Falcons won’t again be thinking about making it to the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan is the reigning MVP and still has a multitude of weapons around him with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. On paper, that unit could be just as dangerous as ever.
Then you turn your attention to the defense where they were weakest a season ago and they’ve improved there noticeably. Signing Dontari Poe to a one-year deal could be huge for them up front. So too could drafting Takkarist McKinley to help bolster their pass rush. What’s more, their secondary will be healthy (hello, Desmond Trufant) and have young players taking steps forward.
However good the Falcons look on paper, though, there are mental factors working against them. The first is obviously getting past their Super Bowl LI loss. Blowing a 25-point lead is easy to talk about getting past mentally, but much harder to actually do so. When you then take away their offensive coordinator/guru in Kyle Shanahan, that’s also concerning. Thus, I’m a bit down on the Falcons, to a degree at least.
As of right now, I have the Falcons winning exactly 10 games. We’ll go with the pessimistic side of things as the mental hurdles could be hard for them to ultimately overcome.
Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) turns to deliver a handoff during the first quarter of a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won the contest 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens — 9.5
Coming out of the 2017 NFL Draft, one of the most celebrated teams was the Baltimore Ravens. When you look at the players that they added in a vacuum, it’s not difficult to see why pundits would be high on them. They added tremendous value at each pick with great players that will plug into their defense and keep that unit performing at an elite level. Defense, as per usual, will be the strength of Baltimore in 2017.
While that may be the case, though, I’m far less high on their draft class because of how hamstrung their offense still is after the fact. The Ravens offense was sputtering for the majority of 2016, largely because Joe Flacco had very few weapons to work with. Now one of his biggest weapons and security blankets, Steve Smith Sr., has retired. And the Ravens haven’t done anything to replace his role other than hoping Breshad Perriman can stay healthy. Meanwhile, they also did nothing to truly bolster their backfield, which is also a concern.
The old adage says that defense wins championships and the Ravens should have a championship-caliber defense. However, if you hold a team to seven points and can only score three yourself, what good does having a great defense really do your team? People need to settle down about Baltimore. Their offense is going to be a disaster and they’ll hit well under 9.5 wins.
Dec 24, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs with the ball for a touchdown as Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Jones (98) defends during the second half at New Era Field. The Dolphins beat the Bills 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Bills — 6
Things have been a bit tumultuous for the Buffalo Bills since the draft. Former general manager Doug Whaley was essentially only with the team in spirit for the draft and was promptly fired after the fact. They’ve found his replacement in Brandon Beane, but it seems quite evident that this is a team that is going to start building for the future. If you need more evidence of that, look no further than them trading down from the No. 10 pick in the draft to acquire more valuable capital in 2018 and later in this year’s now-over draft.
Obviously there are pieces to like when you look at the Bills roster. LeSean McCoy is still deserving of being among the best running backs in the league. What’s more, Tyrod Taylor has been a solid, if not unspectacular or consistent, quarterback since taking over in Buffalo. When health, he also has a fantastic receiver in Sammy Watkins. Rookie Zay Jones is one of my favorites of the class as well and should contribute right away.
While that may be so, their offensive line still has question marks and their defense is lacking. Yes, Rex Ryan likely allowed the unit to underperform. But there are also a ton of wholes on that side of the ball. Tre’Davious White is a great pick for Buffalo, but he’s not going to fill the void left by Stephon Gilmore.
This Bills team is largely comprised of a few big names with the rest of the roster being filled with average or below players. That’s not a good place to be, especially when you play in the AFC East. Some may not see it coming, but this has the makings of a very rough year in Buffalo by my estimation.
Dec 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess (17) and quarterback Cam Newton (1) and quarterback Derek Anderson (3) before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers — 9
After appearing in Super Bowl 50 and getting punched in the nose by the Denver Broncos, the Carolina Panthers suffered a severe drop off in the 2016 season. They missed the playoffs by a wide margin, finishing the year with only a 6-10 record, last in their division. Carolina also has all the makings of a team set to rebound quite strongly in their 2017 campaign.
As the Panthers defense took a step back a year ago, much of their lack of overall success gets pinned on losing Josh Norman. Did that hurt them? Absolutely. Were the young cornerbacks that replaced him as bad as some would have you believe? Definitively not. The Panthers young secondary will improve and also has veterans like Mike Adams and Captain Munnerlyn to help them along. Meanwhile, the addition of Julius Peppers adds depth to their pass rush and Luke Kuechly returning to the field will obviously be pivotal.
On offense, Cam Newton was pedestrian from a numbers standpoint. However, he was also playing behind a makeshift offensive line. This affected him both as a passer and in terms of not being able to establish the run in the way they did in the previous season. Though Matt Kalil has been a disappointment after a strong rookie season, he’s an upgrade from what they had at left tackle a year ago. Meanwhile, rookie Taylor Moton should help shore up the right side.
With those factors added to the likes of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel adding dynamic elements to the offense, the Panthers should be circled as a team ready to get back to something closer to their 2015 form rather than the year playing out like their disappointing 2016.
Apr 28, 2017; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky holds up a jersey during a press conference at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears — 5
It took until just the second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft for Chicago Bears to scream out into the night at general manager Ryan Pace. From what it seems, the Bears were ultimately duped into getting into a bidding war with themselves and traded up from No. 3 to No. 2 to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Mind you, this is after they guaranteed quarterback Mike Glennon $18 million in free agency on a two-year deal. So yeah, that was a questionable call, especially considering that a talent deficient team gave up draft capital.
Of course, if Trubisky is the quarterback of the future, none of that matters. But like every quarterback taken in this class, he won’t be that right away. He’ll require development behind Glennon. Thus, that leaves us with the outlook for the 2017 season. And it’s actually quite a bleak vision to think about this team in the upcoming year.
After going 3-13 a year ago, the Bears might be even worse. Yes, they have Jordan Howard at running back, who appears to be a stud. Their offensive line is also solid. However, they failed to add any real impact players on either side of the ball in terms of guys who can contribute immediately. Thus, both their defense and offense are going to be suffering units throughout the 2017 season. Whatever you do to deal with sports-sadness Bears fans, I’d suggest you ready it for the 2017 campaign.
Oct 23, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals — 8.5
Why is the over/under total for the Cincinnati Bengals set at 8.5? There are a number of questionable lines set forth by the oddsmakers in regards to these totals. But this might be the most perplexing of the bunch. This team finished 6-9-1 a year ago and looked to be a shell of the teams that were perpetually in the playoffs under head coach Marvin Lewis.
As if projecting a 2.5-win increased for their record (yes, I know that’s not actually possible) based on what we saw last season wasn’t befuddling enough, the Bengals seems to be a team that will be worse in 2017. They struggled on their offensive line last season, which affected both Andy Dalton and their run game. Then they lost both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, their two best guys on that line, to free agency. Even if they have John Ross and Joe Mixon as weapons, they’re going to be ineffective up front it would seem.
Now the Bengals defense has taken some steps forward. The front office placed a clear premium on getting younger and more explosive on that side of the ball. They managed to do that with guys like Kevin Minter, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis. However, that unit still is scary in terms of both age and depth if you’re a Bengals fan. This feels like 6-9-1 or something similar is in the cards once again in Cincy, if not worse.
Apr 28, 2017; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns first round picks defensive lineman Myles Garrett and defensive back Jabrill Peppers and tight end David Njoku display their jerseys to the media at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns — 4
The Cleveland Browns still don’t have a quarterback for the future. Right now, their best options to start the 2017 season at the position are currently Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler. As the position has been since 1999, that’s an issue for this offense. However, the Browns are also a team that’s not fooling themselves. Their building for the future and are still at least a year away from looking complete.
Even without a franchise quarterback investment, the Browns are exponentially more talented than they were a year ago. Their offensive line is much improved with the addition of Zietler at guard. What’s more, Kenny Britt will serve as a solid replacement for the departing Terrelle Pryor.
With that being said, there’s hope for this defense in Cleveland for the immediate future. Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick, is obviously a big factor in that. However, he also joins a unit that will now also feature Jabrill Peppers and that has Jamie Collins locked up in addition to other nice young pieces like Danny Shelton and Emmanuel Ogbah.
This defense is good enough to be competitive and the offense, if they commit to the run, won’t be as bad as it was a year ago it would seem. Things won’t completely turn around for the Browns, but they’re looking up without question.
Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4), running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) in the huddle in the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings 17-15. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys — 9.5
This over/under total for the Dallas Cowboys seems criminally low and like it will most definitely rise as the offseason progresses. In winning the NFC East one year ago, the Cowboys won 13 games and were the top seed in the conference entering the postseason. Though they were bounced in the Divisional Round, they still have almost the entirety of their explosive young offense returning, including another year of seasoning for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
Perhaps the reason as to why the number sits at 9.5 comes down to their defensive departures in the offseason. The Dallas secondary was ravaged by free agency as Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox all left the team. However, the Cowboys addressed those concerns with the likes of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods in the NFL draft. They also bolstered their lacking pass rush with first-round pick Taco Charlton.
Granted, the Cowboys do play a tough schedule. The NFC East as a whole could be the strongest division in the league. What’s more, playing a strong AFC West and a sneaky NFC West out of the division could be tough tasks for America’s team. However, seeing them drop more than a couple of wins from their 13 victories in 2016 seems absolutely absurd. Their defense should be just as good as the shaky unit was a year ago and the offense will remain humming.
Oct 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) reacts with defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) and nose tackle Darius Kilgo (98) after a play in the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos — 8.5
Remember when we talked about the Carolina Panthers regressing from their Super Bowl 50 appearance? So too did the team that man-handled them in that game, the Denver Broncos. With the retirement of Peyton Manning and free-agent departure (blessing?) of Brock Osweiler, they were forced into starting either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch at quarterback. They opted for the former, but the offense would’ve struggled either way.
The quarterback play is where much of the blame for Denver’s offense is placed and it’s not entirely misplaced either. However, there’s plenty more to be spread around. The Broncos offensive line was an embarrassment for much of the season and, either in addition to or as a result of that, their running game was ineffective as well. Yes, the defense remained beastly, but they didn’t have the offense needed to keep pace in the AFC West.
While the division remains just as strong — if not stronger — the same issues could persist with the Broncos offense in 2017. They still have no real answer at quarterback, or at least an answer they should be confident in. What’s more, their offensive line still has holes even after using their first-round pick on Garett Bolles at tackle, which is a move that has its own set of concerns. Thus, I don’t see 2017 being anything more than average for Denver.
Jan 1, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws the ball during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions — 8
When you look up the definition of “flying by the seat of your pants,” the 2016 Detroit Lions should be prominently featured. It was routine for Matthew Stafford and company to find themselves either barely leading, tied or trailing late in games. Yet the former No. 1 overall pick put together one of the most clutch quarterbacking seasons in history to get wins and push his team to the playoffs.
With that said, the Lions were a flawed team. They had very little to speak of in regards to a running game, which hindered the overall effectiveness of the offense. Worse for the Lions, though, was their defense. There were pieces that were nice, but the unit as a whole saw leaders injured and ineffective play from throughout the 11 guys on the field.
As such, Detroit made a concerted effort this offseason to both maintain their offense — and perhaps improve their rushing attack — while adding necessary talent to defense. Jarad Davis and Teez Tabor will be critical additions to the defense that should help them improve, in addition to others. Yet, you still have to wonder if they did enough to take the next step. They aren’t going to have as good of fortune in close games this season. As such, they could take a slight step back.
Detroit is yet another team that I have as essentially as a push, winning eight games. Let’s go optimistic here since they improved and were a playoff team a year ago.
Jan 1, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back to pass during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers — 10
It almost never fails that the Green Bay Packers have offseasons where there is a stark change in emotions between free agency in the draft. General manage Ted Thompson has never been a big spender on the open market and, outside of Martellus Bennett, he really wasn’t this offseason. This came despite of obvious defensive needs in Green Bay, though. Thus, there was a bit of unrest among fans who were somewhat perturbed.
Yet, as Thompson always does, he went into the draft and absolutely tore the house down. Between moving around with trades and shuffling picks, they were able to acquire capital and get a slew of highly talented players who could contribute right away on defense. Kevin King is obviously at the forefront of that, but there were plenty of other players coming in that could be huge for Green Bay.
And even when you pick through all of the stuff like that, this team still has Aaron Rodgers and that’s the ultimate ace in the hole. The future Hall-of-Fame quarterback is as great of a player as there is in the league right now. For the most part, his 2016 team had no business making it to the NFC Championship Game. Yet they did, largely thanks to their quarterback’s heroics. As long as he’s healthy and with these improvements, the Pack should hit the over even at 10 wins.
Apr 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans first round draft pick Deshaun Watson poses with a jersey during a press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans — 8.5
All throughout the short-live Brock Osweiler era for the Houston Texans and then throughout the offseason, various iterations of they can contend with a real quarterback were thrown around by fans and many others. Considering that they made the playoffs and won a game in the postseason with the ineffably horribly Osweiler at the helm, that’s not an entirely unfair assessment of this team. Thus, the team traded up to No. 12 to take Deshaun Watson.
Even with Watson, though, no one should make the mistake of thinking anything other than that the Texans are a defensive-minded team. Especially with J.J. Watt returning to the lineup at full strength, this is one of the more fearsome units in the league. That said, there are some questions, especially at corner following the departure of A.J. Bouye. However, the Texans will still be effective on that side of the ball and now have their hopeful franchise quarterback.
However, I’m not ready to jump the gun right yet. While I think Watson has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback, I’m also 100 percent positive he won’t be one right away. What’s more, the small sample size of Tom Savage didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence in him either. Subsequently, it’s hard overall to trust the Texans this season. I have them hitting the over — but it’s only at nine wins as I’m far from confident in this squad.
Sep 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis Colts — 9
It’s only been a few months that new Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has been in charge of decision-making for their roster, but it’s already abundantly clear that he’s a massive upgrade from the inept Ryan Grigson. Ballard went out and bolstered the depth of his defense with veterans before finding great value throughout the 2017 draft. In fact, the Colts are a sleeper for one of the best draft classes this year.
Meanwhile, they also still have that Andrew Luck guy — who I hear is pretty good. Despite injuries and a bad team around him that have causes some of his buzz to die down, the Colts quarterback is still a superstar caliber player. He simply can’t do it alone, though, which is what Ballard is working on. Adding to the defense will make scoring 40 points not the necessary means to get a win. Moreover, he’s looking at adding some more help at skill positions.
With all of that said, the offensive line in Indy is still an issue. It’s understandable why the Colts would first address the defense as that was a unit lacking in the worst ways. However, Luck has been getting beat up in recent years because of poor line play. It doesn’t appear the line now in place will have too much effectiveness when they take the field. That’s an obvious issue. So while I think Ballard has the Colts trending emphatically upward, I’m skeptical of their 2017 prospects.
Apr 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Leonard Fournette (LSU) is selected as the number 4 overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round the 2017 NFL Draft at Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars — 5.5
Throughout both free agency and the draft, it’s hard not to love what the Jacksonville Jaguars did this offseason. Once again having an immense amount of cap space, the Jags were hyper aggressive on the open market and hooked some of the biggest fish swimming in the free agency pool. The Jacksonville defense was sneakily good at times last season, but adding the likes of Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church will only make the unit as a whole better.
Once at the draft, the Jaguars then focused a bit more on their offense. Taking Leonard Fournette fourth-overall was a no-brainer for Jacksonville as he gives them the workhorse running back that the offense has been sorely lacking. What’s more, moving up in the second round to take offensive tackle Cam Robinson also makes sense. They were getting great value at a position of need, so it was also an easy choice. The Jags continued to round out a solid class.
Yet with all of these positives about the Jaguars, the one harrowing fact that remains is that Blake Bortles is their quarterback. You can point to stretches and moments where he looked fine to show that he still has promise. However, you’re looking at the exception rather than the rule. He’s not a starting NFL quarterback and his mechanics are broken. Barring a miracle, that’s not going to change. And in an improved AFC South, I think that spells another sub-five win season in 2017.
Jan 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) reacts to a play during the first half in the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium. The Steelers won 18-16. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Chiefs — 9
Winners of the vaunted AFC West a year ago, the best indication of the position that the Kansas City Chiefs are currently in is how they approached the draft. Their move up in the first round to the No. 10 overall pick to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes was both bold and indicative of their place as a franchise. They’re a contender now and Alex Smith is fine, but they could also start to groom an upgrade, hence bringing in Mahomes.
As a whole, though, the Chiefs undoubtedly have a stout defense. When you can rush the likes of Justin Houston and Dee Ford while also having the likes of Marcus Peters and Eric Berry in the secondary, you’re doing something right. What’s more, the addition of Bennie Logan to replace Dontari Poe is a key component that they were able to add this offseason. Meanwhile, the offense is simple at times, but has some dynamic elements with the likes of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
With Smith at the helm of the offense, it’s hard to say that the Chiefs are a Super Bowl contender. My thoughts about the overall effectiveness of their offensive line furthers that. However, they’re undeniably a playoff team. They’ll again be in the mix to win one of the toughest divisions in the league and will certainly give most teams they face fits throughout the year.
Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) and Corey Liuget (94) talk before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Chargers — 7.5
Perhaps no team in the NFL had worse luck in regards to injuries than the Los Angeles Chargers than a year ago. The Bolts had injuries littered throughout their roster on both sides of the ball. Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, defensive back and virtually everywhere were stricken with a variety of injuries. Thus, they never got to fully scratch their potential with the group they had in place.
What they did this offseason, though, was quite savvy. The Chargers in free agency and the draft targeted quality depth throughout their roster. After all, that would make sense in regards to how to combat injuries should they befall them again in 2017. That’s the first reason why you have to feel at least somewhat favorable about the Bolts heading into the upcoming campaign.
More than that, though, this might be one of the most balanced teams in the league when healthy in terms of offensive and defensive strength. We know what Philip Rivers is capable of when protected and when playing with a full array of weapons. Meanwhile, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram help anchor a defense that I truly believe has the potential to be a top-10 unit in the league this season.
As they move to LA, the Charger have a bit of bad luck as they’re stuck a tier below two stronger teams in their own division. Yet, this is easily a .500 team or better in my book.
Nov 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11), running back Todd Gurley (30), quarterback Jared Goff (16) and Los Angeles Rams tight end Lance Kendricks (88) during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Rams — 5.5
Even though they didn’t own a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft thanks to trading up for Jared Goff a year ago, there was hope that the Los Angeles Rams would be able to use a deep class to improve. Instead, they seemingly did the opposite as they ultimately focused on adding long-term projects over immediate impact players.
Yes, a player like Cooper Kupp is going to be nice for Goff as the quarterback continues his development. However, he’s not going to change the offense dramatically. More importantly, though, other premium picks that the Rams did have were used on the likes of Gerald Everett and Josh Reynolds. The offense lacked weapons, but it also lacks a future on the offensive line and the defense has its share of holes as well.
This Rams team is going to be marginally better than they were a year ago, simply due to adding a veteran tackle in Andrew Whitworth so that Goff isn’t trying not to die when he drops back. With that being said, they didn’t take a substantial step forward in any real way this offseason. They’ll be a bottom-feeder again in 2017. The good news is, though, they get to keep their pick in the first round of 2018.
Dec 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs past Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon (91) during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated Miami Dolphins 38-6. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Dolphins — 7.5
Considering that the Miami Dolphins were a playoff team that won 10 games a season ago, the 7.5 over/under win total might seem a bit low. And it might be. However, there’s also the distinct possibility that the Dolphins largely over-achieved a season ago. Thus, they could fall back to earth from the heights that they reached in the 2016 season — even if it’s not all the way far enough to hit the under.
Even after the draft and free agency, there are a lot of questions that remain regarding the Dolphins. Their offensive line is going to have a new look after trading Andre Branch, with Laremy Tunsil moving from guard to tackle. What’s more, the guard position he’s leaving is also somewhat of a question mark as I’m not sure Isaac Asiata will be effective right away as a rookie. Then you have Ryan Tannehill and Jay Ajayi, two players who were great a year ago, but don’t have a lengthy track record beyond that. To me, that’s at least a bit concerning as well.
What’s more, the Dolphins will be relying heavily on young players to contribute defensively. They’ll need the likes of Charles Harris and Raekwon McMillan to be big right away for them, either on every down or rotationally. That’s a sticky situation as well, but so too is their secondary that I also lack confidence in.
Ultimately, Miami has too much talent to be a bad team. They’ll be competitive in most games and look quite good at times. However, I don’t think they enjoy the same success they did in 2016, even if that still gives them the over.
Jan 1, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) throws during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings — 8.5
To a certain degree, you have to feel for the Minnesota Vikings. This time one year ago, they were hoping that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would be able to take the next step to being a franchise quarterback. One horrific non-contact injury in camp later and Bridgewater missed all of 2016, doesn’t know what his immediate future holds, and may never be the same player again. As such, they have Sam Bradford at the helm.
What the Vikings did this offseason, as a whole, was quite smart. They didn’t bend for Adrian Peterson and instead replaced him with former Raiders Latavius Murray. What’s more, they used the draft to add to their lacking receiving corps and improved their offensive line and depth overall in free agency and in the draft. As always, this is a Mike Zimmer team, so you know their stout defense will deliver.
However, watching the Vikings collapse at the end of last season after a hot start felt less like a collapse and more regression to the mean. Your team is only going to have but so much upside with Bradford under center, something he’s proven time and again throughout his career. Thus, these improvements all feel sort of meaningless when you get down to it. This Vikings team has a defined ceiling and, unfortunately, it’s no higher than average.
Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Fox television announcer Terry Bradshaw (left) presents New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots — 11
Not shockingly in the slightest, the New England Patriots have the highest over/under win total in the NFL. After all, Tom Brady and company are the defending Super Bowl Champions. So it would stand to reason that they would continue their dynastic run regardless of what happened in the offseason. However, it just so happens that Bill Belichick was wheelin’ and dealin’ all offseason long and the Patriots are as dangerous as ever before.
Through a variety of trades, the Patriots ended up with Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen on their roster. Though that meant not picking until the the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, that’s an easy price to pay to bring in that type of talent. More importantly, the Pats also re-signed Dont’a Hightower as the anchor of their defense in addition to other key re-signings, while also inking cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a deal.
The Patriots, after completing one of the most surreal comebacks in Super Bowl history, didn’t just re-tool or marginally improve. This is a substantially better team than they were a year ago — and they get a healthy Rob Gronkowski coming back into the fold to start 2017. Obviously you can never engrave the Lombardi Trophy in the preseason, but the Patriots are far and away the class of the league right now.
Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) gestures at the line against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints — 8.5
If there’s such a thing as limbo in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints have been stuck in it in recent memory. Their 7-9 finish to the 2016 campaign was right on par with recent years. A big reason as to why the Saints have occupied that space has been a simple lack of quality team-building. Yes, Drew Brees has been blessed with plenty of weapons and the offense has routinely been able to put a big number on the scoreboard.
The issue, however, has been their defense keeping opponents from matching or bettering that big number on the board. Their secondary has been a major issue, which they addressed through the draft. Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams will aid that cause in the Big Easty. However, that’s not the only part of their defense that’s lacking as linebacker and pass-rushing depth are still needed.
Even with the Brandin Cooks trade, I don’t expect the Saints offense to miss a beat. They strengthened their offensive line further and have weapons galore still, including two new running backs in veteran Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. But their defense is going to remain an issue. They’ll be competitive as they always are, but another 8-8 or 7-9 finish seems right for the Saints in their current form.
Dec 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) celebrates with quarterback Eli Manning (10) after scoring a touchdown against the Lions during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants — 9
A season ago, the Dallas Cowboys were one of the hottest teams in the league in the regular season. They lost only three games on the entire year. And two of those losses came against their rivals, the New York Giants. After revamping their defense in the draft and free agency, the Giants became a force that played their way into the postseason. They were ultimately not complete enough of a team to compete in the playoffs, but the hope for them moving forward is there.
One of the big flaws was the lack of consistency in the offense. Thus, the Giants were aggressive in making a few big moves to help remedy that. Adding Brandon Marshall in free agency was huge for New York. Though it may have been a reach, taking Evan Engram in Round 1 of the draft also gives Eli Manning another weapons. No, they didn’t address their two biggest offensive issues (their line and the running back spot), but they added more weaponry. With that in addition to their defense, the Giants will be a force in 2017.
There’s no doubt that the Giants are going to be a force, if based on nothing other than their defense. However, there has been a swell of fans that seem to think this team is a Super Bowl contender. Frankly, I don’t see that in the slightest. This team has massive flaws offensively in terms of their line and rushing attack. They’ll be good and will likely make the playoffs, but maybe pump the brakes a tad in regards to expectations.
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) and quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) prior to action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets — 5.5
How the New York Jets escaped having the lowest over/under win total is beyond me. This roster right now is a downright disaster and there’s chatter that the front office has only started blowing everything up. That could mean more talented players — of the few left on the roster — heading elsewhere before the start of the 2017. Even still, the Jets have the makings of the worst team in the NFL.
Looking at the depth chart for the Jets is more like a lesson in sadness than anything else. Their No. 1 wide receiver is Eric Decker, who hasn’t been able to stay on the field. At running back, they have a past-his-prime Matt Forte and still seemingly refuse to give the impressive-in-limite-work Bilal Powell the full No. 1 workload. Oh yeah, they also have a quarterback competition between Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. Super.
Admittedly, there is still talent left on the defense. With that said, there are also a lot of holes throughout that unit. The secondary still needs further addressing moving forward, even after adding Jamal Adams. What’s more, their linebacking corps is incomplete and their defensive front has underperformed (looking at you, Sheldon Richardson). The Jets won’t go winless, but they might flirt with it.
Nov 21, 2016; Mexico City, MEX; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) and linebacker Khalil Mack (52) celebrate after a NFL International Series game against the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca. The Raiders defeated the Texans 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Oakland Raiders — 9.5
In 2016, the Oakland Raiders were exceptional for much of the year, especially considering some of the shortcomings they had. You’d be hard pressed to find a team that was more consistently entertaining than the Raiders were last season. Unfortunately, their hopes were dashed late in the year when star quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula, thus ending his season. Needless to say, Matt McGloin and Connor Cook weren’t able to do enough to carry the team once in the playoffs.
Now Carr is set to be back and the buzz around the Raiders is enormous. Part of that is regarding Marshawn Lynch and that’s not hard to imagine. Not only is Beast Mode returning to the NFL to play in his home city of Oakland, but he’s also a key player if he can provide what he once did to the Seahawks. With Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and one of the best offensive lines in the league around him, this offense has the chance to be dynamic and dangerous.
Oakland’s issue a year ago was indubitably on the defensive side of the ball. Despite a stout pass rush anchored by Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, the secondary underperformed and the middle of the front seven was lacking. They’ve addressed the secondary heavily and have new blood at defensive tackle with rookie Eddie Vanderdoes. There’s still a need at linebacker, but the defense overall is improved. With the offense potentially being even better as well, the AFC West should be the Raiders’ to lose.
Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) and head coach Doug Pederson (L) during a game against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. The Washington Redskins won 27-22. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles — 8.5
It’s hard not to love what the Philadelphia Eagles accomplished this offseason. When you look at the majority of their needs that they head at the end of 2016, they did a fantastic job of making moves to set themselves up for the future.
That, of course, started with the receiving corps. Carson Wentz started off hot in his rookie season, but definitely cooled down as the year went on. Part of that was his own doing as he struggled a bit with pressure, as rookies tend to do. However, a big part of that was their paltry group of players he was throwing to. Adding Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency is a great way to bolster that unit. What’s more, they’re two veteran players to help the young quarterback further grow.
Defensively, the Eagles set themselves up nicely in their secondary for the future while bolstering the unit up front now. Chris Long and Timmy Jernigan will be key up front in the 4-3 in Philly. On the back end, though, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas both project to be quality starting corners down the line.
The issue looking at 2017, though, is that the Eagles defense might not be wholly where it needs to for them to compete in the vaunted NFC East with a tough overall schedule as well. What’s more, Wentz still has plenty of progression lying ahead as he needs to correct some of his decision-making. Thus, this is a team with a ton of promise that won’t deliver just yet.
Jan 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) celebrates with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) after a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second half in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers — 10.5
Basically by default, I’m going to dispel any drama that you may have about the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re going to win the AFC North, and I don’t feel that it’s going to be particularly close at the top of the division. As you’ve seen reading up to this point, I’m quite skeptical of the Ravens as a whole, even more so of the Bengals, and the Browns still have another offseason to go before they full scare anyone.
That may sound belittling to the Steelers, and it is to a very small degree. Pittsburgh had the fuel to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the league a year ago. Yet, the Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell trio were ultimately inconsistent. Frankly, that’s been somewhat of their M.O. quietly. At their best, there are few in the league that can even hope to contain them. But the issue relies in how far they can deviate from their best at time.
With that said, I’ve loved the Steelers offseason and think they’ve improved. Getting Martavis Bryant back after being reinstated will be big, as will the addition of rookie Juju Smith-Schuster. More importantly, though, Pittsburgh made strides through the draft in regards to improving their defense. They added necessary depth at linebacker and put talented bodies in a lacking secondary. They’re going to be good, but the question will ultimately be if they find a next gear in the postseason to contend.
Apr 28, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; (l to r) San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch , linebacker Reuben Foster , defensive lineman Soloman Thomas , and head coach Kyle Shanahan pose for photos during the press conference at Levi’s Stadium Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers — 4.5
There was concern about what new San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch would do in the draft. With no front office experience, there were reasons to be skeptical about his chops on draft day. Yet he proved everyone wrong emphatically, fleecing the Chicago Bears to trade down from No. 2 to No. 3 and still grab Solomon Thomas. What’s more, they were then able to trade up at the end of the first to grab the highly talented Reuben Foster.
Overall, Lynch proved he’s worth his salt as a GM in the draft. Now, the 49ers defense has a number of nice pieces in tow, many of them young with the likes of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner playing with Thomas and Foster. Though there may be growing pains, the Niners will certainly show flashes on that side of the ball under new head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Their issues will undoubtedly arise on the other side of the ball. Truthfully, the 49ers and many other teams could do worse than having Brian Hoyer at quarterback. However, the San Francisco offensive line is far from a finished product for the future. What’s more, their receiver corps is lacking even after the free-agent signing of Pierre Garcon, and there’s seemingly doubt about Carlos Hyde at running back. Therefore, I think it’s another rough year record-wise in the Bay Area. With that said, they’ll be the best bad-team of the 2017 season.
January 7, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) moves out to pass against the Detroit Lions during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Seattle Seahawks — 10.5
Maybe I’m in the wrong and misreading what’s before me, but this offseason felt like a botched one for the Seattle Seahawks. Not only did they ultimately create unnecessary drama regarding Richard Sherman trade rumors, but their improvements overall were marginal at best. They were a quiet team in free agency. Then they added talented players in the draft. However, the issue is that they didn’t address their biggest needs.
In the draft, Seattle traded down out of the first round to take Malik McDowell early in the second. While talented, they added another hard-to-deal-with personality to an already volatile locker room. What’s more, they traded down out of position to grab one of the best tackles in the draft in either Ryan Ramczyk or Cam Robinson. Later in the second, they did draft Ethan Pocic, a versatile plug-and-play lineman out of LSU. However, the issue is that the Seahawks didn’t again look to their offensive line until the sixth round.
Seattle’s line was one of the worst in the league a year ago. Russell Wilson spent much of the year banged up, largely because his time on the field was spent running for his life. The fact that some thing the addition of Pocic fixes everything is baffling to me. This is a team that truly could’ve used five new starters up front. So while their defense will still be stout, their offense could very well take a huge step in the wrong direction. It’s uncommon, but I see a letdown coming for the Seahawks.
Nov 27, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) smiles as he pumps his fist against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 14-5. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 8
A tough finishing stretch to last season ultimately pushed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the postseason. Jameis Winston and company finished at 9-7 and in second place in the NFC South, but out of the playoffs. Now, with an appearance on Hard Knocks looming this offseason, the Bucs have aspirations to take the next step as a a team. Those aspirations aren’t entirely unfounded either.
What’s most notable about Tampa Bay’s offseason is the vast improvements they made on offense. They started in free agency, adding veteran deep threat DeSean Jackson. Not only does Jackson simply provide Winston another option, but he’s the perfect complement to Mike Evans opposite him. The Buccaneers didn’t stop there, though, adding tight end O.J. Howard and wide receiver Chris Godwin through the draft. This offense was explosive, but inconsistent, a year ago. Said unit should add that consistency with these new weapons.
Many have cried for the Buccaneers to have done more on defense, but they did make solid additions in that regard. Signing the underrated Chris Baker to plug in their front four will be huge. Meanwhile, adding J.J. Wilcox in free agency and Justin Evans in the draft at safety should help that unit progress. They’ll be better on that side of the ball, thus creating an overall improvement. With just eight wins set as the total, they should be able to get to their nine from a year ago — and perhaps better it.
Nov 6, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) hands off to running back DeMarco Murray (29) during the first quarter of the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans — 9.5
Much like with Tampa, it feels safe to say even in May that the Tennessee Titans are going to be a trendy pick in the preseason to make some serious noise in the 2017 NFL season. And when you look at their over/under win total set at 9.5 — the same as the likes of the Dallas Cowboys — it’s clear that the oddsmakers are buying into that. And frankly, it’s hard not to have a little faith in what’s brewing in Nashville.
Tennessee finished 9-7 a year ago, the same as the AFC South winning Houston Texans, but fell short of the playoffs on a tie-breaker. That was probably for the better, though, given Marcus Mariota’s season-ending broken fibula near the end of the year. The playoffs would’ve been ugly without their young franchise quarterback.
However, Mariota is expected back at 100 percent for training camp and thus the season. And now he has an offense that could be primed to break out further. The running back tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry was lethal last season, anchored by a stout offensive line. Now Mariota has a viable No. 1 receiver in fifth-overall pick Corey Davis to really round out a complete offense.
The issue with the Titans last season, though, was on the other side of the ball. Yet they’ve made strong moves to improve there as well. Signing Johnathan Cyprien and Logan Ryan will help bolster a secondary that was lacking a year ago. What’s more, adding Adoree’ Jackson will help at cornerback as well, and also on special teams. They are the most complete team in the South, and I think they run away with it and reach double-digit wins.
Dec 19, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) attempts a pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Redskins — 7.5
The Washington Redskins have undergone massive changes in the offseason, some for the better and others not so much. For the better would be what the moves they’ve made on defense qualify as. Adding Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and Fabian Moreau all fill needs on the defense and they picked all three players up with great value in the draft. What’s more, the additions of Zach Brown at linebacker and D.J. Swearinger at safety are both huge.
Then there’s the offense, which paints a less favorable picture for the Redskins. Kirk Cousins is still in town, which is a plus, but he’s got largely a new cast around him. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left in free agency. They signed Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick, but the them of the unit went from proven veterans to unproven young guys (and Pryor, who’s in his late 20s now). Meanwhile, they still have questions at running back that I’m not sure Samaje Perine answers.
All of this leaves us, immediately after the draft, projecting a better defense and a worse offense. Thus, the conventional logic would be that they’d finish around the 8-7-1 mark that the posted a year ago. However, with the NFC East projecting as one of the strongest divisions in football and matchups with the AFC West looming out-of-division, I think they take a slight step back.