In ESNY’s official 2017 NFL Season Preview and Predictions, we ponder if Tom Brady, the man who never ages, can actually be stopped.
Eighty-eight to 41. These numbers remarkably represent the total plays each offense showcased during last February’s Super Bowl. To think the game actually went into overtime is now the amazing feat.
Yet again, there he was, Tom Brady, ripping the heart out of haters everywhere as he slowly and methodically dinked and dunked the ball on every second-half possession against a dead tired Atlanta Falcons defense who was left out to dry by Kyle Shannahan and the offense.
There he was, again, Tom Terrific, winning another Super Bowl, his fifth (capping off the largest Super Bowl comeback victory of all-time).
Forget the obvious question revolving around whether or not he can do it again. The more appropriate question is, “Who’s gonna stop him?”
It’s now 2017 and the New England Patriots are looking to double-back on their three titles in four years dynasty.
Here’s ESNY’s official 2017 NFL season preview and predictions:
And yes, the win total does equal out to 256 games, the total number of regular season games in a given National Football League season. (Amateurs do not reside at Elite Sports NY.)
- New England Patriots (13-3)*
- Miami Dolphins (9-7)
- New York Jets (6-10)
- Buffalo Bills (3-13)
Is there any debate? Sure, the four-division per conference setup in the National Football League is sparkling on the surface. It allows a nice, uniform schedule each season and keeps it relatively clean. But man, the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills have sure received the shaft for the last decade and a half.
The New England Patriots will win the AFC East yet again in 2017. All the tools are still there. Brandin Cooks will easily fill in for Julian Edelman. The offensive line is still a powerhouse and the defense will be improved. Rob Gronkowski is back, but who cares? The man spends more time on the dance floor than the football field these days (via injury). His presence means very little.
The Jets and Bills are horrible. The Dolphins do possess some talent and will be improved on the offensive side with a real quarterback who can actually throw the ball downfield (Jay Cutler over Ryan Tannehill). But this is Tom Brady’s division.
Those six wins for the Jets aren’t a typo. While the roster looks like a tank-job on paper, New York’s defense and overall improved younger roster from its 5-11 season in 2016 will see them win a few extra surprise games this season.
Offensive Player to Watch: James White (NE)
Pats running back James White is going to have a monster season and it has nothing to do with the 14-catch performance he put on in the Super Bowl. Without LeGarrette Blount, the Pats are without a featured goal line back. Eventually, most of the snaps at the position will default to White and thanks to Brady’s propensity for dinking and dunking in all situations, White will be fantasy gold in 2017.
Defensive Player Watch: Jamal Adams (NYJ)
Jamal Adams is going to be the NFL’s next greatest safety and it’s going to happen immediately. Safety is a read and react, football IQ spot and Adams will immediately change the culture of the Jets defense.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)*
- Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
- Cleveland Browns (7-9)
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)
It’s interesting to ponder. Despite the NFL receiving all the accolades that go with the tag of “most parity-filled major American sports league,” the predicted division winners this season surely do all look like familiar powerhouses.
The AFC North falls into that category.
The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to have everything. Ben Roethlisberger is still an elite quarterback, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and the returning Martavis Bryant are weapons to die for, and the offensive line is one of the better units in the league. Defensively, perhaps Joe Haden can fill in some of the leaky spots of that secondary.
The AFC North could be one of the better finishing divisions of the year with the Cleveland Browns finishing at a surprise 7-9 record. Baltimore will hang around, but ultimately fall short of a wild card while the Cincinnati Bengals take one more year to get it back on the right path.
Offensive Player to Watch: Martavis Bryant (PIT)
His return to the lineup makes this offense scary and is the perfect complement to the smaller, shiftier Antonio Brown.
Defensive Player to Watch: Myles Garrett (CLE)
Hey, Myles Garrett wasn’t the No. 1 overall pick for nothing.
- Houston Texans (10-6)*
- Tennessee Titans (9-7)*
- Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)
- Indianapolis Colts (4-12)
For the second straight season, it’ll be the Houston Texans who take the AFC South crown. Just take a quick look at that defense. J.J. Watt with Jadaveon Clowney and Brian Cushing isn’t anything to mess with. Look for young Deshaun Watson to come in and eventually take over during the first quarter of the season.
Tennessee, led by the second best offensive line in the league and young Marcus Mariota, will sneak into the playoffs as the second wild card. A defense living off of Dick Lebeau’s principles coupled with a strong rushing attack will be just enough.
Jacksonville will take a step forward with a talented young defense, but will ultimately find out that Blake Bortes isn’t an NFL starter. The Indianapolis Colts are more “tank worthy” than the Jets. Andrew Luck won’t start the season and the offensive line and defense are both still putrid. At least the Jets have a defense.
Offensive Player to Watch: Derrick Henry (TEN)
Demarco Murray has a plentiful injury history. Should he go down, and even if he doesn’t, Derrick Henry‘s bruising style perfectly complements Tennessee’s nasty O-line.
Dffensive Player to Watch: J.J. Watt (HOU)
Will he be the same man coming off an injury-riddled campaign? Only time will tell.
- Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)*
- Oakland Raiders (11-5)*
- Denver Broncos (7-9)
- San Diego Chargers (5-11)
Perhaps the best divisional race of 2017 will come out of the AFC West. Will it be the young Oakland Raiders or the steady Kansas City Chiefs? Whichever team comes out on top, both will be tournament worthy.
Sprinkling Patrick Mahomes’s presence makes it even more intriguing.
Denver and San Diego just aren’t in the same class.
Offensive Player to Watch: Tyreek Hill (KC)
With defenses and special teams now firmly locked in on the elusive speedster, can Tyreek Hill elevate his offensive game to No. 1 WR status?
Defensive Player to Watch: Joey Bosa (SD)
Does the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year back it up in year two?
- New York Giants (11-5)*
- Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
- Washington Redskins (5-11)
Speaking of tight divisional races, we now get to the mighty NFC East.
I’m scared to death of the New York Giants offensive line. Weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall are only as good as their offensive line. And in the case of Big Blue’s, it’s up for debate.
Down in Texas, the best offensive line will keep the offense afloat even with Ezekiel Elliott out six games. But what about that defense? If Sean Lee misses any time, the defense is done and hinging your bets on a defense that vulnerable is risky business. The 31-year-old oft-injured Lee is by far the most important defensive player to any unit in the league.
Thanks for that info and the notion that the Giants defense is the best in the league, we place the Giants three games clear of the Boys.
Eli Manning is not the problem. Eli Manning has never been the problem. The man is so good that he covers up so many deficiencies on his offensive line that the casual onlooker can’t even grasp. As long as the O-line just holds up a little bit, all will be well in New Jersey.
Philly takes strides and competes, but finishes .500. The D.C. football squad finishes in the basement.
Offensive Player to Watch: Ereck Flowers (NYG)
Sure, all eyes will be on Carson Wentz to assume true franchise quarterback status, but the most important piece on offense in the division is Ereck Flowers. He must make strides if the Giants are to fulfill any serious Super Bowl aspirations.
Defensive Player to Watch: Sean Lee (DAL)
For all the reasons we already discussed, Sean Lee’s health is critical to Dallas’s defensive unit.
- Green Bay Packers (12-4)*
- Minnesota Vikings (10-6)*
- Detroit Lions (6-10)
- Chicago Bears (3-13)
Aaron Rodgers, ladies and gentlemen. Tom Brady aside, he’s the best player in the league. His playoffs a year ago were legendary — even though he couldn’t sneak past Atlanta.
What’s most important is the idea that this Green Bay Packers team is more than just A-Rod. The O-line is solid, weapons are plentiful and the defense is near the top quarter of the league.
A lot about the Minnesota Vikings is tempting. Dalvin Cook is going to be a flat-out National Football League stud, allowing those Minnesotians to forget about a guy named All Day pretty quickly. Sam Bradford just doesn’t excite me in any more than a 10-win variety. That defense will carry them to the tournament.
Both Detroit — who’s been overachieving the last couple years and Chicago, who may possess the worst roster in the league — will struggle all year long.
Offensive Player to Watch: Davante Adams (GB) and Dalvin Cook (MIN)
Defensive Player to Watch: Blake Martinez (GB)
The rookie fifth-round selection was great in year one. He needs to be even better in year two if Aaron Rodgers is going to have his defensive counterpart QB on his team.
- Atlanta Falcons (11-5)*
- Carolina Panthers (11-5)*
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
- New Orleans Saints (6-10)
Ah, yes, the NFL South, the division that always rotates division winners.
Not in 2017.
With a fire that simply cannot be explained (choking away a sure-fire championship thanks to stupidity on offense), the Atlanta Falcons will win 11 games. The Carolina Panthers, who still boast a boatload of talent, will compete for the crown with young Christian McCaffrey dazzling onlookers everywhere.
Some are actually taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a darkhorse Super Bowl squad this season. I can’t buy it. The defense will be solid and Jamies Winston is the real deal, but it’s not a championship-caliber squad. Aside from Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, the New Orleans Saints have a long way to travel before the playoffs are a realistic goal.
Expect the NFC South records to be inflated a bit thanks to 2017 scheduling that sees them take on the pathetic AFC East.
Offensive Player to Watch: Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
Forget about it. This kid is everything that you’d want in a pro running back. Jonathan Stewart will steal touchdowns from the kid, but he’ll rack of yards like nobody’s business.
Defensive Player to Watch: Vernon Hargreaves (TB)
- Seattle Seahawks (9-7)*
- Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
- Los Angeles Rams (6-10)
- San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
The NFC West take on the AFC South this season. This means the AFC South will boast tremendous records thanks to the idea that this division is incredibly weak.
Who would have thought the Seattle Seahawks would be gifted the division based on such a horrible division after witnessing such powerhouses in recent years (Jim Harbaugh‘s San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals). But it’s true.
Arizona will rebound a tad with that talented defense, but Carson Palmer and an average offensive line just cannot get the job done.
Who knows what Los Angeles will do. The 49ers do boast the worst personnel in the league and will finish with a league-low two wins. Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard will turn out as a tremendous find, but it won’t matter during his rookie campaign.
Offensive Player to Watch: Cooper Kupp (LAR)
Everything out of L.A. is that young Cooper Kupp is for real. We’ll find out with Jared Goff improving.
Defensive Player to Watch: The Older Legion of Boom (SEA)
Wild Card Round
- No. 3 Steelers, 34 over No. 6 Titans, 16
- No. 4 Texans, 19 over No. 5 Raiders, 14
Pittsburgh will be disappointed without a BYE, but will take its anger out on the field against the young Titans in round one.
In a rematch from a tournament ago, the Deshaun Watson-led Texans win a classic over Derek Carr and company.
- No. 3 Steelers, 30 over No. 2 Chiefs, 21
- No. 1 Patriots, 23 over No. 4 Texans, 10
Andy Reid simply cannot catch a break. The head coach who always tears up the regular season, falls short again in the playoffs, again against Mike Tomlin.
Tom Brady steamrolls Houston at home.
AFC Championship Game
- No. 1 Patriots, 37 over No. 3 Steelers, 31
Haven’t we seen this matchup before? So many times in the past, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense just cannot handle the Pats spread out offense. Brady and company go to four and five wideouts and the veteran-laced Pitt D could never manage to adjust.
While this won’t be the major problem this time around, the Pats win a close one in the AFC title game. Brady will dink and dunk his way with James White and Brandin Cooks, outdueling Big Ben and the Killer B’s. All everybody wants to do is talk about the Pats offense. The addition of Stephon Gilmore is one serious transaction for Bill Belichick’s defense.
Wild Card Round
- No. 3 Giants, 23 over No. 6 Vikings, 13
- No. 5 Panthers, 25 over No. 4 Seahawks, 17
Flashbacks to the 2000 NFC Championship Game as Landon Collins and the best defense in the NFL trounces Minny.
- No. 3 Giants, 28 over No. 2 Falcons, 20
- No. 1 Packers, 27 over No. 5 Panthers, 17
Horrors for Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn will be duplicated when Eli Manning kills Atlanta’s defense on a day the G-Men O-line dazzles.
At Lambeau, the No. 1 seeded Pack cruise past the Panthers by two scores.
NFC Championship Game
- No. 1 Packers, 17 over No. 3 Giants, 13
It’ll be a fantastic NFC Championship game. We know Eli and the Giants. When they win one playoff game, they usually take it the distance.
Not this time.
Aaron Rodgers will prove too great and make just one more play than Landon Collins and his defense does. Damon Harrison can only do so much in the middle in stopping Ty Montgomery and the rushing attack. Unfortunately, A-Rod doesn’t need a rushing game to succeed.
A classic goes to the home team.
Super Bowl LII
Green Bay Packers, 27 over New England Patriots, 25
Super Bowl MVP: Aaron Rodgers
When you don’t know, you’ll never go wrong in going all-in on the studs. In the NFL, the studs are the great QBs.
Just take a gander at the last decade and a half of champs. We see names like Manning, Roethlisberger, Wilson, Manning again, Flacco (yeah, I know) and, of course, Brady and Rodgers.
By a flip of a coin, we go with Rodgers and the more well-rounded defense. We also provide a slight nod to the Pack’s O-line over Brady’s.
Rodgers cuts the Super Bowl deficit to 5-2 against Brady.
- NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers
- Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
- Defensive Player of the Year: Landon Collins
- Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey
- Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jamal Adams
Aaron Rodgers will take home his third NFL MVP (2011, 2014). With three stud weapons and a solid rushing attack, nothing will stop No. 12.
Christian McCaffrey will take home the NFL Offensive Player of the Year while two local safeties, Landon Collins and Jamal Adams, represent New York on the defensive side.
2017 NFL All-Pro First Team
- QB: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
- RB: Le’Veon Bell (PIT), David Johnson (ARZ)
- WR: Julio Jones (ATL), Michael Thomas (NO)
- TE: Travis Kelce (KC)
- T: Jack Conklin (TEN), Lane Johnson (PHI)
- G: Zack Martin (DAL), Kelechi Osemele, (OAK)
- C: Travis Frederick (DAL)
- INTERIOR DL: Damon Harrison (NYG), Aaron Donald (LAR)
- EDGE: Khalil Mack (OAK), J.J. Watt (HOU)
- OLB: Von Miller (DEN), Lavonte David (TB)
- ILB: Bobby Wagner (SEA), Luke Kuechly (CAR)
- CB: Xavier Rhodes (MIN), Marcus Peters (KC)
- S: Landon Collins (NYG), Eric Berry (S)
- DB: Chris Harris Jr. (DEN)
- K: Justin Tucker (BAL)
- P: Johnny Hekker (LAR)
- KR: Tyreek Hill (KC)
For the life of me, I still cannot figure out why the Associated Press hasn’t added a third receiver to the All-Pro team. But hey, we don’t make the rules. We just play by them.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) September 7, 2017
ESNY Staff Picks
Rick Weiner, Editor in Chief
AFC BYEs: Patriots, Steelers
AFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Titans, Raiders
AFC Wild Cards: Chiefs, Ravens
NFC BYEs: Giants, Falcons
NFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Packers, Seahawks
NFC Wild Cards: Vikings, Cowboys
AFC Title Game: Patriots over Steelers
NFC Title Game: Packers over Giants
Super Bowl: Patriots over Packers
NFL MVP: Tom Brady, Patriots
Offensive POY: Tom Brady, Patriots
Defensive POY: Landon Collins. Giants
Offensive Rookie of Year: Deshaun Watson, Texans
Defensive Rookie of Year: Jamal Adams, Jets
Another year, another dominant showing by Tom Brady and the Patriots. Things will play out as most think they will, with no Cinderella stories making the playoffs or scoring a huge upset over an established force. The battle for the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft will be more intriguing than any playoff race.
Paul Esden, Co-Jets Boss
AFC BYEs: New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders
AFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Wild Cards: LA Chargers and the Houston Texans
NFC BYEs: Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons
NFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks
NFC Wild Cards: New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
AFC Title Game: Oakland Raiders over the New England Patriots
NFC Title Game: Dallas Cowboys over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl: Dallas Cowboys over the Oakland Raiders
NFL MVP: Derek Carr
Offensive POY: Jameis Winston
Defensive POY: Leonard Williams
Offensive Rookie of Year: Leonard Fournette
Defensive Rookie of Year: Jamal Adams
This is going to be an exciting year without a doubt in the NFL. So many intriguing storylines and so much depth in the NFC conference. I think the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders stand tall in the AFC and then there’s everyone else. An important piece of this may be Oakland winning or losing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That may decide who goes to the Super Bowl. While I think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to surprise the world and go on a magical playoff run that falls short. Last nugget to justify the Cowboys pick. I think they can plug anyone behind that line and have success, so when Ezekiel Elliott plays that’ll be gravy.
Garrett Ey, Contributor
AFC Byes: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Tennessee Titans (South), Kansas City Chiefs (West)
AFC Wild Cards: Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals
NFC Byes: Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks
NFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: New York Giants (East), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (South)
NFC Wild Cards: Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers
AFC Title Game: Pittsburgh Steelers over New England Patriots
NFC Title Game: Green Bay Packers over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl: Pittsburgh Steelers over Green Bay Packers
NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Off. POY: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Def. POY: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
Some familiar faces will face off in the AFC Championship game, as the two class organizations face off for a trip to the Super Bowl. In what could be Ben Roethlisberger’s final season as an NFL quarterback, he makes it a memorable one by beating arch-nemesis, Tom Brady for a trip to the Super Bowl.
In the NFC, Aaron Rodgers dominates all season long to earn his second trip to the Super Bowl by defeating my breakout star, Jameis Winston. Though Winston will lose not only the NFL MVP award and NFC Championship game to Rodgers, his star will definitely shine.
The Super Bowl will feature two historic franchises in the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. In a game that will be coined “One of the greatest of all-time,” Big Ben rides off in the sun after a game winning drive to decide the back and forth affair.
Nick Durst, Video and Audio Producer
AFC BYEs: New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders
AFC Wild Cards: Houston Texans and Los Angeles Chargers
NFC BYEs: Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals
NFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons
NFC Wild Cards: Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys
AFC Title Game: New England Patriots over Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC Title Game: Green Bay Packers over New York Giants
Super Bowl: New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers
NFL MVP: Tom Brady
Offensive POY: Tom Brady
Defensive POY: J.J. Watt
Offensive Rookie of Year: Leonard Fournette
Defensive Rookie of Year: Myles Garrett
The New England Patriots will go 19-0 led by MVP Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers will be the runner-up for MVP and will take his team to the Super Bowl. The Arizona Cardinals will have a bounce-back season and the Chargers will sneak into the playoffs in their first year in Los Angeles. The San Francisco 49ers will be the worst team in the NFL.
Nick Delahanty, Contributor
AFC BYEs: New England and Oakland
AFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Pittsburgh and Tennessee
AFC Wild Cards: Kansas City and Cincinnati
NFC BYEs: Seattle and Atlanta
NFC Division Champs, Seeds 3 and 4: Green Bay and Philadelphia
NFC Wild Cards: Tampa Bay and New York
AFC Title Game: New England over Oakland
NFC Title Game: Seattle over New York
Super Bowl: New England over Seattle
NFL MVP: Tom Brady
Offensive POY: Le’Veon Bell
Defensive POY: Von Miller
Offensive Rookie of Year: Christian McCaffrey
Defensive Rookie of Year: Jamal Adams
The NFL is still Tom Brady’s league.
Once again, it looks like the New England Patriots are the team to beat. The Patriots should have no trouble getting into the playoffs, and it will be interesting to see anyone can dethrone the defending champs. With a healthy Derek Carr, Oakland is New England’s biggest threat in the AFC.
The NFC has a bunch of quality teams, which makes it so difficult to predict which one will end up in the Super Bowl. In my predictions, I have Seattle getting a second crack at the Patriots, but ultimately coming up short once again in the big game.