The 2017 NFL regular season is finally here. There are no more glorified scrimmages left to watch and the road to Super Bowl LII is beginning with the Patriots facing the Chiefs Sept. 7.
What better way to raise expectations than with a few bold predictions and projections? Here are a few things to expect for the 2017 season.
Starting with the Super Bowl, there’s a high chance we get a repeat of Super Bowl LI with the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
The reigning Super Bowl champions Patriots lost a key piece to their offense during the preseason when Julian Edelman suffered a season-ending injury. Quarterback Tom Brady still has a lot of weapons in his arsenal.
The Patriots traded quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to try and make up for the loss of Edelman. Though Dorsett has had injuries in the past, the Patriots hope he can contribute to their team. With Edelman out, Brady still have a good receiving core in Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola.
The Falcons defense will stand out this year. We know what their offense is with stars like Julio Jones and Devante Freeman paired with their most valuable player, quarterback Matt Ryan, but the defense will put them over the top. Their defensive line with Dontari Poe wreaking havoc up the middle next to Grady Jarrett and edge rushers like last year’s sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. and rookie stud Takkarist McKinley and Jack Crawford.
The Falcons kept five running backs. There is the two-headed monster in Freeman and Tevin Coleman, but also Terron Ward, fullback Derrick Coleman, who they acquired in free agency from the Seattle Seahawks, and fifth round draft pick Brian Hill.
The offense is so stacked; it will be a nightmare for defenses trying to stop them. Jones may break the 2,000-yard mark this year because of his incredible supporting teammates, which will make it hard for any defense to shut down.
The Tennessee Titans and the Los Angeles Chargers will surprise a lot of people. The Titans have drafted really well in recent years and they have also revamped their wide receiver core during the off season, adding Eric Decker, Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor. They also added Logan Tyan and former USC standout Adoree Jackson at cornerback. I will not be shocked if they take the AFC South.
The Los Angeles Chargers have been bit by the injury bug in recent years, but this year could be different. The defense is built around one of the league’s best pass rushing duos in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, plus cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. Quarterback Phillip Rivers is very talented and has a deep supporting cast including running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen.
The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers are two teams that will be in the mix every year. Because of the monster that is Aaron Rogers, the Packers will compete.
They added Ahmad Brooks to provide them with the pass rush help they need, replacing veteran Julius Peppers. Now they have some depth behind starters Clay Mathews and Nick Perry. Brooks, former Falcons pass rusher Chris Odom and Jayrone Elliot will give the Packers a new look.
The Steelers clearly have Super Bowl aspirations but can their defense turn the corner and step up this season because with their dynamic offense, we know they will put up huge numbers.
Running back Le’Veon Bell could have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. If he pulls that off, say goodbye to the Patriots making the Super Bowl and say hello to MVP Le’Veon Bell.
Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.