Patriots 13-3: Bill Belichick certainly did not stand pat over the offseason. The defending champs adjusted their roster, as usual, with the likes of Brandin Cooks and Mike Gillislee. They responded to the Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones ACL injuries by trading for Phillip Dorsett to stabilize their punt return game and wide receiver position. What Belichick and Matt Patricia do for an edge rusher opposite Trey Flowers will likely be very creative. Oh and number 12 is still under center. So there’s that.
Dolphins 7-9: Miami could be a playoff team. The move to Jay Cutler is a little worrisome for folks outside of the organization — can Cutler walk in off his couch and give the Dolphins 9 or 10 wins? That’s a legitimate question. Is Jay Ajayi a true workhorse at running back who can put together a full consistent season and not just three remarkable 200-yard rushing games?
Bills 5-11: LeSean McCoy better be ready to carry this team each and every week. The Bills don’t have a lot around him or Tyrod Taylor. If I’m either of those players, I’m not thrilled about how the offense has been gutted this offseason. Not sure how that will translate on the field.
Jets 1-15: The Jets are fully committed to being terrible. And for the first time in years, we might have found something the Jets are good at.
Steelers 10-6: An older roster led by a quarterback who is likely down to his final years usually isn’t a recipe for success. Add to the intrigue that running back Le’Veon Bell skipped all of training camp and the preseason. How will his hamstrings respond to real live game action in week 1?
Bengals 9-7: Riddle me this: how many Bengal running backs can fit in the Cincinnati backfield? We’re going to find out this season. Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill have shared time over the years with a pretty good amount of success. Add injury and age to the equation and the Cincinnati front office thought it was time to add some youth in the form of rookie Joe Mixon out of Oklahoma. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you can win with just one RB anymore in this league — and maybe the more, the merrier. Andy Dalton is still a serviceable quarterback who’s made even better by having A.J. Green. Rookie John Ross adds speed and a nice compliment to Green.
Ravens 6-10: This is uncharted waters for the Ravens franchise and the Ozzie Newsome-John Harbaugh braintrust that has been so successful in Baltimore. After back-to-back seasons of missing the postseason and 3 of the last 4 without a playoff game, the pressure is on. But the task will not be easy. Offensively, many questions abound — starting with Joe Flacco’s health. And the playmakers on the roster don’t exactly keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.
Browns 5-11: If the Browns indeed have their quarterback in DeShone Kizer, they might be going somewhere. Running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are talented backs who should carry quite a bit of the offense. Moves on defense still leave a lot to be desired. But let’s be honest — the Browns aren’t winning this season. It’s all about positioning themselves for the future.
Titans 11-5: Tennessee was a healthy Marcus Mariota away from being a playoff team at the end of 2016. Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray comprise one of the best backfields in the league. Eric Decker and rookie top-5 draft pick Corey Davis will add some depth to the receiving corps.
Texans 6-10: It’s never a question of the D in Houston — their season is dependent, as always, on quarterback play. Tom Savage and/or DeShaun Watson may have to play darn-near perfect football for the Texans to not take multiple steps backwards.
Jaguars 5-11: How many times will the Jags get experts to pick them as the hot pick heading into September. Not this year. Granted the defense is fast and young and should be pretty good, the offense, led by Blake Bortles, has too many holes. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette looks promising, but the Jaguars need more.
Colts 4-12: The success over the past couple seasons for the Colts came down to a matter of Andrew Luck’s health. This year, even a healthy Andrew Luck probably can’t get this team above .500; and a Colts team without a healthy Luck has very little hope for 2017.
Chargers 9-7: The Chargers year after year get burned by injuries, and 2017 seems no different. But WR Mike Williams should be healthy enough to return by week 8 and the offense should do fine until then. The emergence of Melvin Gordon in 2016 and Keenan Allen’s return after his gruesome week 1 injury a year ago will give Phillip Rivers the playmakers he needs to keep L.A. in the hunt all season. Oh and the defense? One of the most underrated units in the AFC — a front four that can get to the quarterback and two CBs who are even better than Denver’s.
Raiders 9-7: Derek Carr is the real deal. But Oakland’s defense is not much improved from 2016. In addition, the rushing game is now led by 31-year old Marshawn Lynch. This is a young talented team, but they took a step in the wrong direction this offseason.
Chiefs 8-8: Too many changes in KC will adversely affect this club. The defense will still be fine, but the run game is reliant on rookie Kareem Hunt out of Toledo and Charcanderick West — a bit of a cry from Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, and Knile Davis. Also, let’s not gloss over the elephant in the lockerroom — the Chiefs used a first round pick to grab quarterback Pat Mahomes. How that decision sits with Alex Smith’s mindset is something to consider this season, if things don’t seem right out there.
Broncos 6-10: A terrific defense, but little else. Too many uncertainties on offense, starting with the quarterback.
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