Will it be Tom Brady and the Patriots with Matt Ryan and the Falcons at the top of the NFL by the end of next season. We don’t think so. There’s just too much talent gunning for the top dogs in each conference. Now that the draft is over and the free agents who will make a difference are signed, it’s becoming clear what each team’s biggest strengths and weaknesses are. Of course, most teams still have some questions to answer. But overall, the scene is pretty much set. There are teams that still don’t seem to have a clue where they’re going, but let’s be honest, they’re not going to be competing for a playoff spot near the end of the regular season. Those are the teams that will lead off this list. As you read further down, the teams will get better and the final 12 spots are reserved for the potentially postseason bound.
There’s still a lot of time before Week 1 of the regular season. So, a lot can still happen. But for the team’s up top, as long as there’s no major injury to one of their top performers, they can expect a winning season. Here we will predict just how good – and also how bad – each team in the NFL is going to be. This list will rank every team (starting with the worst) in the NFL and project every regular season record.
Note: The records in parenthesis are predictions for the teams 2017 record and do not reflect 2016 records.
32 LOS ANGELES RAMS (2-14)
This is the season where we learn if Jared Goff has what it takes to take a struggling franchise and transform it into a winning organization. Unfortunately, that won’t happen this year and Goff will likely be fighting to maintain his starting spot by the beginning of next season. There’s just too much going against Goff to expect anything else.
It’s going to be a tough season to watch in Los Angeles because two of the NFL’s youngest potential stars will be grasping at what life is left for them in the NFL. Goff will be struggling, which will cause a trickledown effect for the rest of the team. That ripple will effectively crush Todd Gurley’s chances at rebounding from an awful 2016 season. Hopefully, they’ll both be able to get back on track in 2018.
31 CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-13)
It’s still pretty tough to figure out what’s going on in Cleveland. One thing that is certain – the Browns had a tough year last year and things are not going to get much better in 2017. Sure, the Browns added three first-round draft picks to their roster … well, that should only count as two because David Njoku isn’t really filling a void. Njoku is just a hopeful improvement to Gary Barnidge, who was always reliable and consistent despite not having a reliable quarterback.
The worst part about all this for Cleveland is that the team either has an already failed starter in Brock Osweiler, or Deshone Kizer, who is nowhere near ready to take over the reigns as a NFL quarterback. But we’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. Cleveland fans will force their team to toss in the rookie quarterback way too soon and the Browns will be in the same position come the 2018 draft.
30 NEW YORK JETS (3-13)
How have the Jets gone so long without picking up a new quarterback? How did the Jets manage to go through the draft without selecting a quarterback? Realistically, this is just one huge issue that is surrounded by many more minor issues for the Jets. Instead of strengthening their roster from the draft, the Jets have seemingly made everyone question their decisions so much more.
Whether you go with Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty the season outlook is bleak. The Jets should get ready for a top-3 pick next year because there is no way this team is stealing anymore than three wins this season. Sure, Hackenberg or Petter or a combination of them both will manage a few wins, but nothing more than that.
29 MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-12)
The Dolphins will have the biggest turnaround (for the worst) from last season when compared to the rest of the league. Last year, Dolphins fans finally saw their team reach the playoffs after a 10-win regular season. Well … that was a fluke and none of the steps that the team has taken ensures a return to the playoffs.
The problem is that the Dolphins have heavily invested on the defensive side of the ball. Yes. That was needed. However, an equal focus should have been placed on an offense that will crumble behind an offensive line that has way too many questions. Plus, Ryan Tannehill is one of the most over-hyped quarterbacks in the league, and it’s unlikely that his return from injury will result in any more than four wins for the team this season.
28 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-12)
It seems the focus has shifted from the quarterback need in San Francisco and people are talking of a weak pass rush attack despite drafting Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick. But by the third, fourth or (at the latest) fifth week into the season, it will be glaringly obvious that the quarterback position should have been more of a focus in the offseason. Like other teams up here, failing to address the quarterback position makes just about all other moves essentially meaningless.
Sure, you can say that Brian Hoyer is good for now and C.J. Bearthard will grow and eventually take over. But that’s a pipe dream. No way does that work out successfully. Hoyer is a backup pretending to be an NFL starter and Bearthard is a humungous longshot in terms of seeing any professional success.
27 HOUSTON TEXANS (5-11)
Regardless of who suits up as the starting quarterback by the regular season, the Texans are going to struggle this year. Part of the problem is this quarterback competition. Although it may be good for some quarterbacks, this back-and-forth is never good for the guys surrounding the signal caller. Especially the receiving core. But the best thing the Texans can and should do is let Tom Savage lead the way for at least the first half of the season.
Deshaun Watson has the talent to take over this team swiftly, but he needs time to acclimate to the NFL and Houston’s offense. Let Savage work out the kinks and then Watson can come in midseason (once the playoffs are out of reach) and begin building a skill base to bring to the 2018 season. Consider this another season of rebuilding Houston.
26 WASINGTON REDSKINS (5-11)
The Redskins took a pretty big hit this offseason. The talent that went out far outweighed the talent that was brought in for the Redskins. Sure, the team still has Kirk Cousins, but that’s t something that guarantees a winning season. Actually, holding on to Cousins will prove to be a detriment by the end of the season. Cousins has just two years of full-time starting experience and he’s barely come out ahead.
Now, the quarterback will have to try and succeed without the receivers that have assisted in his numbers over the past couple of years. Sure, Cousins nearly threw for 5,000 yards last season. But that was with the help of Desean Jackson, Jordan Cook and Pierre Garcon. None of them return this year, and the Redskins are going to feel the pain from losing that trio.
25 CHICAGO BEARS (6-10)
Before the draft, the Bears were an absolute mess. People in Chicago are seemingly thinking that things haven’t changed … especially when you factor in all the scrutiny the team has received for trading up one pick to draft a quarterback who started just 13 games in college. But that shouldn’t be the issue that Chicago fans have with their team. In all reality, they should be upset at the multi-year contract handed to Mike Glennon, a guy who probably won’t even be starting by Week 1.
Don’t expect Chicago to make a run at the playoffs, but get ready for the team to force at least a couple late-season upsets. Once Mitch Trubisky finds his stride in the NFL, Chicago will look like a brand new organization. Although this six-win season might seem bleak, it’s a blessing in disguise. Chicago can finally grow with its new franchise face – Mitch Trubisky.
24 DENVER BRONCOS (7-9)
One of the biggest moves of this offseason that didn’t receive its deserved credit was Denver’s signing of Jamaal Charles. Charles is an extremely talented running back who has been sidelined by injuries for most of the last two years. That’s why the Broncos got him at such a discount. Combined with C.J. Anderson, this duo is going to propel Denver to a good chunk of wins early on.
But it’s insanity to think that Charles will keep up his production late in the season, and that’s where it will shine a light on the flaws built into Trevor Siemian’s game. Although he’s got a great group of receivers to throw the ball to, Siemian will lose his role at some point and Paxton Lynch won’t be implemented without growing pains. It won’t be a terrible season, but it won’t be too great either.
23 BUFFALO BILLS (7-9)
Sticking with Tyrod Taylor will be a good thing for Buffalo this year, especially since the Bills have a pretty good deal going on contract-wise with the quarterback. And now that Rex Ryan is gone, it seems like this team will have more of a focus and less distractions under Sean McDermott. Although that bodes well for Buffalo, the team won’t be knocking on the playoffs this year. They just lost too much to free agency.
Plus, there really is no way in knowing how well Taylor can lead for the entire season … if he’s even able to keep his job that long. This won’t be a disappointing to watch as this past season for Buffalo, but the Bills are still on a bit of a learning curve and will be for a good chunk of the early half of the season. But things will start looking better after the midway point and there will be high expectations for Buffalo in 2018.
22 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (7-9)
Philip Rivers has led the Chargers to just nine wins over the past two seasons and there’s not many reasons why fans should expect that to change this year. Plus, Rivers is getting to that point in his career where we should begin questioning whether or not he has the stamina and health to stay on the field for the entire season.
The tough part is that the Chargers might be better off if Rivers is sidelined. When you look at the past couple of seasons, there has been an awful trend beginning to form. Rivers has led the league in interceptions in two of the past three seasons. He did make the Pro Bowl last season, but he also led the NFL with 21 interceptions (that doesn’t seem like a Pro Bowl quarterback to us). Maybe Rivers can turn it around. But more likely, people will be questioning if its his time to retire after this season.
21 DETROIT LIONS (7-9)
It’s just too optimistic to think that Detroit will repeat, or even come close, to its nine-win season last year. Just too many of the Lions wins were nail-biters and those fourth quarter thrillers may be fun to watch, but they’re not conducive to a consistent winning environment. Plus, the Lions just have not had enough cap space to address all the issues facing them this offseason.
The Lions were forced to focus on their defense and that left the front office just maintaining the offense. Sure, the Lions would have gone nowhere without addressing their defensive needs. But they didn’t get anything out of just about completely neglecting their offense. Picking up Eric Ebron’s fifth-year option and naming Ameer Abdullah (who will likely struggle with injuries) the starter is not the winning formula this team needs.
20 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (8-8)
Blake Bortles better have been screaming with joy after the Jaguars first-round draft pick this year. By taking the top offensive talent in the draft the Jaguars overwhelmingly increased their chances at success. Leonard Fournette is just what Bortles and the Jacksonville offensive attack needed to thrive. This addition will create an environment that Bortles hasn’t been used to, and he’ll produce performances none of us are expecting.
But the offense will still hit some speedbumps, preventing the team from eclipsing the .500 mark. The good thing is that their defense seems to have received some major improvements and there is a good base to build on for the near future. This team should be a playoff contender in the coming years, even though they’ll still see some struggles this season.
19 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-8)
This is a team that could really go in either direction this year. The Eagles could very well be drafting at the top of the board in 2018. But … they could also be knocking on the door of the playoffs. With the talent that now surrounds Carson Wentz, we’ll get to see if the young quarterback will thrive or succumb to the pressure.
Most likely though, we’ll see neither. Or a combination of both. Wentz will show spurts of greatness working with Alshon Jeffery and Jordan Matthews running routes. But the second year quarterback will likely be forced to throw the ball just way too much, as he did last year. That will highlight his decision making, which will improve, but also have its flaws. This team is a likely .500 candidate, though that could shift drastically in either direction depending on the play from the quarterback.
18 BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8)
Expect a lot of what you saw last year out of this year’s Baltimore team. Last year, the Ravens finished with an 8-8 record. Expect them to hover around that .500 mark for the second-straight season. The funny thing is that the Ravens biggest upside is looking like their biggest detriment. Joe Flacco is and has been a consistent leader that would likely be a starter on many teams in the league. But when it comes down to those big plays and dominance you like to see out of a premier quarterback, Flacco really doesn’t fit the mold.
Making matters worst is the fact that Flacco doesn’t really have the tools available (in terms of receivers) surrounding him. The Ravens missed the boat from the free agency market as the guys left are not the answer. Maybe they’ll be able to trade for someone, but either way they’re looking at a .500 record.
17 MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-8)
Although the Vikings added Latavius Murray to their attack, the void left from Adrian Peterson’s departure hasn’t been fully addressed. And that will hurt Minnesota this season. It’s a new era for the Vikings, but they’ve got the right quarterback leading the way. This is going to be Sam Bradford’s breakout season (in terms of individual stats) and he’ll lead the team to a very respectable record, though Minnesota will miss the playoffs.
But Bradford will be praised for his on-field work throughout the season. For the past couple of years Bradford has been leading or near the top of the list of quarterbacks when looking at completion percentages. That translates into a quarterback that is a good decision maker and is accurate. This season, Bradford will open the eyes of many who have been doubting him for years.
16 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-8)
The secret to the Colts success is actually no secret at all. Whether Indianapolis wins or loses falls directly on the shoulders of their quarterback – Andrew Luck. Luck is and has been the face of this franchise and he will, once again, be at the helm of each one of the team’s wins and losses. But too much has been shifting around in Indianapolis to expect anything more than an average record.
This team seems like they have playoff potential because of the chemistry built up between Luck and T.Y. Hilton. The duo has the ability to outscore any opponent in the league, as long as the defense comes together as Colts fans are expecting. The Colts will get close to the playoffs, but the strength from Tennessee will keep them watching from home by the postseason.
15 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (8-8)
This is a losing battle for Kansas City. This division is Oakland’s to lose and with all of the weapons the Raiders now have, it doesn’t seem likely that anyone else has a chance at taking to top spot other than Oakland this year. Kansas City had a nice run last year, but that will make this year’s 8-8 record feel so much worse.
Although Jamaal Charles hasn’t been much of a contributor over the past two seasons, the Chiefs definitely should have put more effort into getting him back in uniform. C.J. Spiller is just a less talented aging running back who isn’t going to add much value to the team. But maybe there’s upside in the future. Alex Smith is never going to lead this team to a Super Bowl, but maybe that’s why Patrick Mahomes was drafted with the team’s first round pick. It seems like they’re starting to look toward the future rather than 2017.
14 CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-7)
Let’s be honest. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green make this a fun team to watch. Like the other great quarterback/wide receiver combos in the NFL, Dalton and Green have the ability to take over games and absolutely stun defenses in the process. But before this offseason, that’s all the Bengals were truly able to brag about. After Green, the best option for Dalton was Tyler Eifert, who wasn’t exactly pulling attention away from one of the league’s best receivers.
But additions to the offense (and the defense) have made this team so much more threatening entering the 2017 regular season. Especially the addition of John Ross, the Bengals pick in the draft with the ninth spot in the first round. Ross will need some time to grow into the route-runner he needs to be, but during that learning period he’ll be able to pull attention away from Green to open up some interesting opportunities.
13 CAROLINA PANTHERS (9-7)
The additions of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel seem to be exactly what the Panthers need. Early in the offseason it was obvious that Cam Newton needed some more receiving threats if Carolina had any chance at rebounding from last year. Luckily for Panthers fans, the front office addressed the need in a big way by adding to guys who should be able to produce right out of the gate.
But the real reason this team will improve on the six-win season from last year is the former MVP, Mr. Newton. Cam must have been stewing in disgust all offseason after his performance last season. In no way did he look like one of the league’s top quarterbacks, and he definitely saw that on the stat sheet as he barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes. It will, without a doubt, get much much better this year in Carolina.
12 GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-7)
Using the first four draft picks on defense was probably the right decision when looking to the future, but when focusing on this year, the Packers would have benefited from some more offensive help. You can say all you want about Martellus Bennett, but he’s not the type of tight end who will make a huge difference in the passing game. Sure, he looked good last year in the Patriots offense that truly values tight ends, but it’s doubtful he’ll see that same success in Green Bay.
The Packers will still reach a winning record, though it will be much more of a struggle compared to last year. And that will be largely due to the fact that Minnesota will give them much more trouble than seen in the past. Aaron Rodgers will still be at the top of his game, but the Packers will be wishing they gave him more to work with.
11 ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6)
This prediction heavily relies on the hope that Carson Palmer will maintain his health throughout the entire season … or at the very least most of the season. If Palmer misses more than just a few games, the Cardinals hope at a postseason appearance are almost completely washed away. The Cardinals did lose some top defensive talent because of free agency, but the team made up for those voids with the draft and picking up free agents of their own.
The defense will be able to compete at a level average to the rest of the league. They won’t be great, but they won’t be terrible either. The Cardinals true secret to success will come from their offense in the forms of Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, who is quickly emerging as one of the best running backs in the league.
10 TENNESSEE TITANS (10-6)
Marcus Mariota needed some more options last season and the Titans secondary needed some desperate help. Each of those issues has been addressed and now the Titans looked poised for a playoff run while Mariota establishes himself as one of the league’s premiere young quarterbacks (along with a couple other guys who we’ll be talking about shortly).
One of the biggest upsides people will be watching for are two of the Titans draft picks in Core Davis and Adoree Jackson. Both of those picks were crucial to filling holes that were observed last season and they’ll both be factors in this teams playoff birth. The Titans finished with nine wins last season. Expect them to possibly eclipse that number by a few games if things work out as planned. Either way, the Titans will see double-digit victories in 2017.
9 NEW YORK GIANTS (10-6)
Signing Brandon Marshall and drafting tight end Evan Engram have immensly increased the value of the Giants offense. When you combine that with the defensive additions, this team looks like it could potentially be Super Bowl-bound. The only reason we have them at 10 wins (and not more) is because Eli Manning is getting old and he’s bound to miss some time eventually. We’re guessing that time is going to come this season.
But you can’t count out the talent and power that this offense will be putting out on the field. Now that Odell Beckham Jr. has other weapons around him, defenses will be left scrambling to figure out who to cover. That’s going to lead to a lot of high scoring affairs as this team records 10 wins.
8 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5)
This is beginning to seem like a story on repeat in Seattle. Since Pete Carroll took over, there hasn’t been a season where a playoff run seems unlikely. Once again, next year we’ll be seeing the Seahawks in the postseason. There hasn’t seemed to be an issue with Seattle’s defense in recent years and don’t expect that to change going into the 2017 season. The Seahawks always maintain a strong presence on defense and there’s no reason to believe that won’t happen again.
Plus, the Seahawks have really good talent on offense. Russell Wilson has guys to throw to with Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett. And they have Thomas Rawls rushing the ball. They just need to hope that their offensive line can provide the time needed to let some plays develop and keep Wilson from getting beat up.
7 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (11-5)
There doesn’t seem like any reason to believe that the Bucs are not going to make the playoffs next year. Finally, the Buccaneers have a trio of talent that really has the ability and talent to outscore just about any team in the league. Defenses around the league, especially in the NFC South, cringed when news was released that Tampa Bay signed DeSean Jackson.
Jackson is one of the quickest receivers in the game and he’s a guy that defenses have to plan around. That’s going to be tough given the fact that across from him is Mike Evans, who has emerged as a top-10 wide receiver. Let’s face it, Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense were quite threatening before this signing. Now, they become on of the best in the league. Expect to see this team to be making a playoff push by the end of the season.
6 ATLANTA FALCONS (11-5)
As long as the Falcons can forget the fact that they were essentially seconds away from one of the greatest seasons in their franchise history, they’ll be alright. And we’re banking on the fact that Matt Ryan will be able to repeat, to some level, that MVP performance he posted last season. The Falcons shouldn’t worry about a Super Bowl hangover with the talent that they’ll be returning to the field. Since Ryan and Julio Jones will be wearing those red jerseys next season, Atlanta should have no worries about their team. The Falcons will cruise into the postseason with an 11-win record and will likely be fighting for another appearance in the Super Bowl.
Sure, the Falcons will be without their offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, who will now be working in San Francisco. But since they still have Ryan, they’re all set. Ryan, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was the MVP last season and does not look like he’ll be slowing down any time soon. All he has to do is hope Tom Brady finally gives into his age and can’t make it to another Super Bowl.
5 PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-4)
Ben Roethlisberger isn’t retiring yet and that’s great news for Pittsburgh. The Steelers remain one of the few teams that are an absolute lock for the playoffs next season. The only reason we have the Steelers losing three games is the fact that Big Ben rarely makes it through an entire season. Since he’ll likely miss a few games due to some type of minor injury, it’s likely the Steelers will fall into a few losses.
But as long as Le’Veon Bell can show up for (lets hope) 12 games, the Steelers will be a very tough team to beat. Then there’s Antonio Brown, who just adds another crazy threatening offensive talent to their repertoire. When you look at the Steelers division, it’s essentially six easy wins (well, five since the Bengals will likely steal away one of those two matchups). From there, the talent on the Steelers roster will handle the rest.
4 OAKLAND RAIDERS (12-4)
Oakland is arguably the best prepared team for the 2017 season … as long as Derek Carr returns to full health. It was awful watching the Raiders fall apart without Carr and we all hope that we don’t need to watch another blunder like that again. The Raiders really do deserve the utmost praise for what they have been doing this offseason. After last year’s dismal ending to such a good season, fans and spectators around the league were left wondering if Oakland can return with such strength. Lets all hope so because Oakland has done nothing but add weapons for the young rising star quarterback.
Not only did they add a super talented running back named Marshawn Lynch, Carr now has an additional receiving threat in the form of Jared Cook. This is one that Washington will be cringing at by midseason. Cook will solidify himself as one of the league’s best tight ends with Carr tossing him passes, especially as the defensive focus will have to be on the very talented wide receivers or running back hitting the field each day for Oakland.
3 DALLAS COWBOYS (14-2)
Expect the Cowboys to build on the success seen last season and increase the wins for 2017. Why wouldn’t the Cowboys get better next season? We don’t see a reason. Dallas had an amazing 13-win run with two rookies leading the way and this next season is going to be even better. Sure, they’ll probably pick up a couple of loses along the way, but they’ll be going into the postseason as the top seed again.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott won’t be surrounded by all of that rookie nonsense next season. That could add extra pressure, but that’s not going to faze these young emerging stars. It will more likely fuel them to see an even better season and play even deeper into the postseason. It’ll be extremely fun to watch what these young stars will be able to accomplish in their second year, and Dallas fans should feel lucky that they’re along for the ride.
2 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-2)
When the Patriots added Brandin Cooks to the equation, everyone else in the NFL shrugged and wondered what’s the point of all this. It’s very easy to think that next year is going to be the year that Tom Brady slows down. He’s going to be turning 40 and that’s an age that means retirement in the world of sports. But that talk has surrounded Brady for the last few years, and he’s seemingly getting better. With the edition of Cooks, we’re in for quite the show in New England this year.
When you go through the Patriots schedule, it’s tough to figure out a team that will beat them. But we’ve got to assume that Brady will falter in at least a couple games. A couple teams will catch them off guard. Right? Well, he’ll still win nearly every game next season, and the two losses may come as he rests for his next postseason run. There’s no reason to think he won’t be playing for his sixth ring. He still plays like he’s the best in NFL history.
1 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (15-1)
There’s just so much to like about this team after all of the moves the front office has made this offseason. Let’s start with the offense. With a quarterback like Drew Brees, the Saints don’t have to worry too much about who’s out there running routes. Brees is one of the league’s few elite quarterbacks who can make any wide receiver look like the No. 1 guy on any given day. Plus, the team upgraded its run attack with Adrian Peterson. That combo attack is going to be frightening to watch.
And last year’s biggest issue was the Saints defense. It was tough to watch. The offense would just keep scoring, but every score was followed by the opposition reaching the endzone as the defense wasn’t able to stop anyone. After upgrading the defensive line, finding new faces for the linebackers and getting help with the secondary, the Saints are poised for great success this season.