Cardinals Return to Playoff Form
The Arizona Cardinals were a few missed field goals away from a 10-win season in 2016, and with a more reasonable schedule of opponents in 2017, they look poised to return to the postseason. The Cardinals still have one of the most balanced rosters in the NFL, with no glaring weaknesses at any position. Besides some injuries here and there, the only major problem the Cardinals have faced is some players not living up to their billing. However, the Cardinals should be able to find enough high quality players to be a playoff team with draft picks and some cap space to work with. Carson Palmer may become a liability on the offensive side, but with David Johnson, one of the NFL’s top offensive threats, the team should be able to manage.
3 NFC South Teams Make the Playoffs
In the past two seasons, the NFC South has produced two NFC Champions and two NFL MVPs, and the other two teams in the division were not far behind. In other words, this division is stacked, and it starts at the quarterback position. Behind the fantastic quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, and Jameis Winston) are four rosters that are hungry to win. The Panthers have one of the best defensive fronts in football, the Falcons have a nasty young defense and Julio Jones, the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and the Buccaneers have the cap space needed to fill out their talented roster. Regardless of who they are, I fully expect three of these four teams to be playing for something after week 17 next season.
Titans Win Their Division… Handily
The Tennessee Titans will be this year’s version of last year’s Oakland Raiders. They have young talent on both sides of the ball, and enough draft picks and cap room to add to their roster and become a playoff ready team. Not to mention they were 5-2 against playoff teams this season. If the Titans are going to make the leap to divisional winners this season, it is going to start with their running game led by Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Those two are already a deadly one-two punch, and if the Titans can improve their already impressive offensive line with one of their two first round picks, they could end up with the best rushing attack in the NFL. Throw in a receiver (Mike Williams [Clemson]?) and some defensive stars in free agency (Donta Hightower?) and the Titans are suddenly one of the most talented teams in the AFC. If they can get all this done in the offseason, no team in this division will come within two games of the Titans.
Adrian Peterson Wins Comeback Player of the Year
Adrian Peterson’s time in Minnesota should be just about over, as he will account for far too big a cap hit, and cannot run behind that awful offensive line. The question then becomes where will Peterson sign once he is released? Regardless of where Peterson ends his playing career, he will be fed the ball. If he can find his rhythm again, Peterson should be a lock for the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Maybe he can even lead his new team to a playoff push.
Tony Romo Heads to Denver, and Misses the Playoffs
The Denver Broncos keep insisting they do not need to trade top draft picks for a quarterback, but if they actually believed Trevor Siemian was a franchise quarterback, then they would not have drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round last year. I think the noise might become too much for the Broncos and they will ultimately decide to trade for the Dallas Cowboy’s backup quarterback. For some reason, Denver Broncos fans believe they have the best roster in the NFL, besides the quarterback position, but this last year proved otherwise. Players on both sides are beginning to slow down and the Broncos do not have enough money to keep everyone happy. Romo will get them close to the postseason, but will ultimately fall short, putting them in about the same position they find themselves this offseason, and with less draft picks.
Cowboys Will Not Repeat Last Season’s Performance, But They Will Still Get the Job Done
Despite their untimely defeat in the playoffs this last season, the Cowboys are still one of the scariest teams to play on paper, and it obviously still starts with their offensive line. The team will be returning almost everyone on the offensive side next year, allowing them to become even better as a unit, something that should terrify opposing defenses. Neither Dak Prescott or Ezekial Elliot will suffer a “sophmore slump”, in fact, expect more touchdowns and yards for both of them. With some nice defensive additions, the Cowboys will be back to a similar form as next year. While the tougher schedule will be challenging, the team’s talented young players should lead them back to the top of the division, and have them ready for a deeper playoff run.
Oakland Raiders Win the Super Bowl
If there is a problem with the Oakland Raiders, it is their depth, and it was proven at the end of this past season. The team has some of the biggest stars in the NFL, and when one of those stars went down with an injury, so did the rest of the team. The Raiders never really recovered from losing Derek Carr, and gave half-hearted performances during the final three games of their season. Nonetheless, if the team can add some depth on both sides of the ball through the draft and free agency, and everyone stays healthy, then the Raiders should be able to hang with anyone in the league. Heck, if Carr had not been injured, the team might have had both the Defensive Player of the Year, and the League MVP. This star power and a healthy 2017-2018 will be enough to lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl, where they will once again make the big time plays they are known for, and lift the Lombardi Trophy.
By Christian Skroce Photo Credit: Getty Images