Last season, the NFL saw an exciting season right up until the end of the Super Bowl. Half of the divisions across the league were decided by two games or less and two divisions ended in tiebreakers. Although training camp has not even started yet, it is never too early to make some predictions for how the standings will turn out this year.
American Football Conference (AFC)
Winner: New England Patriots
Should there even be a discussion here? Tom Brady and the Patriots have consistently dominated the AFC East for the past eight seasons and will continue to do so this season. As if they weren’t good enough, the Super Bowl champions definitely improved their roster over the offseason. Re-signing LB Dont’a Hightower and adding CB Stephen Gilmore improves their defense significantly and adding WR Brandin Cooks gives Brady yet another viable weapon on offense. With these upgrades, the Patriots should have no trouble re-claiming their place at the top of the AFC East.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
Last season, the Steelers had no trouble getting past the Ravens, finishing three games ahead of them. The Steelers and their high powered offense will continue to thrive in 2017, led by RB Le’veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. It is important to note that this is the first time in a while that no one of the Steelers offense is suspended at the start of the season (at least for now), so they should be at full throttle from the get go. Although Pittsburgh lost LB Lawrence Timmons to free agency, it should not impact the team that much as young LB Bud Dupree is set for another great season.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
The Titans finished second in the division last season behind the Texans due to a tiebreaker. Nonetheless, the Titans’ young roster has now grown enough, giving them the edge over the Texans. Young powerhouse RB Derick Henry should continue to improve in his sophomore year, running behind a solid offensive line featuring 2016 1st round pick OT Jack Conklin. Their two first round picks this year should also have an immediate impact. No. 5 overall pick WR Corey Davis out of Western Michigan was considered the best WR in the draft by many and should be a solid target for QB Marcus Mariota.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders season ended in tragedy in 2016 when QB Derrek Carr went down with a broken leg in a Week 16 match against the Colts. Finishing second in the division due to a tiebreaker with the Chiefs, they went on to lose in the playoffs without their star quarterback under center. Next season, Carr will be back and better than ever, and should lead his team to a division title. LB Khalil Mack is dominant on defense and the new addition of RB Marshawn Lynch could haunt defensive coordinators around the league.
By Eric Spiniello Photo Credit: apexfantasyleagues.com