2017 NFL record projections: Patriots headed for perfect 16-0 season ?

2017 NFL record projections: Patriots headed for perfect 16-0 season ?

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With NFL training camps opening, all 32 teams have largely taken form for 2017. So before injuries,
benchings, firings and (more) suspensions start shaping the season, here’s the Metropolis Nights
Sports’ annual prediction of how the season will unfold with record projections for each team based
on picking all 256 games, plus a bonus playoff forecast.
NFC EAST Dallas Cowboys (11-5): The league should be ready for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott — assuming he isn’t suspended—
this time around; that celebrated O-line is breaking in two new starters; and the defense could be a hot mess. Still,
there’s no denying this club’s offensive firepower. The Cowboys play four of their five November games at home, a good
point to make a move in the standings. New York Giants (10-6): They open with four of six on the road. Survive that stretch
and maybe establish some semblance of a ground game to complement their aerial weapons, and the Giants could contend
for the division. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): The offensive line is intact, and Carson Wentz has some fancy new weapons. But
the defensive front seven better dominate, or else that shaky secondary could be fatally exposed. Back-to-back West Coast
games in December hurt.Washington Redskins (5-11): The questions about Kirk Cousins’ future will be on constant loop. And
he may not enjoy the present all that much after losing two 1,000-yard receivers.
NFC NORTH Green Bay Packers (12-4):They open against Seattle and at Atlanta and only play at Lambeau twice after
Thanksgiving. Still, they should once again be the class of this division. Minnesota Vikings (9-7): They don’t look significantly
different from last year’s edition. The defense should again be special and Sam Bradford steady. Despite some free agent additions,
the O-line could still be a weakness, though newcomers Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook should ensure Vikes don’t
again own league’s worst rushing attack. Playing five of their first seven at U.S. Bank Stadium should set the tone. Chicago
Bears (5-11): None of their first six opponents finished below .500 in 2016 — quite a stern test for a club coming off a franchise
record-tying 13 losses and breaking in at least one new quarterback. Detroit Lions (5-11): It just feels like they lived on the
edge way too often in 2016, and smoke and mirrors may not be enough against this year’s lineup. However if DE Ziggy Ansah
rebounds, and RB Ameer Abdullah finally gets going, cynicism could turn to optimism.
NFC SOUTH Atlanta Falcons (12-4): They may have the most loaded roster in the leagueand should get a boost opening
their new stadium. The big questions about the NFC champs are the dreaded Super Bowl hangover — and the Falcons
went on an unprecedented bender — the loss of OC Kyle Shanahan and a midseason stretch of four road games in five
weeks that includes trips to New England and Seattle. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6): They seem poised to make their first
playoff appearance in a decade after diversifying a lopsided offense with WR DeSean Jackson and rookie TE O.J. Howard.
RB Doug Martin is apparently recharged, too, though he remains suspended for three games. They’ll see Falcons twice and (Jacksonville, Tennesee, Denver) in November. And will Marvin
Lewis’ lame duck status only ratchet up the pressure on a
team that tends to underachieve when it counts most? Cleveland
Browns (4-12): Even if they only improve by three games
in the win column — not insignificant — expect this outfit to
be far more competitive as its nucleus of talent continues to
coalesce.
AFC SOUTH Tennessee Titans (12-4): Only a tiebreaker
(for a woeful 2-4 division record) kept this rising club out of
postseason last year. As long as Marcus Mariota remains on
the field, the Titans might not only turn the corner but roar
around it. They will hit a rough patch from Weeks 11-15, with
a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh and consecutive games
on the West Coast as part of a stretch when they play four of
five away from Nashville. Houston Texans (8-8): We know, Bill
O’Brien has never failed to go 9-7 in any of his three seasons.
But when your team’s top two quarterbacks have two combined
NFL starts, it’s easy to foresee a season that serves as
one step back before two steps forward occur in 2018. Jacksonville
Jaguars (8-8): Everything looks to be in place — a
potentially dominant defense, upgraded O-line and (most
exciting for Jags fans) rookie RB Leonard Fournette — to restore
this franchise to relevance … if Blake Bortles can get
back on track. The team will make its annual pilgrimage for
a London “home” date in Week 3, immediately followed by
two more road trips. If the Jags weather that, maybe they can
make a run in December, which begins with three straight
at EverBank Field.Indianapolis Colts (5-11): How healthy, really,
is Andrew Luck coming off major shoulder surgery? How
much protection can he realistically expect from what’s been
a suspect line, not to mention a running back (Frank Gore)
who just turned 34? And that defense … oy vey. Making two
West Coast trips in the first month to face rude defenses
(Rams, Seahawks) could be telling.
AFC WEST Oakland Raiders (11-5): They open the season
with three of four on the road and play their final two games
away from Oakland, including the season’s final Monday
night affair on the East Coast (Philadelphia). In between,
they’ll play three consecutive homes games on two separate
occasions, but one of those will occur against the Patriots
in Mexico City — not exactly The Black Hole. Los Angeles
Chargers (9-7): Plenty to overcome, most notably adaptation
to a new city and the smallest venue in the league (the Stub-
Hub Center will host its first NFL games in Weeks 2-4). Then
there are personnel changes coming to the offensive line
and a major schematic overhaul defensively. Still, the Bolts
have done a nice job restocking their talent pool, especially
on defense, and have the juice to be L.A.’s first playoff club
since the 1993 Raiders. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8): Of their five
non-divisional road opponents, four were playoff teams last
year (Patriots, Texans, Cowboys, Giants) … as if their AFC West
battles didn’t present challenge enough. But if the Chiefs can
hold it together until December, playing at Arrowhead from
Weeks 14-16 could give them a decisive edge. Denver Broncos
(7-9): They’ve got major questions at quarterback … and
running back … and on both lines. Also, a schedule frontloaded
with home games and a Week 5 bye means the Broncos
won’t be in Denver for seven of the final 11 weeks.
AFC playoffs Wild card: (6) Chargers def. (3) Titans; (4) Raiders
def. (5) Ravens
Divisional: (4) Raiders def. (2) Steelers; (1) Patriots def. (6)
Chargers
AFC Championship Game: (1) Patriots def. (4) Raiders
NFC playoffs Wild card: (6) Giants def. (3) Cowboys; (4) Seahawks
def. (5) Buccaneers
Divisional: (2) Packers def. (4) Seahawks; (1) Falcons def. (6)
Giants
NFC Championship Game: (2) Packers def. (1) Falcons
Super Bowl LII: Patriots def. Packers
story credit: usatoday.com
Packers once during Weeks 12-15. New Orleans Saints (8-
8): Same old Saints? Adding Adrian Peterson to the backfield
provides great intrigue, yet this team still looks like it will be in
a shootout every week. And will it survive the first month? The
Saints open with three of four on the road, including a game
in London, and their only Superdome game in that stretch is a
visit from former WR Brandin Cooks and the Patriots.Carolina
Panthers (7-9): Cam Newton has a surgically rebuilt arm and
must settle into a surgically rebuilt offense that could be a
real departure from what typically made Carolina successful
before last year’s disaster. October looks rough with just one
of five games in Charlotte, and that’s a tough Thursday nighter
against Philly.
NFC WEST Seattle Seahawks (11-5): They’re still the divisional
front runners, especially with Russell Wilson and
Earl Thomas healthy again. But a tough non-divisional road
schedule (Packers, Titans, Giants, Cowboys) — and even a
1 p.m. ET start in Jacksonville — could make it awfully tough
to earn an extended stay at CenturyLink Field in January.Arizona
Cardinals (10-6): They’ve got a special, special player in
David Johnson. But will Carson Palmer and Tyrann Mathieu
max out their abilities again? And how long can Larry Fitzgerald
(league-high 107 catches), who will be 34 next month,
handle such a heavy workload? (NOTE: In our projection, the
Cardinals failed to earn a wild card based on a worse conference
record than the Giants or Buccaneers.) Los Angeles
Rams (4-12):They’re a young team undergoing significant resets
on both sides of the ball. And after opening with two winnable
games (Colts, Redskins) at home, the Rams play five of
the next six away from the L.A. Coliseum, including a “home”
game in London bracketed by East Coast games in Jacksonville
and New York. San Francisco 49ers (2-14): Even if the
records match, they should be a better team than Chip Kelly’s
2-14 club from 2016. But the talent base is largely deficient
and so is the players’ familiarity with what new coaches want
them to do on either side of the ball.
AFC EAST New England Patriots (16-0): Is it bold? Sure.
Kinda. But it’s not like Tom Brady hasn’t gone 16-0 before …
(and, really, wouldn’t he and Bill Belichick secretly love to add
19-0 to their otherwise incomparable resumes?). And from the
FWIW department, Brady went 14-1 last season and appears
to be surrounded by an even better cast now, especially if
Rob Gronkowski is, in fact, back to 100%. The division should
be a cakewalk, and even one of New England’s toughest
road games — against the Raiders — will be at a neutral site
(Mexico City). The most difficult stretch comes from Weeks
13-15, when the Pats play at Buffalo, at Miami (where they typically
struggle) and at Pittsburgh coming off a short week Dec.
17. Miami Dolphins (7-9):Coming off a playoff campaign in
coach Adam Gase’s rookie season, much obviously rides
on the health and continued development of Ryan Tannehill.
The schedule isn’t all that friendly, with trips to the West
Coast, London, a road date with Baltimore on a Thursday
and December trips to Buffalo and Kansas City.Buffalo Bills
(4-12): New regime. New schemes. Tough schedule against
the NFC South and AFC West. New York Jets (1-15):Some Jets
fans would tell you this is a glass half-full assessment. The
first two games are on the road and so are three of the last
four.
AFC NORTH Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): With the exception
of an October foray to Kansas City, which concludes an opening
stretch of four of six on the road, Pittsburgh’s most challenging
non-divisional games will occur at Heinz Field. Baltimore
Ravens (9-7): Maybe a little heat on John Harbaugh
after missing postseason three of the past four years. Tough
break hosting the Steelers on Oct. 1 just seven days after
playing in London. (NOTE: In our projection, the Ravens were
seeded ahead of the Chargers due to a superior record in
common games played.) Cincinnati Bengals (5-11): The offensive
line’s outlook is troubling, to say the least, especially with
three consecutive road games against stout defensive teams

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