With the 2017 NFL season days away, let’s pick every playoff spot and make a few bold fantasy predictions along the way. FYI, we did the same thing with our AFC predictions.
The Cowboys have a tough schedule and a shaky defense, but they can regress plenty and still win 9-10 games…As a 23-year-old rookie, Dak Prescott’s 7.86 ANY/A ranked No. 3 in the NFL, ahead of quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. And he did that with a banged up Dez Bryant. Prescott sure looks like a star…Despite a tough schedule against top cornerbacks, Bryant scores 12 touchdowns.
The Eagles finished fourth in DVOA last year and are loaded on defense, so expect them to be right in the playoff race until the end…It’s unclear if Carson Wentz is any good, but a year two jump would be huge for the franchise. The additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith should help…Zach Ertz, who turned 78 targets into 569 yards over the second half last season, finishes as a top-five fantasy TE…LeGarrette Blount goes from leading the NFL in rushing scores to not being a top-50 back.
The Giants have an absolute dominant defensive line, but Eli Manning showed major signs of decline last year. Adding Brandon Marshall should aid in a bounce back…Evan Engram looks like a future stud, but it’s tough to produce as a rookie tight end…Paul Perkins finishes as a top-20 fantasy back…Odell Beckham is decent at breaking tackles.
Washington is a solid team, but this is such a tough division…I’m a big Kirk Cousins fan and believe he’s the real deal, but Jordan Reed suffers through another injury-riddled season, really hurting the QB. Vernon Davis is a deep sleeper…124 teams have had multiple 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. Washington is the first to lose both in the following offseason.
1. Green Bay Packers 11-5
2. Minnesota Vikings 8-8
3. Detroit Lions 7-9
4. Chicago Bears 3-13
It took a six-game winning streak to end the season for the Packers to get to 10 wins last year, and their defense allowed the highest YPA (8.1) in the NFL, but Aaron Rodgers made up for it and will continue to do so. Green Bay should have little trouble running through this division in 2017…Martellus Bennett scores 10 touchdowns.
Despite starting 5-0, the Vikings finished 8-8 last season, and while Sam Bradford has improved, he still limits Minnesota’s upside…Kyle Rudolph led all tight ends last season in targets (132), including inside the red zone, the 10 and the five. Yet his ADP is just that of the TE10.
The Lions made the playoffs last year despite getting outscored, and they are a long shot to make it back to the postseason in 2017…Ameer Abdullah disappoints yet again, while Marvin Jones greatly outperforms his ADP.
The Bears have one of the league’s worst rosters, won three games last year (none on the road), were outscored by 120 points, will be starting either a rookie QB or Mike Glennon and lost Cameron Meredith to a torn knee (and Alshon Jeffrey through free agency), yet their total is 5.5 wins. Hammer the under (although there’s a decent vig)…Despite starting just 13 games and playing for a poor team, Jordan Howard had the third-most runs of 15+ yards last season. He’s legit.
1. Atlanta Falcons 10-6
2. Carolina Panthers 10-6 (Wild Card)
3. New Orleans Saints 8-8
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9
The Falcons led the NFC in point differential (+134) last season and held a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, yet they ended up losing by six points. It was the worst ending possible to an otherwise terrific year…Matt Ryan is coming off a historic campaign in which he got 9.3 YPA, but Julio Jones’ health is always a concern. It’s crazy Jones has scored more than eight touchdowns just once in his career and never more than 10…If Devonta Freeman goes down, Tevin Coleman would be a top-five fantasy back.
Carolina followed up a Super Bowl appearance with a last place finish last season, but that means they get a favorable schedule this year. This team is primed for a major rebound…Cam Newton was typically the No. 1 QB off the board last year coming off an MVP season, yet after a down year in which he played the second half with a torn rotator cuff, his ADP has fallen to the QB8. He’s still in his prime, and Carolina added weapons during the offseason, so expect a top-five finish among QBs in 2017. He’s my favorite quarterback target this year…Kelvin Benjamin scores 12 touchdowns.
Despite posting elite offenses, the Saints haven’t had a winning season since 2013…Drew Brees has led the NFL in passing yards in four of the past five years (finishing second in the other), yet you can still get +350 on him to win the yardage title. There are few better bets out there…Adrian Peterson is 32 years old, coming off major knee surgery and has 2,800+ career carries (counting the playoffs). No thanks.
The Buccaneers won nine games last year but were outscored. There’s a lot of hype after the team added some weapons during the offseason, but the recommendation here is to bet the under (8.5)…Jameis Winston is the only player ever to throw for 4,000 yards during his first two years in the league. That’s also been accompanied by 39 turnovers…After returning from suspension, Doug Martin is a top-15 fantasy RB, while Mike Evans leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns.
1. Seattle Seahawks 12-4
2. Arizona Cardinals 9-7 (Wild Card)
3. Los Angeles Rams 5-11
4. San Francisco 49ers 4-12
Seattle has a dominant defense and gets to play the Rams and 49ers in 25 percent of its games. Reach a round or two for them in your fantasy league…Playing on a bum ankle for most of last year, Russell Wilson bounces back and threatens the “big three” among fantasy quarterbacks…Only Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown have more receiving touchdowns than Doug Baldwin over the last two seasons…No Seattle back finishes as a top-40 option, although at his price, C.J. Prosise is the one to target…Jimmy Graham had just six red-zone receptions last year. He’s healthier now and scores 10 times in 2017…Even laying -300, bet on Seattle to win this division. It’s a lock.
The Cardinals had a losing record last season despite a +56 point-differential, and like Seattle, benefit from playing in a division with two of the worst teams in the league…Carson Palmer’s health is paramount and of some concern, but Arizona led the NFL last year with 48 sacks…Larry Fitzgerald is a huge bust, while John Brown finishes as a top-25 fantasy WR.
No team in the league saw a bigger upgrade in coaching over the offseason than the Rams, but there’s a very good chance Jared Goff just isn’t any good (and never will be). He posted the worst ANY/A+ since the merger in 1970 among quarterbacks with 200 passes or more (h/t Bill Barnwell)…Tavon Austin got 4.9 YPT last year, easily the lowest in the NFL…Goff kills Sammy Watkins’ value, as he’s not even a top-30 wideout.
Only the Browns were outscored by more points than the 49ers last season, although the franchise appears to be moving in the right direction with the coaching/GM change and what is considered a strong draft class. Still, they have a difficult schedule, and this rebuild process is going to take some time…C.J. Beathard has wheels to spare…Pierre Garcon catches 85 balls, while George Kittle is a deep sleeper in dynasty leagues…After Carlos Hyde gets hurt, Matt Breida steps in and is a surprisingly effective fantasy asset.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Rookie of the Year: Leonard Fournette
Defensive Player of the Year: Joey Bosa
AFC Championship: Patriots over Steelers
NFC Championship: Seahawks over Packers
Super Bowl: Patriots over Seahawks