Once again, far too quickly, the NFL season is over. And once again us NFL fanatics must wait until September before the action begins once more. Last Sunday’s SuperBowl was arguably one of the best of all time, as Brady and Belichick’s Patriots somehow fought back from 28-3 down to defeat the Falcons in overtime. However, the Falcons and Matt Ryan will be well aware some wiser decisions will have made sure they left Houston with the Lombardi Trophy.
Now, I should quickly cover the issue that is my preseason predictions. Back in August, I posted my predictions for the season, and although my two SuperBowl picks didn’t quite make it all the way to the NRG stadium, I think it’s fair to say I did relatively well. 9 of my 12 playoff picks did make it through to the post-season, and my two SuperBowl picks did both make it through to what is effectively the final 8. Below is my quick summation for the season, and how each team will be feeling, and preparing for the 2017/18 season.
The NFC East, the division of my beloved Giants, is probably the only division where all 4 teams will be thinking positively going into next year. The Cowboys and Giants both had much improved seasons reaching the playoffs, before both losing to a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. The Redskins only missed out on the playoffs due to being in such a competitive division, and the Eagles will feel that they can start to build their team around young Carson Wentz. This division, alongside the AFC West, is arguably the one to look forward to next season, and just like this season, the divisional games should be incredible.
The North was once again won by the Packers, despite their early season struggles, and they were joined in the post season by Detroit (got these predictions right!). The Lions were arguably the most improved team this season, and will be ones to look out for next season if they can find a half decent running back to relieve Stafford. The Vikings and Bears will both be looking for answers after their dismal season, although I feel the Bears have a brighter future with their young squad, they just need to solve their big problem at QB because Cutler is simply not cut out for this level.
The NFC West was a big let-down this year, as all 4 teams will have felt they could have improved on their previous season’s performance. The 49ers and Rams were even more dismal, the Cardinals were a shadow of their team from the year before, and despite winning the division the Seahawks look a much weaker team from the unstoppable force of 2-3 years ago. My final take from this division – surely no one will hire Chip Kelly now!!
If 6 months ago, you had said that a team from the NFC South would make the SuperBowl, we’d all have been expecting Cam Newton to once again light up the league with his dynamic QB play. We did spend this season in awe of a NFC South QB, but the man in question was Matt Ryan, the MVP who led his team to Houston and just missed out on the Lombardi Trophy. The Panthers had an utterly dismal season, as did Newton, and there will be big questions surrounding his game. One team that will feel good going forward are the Buccaneers, who were for long periods in contention, and have a young team that will be pushing for the playoffs next season.
Over in the AFC there was much more continuity, as 3 of the 4 division winners simply repeated their feats from the previous year. The Patriots once again comfortably saw off the competition in the AFC East, losing just two games all year, and allowing Brady to post record numbers once again. The Dolphins managing to make the playoffs was a complete shock, and it was great to see British RB Jay Ajayi making great waves across the pond. The Jets and the Bills on the other hand will just want to forget this season ever happened…
Another team that will want to forget this season (although they want to forget most seasons), are the Cleveland Browns. Just the one win for them this season, and despite the emergence of Cody Kessler at QB, it’s hard to see when they will start to compete again. Their division was once again won by the Steelers, whose combination of Big Ben, Bell, and Brown is simply outstanding. They were almost joined in the postseason by the Ravens, who just faded away in the final few weeks, and their great rivals the Bengals will look back at this season as a forgetful one.
The AFC West was the one to watch this season, through all 16 weeks there were heaps of twist and turns as Denver, Oakland, and Kansas fought it out for playoff spots, and just like I predicted all those months ago, Kansas and Oakland took the spoils. Denver fans will have a lot more to worry about than most realise; even though they have a great defence it seems to be incapable of stopping the run, and on the other side of the ball they can’t seem to run it themselves. For Oakland, the post season was filled with wondering what could have been if only Derek Carr had stayed fit. If they can bulk up their defence, particularly their secondary, they have a lot to offer in the next few years.
Kansas City are quite curious, they are a safe, solid, you know what you get out of them kind of team. But they seem to just lack that little spark to take them to the next level. They do have a bright young squad however, and they can’t be ruled out from making that breakthrough. The last team in the West, the Chargers, had another poor year, and even Rivers didn’t seem his usual self throughout the season. They have a lot of deficiencies on both sides of the ball, and it’s hard to see how they can compete with the rest in the next few years.
The final division is the AFC South, where all four teams were evenly matched throughout the season, and whoever made it through to the playoffs were arguably going to be the weakest team in the postseason. Houston ultimately took the division, but there are still plenty of questions that need answering for them around the QB position, but their defence is superb. The Titans were the improving side in this division and they are starting to form a great team. I’m a big fan of Mariota, they have a solid defence, and a great RB duo in Murray and Henry that takes the pressure of the QB. The Jags and the Colts both have promising teams, but they both need a change in management to get the best out of their respective squads.
Looking back over the season as a whole, I think it has been very entertaining, with plenty of close games, and the talent has gone up another level. One theme this season was we saw the re-emergence of the running back, with 11 reaching the 1000-yard mark. However, I personally see it more of the fact that this now a much more offensive game, and defences are having less of an impact. What can I say? I’m a defence guy, and it pains me to see so many missed and half-hearted tackles, and see constant 50/60+ point games.
Some final remarks and awards, starting with the main awards. My MVP has to be Matt Ryan, who has had an absolute career year; my rookie of the year is Ezekiel Elliott, my DPOY is between Khalil Mack and Damon Harrison, and finally my coach of the year has to be Dan Quinn. How on earth did Jason Garrett win that?! Anyway I, and many others, will already be extremely pumped for the new season, and I just hope that the Giants can make it a little bit further next time round…