It’s that time of the year when everyone is an expert. We’re no exception of course….
Easy one to start… Who wins the Super Bowl?
Jonno Payton: The Seahawks. Feels like a lot of people can’t see past the Patriots but Seattle still, for the sixth year running, have the best defense in the league if both safeties are fit and healthy. People criticise the offensive line but if you could pick one QB that can overcome that problem it’d be Russell Wilson. They have the second best coach in the league, I think they’re due another Lombardi before this team has had it’s time.
Gareth Duxbury: Finding it very hard to see a non-AFC winner. By that I mean a non-Pats winner. New England, even without Edelmann, look stacked. But, that’s the easy answer. So let’s say that the Steelers finally keep their big guns on the field and a maturing, imposing D takes them over the line.
Duncan Terry: Seattle Seahawks. My own team, I have to. However I will back this up. The D is still the same D, weak at corner until Shead returns but they now have enough depth not called Jeremy Lane to cover. Wilson has had a PFF top 3 offensive line this pre season, it surely has to come together. Weapons-wise he has so many more options, 3 good running backs and Carson seemingly another UDFA find, wide receivers a plenty and surely the Jimmy Graham connection has to come good.
Chris Lawton: The obvious answer would be the Patriots – so I’m not going to say that. I’m going for the Pittsburgh Steelers – they have a great balanced attack with Le’veon Bell, a superb receiving core, defense depth and will be carrying a must win attitude as their window of opportunity may close soon.
Stuart Anderson: Mike McCarthy will finally put the ghosts of the 2014 NFC Championship game against Seattle to bed as the Green Bay Packers give Aaron Rodgers the 2nd ring his play over the decade has deserved.
Richard King: Patriots
Adam Smith: Seattle Seahawks
And who will be the other Conference Championship teams?
JP: The Cowboys line still looks so good that I’ll back them to go a step further this year. The AFC is still very weak beyond about five teams and it’s much more predictable so it’s hard to pick anyone beyond the Patriots and Steelers primarily because of active QBs, only Big Ben and Brady (not forgetting Joe Flacco once) have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl since Rich Gannon in 2002. Maybe the Texans, if they can get some consistency on offense, could upset the party?
GD: Pats-Steelers will head up the AFC tilt (and I expect it to be a blockbuster). The NFC a little more varied but I feel the Packers will have a stellar offensive year. Let’s pit them against the young, stacked Vikings who emerge victorious over the Seahawks in the divisional round.
DT: Packers, Patriots, Raiders. I simply want to see the Seahawks play against beastmode in the superbowl.
CL: Cannot see past the Patriots in the AFC unless he curse of Madden strikes, and in the NFC I think the Packers will be there or thereabouts and Seattle will come back to form to make it to the championship game.
SA: Kansas City Chiefs finally overcome the Pats in the post season to set up a re-run of the first ever Super Bowl
AS: Green Bay, Patriots and Steelers
The 2018 NFL Draft is officially open, the ______ are on the clock….?
JP: Only the Jets could screw this up. I can’t see more than 2 and a half wins on the schedule at the moment but it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re picking 4th or 5th come April and trying to trade up desperately to get a QB. But there isn’t a worse roster in the NFL so logic says it has to be them.
GD: The 0-16 Jets.
DT: Jets have nothing at QB, nor anywhere else seemingly, they are in danger of 0-16.
CL: I see a lot of people picking the Browns to 2-14 or something akin to that this year, but I think they’ll be better – certainly good enough not to be picking first. I think, if Luck isn’t fit the Colts would be in Big trouble, but for this I’m picking the Jets – I just don’t see much hope for them at the moment.
SA: There are a number of poor teams on the up, there are a number of good teams on the decline. But none of them, however, are going to beat the Jets to be the worst in the 2017 NFL class.
RK: Jets/ Bears
AS: The Jets
Who will be this year’s surprise playoff team(s)?
JP: The 49ers. There’s a good feeling around this team’s rebuild and no expectation either. I think they could make one of the wildcard spots.
GD: I’ve got the Vikings which may be a surprise to some. I think Washington take the NFC East (of course, I do).
DT: Bucs, Bears, Ravens (are they a surprise?). Bucs have put together a great looking roster, Bears have gone about their business quietly and efficiently and if everything comes together the makings of a good team, just need one of the new QBs to work out. Ravens, even without Flacco look decent on paper, and a quality defence.
CL: I think the Saints might surprise few people and I think the Titans can win The AFC South and potentially go deep into the playoffs – though that might be less surprising in the long run.
SA: The seemingly never ending injury curse which has plagued the Chargers remains in San Diego as the Chargers book their place in the post season by taking one of the AFC Wild Cards.
RK: Titans (if they count as a suprise)
AS: Not really a surprise, but I think Tampa will make it into the playoffs.
Team that disappoints the most?
JP: The Raiders. Only because a lot of people are way, way too high on them. Peter King ranked them second in the league this offseason. They won a lot of close games last year with Derek Carr and the offense often pulling it out of the bag in the 4th quarter but the defense is bang average still beyond Khalil Mack. They still have an 8-8 head coach and I think the regress to the mean this year. They might still sneak out an 9-7 season and make it to the playoffs but I don’t see them being as good as a lot of people expect.
GD: I think Bucs and Panthers both have winning records but miss out on play-offs which must be a disappointment to both. Broncos going about 8-8 and finishing 4th in AFC West will disappoint their fans too. But can a team disappoint more than going 0-16, even if they are expected to be terrible? Because, sadly for Gang Green, I think they join the 2008 Lions in the 0-16 club.
DT: Chiefs. All old at the same time, no obvious confidence in the starting QB to remain, tough division.
CL: You’ll notice a theme here – without Luck, the Colts. Otherwise although they were only .500 last year, we could see the Vikings regress.
SA: Indianapolis Colts as they finish adrift at the bottom of the AFC South.
MVP for the 2017 season will be?
JP: Maybe Russell Wilson. Won’t be topping any of the stats but if Seattle rack up 12 or more wins then he’ll take a large amount of the credit as well as the defense.
GD: Aaron Rodgers feels like he is ready to turn it all the way up to 11.
DT: Russell Wilson. With protection keeping him off the floor he is up with the best, if a little different in technique.
CL: In keeping with their potential deep playoff run – Marcus Mariota. I’d love the overall MVP to be a defensive player though.
SA: Aaron Rodgers not only owns a pretty impressive ‘tash, by the end of the season he will have another MVP and shiny ring to go with his mouser.
RK: Aaron Rodgers
AS: Russell Wilson
Defensive Player of the Year will be?
JP: JJ Watt. He’s brilliant and has the media presence to support it.
GD: JJ Watt. If he is fully healthy, he dominates.
DT: There will be better performers than Bosa, such as Bobby Wagner but in the DPOY race sacks is what gets you the trophy.
CL: JJ Watt – he has the recognition now to only have to have reasonable season to pick up the votes. Also, I think after the storms in Houston and his drive to raise money to combat that he will get a lot of people voting sympathetically.
SA: If Joey Bosa had played in all games last season, he may already have a DPOY award but his 2017 season will eclipse his impressive debut season as his play takes the Chargers to the play-offs.
RK: JJ Watt
AS: JJ Watt
Rookie of the Year will be?
JP: Reuben Foster. Has just looked so good in preseason. A player to rebuild the franchise around.
GD: There is some unbelievable rookie talent this year so it’s a crap shoot. I think the versatility of Christian McCaffrey will propel him to top of the field. Special mention for Deshaun Watson who I think starts sooner rather than later and exceeds expectations. Not playing all 16 games will hurt his candidacy. Dalvin Cook should also be in the mix.
DT: Myles Garrett.
CL: If he starts and has any kind of success in Chicago Mitchell Trubisky. If not, the Leonard Fournette who could quickly become focal point for the Jaguars
SA: DeShone Kizer. Finally, the revolving doors used exclusively for Cleveland Quarterbacks is locked as Kizer finally gives the Browns what they have been looking for. A franchise QB to take this up and promising team from the laughing stock to perennial AFC North challengers.
RK: Leonard Fournette
AS: Derek Barnett
First Coach to be Fired?
JP: Coaches of London home teams seem to fair particularly badly so, despite (having just said that) Shad Khan’s patience with Gus Bradley, I’m going to say Doug Marrone after about 12 or 13 games and Tom Coughlin to take the reigns in Jacksonville, again. It’s too tempting with Coughlin in the building.
GD: Chuck Pagano will be a victim of Andrew Luck’s shoulder and Scott Tolzien’s talent.
DT: Chuck Pagano.
CL: If the Colts season is don’t have a fit Luck – then Pagano, otherwise in keeping with my overall 1st draft pick prediction for next year – Todd Bowles.
SA: Chuck Pagano – no luck 🙂
RK: John Fox
AS: John Fox
The best of the 4 London Games game will be?
JP: Saints v Dolphins from an offense and points perspective if you like that sort of thing. I think the Cards v Rams game under the lights at Twickenham will look the best though.
GD: Vikings – Browns is two exciting young Ds on display. Should be tasty. Let’s face it though, Mexico City has the plum tie for this season’s International Series.
DT: Cards/Rams. Im going so of course it is.
CL: Saints V Dolphins – should be a great game if they come into in any kind of form.
SA: Minnesota Vikings v Cleveland Browns. The battle of the North teams could end up being a thriller. The Vikings are regulars at the post season dining table and the Browns are one of the young exciting teams on the NFL to watch.
RK: Cards v Rams
Finally, I’m giving you a crisp £20 note to use on something happening this season. Where does it go? (question plagiarised from football365)
JP: Neil Reynolds asking a player or owner about whether there should be a London franchise on stage at a fan rally to half-hearted cheers. Also that it’ll be announced that Giants v Redskins will be the first game at the new White Hart Lane in October 2018 (just a hunch).
GD: That the Jets, Bears and 49ers win fewer than 7 games combined.
DT: Stefon Diggs breaking Chris Carter’s Vikings season catches record. Nearly broke it last year, when I spoke to him he knew exactly how close. He seems focused enough and competitive with Adam Thielan enough to help the cause.
CL: Jay Cutler finishes with QB rating in the mid to high 80s but is universally pilloried for throwing key interceptions.
SA: Jets going 0-16. It’s hard to believe that the Jets were on the verge of the play-offs just over a year ago until Fitzmagic (editors note – lol) went INT crazy against the Bills. The Gang Green have went in to steady decline since that implosion in Buffalo and are now hot favourites for the overall 1st pick in the 2018 Draft. With so many holes in the roster, expect the Jets to trade the 1st overall pick for a bounty.
RK: Jared Goff to outperform Carson Wentz on TDs
AS: Not a betting man in the slightest, but I’d put it on the Titans winning the AFC South.
Copyright Image: Time.com