I’ve spent the last few weeks gradually releasing my predictions for the upcoming NFL season. Teams poised to improve, teams poised to regress, over/under win total bets, AFC and NFC playoff field predictions–now it’s time for me to put all those together and finally reveal my playoff forecasts and Super Bowl pick!
Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady, QB New England
The MVP award usually goes to either a) the best player on the league’s best team or b) the league’s most outstanding quarterback. Brady will fulfill at least one of those criterion and edge out Aaron Rodgers.
Offensive Player of the Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh
Bell is on a one-year deal this season, so he’ll be out to prove he’s worthy of being the highest-paid running back in football. He’ll have a huge season as arguably the integral part of Pittsburgh’s offense.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE Houston
Watt’s good for at least fifteen sacks and countless other quarterback disturbances. Assuming he’s healthy, he’ll pick up right where he left off after miss most of last year and win a fourth DPOY award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB Carolina
Not sure if McCaffrey will be as featured in the Panthers’ offense as Leonard Fournette will be in Jacksonville’s. But I still like the former Stanford star to impress in a variety of ways and be the most outstanding rookie.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE Cleveland
Safe choice here. Garrett should be a stud. I like him to pile up at least ten sacks.
Coach of the Year: Doug Pederson, Philadelphia
Taking your team from a last-place finish to a division title, as I think Pederson’s Eagles will do, is a sure way to receive coach of the year honors.
Wild Card Round
Not everyone will like another Patriots/Steelers conference championship, but it’s going to happen. Both New England and Pittsburgh are loaded offensively and their defenses will be solid, as long as they stay relatively healthy. Ultimately, however, the Patriots will prevail. Brady is better than Roethlisberger, who’s battered and might call it a career after this season. And Belichick is a better coach than Mike Tomlin. Pittsburgh’s outstanding set of stars simply won’t be enough to beat the Pats in Foxboro.
The Packers and Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFC. Green Bay has the conference’s best offense; Seattle its best defense. Each of them, however, potentially have fatal flaws. The Packers haven’t proven they can defend quality offensive opponents: against teams that finished in the top 10 of offensive DVOA last season, they allowed close to 40 points per game. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have a horrible offensive line. Pro Football Focus projects it to be the worst in football.
Seattle’s line is particularly concerning because it could directly effect Russell Wilson’s performance. If Wilson is unable to return to his 2015 form, when he led the NFL in quarterback rating, then the Seahawks will fall short of the Super Bowl. I bet that happens, as I like Aaron Rodgers to put up enough points to overcome the always formidable Seattle D.
Super Bowl LII
Sooner or later the football Gods will grace us with a Brady/Rodgers Super Bowl. It’s almost happened before. Last year, of course, the Packers were one win away from meeting the Pats in Super Bowl LI; and then three years ago they were really close to meeting New England in Super Bowl XLIX. If only Green Bay recovered that onside kick…
This February, though, the Patriots and Packers will play each other in Super Bowl LII. And my Pats will prevail.
I’m biased, I know. I’ve only picked them to win each of the past sixteen Super Bowls (but at least I’ve been right close to 33% of the time!) The case for New England, however, is obvious: best coach and quarterback in football; a tremendous group of skill-position players, like Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks; an offensive line that was one of the better pass-protection teams in the NFL last season; a secondary that has improved thanks to the addition of Stephon Gilmore; a front-seven that remains solid, as long as Dont’a Hightower and Trey Flowers stay healthy; and an elite special teams unit that has finished in the top 10 of DVOA ever year since 2010.
New England does not have a glaring weakness, outside of possibly their pass rush. Green Bay, on the other hand, is weak defensively. As we saw in last season’s NFC Championship, it can’t all be up to Rodgers to mask the Packers’ inefficiencies. For those reasons, the Patriots, who are overwhelming favorites entering the 2017 season for good reason, will win an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl in just seventeen seasons.