Granted, a roster lacking in talent and depth was dramatically impacted by cornerstone quarterback Andrew Luck not taking a single snap due to shoulder surgery. Four of the first five draft picks were used on linemen. Free agents were signed to raise the level of competitiveness. And Luck is expected to be healthy for Luck is a rare talent, possessing smarts to go with athleticism, and he brings a locker room together with his selfless, team-first attitude.
That Luck has endured a series of serious injuries is an indictment of an inept offensive line. Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett absorbed that same punishment as the Colts allowed a league-high 56 sacks in Quenton Nelson, the sixth overall pick in the draft, should be an immediate starter at left guard and brings a nastiness that this team needs.
Second-round pick Braden Smith will also be pushing for a starting spot at guard, which should dramatically improve the interior of the line, especially with center Ryan Kelly returning after suffering a season-ending concussion.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is reliable, although not a Pro Bowl blocker. Right tackle is once again wide open with as many as four possibilities, none of them considered a long-term solution.
An offense that ranked 31st in total yards and 30th in points scored will strive for more balance. The rushing attack will be led by second-year back Marlon Mack, who steps in for Frank Gore signed with the Dolphins after showing promise as a rookie.
The fourth-round pick out of South Florida rushed for yards on 93 carries in Only twice did he have at least 10 attempts in a game. Veteran backup Robert Turbin is also capable of carrying the load at times, but he is suspended the first four games for using performance-enhancing drugs. He was the least-accurate and most turnover-prone top quarterback in the draft. It all spells a big step back for the surprise playoff team from Antonio Brown is a top-two or the top?
The Steelers did well to pick up linebacker Jon Bostic in free agency and nab safety Terrell Edmunds in the draft. Jacksonville forced seven turnovers, while the Steelers could create just one. The 45—42 final score from their playoff contest is not indicative of how totally in control the Jags were for more than three-and-a-half quarters of the game.
Baltimore went against would-be playoff teams and against all others. The match is also important to Baltimore because it faces New Orleans, Carolina and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks afterward. This designation is more about feel than what I see on paper. You have to like their running game, pass catchers and, if rookie center Billy Price is healthy as expected, their offensive line, too.
Using the same logic as with the Ravens, the Bengals went against playoff teams last season but a paltry against the others. Dalton and Lewis together are versus the Steelers including the playoffs and have just one win at home against the division rival. If not, this could be another forgettable season for a well-put-together team. In the last three seasons the Browns have been the worst, second-worst and third-worst scoring offense in the NFL, and the team has tallied four total wins.
This season is going to be all about small victories for the Browns. And hopefully for the Browns, that one road win will turn into two, and two will turn into…. The Chiefs have made it to the playoffs the past three years playing in what has been, over that span, the most competitive division in football.
The steadiness of Alex Smith, the coaching of Andy Reid and a stout defense have been the reason. The defense will hardly be recognizable from last year. The outcome of this game could decide the AFC West. Considering how weak the AFC is, 10 wins should get you into the playoffs, and a victory here will help the Chiefs secure at least one game at Arrowhead. After two down years, this team crawled out of the AFC West cellar to finish second last year with little contribution from their rookies.
Now Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp enter Year 2 with rookie safety Derwin James—possibly the best value pick of the first round—bolstering a defensive backfield that already has Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. Losing tight end Hunter Henry to an ACL tear hurts, but the Chargers have three months to figure out a position that was a given for so long thanks to Antonio Gates. The Chargers played a lot of home games last year that felt like road games in the 30,seat StubHub Center.
This will be the second home game of for Los Angeles, and it comes against the resurgent Bay Area club with the popular young quarterback. On top of that, the Raiders basically got a new secondary, new No. How will Oakland and its coaching staff respond after a week off following what I suspect to be early-season success based largely on the schedule? Also telling was Denver getting just one road win, against the hapless Colts in Week The former Broncos defensive coordinator returns to Denver, where he helped craft the Super Bowl-winning defense three seasons ago.
This game will be the best test for both sides of the ball in Denver. The Jaguars defense is not to be trifled with. On offense, Jacksonville signed guard Andrew Norwell at the start of free agency to bolster an already strong line. The rematch, slated for the second week of the season, will be a tone-setter for the Jags. Deshaun Watson is better than those three combined. DeAndre Hopkins has come into his own after another stellar season got him the deserved recognition of the All-Pro team.
And the worst scoring defense in the NFL gets the best pass rusher in the game back while also adding Tyrann Mathieu, on a one-year bet-on-himself deal, to the secondary. These teams split the series last year, but the one game in which Watson played really tells the story. The Texans won and Watson led the franchise to its highest scoring output ever. The way I see it below , the Titans will very much be in the hunt in Week 12, so this division contest is a crucial one for Houston.
Derrick Henry has control of the running game. The offensive line is solid. Tennessee had great offseason pickups with Malcolm Butler in free agency and Rashaan Evans in the draft. But I like Jacksonville and Houston more in the division and Marcus Mariota throwing 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in his third season is concerning. A slight step back for Tennessee feels like the call here. These teams also meet in Week 3, so really you can take your pick. Tennessee impressively topped the Jags twice last season on its way to a division record.
As noted above, I think the AFC South will come down to the wire, so a win here for the Titans will very likely prove this prediction wrong. This prediction, which mirrors the results for Indianapolis, is solely rooted in the uncertainty around Andrew Luck. This should be the first time since Jan. If Luck is not ready by Week 1 as he should be, further doubt should be cast on this season.
No team—not the Packers or the Patriots or the Saints—has a better quarterback situation than Philadelphia. The Eagles will be coming off their Week 9 bye, so a strong performance against a rival is needed to kick off the second half of the season. Yes, Dak Prescott took a small step back in his sophomore campaign, but he still put together four game-winning drives last season.
Ezekiel Elliott should play the whole slate rather than sitting out six games when the Cowboys went without him. And Leighton Vander Esch will fit perfectly with the Cowboys. Dallas will be coming off that huge Week 10 tilt with the Eagles and heading to Atlanta to face a Falcons team that crushed them by 20 points last year while Elliott was out. The winner of this head-to-head will greatly improve its odds of getting a wild card. Like the Cowboys, the Giants have one glaring hole. The only way to beat Drew Brees is to hit him consistently.
Obviously that should be a challenge for this Giants defense. This also kicks off a four-game stretch for the Giants against playoff teams. At this point, there are no wrong answers. If you see a prediction that seems unreasonable, just remember: Anything can happen once the coin is flipped.
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