On Feb. 5, the New England Patriots completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Down 28-3 at halftime, all hope seemed lost. However, the QB for the Patriots is Tom Brady, arguably one of the best to ever play the position. What happened in the second half only can be described in one word: masterful. Late in the fourth quarter, Brady and the offense tied the game at 28 on a two-point conversion by WR Julian Edelman. In overtime, the Patriots won the coin toss and drove down the field into Atlanta Falcons territory. As the end zone drew near, RB James White received a handoff from Brady, leading to the game-winning touchdown as they won 34-28. Heading into the 2017 season, one question looms: can the Patriots be beaten?
NFC North: Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings
In 2016, the Green Bay Packers stood at 4-6 after the first 10 weeks of the season. With another loss, the Packers would be all but out of playoff contention. That’s when Aaron Rodgers, the Packers long-time starting QB, uttered a single word after a week 11 loss to the Washington Redskins: relax. Following the remark, the Packers won their final six games, guaranteeing themselves an NFC North division title and a playoff berth. They would ultimately lose in the NFC Championship at the hands of the Super Bowl runner-up Falcons, 44-21.
Senior Brandon McCartney is a long-time Packers fan and expects nothing more than a great year from his favorite team.
“I think the Packers will finish with a 12-4 record. Look at who Aaron Rodgers has on offense: TE Martellus Bennett, WR Davante Adams, WR Jordy Nelson and WR Randall Cobb. In addition, they also have a sleeper on offense in second-year WR Trevor Davis who has a chance to have a really good season. “Rodgers also has a solid offensive line even with the loss of G TJ Lang.” I think the defense will be much better this season. They drafted CB Kevin King in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington who has a chance to be really good. I think the Packers will upset the Falcons week two,” McCartney said.
McCartney also feels that the Packers can win the Super Bowl this season. In 2010, the Packers made the playoffs as a Wildcard in a week 17 win over the Bears at Lambeau Field. The Packers would upset the Pittsburgh Steelers 25-20 in Super Bowl XLV, capping off an unexpected playoff run that saw the Packers win three consecutive road games en route to a championship. They are listed at 10-1 odds to win the Super Bowl this season.
With the Bears drafting Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick, the Bears hope to build a foundation in 2017. Their odds for the Super Bowl are listed at 100-1.
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns
The Steelers are led by 13-year veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion QB Ben Roethlisberger. On offense, the Steelers will continue to utilize WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell to help them win games. In 2016, the Steelers won the AFC North on Christmas Day in week 16 over the division rival Baltimore Ravens. This win would secure a home playoff game for the Steelers in the Wildcard round, dispatching the Miami Dolphins 30-12. A road victory against the Kansas City Chiefs the following week would set up an AFC Championship clash against the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots, where they would fall 36-17. They look to defend their conference title once again and make another deep run in the playoffs.
In this year’s draft, they selected QB Joshua Dobbs in the fourth-round out of the University of Tennessee and LB TJ Watt out of the University of Wisconsin in the first-round, which should hopefully add depth on both sides of the ball and set a foundation for future Steelers teams.
The Cincinnati Bengals missed the playoffs in 2016 for the first time in six years. They finished with a 5-10-1 record, leaving many fans unhappy with the direction of the franchise. Senior Nate Cummings gave his thoughts on the Bengals and if they can return to the postseason in 2017.
“The Bengals will make the playoffs this year because WR’s A.J Green and John Ross, as well as TE Tyler Eifert, will all be great options for QB Andy Dalton to throw to. While the defense will be down this year with LB Vontase Burfict suspended, I feel they will be able to make a Wildcard regardless,” Cummings said.
In the AFC, my division winners are the Steelers out of the North, the Tennessee Titans out of the South, the Patriots out of the East and the Oakland Raiders out of the West. In the NFC, the Packers will win the North, the Dallas Cowboys will win the East, the Atlanta Falcons will win the South and the Seattle Seahawks will win the West.
Primarily, the main reason for my predictions is because each division winner has a young team, explosive offense, and playoff experience. In the Super Bowl, the Patriots will be repeat champions, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 24-17.
The NFL season will kickoff on Sept. 7 in Foxborough, MA when the Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football from Gillette Stadium.