New England Patriots
I do not have many bad things to say about this team so this will be short and sweet.
The reigning Super Bowl champions and 15 year (and running) NFL juggernauts have had the best offseason in the NFL, and will be 2017’s team to beat. The offseason additions of Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen, Rex Burkhead, and David Harris amongst others. Along with their H.O.F coach, Bill Belichick and H.OF quarterback Tom Brady should be enough reasons to prove why this team will be back and possibly better than ever in 2017.
The only thing that I would be a remotely afraid of, if I were a Pats fan would be the humungous red target on my team’s back in an ever so competitive 2017 NFL. All it takes is one game, even one play, in the playoffs for Goliath to fall.
In what was a surprising result to most, Adam Gase took the Dolphins to their first playoff appearance since 2008 as a first-year head coach. They were overmatched in the first round as they had travel to Pittsburgh and play without their starting QB Ryan Tannehill. The game wound up being a 30-12 loss, but there are plenty of things that this Dolphins team can feel proud of going into 2017.
Despite throwing the worst pass of all time, Ryan Tannehill had his best season as a pro last year. He didn’t blow the doors off the league by any means, but he proved that he’s fully capable of running an offense in the NFL. Gase has done well to get the most out of him and I expect more growth this season. Tannehill is also extremely well supported. The offensive line is the best as it’s been since he was drafted, Jay Ajayi proved last year that he could be a feature back, and they boast a top receiver trio in the NFL. I absolutely love Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills all paired together. I think they each bring something different to the table and give defenses fits. Stills is a threat to take the top off your defense, Parker is your 50/50 ball red zone option, and Jarvis Landry is a nuanced route runner who makes up for his lack of speed with tremendous feel for the game. Landry is one of my favorite receivers in the NFL. I love this trio so much I’m predicting that all three will combine for over 3,000 yards in the air in 2017.
As for the defense, the Dolphins spent most of their draft capital there and I like the picks. In the first round, they took Charles ‘Black Ice’ Harris from Mizzou as a twitchy OLB to get after the passer. Then in the second they took Raekwon McMillan from Ohio State, an inside linebacker who I think has a promising future. Cameron Wake continues to produce even as he ages, and Ndamukong Suh continues to build his Hall of Fame case every season. The secondary concerns me, and the loss of Isa Abdul-Quddus is a sad and unfortunate one. He was a promising safety and former Lion who was undrafted in 2011. IAQ signed his first real money deal with the Dolphins in 2016, and his football career ended on Christmas Eve in Buffalo with a neck injury. Reshad Jones is a guy who doesn’t get enough press, but I would’ve liked to see the Dolphins do more to address their defensive backfield, because Byron Maxwell, Xavien Howard, and Tony Lippett don’t do it for me.
I think the Dolphins have a great chance of making back to back playoff appearances. They always play the Pats tough and playing the Jets twice never hurts.
The Bills were sneaky playoff contenders in the AFC last year until their 34-31 OT loss to the division rival Dolphins on Christmas Eve. Whilst looking at their 2016 results, something quickly jumped off of the screen to me. 5 of this teams 8 losses were by 6 points or less. The Rex Ryan experience is officially over and it is now time for former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to take the reigns. McDermott will bring in a completely new defensive scheme focused heavily on penetration from the defensive line. I believe this will lead to good things for the Bills defense, especially because of how much talent they have on their D-line. McDermott new look defense should bring a certain level of revitalization to this talented Buffalo roster, but I am not sure it will be enough to push this team into the playoffs.
Offensively, the Bills need former Clemson standout and No. 4 pick Sammy “can’t touch me” Watkins to prove he can play 16 games and play them well. After a 2015 campaign with 1,000 yards and 9 tugs, Watkins struggled to stay on the field due to a nagging foot injury. This offense has an elite running back in Lesean McCoy and a good enough offensive line to push him into another 1,000+ yard season. They also have Tyrod Taylor, a guy who the Bills seem quite reluctant to let be “the guy” despite his consistent performance over the last 2 seasons with a clear lack of competent pass-catchers.
The Bills got shifty on draft night, making some trades that ultimately landed them 3 guys who will start for them this season. Tre’davious White (27) showed a passion for the game along with lock down skills at LSU and a will be a guy that the Bills immediately look to as their number 2 corner behind Ronald Darby. Zay Jones (37) a sure handed receiver that leads the FBS in receptions after his career at ECU. Another guy that the Bills will look at to make an impact as a rookie, most likely at the WR2 slot behind Sammy after the departure of Robert Woods (L.A Yams). And finally, Dion Dawkins (63), a G/T hybrid that by the looks of it, will have an opportunity to be the starting RT for the Bills come September. Defensively, the Bills are always gritty. They have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, and a stable of aggressive backers that will by no means be a hole for this team. I am concerned about the ability of their secondary, but the additions of Micah Hyde from Green Bay and Tre’ White from the draft should get that group heading in the right direction.
The Bills have a team that is capable of making the playoffs in 2017, but that does not guarantee anything.
New York Jets
The Jets are the worst team in the NFL with the least amount of promise in 2017. Christian Hackenberg should start for this team because his draft position is frankly too high for him not to play. He is young, physically talented, and could be the key to moderate (at the very best) success this year in East Rutherford. Sheldon Richardson needs to go, he is a locker room cancer and the beginning of the Jets turning a corner is the day he is no longer a Jet.
It was a blessing from the football gods the Jamal Adams was sitting there, ripe for the picking, at 6. Let him be the defensive player holding the torch for this team. Marcus Maye was a good pick to help Adams hold down the secondary. Darron Lee and Leonard Williams are promising young defensive players, but this also happened in the offseason. Other than them, this team is pretty much a train wreck and will surprise me if they win more than 4 games this year.