To quote Hank Williams, Jr., “We’ve got a Muslim for a President who hates cowboys, hates cowgirls, hates fishing, hates farming, loves gays and we hate him.” Nope, wait a sec, that’s not the one I was looking for. Oh yeah, this is it …
…ARE YOU READY FOR SOME !@#$%^ FOOTBALL!
Finally, after half a year of absolute nothingness, pro football that matters is back on TV and we can all stop feeling like our respective lives are devoid of value, meaning and purpose. As we slowly embark upon that plodding journey to Super Bowl LII, I reckon now is as good a time as any to make my annual bold-ass predictions for the NFL season ahead. Anybody can make a few oblique statements like “boy, I believe the run blocking for the Arizona Cardinals will be much improved” and “Aaron Rodgers is unlikely to get a sex-change operation before week six,” but we here at HalfGuarded always go the extra mile. Below, you’ll find TEN BOLD PREDICTIONS for the 2017 NFL deason, encompassing the projected win-loss records for ALL 32 NFL teams, the final divisional standings, the playoffs seedings and our guesstimates for the victors in EVERY single playoff game … culminating with our pick for the participants, victors, and even final score of the Big Game.
So what are you waiting for, Holmes? Take a look inside our crystal meth – I mean, crystal ball – and see for yourself all the wondrous reveries of the pro football season ahead …
Bold Prediction One:
The Patriots will be the only team in the AFC East with a winning record
Yeah, I know it’s really going out on a limb projecting the New England Patriots to be a good team this season. If anything, the defending Super Bowl champs will be even more dominant than they were in 2016, finishing the regular season with a stellar 15-1 record and locking up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Under the stewardship of Jay Cutler, expect the Miami Dolphins to wrap up the year 6-10, while the offense-less Buffalo Bills go out on a stretcher at 4-12. And, as expected, the New York Jets will be atrocious with a capital A, concluding their nightmare of a season with a lachrymose and lugubrious 3-13 record.
Bold Prediction Two:
The Steelers will be the top-ranked offense in the NFL (and Cleveland won’t finish last in the AFC North)
With Big Ben, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, there’s no reason why the Steelers’ potent offense shouldn’t rack up the League’s highest yardage per game figures yet again. They should have no difficulties cruising to a 13-3 record, as the underachieving Baltimore Ravens break even at 8-8. The Cleveland Browns will sextuple their wins from last season, wrapping up the year with a 6-10 record – which, as fate would have it, includes two wins over in-state rivals the Cincinnati Bengals, who finish their lackluster 2017 campaign at 5-11.
Bold Prediction Three:
Deshaun Watson will not only lead the Texans to the AFC South title, but a first-round playoff bye
The Houston Texans already have a championship calibre defense, and with new franchise QB Deshaun Watson under center, they will finally take their first steps towards becoming a true NFL dynasty. Going 5-1 in division play, the Texans will finish the year with a 13-3 overall record, which should be good enough to earn them the second slot in the AFC side of the playoffs. Elsewhere in the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans will go 10-6 and lock up the sixth and final AFC playoffs seed, while the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars devolve with a 5-11 record. And with Andrew Luck injured early in the season, the Indianapolis Colts go into total tailspin mode, finishing the season with a horrendous 3-13 record.
Bold Prediction Four:
The Chiefs will just barely edge out the Raiders to win the AFC West
Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders (who will give the Patriots their only regular season loss of the year in Mexico City) will wrap up the year with 11-5 records, but the tiebreaker math gives the division (and by proxy, the fourth seed in the playoffs) to K.C. The Denver Broncos will just barely miss the playoffs with a 9-7 record, while the Los Angeles Chargers wrap up 2017 with a slightly better than expected but still kinda’ shitty 6-10 record.
Bold Prediction Five:
The Giants will unseat the Cowboys as NFC East Champions
With a 14-2 record, the resurgent New York Giants will not only wrest away the NFC East from the Cowboys, they’ll secure their number one seed in the playoffs – and with it, guaranteed home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys still have a hell of a year, though, concluding their regular season campaign 13-3 and locking up the fifth seed in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the already low-flying Philadelphia Eagles will tank with a disastrous 4-12 season, while the quarterback-less (and running back-less, and defenseless) Washington Redskins lose every last one of their division games and finish the season with a League-worst 2-14 record.
Bold Prediction Six:
The Packers will go 6-0 in NFC North division play
Yeah, no surprise here – the Green Bay Packers will run roughshod over the division once again. Besting the Bears, Vikings and Lions twice a piece, the Pack eventually chugs along to a 14-2 record, while also-ran Detroit finishes second place in the division with a subpar 7-9 record. And with both Minnesota and Chicago sans a quarterback, the Vikes and the Bears will chalk up piss poor 4-12 records (although Chicago halfback Jordan Howard does wind up leading the League in rushing yards, oddly enough.)
Bold Prediction Seven:
The Buccaneers will win the NFC South and a first-round playoff bye
Jameis Winston makes a strong case for MVP as he leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a clean sweep of the NFC South en route to a stellar 14-2 overall record – a sum good enough to afford them the second seed in the playoffs and a first round bye. The Atlanta Falcons have a peaks and valleys season, but their 10-6 final record is good enough to gift them the last remaining NFC postseason berth. The Carolina Panthers, however, fail to rebound from 2016’s disappointing season, wrapping up the ‘17 season at 6-10, while the New Orleans Saints barely benefit from the addition of Adrian Peterson – N.O, will drop all six of their division games and wrap up the year with a ho-hum 5-11 record.
Bold Prediction Eight:
The Seahawks will hold off the resurgent Cardinals to win the NFC West
The Seattle Seahawks’ stranglehold on the NFC West continues, as they wrap up the year 4-2 in division play, with an 11-5 overall record giving them yet another postseason game at home. The Arizona Cardinals will rebound from last year’s disappointing season, although at 9-7, they just barely miss the playoffs. Despite garnering a few upset wins, the Los Angeles Rams will peak at 6-10, while the San Francisco 49ers (who will “lead” the League in fewest passing and rushing yards per game) bottom out at 5-11.
Bold Prediction Nine:
Road teams will win eight out of the ten playoffs games
The AFC playoffs teams, in order, are New England, Houston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland and Tennessee. The NFC playoffs teams, in order, are the New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Seattle, Dallas and Atlanta.
In the AFC, the Steelers and the Raiders win their respective wildcard games against Tennessee and Kansas City, setting up divisional matchups between Pittsburgh and Houston and Oakland and New England (which, naturally, takes place during a freak snowstorm.) In both scenarios, the visiting teams secure the “W”, giving us the very, very 1976-ish AFC Championship Game of the Steelers hosting the Raiders – which the Raiders win on a last second touchdown strike from Derek Carr to Amari Cooper, which is also noteworthy for being Big Ben’s final game before retiring.
In the NFC, the Cowboys best the Seahawks while the Packers crush the Falcons on wildcard weekend. Despite losing both regular season games to New York, the Cowboys exact their revenge on the Giants in the divisional playoffs, while the Packers bump off the Buccaneers. That sets the stage for Ice Bowl III, as the Packers host Dallas in subfreezing temperatures at Lambeau in the NFC title game. In a slow-paced game, the Cowboys kick field goals on three consecutive drives to walk away with a narrow 18-12 victory.
Bold Prediction Ten:
The Raiders will best the Cowboys in one of the most entertaining Super Bowls ever played
Yeah, I know it’s the same prediction I made for Super Bowl LI, but this thing is gonna be my go-to-pick until it finally does happen. In a Super match-up between Raider Nation and “America’s Team,” Derek Carr and Dak Prescott combine for eight touchdown passes, with the Cowboys getting off to an early 14-0 start. Ezekiel Elliot and Marshawn Lynch each have more than 100 yards rushing, yet strangely enough, none of the record a TD in the affair. Rather, the story here is the defense, in particular Khalil Mack, who secures the Super Bowl MVP honors by recording a record five sacks in the game, including a strip sack that results in a game tying defensive touchdown with 1:58 to go – followed up, naturally, by yet another strip sack that gives Derek Carr and company the ball back at the Dallas 40. With 23 seconds on the clock D.C. lobs a floater to Michael Crabtree, who reels it in one-handed to put the Raiders up 38-31. The Cowboys’ last second Hail Mary attempt is for naught, as the end zone shot gets batted down by defensive rookie of the year Gareon Conley – thus, securing a fourth Lombardi Trophy for the wayfaring Silver and Black.