From 24 To 1: Saquon Barkley’s Journey To The Top
Learn how Saquon Barkley rose through the ranks, going from the 24th rated running back to No. 1 in the nation.
Pro football is finally back! But before the games kick off, we’ve got predictions on all 32 teams. Where will your favorite team finish? Find out below—and let us know in the comments what you think we got right or wrong. Don’t forget to check out our college football preview as well!
The Ezekiel Elliott suspension is all anyone wants to focus on with this team, and rightfully so. It’s a huge blow, but Dallas is still loaded with talent throughout their roster. A receiving core of Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams should be strong enough to keep any inkling of a sophomore slump from happening with QB Dak Prescott, and that offensive line is still a force. The defense is going to need to take a step forward, especially a revamped secondary, if they want to spend some time in Minnesota in February.
Prediction: 10-6 (4th Seed)
Odell Beckham Jr. Brandon Marshall. Sterling Shepard. Evan Engram. The number of weapons that Eli Manning has at his disposal is bordering on the absurd. The big question is whether or not their embattled O-line can keep #10 upright. The strength of this team last year was the defense and that should continue in 2017 with playmakers like DT Damon Harrison and S Landon Collins throughout.
Prediction: 10-6 (5th Seed)
Carson Wentz had a promising rookie season in 2016 and Philly rewarded him with plenty more help on offense in the form of RB LeGarrette Blount and WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. On defense, their secondary got gashed all year, so they drafted rookies Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones and traded for Ronald Darby. Depending on how those new pieces gel, this team could surprise but they are probably still a year away from being true contenders.
Another year, another franchise tag for Kirk Cousins. In what might be his last year as a Redskin, Cousins will be surrounded by talent. Sure, wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are gone, but new marquee free agent pickup Terrelle Pryor is here. TEs Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are sure to be focal points and the line is solid. There’s a youth movement on D where Washington drafted DE Jonathan Allen, LB Ryan Anderson, and CB Fabian Moreau with their first three selections.
The Game Which Must Not Be Named won’t be covered here, but there’s a reason this team got to that point in the first place. An MVP quarterback. A two-headed beast at RB. A young, rapidly improving defense. Oh yeah, and a freak of nature at wideout. Expect more of the same for signal-caller Matt Ryan and all-world pass catcher Julio Jones this year, and if that defense can continue to grow, they may be able to exact revenge come February.
Prediction: 11-5 (1st Seed)
Tampa Bay is the ‘it-pick’ on Teams To Watch lists this year and it’s easy to see why. It seems like young QB Jameis Winston is on the verge of stardom. It helps that he’s got WRs like Mike Evans and new deep threat DeSean Jackson to throw to. The defense has some stars like DT Gerald McCoy and LB Kwon Alexander, but the secondary has some big holes that could hurt this team when they square off against great passing games.
Prediction: 10-6 (6th Seed)
The Carolina offense got significantly more exciting this offseason when they drafted RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel. With WR Kelvin Benjamin and TE Greg Olsen still in the mix, QB Cam Newton has to be on cloud nine. There’s plenty of talent on the D with stars like DT Kawann Short and LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, but their young secondary will need to step up if they want to be one of the better units in the league.
As always, the New Orleans offense will be all about the passing game and QB Drew Brees. WR Michael Thomas emerged as a bonafide No. 1 option last year and they picked up Ted Ginn Jr. in free agency to be a nice complement. RBs Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson should provide better balance on offense, but expect Brees to hover around 5,000 passing yards again. The defense has been an issue for years now, but the Saints are hoping rookie CB Marshon Lattimore can help get things turned around.
Aaron Rodgers and co. will be lethal, but converted RB Ty Montgomery will have to have a solid year in the backfield to make this offense complete. That being said A-Rod + Jordy Nelson + Davante Adams + Randall Cobb + Martellus Bennett = an offense that pretty much any defense will struggle to stop. Defensively, it’s a different story. DE Mike Daniels, OLB Nick Perry, and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix give the Pack stars at each level, but the unit needs more playmakers to emerge across the board.
Prediction: 11-5 (2nd Seed)
It’ll be strange seeing a Minnesota offense without Adrian Peterson carrying the rock, but FA signee Latavius Murray and rookie Dalvin Cook should more than pick up the slack. They’ll lead an offensive attack that features a revamped offensive line and a steady presence at QB in Sam Bradford. From the D-line with Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen to the LB core with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks to the secondary with Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes, this unit has the potential to be dominant.
QB Matt Stafford had a terrific year in 2016 and there’s no reason to expect anything less this time around. He’s got a remade offensive line and weapons galore in RBs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick and WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. The defense will look almost completely new, and it needed to after a terrible season one year ago. Rookie LB Jarrad Davis will have a chance to make an impact right away in the middle.
QB Mike Glennon is the new signal caller in Chi-Town. Take from that information what you want. But even if doesn’t inspire confidence in Bears fans, they at least have Mitchell Trubisky waiting in the wings. The offense needs WR Kevin White healthy and fulfilling his potential to truly shine, but expect a big year from RB Jordan Howard. The Bears front seven is stout. OLB Leonard Floyd could have a breakout year. But the secondary needs to hold down their end of the bargain if this team wants to surprise.
This Seahawks offensive line needs to improve — big time. QB Russell Wilson is always dangerous and he’s got RBs Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls and receiving threats Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Jimmy Graham. But it won’t matter if he is on his back all game. The defense had an off year, by their lofty standards, last year, but with S Earl Thomas back from injury, they should, once again, be one of the best in the league.
Prediction: 10-6 (3rd Seed)
David Johnson. The Arizona offense starts and stops with the do-everything tailback. He’ll get a heavy workload and thrive. QB Carson Palmer is looking to rebound from an off 2016 season and WR Larry Fitzgerald is still ageless. Five defensive starters left this offseason but the Cards tried to address this in the draft, taking LB Haason Reddick and S Budda Baker early. They’ve still got studs in the secondary with CB Patrick Peterson and S Tyrann Mathieu.
Can QB Jared Goff take a major step in year two? He’ll need to, otherwise this offense could be underwhelming again. The addition of WR Sammy Watkins could be a huge boost, but he needs to stay healthy. RB Todd Gurley may once again have nowhere to run. The defensive line is insane with all-world DT Aaron Donald leading the way. There are plenty of questions in the secondary, so the pass rush will need to pressure the QB quickly.
The offense could be hard to watch this year. QB Brian Hoyer and a WR core of Pierre Garcon, Jeremy Kerley, and Marquise Goodwin don’t exactly elicit fear in their opponents. They could have a decent rushing attack, though, with RB Carlos Hyde leading the way. San Fran’s rushing defense got gashed all year long in 2016 and, to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, went defense-heavy in the draft. Rookies Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster should provide a lift.
On paper, this New England roster is almost unfairly stacked. From one of the greatest of all time at QB to possibly the best TE ever in ‘Gronk’ to a shiny new toy at WR in Brandin Cooks, this offense is locked and loaded even without injured wideout Julian Edelman. And, while there may not be too many mega-stars on defense, there are solid playmakers everywhere you look.
Prediction: 14-2 (1st Seed)
Losing QB Ryan Tannehill during the offseason is obviously a major blow, but Jay Cutler isn’t an awful solution. His experience in coach Adam Gase’s system should make for a fairly smooth transition. RB Jay Ajayi is a stud. After a great 2016, don’t be shocked if he has an even bigger season this time around. The defense should be solid this year thanks to a stout line featuring DE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh.
QB Tyrod Taylor is somewhat of an enigma with Buffalo. He is an exciting, dual-threat signal-caller who can regularly make highlight-reel plays, but he also leads a passing offense that constantly finishes near the bottom of the league. RB LeSean McCoy is still electrifying and a threat to score every time he touches the ball. The defense is switching to a 4-3 look this season and will need their strong DT base of Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams to dominate.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Patriots lie the Jets. It’s hard to be too optimistic about any part of this roster. Josh McCown and Christian Hackenberg at QB. Matt Forte is in at RB. Who knows what is going on at WR… The defense has some young talent, but no real established stars. It could be a very long year for Gang Green, especially in a tough division.
It will be fascinating to see how long Houston sticks with QB Tom Savage if he struggles at all. Fans will be calling for rookie Deshaun Watson to get out there as soon as possible. Regardless, WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller can expect better passes thrown their way this season. The defense will be a force. DE Jadeveon Clowney had a huge year last year and the LB core is strong as well. Oh yeah, and they get some guy named J.J. Watt back, too.
Prediction: 11-5 (3rd Seed)
The Titans are another fun pick to take a huge step this year. Young QB Marcus Mariota had a great year in 2016 and now, he’s got even better receiving options. Rookies Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor will join up with Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, and TE Delanie Walker to give him a plethora of weapons. Oh yeah, and they’ve got a two-headed beast at RB with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The secondary was pretty awful a year ago, but there’s talent along the front seven of this defense.
Prediction: 10-6 (5th Seed)
Indy needs QB Andrew Luck healthy and playing at full strength. He’s the engine that makes this team go and he covers a lot of the flaws on this offense. T.Y. Hilton is an outstanding receiver and RB Frank Gore had a solid 2016 season, but the O-line and other skill positions leave a lot to be desired. Defensively, this team needs to pressure the QB better. There is some talent in the back end, though, with CB Vontae Davis and rookies Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson.
Your guess is as good as mine as far as who will be the QB this season. For Jaguar fans, neither Blake Bortles nor Chad Henne present a dream scenario. They’ve got a new freakish athlete at RB in Leonard Fournette, but until a QB starts to play well, defenses will continue to stack the box, and Fournette, and WRs Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, will struggle to produce. There are some intriguing pieces on D — Myles Jack has superstar-level skills if he gets more playing time and CB Jalen Ramsey looks to be the next great corner.
The trio of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, and WR Antonio Brown is as formidable as any in the league. The problem has been getting all three on the field at the same time. The defense is where the most work needs to be done since they have plenty of holes. They do have a star playmaker in the middle with young LB Ryan Shazier. Their pass rush will be lead by OLBs like the rising Bud Dupree, the rookie T.J. Watt, and the stalwart James Harrison.
Prediction: 11-5 (4th Seed)
QB Joe Flacco will look to rebound after a somewhat disappointing 2016. He’s got WRs Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and Jeremy Maclin to throw to. RBs Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, and Kenneth Dixon will share the rock. C.J. Mosley is a steady force at the center of a defense that has undergone a lot of changes. Baltimore’s first four draft picks all went to the defensive side of the ball.
Cincinnati has an exciting WR core thanks to first-class No. 1 A.J. Green, electrifyingly fast rookie John Ross, and talented sophomore Tyler Boyd. The offensive line has changed quite a bit and has to be a cause for concern for veteran QB Andy Dalton. The defense is a true strength of this team, thanks to dominant players like DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap.
RB Isaiah Crowell is one of the more underrated players in the league. He’s a strong runner and will be a focal point of this Brock Osweiler/Cody Kessler/DeShone Kizer-led offense. It would be huge for the Browns if WR Corey Coleman took a major step in year two. They need a downfield threat. Rookie DE Myles Garrett and S Jabrill Peppers should bring some added juice to this defense.
Oakland was 2016’s surprise team and with their loaded roster, it looks like it wasn’t a fluke — this team’s for real. RB Marshawn Lynch is just the latest addition to an outstanding offensive attack. They’ve got MVP-contending QB Derek Carr, superstar WR Amari Cooper, and an elite offensive line. Add on a defense led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack and this team could go far.
Prediction: 12-4 (2nd Seed)
The heir apparent to QB Alex Smith was just drafted in rookie Patrick Mahomes II. But Mahomes is very raw and will spend a couple years learning the ropes before he takes over. The Chiefs have a game-breaker in WR/returner/do-everything Tyreek Hill, but will need more of their WR core to step up in the wake of Jeremy Maclin’s exit. OLBs Justin Houston, Dee Ford, and Tamba Hali lead an outstanding pass rush on the defensive side of the ball.
Prediction: 10-6 (6th Seed)
Trevor Siemian? Paxton Lynch? Who knows who the Broncos QB will be by mid-season, but either one has a decent set of skill players to work with. RBs C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, and Jamaal Charles are there. So are WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos will lean heavily on their defense yet again. OLB Von Miller will be a force like always — as will that secondary.
With RB Melvin Gordon and WR Keenan Allen returning from injury, TE Hunter Henry building off his solid rookie year, and the Chargers drafting some offensive linemen, QB Philip Rivers has the right to be excited about this offense. DE Joey Bosa is well on his way to being a megastar but a large chunk of the defense has questionable depth.
New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers
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