2017 NFC Preseason Playoff Predictions

By Connor Pignatello

For this post, I’ll be predicting each NFC team’s record for the upcoming NFL season, as well as predicting which teams make the playoffs. This is a continuation of my last article, which detailed my predictions for each AFC team in 2017.

After the season ends, I’ll revisit these predictions and analyze my incorrect picks. You can view my record predictions here.

Let’s get started!

NFC East

Division Winner: New York Giants: 11-5
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The Giants reached the postseason last year, and they figure to reach the playoffs again this year, thanks to their $200 million spree on defensive players last spring. This spring, the Giants signed veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall in free agency, forming one of the league’s most explosive receiving corps.

New York also retains its fearsome defense from last year, a unit that was top ten in the league both in points and yards allowed.

Big Blue should be able to squeak past the depleted Cowboys and capture the division title.

Other teams:

Dallas Cowboys: 10-6

The Cowboys won the division last year, but this year I predict they will make the playoffs as a wild card team, because of a much harder schedule and Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension.

Philadelphia Eagles: 9-7

The Eagles have a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, but they are still a year or two away from making noise in the postseason.

Washington Redskins: 6-10

Washington lost its top two receivers from last season and their shaky defense will prevent them from contending in the crowded NFC East.

NFC North

Division Winner: Green Bay Packers: 13-3
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Aaron Rodgers had possibly the best streak of his career last season, and at 33 years old he has not shown any signs of decline. During the Packers’ eight game winning streak from week eleven to the divisional round, Rodgers threw for 21 touchdowns against just one interception while averaging 298 passing yards per game.

The Pack have one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, one of the league’s deepest receiving corps, and a coaching staff that is always thinking of new ways to get past their opponents.

As long as the Packers have Rodgers at the helm, they will be one of the elite teams in the NFL.

Other teams:

Minnesota Vikings: 8-8

The Vikings fierce defense kept the team out of the NFC North basement last year, but the offense just doesn’t have enough playmakers to make a playoff run.

Detroit Lions: 6-10

The Lions magical 2016 season will be extremely hard to repeat, and without a top-half offense or a top-half defense, the team won’t sniff the postseason.

Chicago Bears: 2-14

The Bears are in full-rebuild mode and are years away from contending for a playoff berth.

NFC South

Division Winner: Atlanta Falcons: 12-4
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I believe the Falcons will escape the dreaded Super Bowl hangover (see Panthers, Carolina) because of the tremendous talent they have on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off of an MVP season, Devonta Freeman is now the highest paid running back in football, and linebacker Vic Beasley led the league in sacks last year.

Even though Atlanta lost its talented offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, they have retained the majority of their talent from last year. I believe that Atlanta is motivated by their Super Bowl collapse and I predict that they win the division for the second year in a row.

Other teams:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-5

The Bucs missed out on last year’s postseason because of a tiebreaker, but they added talent in both free agency and the draft, and are poised to make a run in the playoffs as a wild card team.

Carolina Panthers: 9-7

Carolina followed up their Super Bowl berth with a perplexing 6-10 campaign last year, but they’re healthy this year and will return to relevance.

New Orleans Saints: 8-8

The Saints, as always, will possess a top-five offense, but their bottom-five defense will hold them back.

NFC West

Division Winner: Seattle Seahawks: 12-4

I’m betting on Seattle to return to the postseason for the sixth straight year: a streak bested only by the Patriots and the Packers.

Seattle’s record-breaking defense just added another piece on September 1st: ex-Jet defensive end and Pro-Bowler Sheldon Richardson. The Seahawks own one of the best defenses in modern NFL history — the unit has ranked in the top five both in fewest points and yards allowed in each of the past five seasons.

I believe Russell Wilson will have a bounceback year, and the Seahawks will reach the ten-win mark for the sixth straight year.

The Seahawks always seem to be in the thick of things come playoff time, and I don’t expect that to end any time soon.

Other teams:

Arizona Cardinals: 10-6

Arizona reaches the ten win plateau thanks to David Johnson, who becomes just the second player in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.

Los Angeles Rams: 5-11

New head coach Sean McVay injects life into the Rams organization, and the team improves to 5-11.

San Francisco 49ers: 3-13

The Niners improve thanks to new head coach Kyle Shanahan, but still finish at just 3-13.

Final Conference Standings

Playoff Teams

Seed Team Record Tiebreaker
1 Packers 13-3
2 Seahawks 12-4 Head to Head Record
3 Falcons 12-4
4 Giants 11-5
5 Buccaneers 11-5
6 Cowboys 10-6 Head to Head Record

Non Playoff Teams

Seed Team Record Tiebreaker
7 Cardinals 10-6
8 Eagles 9-7 Head to Head Record
9 Panthers 9-7
10 Saints 8-8 Head to Head Record
11 Vikings 8-8
12 Redskins 6-10 Common game win%
13 Lions 6-10
14 Rams 5-11
15 49ers 3-13
16 Bears 2-14

2018 NFL Draft Order

Non-Playoff Teams

*SOS = Strength of Schedule

Pick Number Team Record Division Finish Tiebreaker
1 Jets 1-15 4th
2 Bears 2-14 4th
3 49ers 3-13 4th
4 Jaguars 4-12 4th SOS
5 Browns 4-12 4th SOS
6 Bills 4-12 3rd
7 Rams 5-11 3rd SOS
8 Dolphins 5-11 3rd SOS
9 Chargers 5-11 4th
10 Lions 6-10 3rd SOS
11 Redskins 6-10 4th
12 Bills (from Chiefs) 7-9 3rd
13 Colts 8-8 3rd SOS
14 Bengals 8-8 3rd SOS
15 Vikings 8-8 2nd SOS
16 Saints 8-8 4th
17 Ravens 9-7 2nd SOS
18 Panthers 9-7 3rd SOS
19 Eagles 9-7
20 Cardinals 10-6 2nd

Playoff Teams (based on record, because I didn’t predict the playoff games themselves)

Pick Number Team Record Division Finish Tiebreaker
21 Browns (from Texans) 9-7 2nd
22 Titans 10-6 1st SOS
23 Cowboys 10-6 2nd
24 Buccaneers 11-5 2nd SOS
25 Giants 11-5 1st SOS
26 Raiders 11-5 2nd SOS
27 Broncos 11-5 1st
28 Steelers 12-4 1st SOS
29 Seahawks 12-4 1st SOS
30 Falcons 12-4 1st
31 Patriots 13-3 1st SOS
32 Packers 13-3 1st

*Houston and Kansas City both traded away their 2018 first-round picks during the 2017 NFL Draft to Cleveland and Buffalo, respectively.

Special thanks to Pro-Football Reference for each team’s schedule, NFL.com for tiebreaker information, and ESPN for each team’s depth chart and transactions.

Russell Wilson photo attribution: By Larry Maurer – http://www.flickr.com/photos/larrymaurer/8195990017/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22773967

2017 AFC Preseason Playoff Predictions

By Connor Pignatello

Welcome back, NFL!!

In this article I’ll explain my picks for the 2017 NFL playoffs.

This year, the AFC is a very diverse conference, containing the league’s best (Patriots) and worst (Jets) teams within the same division. As always, there are teams on the rise (Raiders), teams who peaked last season (Dolphins), perennial contenders (Patriots), and dark horses (Titans).

In making these predictions, I’ll try not to fly too close to the sun. I hope to make these interesting, but in a makes-me-look-smart way, not a makes-me-look-stupid way. I want to look over the NFL landscape, like Icarus did when he built his wax wings, but not make his same mistake (predict something that completely backfires).

Here are my picks for this year’s AFC playoffs. You can view the spreadsheet that contains my record predictions for each team here.

AFC East

DIvision Winner: New England Patriots: 13-3
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Come on now, did you really think it would be any other team? Belichick and Brady have continued to dominate, and the duo won their fifth Super Bowl in February.

After that dramatic win, the Patriots improved their squad tremendously in the offseason by signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore and trading for receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks should cover for the loss of Julian Edelman to a preseason ACL tear.

The Pats look as invincible as ever. Anything less than a Super Bowl berth will be a disappointment for this juggernaut of a club.

Other teams:

Miami Dolphins: 5-11

After losing their starting quarterback to an ACL tear, the ‘Fins were forced to bring Jay Cutler out of retirement and don’t figure to participate in the postseason.

Buffalo Bills: 4-12

The Bills fired much of the front office in the offseason, and this lost organization will most likely add to its 17-year playoff drought.

New York Jets: 1-15

New York has the least-talented roster in the league by a large margin, and will struggle to win a single game.

AFC North

Division Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4

Pittsburgh’s already-lethal offense added a new component this offseason in Martavis Bryant, who will join Antonio Brown in a loaded receiving corps. Bryant, one of the NFL’s best deep threats and most athletic players, returns to the team after a year-long suspension for substance abuse.

In addition, the Steelers have continued to select defensive players early in the draft — this was their fifth straight year taking a defender in the first round. This approach has led to a very young defense (six starters are 25 or under).

The Steelers have a great mix of veteran talent on both sides of the ball in addition to many talented young players. Now that they are finally healthy, they have a great shot at reaching the Super Bowl.

Other teams:

Ravens: 9-7

Baltimore has been mediocre since their Super Bowl victory in 2013. That level of performance will not likely change any time soon.

Bengals: 8-8

The Bengals roster — especially the offensive line — was depleted severely in free agency, making it difficult for them to remain competitive in a difficult division.

Browns: 4-12

The Browns improved one of the league’s most talent-barren rosters by selecting ten players in this year’s draft — including three in the first round.

AFC South

Division Winner: Tennessee Titans: 10-6
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I believe this is “the year” for Tennessee, a squad that probably would have made the playoffs last year if not for an injury to Marcus Mariota in week 16. The Titans saw incredible growth from their star quarterback last season and should contend in the playoffs this year.

Tennessee also upgraded their receiving corps and defensive backfield in the offseason, both in the draft and in free agency.

If the young Titans can defeat contenders like the Seahawks (week 3) and the Steelers (week 11), they will prove that they are ready for the playoffs.

Other teams:

Texans: 9-7

Houston’s great defense will always keep them in games, but I think their offense improves just enough for them to squeeze into the playoffs as the sixth seed.

Colts: 8-8

Andrew Luck has not practiced yet after offseason shoulder surgery, and if he misses the first few weeks, the Colts will not be able to reach the playoffs.

Jaguars: 4-12

Without a clear-cut starting quarterback, the Jags will fail to top five wins for the seventh consecutive season.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: 11-5
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Now, here is where I get a little bit unconventional. The AFC West is a very crowded division, a division that I believe is the best in football. All four teams have the potential to make the playoffs — the Chiefs and Raiders reached the postseason last year, the Broncos won the Super Bowl two years ago, and the Chargers made the the playoffs in 2013.

In 2017, I predict that the both the Broncos and the Raiders finish 11-5, but Denver wins the division thanks to a tiebreaker (better division record). The Broncos still have a dominant defense, and I believe that Trevor Siemian will improve enough to allow the Broncos to recapture the division title.

Other teams:

Raiders: 11-5

Derek Carr contends for MVP, leading the Raiders to a playoff berth.

Chiefs: 7-9

Kansas City has lost their number one receiver and number one running back from last year — and face the third-hardest schedule in the league — meaning they’ll miss out on the 2017 playoffs.

Chargers: 5-11

After hiring a new coach and moving to Los Angeles, the Chargers have taken a leap forward, but their unsteady defense will hold them back.

Final Conference Standings

Playoff Teams

Seed Team Record Tiebreaker
1 Patriots 13-3
2 Steelers 12-4
3 Broncos 11-5 Better division record
4 Titans 10-6
5 Raiders 11-5
6 Texans 9-7 Head to Head Record

Non-Playoff Teams

Seed Team Record Tiebreaker
7 Ravens 9-7
8 Colts 8-8 Head to Head record
9 Bengals 8-8
10 Chiefs 7-9
11 Chargers 5-11 Head to Head record
12 Dolphins 5-11
13 Bills 4-12 Conference record
14 Browns 4-12 Head to Head record
15 Jaguars 4-12
16 Jets 1-15

Special thanks to Pro-Football Reference for each team’s schedule, NFL.com for tiebreaker information, and ESPN for each team’s depth chart.

Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger picture credit: By Keith Allison – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51367937

Stay tuned for my NFC Preseason Playoff Predictions, which will be released soon.