This week, we're looking ahead to 2017:
Check out this list of rebound candidates and then answer the questions below it.
- Cam Newton
- Carson Palmer
- Eli Manning
- Blake Bortles
- C.J. Anderson
- Doug Martin
- Eddie Lacy
- Thomas Rawls
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Brandon Marshall
- Alshon Jeffery
- Randall Cobb
- Allen Hurns
- Tyler Lockett
- John Brown
- Tyler Eifert
- Julius Thomas
- Name and explain your three candidates most likely to rebound as fantasy starters next year.
- Name and explain your three least likely candidates for a starter level rebound next year.
- Explain which player's surroundings limits him far more than his talent.
Mostly Likely Rebounders
C.J. Anderson - There was a concern that one of the Denver backup running backs (Booker or Bibs) would assume the main rushing role when Anderson went down with a knee injury. The opposite occurred and neither back rose to the occasion, making Anderson the favorite for the role once again in 2017. Unless Denver drafts or signs a running back in the offseason, this is very much Anderson's role entering the summer.
Alshon Jeffery - I think the writing is on the wall that Jeffery will be on another team in 2017, a team that will look for him to assume the primary receiving role. If Jeffery is signed to the right team, with a capable quarterback, he could easily return to a Top 20 or 15 ranking in 2017.
DeAndre Hopkins - We've seen Hopkins perform well with even average or sub-par quarterback play. His struggles in 2016 reflect poorly on the abilities of Brock Osweiler. I would be shocked if Osweiler doesn't have competition next season. A journeyman, veteran quarterback would be a positive addition to the team which could elevate Hopkins game to his pre-Osweiler days. I can't see Houston being complacent in this area because ultimately that was the main reason for their offensive struggles in 2016.
- I agree with Chad that Cam Newton is a good candidate to rebound in 2017. The Panthers are not as bad as they've played this season, and there is still an incredible lack of talent surrounding Newton on their offense. With a couple key additions, Newton could still be a top five fantasy QB and the Panthers should be playing for a playoff spot next season
- Thomas Rawls. I'll put a '*' next to this and hedge saying 'If he stays healthy'. Rawls is a great kid and he runs with authority, but he just couldn't stay healthy this season. I love how physical he is and he is definitely a player that can go all the way any time he touches the ball. I do have to say that he is an injury risk though, and he will need to stay healthy to really reach his full potential. If you are going to draft him next season, you might want to look at handcuffing him with Prosise.
- DeAndre Hopkins - There's no doubt in my mind that a better QB would mean a return to greatness for Hopkins next season. Between Lamar Miller, Will Fuller and C.J. Fiedorowicz give Houston a pretty talented offense. If only they had someone to run the offense that wasn't named Brock Osweiler.
Like Will and Chad, I can easily see a rebound for Cam. MVP's don't lose talent quickly and with some good additions and a goodstartCarolina could easily revert back to 2015 form.
As mentioned the main problem with Tyler Eifert is getting and staying on the field. If fit, he rebounds easily into a top 5 Tight End
DeAndre Hopkins hasn't developed any chemistry with Brock Osweiler and it shows in his stats. If Osweiler is serious about staying in the Nfl long term he needs to let Hopkins do his work for him. Otherwise Tom Savage or whoever else the Texans bring in will get that opportunity.
John Mamula: Mine...
Cam Newton-Like Will, Chad and Andy, I expect Newton to rebound next season. Newton was overvalued heading into this fantasy season after his 2015 MVP season. The pendulum should swing in the other direction next season as you should be able to wait on a QB and land Newton in the later rounds.
Alshon Jefferey- This depends on where Jefferey is playing next season. The writing on the wall is there that his time is over in Chicago. Jefferey may be a WR2 with WR1 upside next season if he lands in the right offense.
Tyler Eifert- This depends on Eifert's health. Injuries have been the only thing holding Eifert back. He has missed 27 games over his first four seasons in the NFL.
Cam Newton: With youth, talent, a good coaching staff, and young talented receivers still learning their craft around him, there are plenty of opportunities to improve in coming years.
Tyler Lockett - With youth, talent, and outstanding quarterback working with him, he should be good to go as long as his leg injury heals properly.
DeAndre Hopkins - With youth, talent, and the clear-cut primary role on his team, Hopkins should benefit from Osweiler having another training camp and preseason. It was overly optimistic to think Osweiler would be top-10 in his first year in a new system.
Matt Waldman: I'll go with Randall Cobb, Thomas Rawls, and Alshon Jeffery. Cobb was dinged for a part of the season and the Packers were struggling to find its identity on offense early on. Jared Cook is a temporary answer for Cobb. Rawls has run hard and smart, but the offensive line was too far away from delivering on quick, Tom Cable tutorial like it did during 2015. We'll see greater continuity in 2017 even if he's sharing time with C.J. Prosise. Jeffery will likely land in a town with a good quarterback. Health is his greatest issue.
Least Likely Rebounders
Thomas Rawls - I'm not convinced that Rawls will be back to his 2015 level of performance. Seattle has no long-term commitment to him and they have other options who will assume a role in the running game, namely C.J. Prosise. Rawls rise to the top was primarily due to the Marshawn Lynch injury and the fact that Seattle didn't have many other options at the time. Now Rawls has injuries of his own and the Seahawks have other options. It's not a foregone conclusion that Rawls will return to an RB1 level in 2017. In fact, it seems more doubtful that he reaches that level again.
Blake Bortles - Bortles will have the benefit of a new coaching staff coming into Jacksonville. It's possible that the new staff will orchestrate an offense that is more conducive to his abilities and talents. It's also possible that the new staff will want to turn in a new direction and target a different quarterback that they would rather have running their offense. I don't see Bortles drifting off into the sunset, though, but his days as a starting quarterback could be numbered, if not over.
Carson Palmer - The veteran quarterback could potentially have another year in him, but he appears to be in the twilight of his career. The window for the Cardinals to earn a ring with Palmer (and also Larry Fitzgerald) is getting smaller with each passing week. I see Palmer fading more in 2017 than I see him rising to the heights he had in 2015 or earlier. If I'm Arizona, I'm definitely looking for a new quarterback to at least compete with Palmer, who will eventually be his replacement when his time to hang up his cleats comes.
- Carson Palmer - I think the years have caught up with him now and after 14 seasons, I think he has nowhere to go but down. With Larry Fitzgerald getting closer to retirement and a lot of question marks at the WR behind him, the Cardinals just have David Johnson to count on for their offense. If Palmer has to do more of the work himself, he's going to fail.
- Eddie Lacy is going to be a starter at the beginning of the season for Green Bay or some other team next season. But I see his performance next year as just an extension of this season - a ton of opportunity but little delivery. The Packers are desperate at RB and Lacy wasn't doing much before he was injured. With a full season to recover, he might begin the season at full strength, but it won't be long before the same physical issues catch up to him and he's struggling to be on the field and marginally effective when he is.
- Julius Thomas. He's going to be a starter next season, but he'll still be on the Jaguars and he'll still be a fraction of his former self. The back to back double digit TD seasons from his days in Denver are a pipe dream if he stays in Jacksonville.
John Mamula: Carson Palmer. I agree with many of the other staff writers. Palmer is past his prime and inching closer to retirement. His skills have declined and the offense now revolves around David Johnson.
Julius Thomas-Thomas may not ever become fantasy relevant again. He benefited from an elite passing offense in Denver for two seasons where he scored 12 TDs each year. Since those years, he has battled injuries and inconsistent QB play.
Allen Hurns- In his 3rd season in the league, Hurns experiences some major regression. After cracking 1000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs last season, Hurns currently has 477 yards and 3 TDs through 11 games played this season. With the healthy Marquise Lee in the fold, Hurns is relegated to a complimentary option moving forward.
Mark Wimer: Mine...
Brandon Marshall - He's old (32), has a chronic hip injury, and the Jets are bad and will be rebuilding (again) with a new coach (again) next year
Carson Palmer - He's ancient (37), and the surrounding talent melted away (John Brown, sickle-cell health issues; Michael Floyd, DUI/released). Larry Fitzgerald may retire. It's time for Palmer to hang up his cleats the Super Bowl window in Arizona has passed.
Julius Thomas - With a chronic back injury he's not good for 16-game seasons anymore.
Matt Waldman: I have to say that I disagree with all of you about Carson Palmer for the reasons you stated with the possible exception of Wimer, who mentioned one of the key points about Palmer losing surrounding talent. No one mentioned the state of the Cardinals' pass protection in this piece, which amazes me because it's probably the most important reason behind a good/bad play by a pocket quarterback. I don't know if the Cardinals will get enough surrounding talent for Palmer to rebound to top 5-7 production, but if this line returns healthy, I think a lot of you will have to do a mea cupla about "declining skills."
Explain which player's surroundings limits him far more than his talent.
Mark Wimer: Randall Cobb. He is surrounded by more talented receivers (Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams) and is having multiple injury issues. I don't think Cobb claws his way back up the depth chart in 2017.
Matt Waldman: I'm going with Allen Hurns. While many of you guys on this panel don't see him as a strong talent and cite regression due to touchdowns, I bet if Allen Robinson was put on this list, many of you would have cited him as the answer to this question or as a likely rebound candidate. Hurns has once again been playing with an injury and while Marqise Lee is out producing Hurns, he's out producing everyone on this roster—not really an indictment on Hurns.
As Chad mentioned earlier, if Hurns' one-year deal translates into an opportunity for him to go elsewhere sooner than later, I think he'll wind up on a better team with a better quarterback, and we'll witness a consistent performer much closer to 2015 Hurns.
John Mamula: DeAndre Hopkins. Brock Osweiler and Hopkins could not find the chemistry that made Hopkins one of the top fantasy WRs last season. After finishing the 2015 season with 1521 yards and 11 TDs, Hopkins is currently earning 831 yards and 4 TDs this season. The number that really stands out is 192 targets last season as compared to 140 targets this season. The cast of QBs in Houston last season was forcing the ball to Hopkins and he was catching those passes at a higher rate. Those that spent a 1st round pick on Hopkins more than likely didn't make it to their fantasy championship games this season.
I'm with Matt on Hurns. I would love to see what he can do on a different team with a more prolific offense. He has shown in the past that he can be a reliable receiving option capable of a Top 20 season when on a decent offense. I see Hurns in the same light as Marvin Jones. Imagine Hurns on Atlanta, New Orleans or New England. He would be a weekly fantasy threat on those teams with a chance to have over 100 targets with consistent production. He'll be one to watch when/if he has an opportunity with another team.
- Purely speaking from a fantasy perspective, who are your three most valuable free agents likely to hit the market after the season?
- Answer the same question solely from a non-fantasy perspective.
- List three free agents that will likely be overrated in 2017 as fantasy prospects.
- Where would you like to see Tony Romo in 2017?
Chad Parsons: LeVeon Bell is clearly the most valuable free agent this offseason, but I would be shocked if he is not a Pittsburgh Steeler next season. I project a fantasy value hit if he left the Steelers as his usage, especially in the passing game, is optimal now and he possesses a strong quarterback.
Alshon Jeffery is next up. I expect him to leave Chicago in search of a better overall team, quarterback, and to a sizeable pay raise. A situational upgrade is likely in terms of quarterback and offense, but his volume may drop with more viable targets around him compared to Chicago in recent seasons.
Kirk Cousins is another free agent atop his position. Like LeVeon Bell, I do not know how Washington would let him out of the building without, at worst, the franchise tag applied. Cousins has followed up his breakout 2015 season with an arguably better follow-up campaign. While DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon may be out of the Washington offense in free agency, Cousins is key to the offense bridging the gap to 2017 with Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, and potentially a new receiver via the draft or free agency.
Matt Waldman: I agree that Bell should not be mentioned anymore as a candidate, even if he becomes one. It'sno-brainer.
Jeff Haseley: Chad summed up this question pretty well. I'd also add that Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright could thrive on the right offenses. The success Britt had on the worst offense in the league is nothing short of astonishing. He exceeded 100 targets, 1,000 yards and he's on pace to reach 70+ receptions. Not too shabby for a player on a Rams team that averaged 14.5 points per game and 192 yards passing per game. Britt's success in 2016 will definitely lead to a big payday in the offseason. Hopefully, that's not his only motivation.
As for running backs, let's also add LeGarrette Blount, Danny Woodhead and Lance Dunbar to the free agent equation. I would be surprised if New England doesn't try to retain Blount. He's a perfect fit for their needs and it's also a landing spot that players will covet. Perhaps that will be enough to re-sign him at a somewhat discounted price? I don't see New England overpaying for him, though, which could ultimately be the reason why he signs elsewhere. If he does sign somewhere else, I would imagine his fantasy numbers will drop off dramatically.
Woodhead and Dunbar can be big additions to any team that uses the running back often in their passing game. Perhaps Indianapolis is a good landing spot for either player. I'd give Woodhead a higher percentage of staying with his current team than Dunbar. I think Dunbar will jump at the opportunity for increased playing time with another team that will best utilize his abilities.
- Terrance West became a legitimate fantasy player this season as the feature back of the Baltimore Ravens. He'll finish the season with over 1000 yards from scrimmage and at least six TDs. He's an RFA next year, and will most likely return to the Ravens as their feature back again in 2017. He probably won't be a feature back like some of the others that were mentioned here, but he'll be a solid fantasy player with a legitimate chance to crack the top 15 for fantasy backs.
- Terrelle Pryor is one of the most versatile players in the game, comfortable running, receiving or throwing the ball. He's been banged up this season, and he's playing for the worst team in the league, but he's done enough to earn a nice free agent contract for a team looking for a skilled offensive player. In the right kind of offense, Pryor can be dangerous. He had a great season despite all the challenges he's faced in Cleveland. If he finds the right system, he could be a big fantasy threat—especially in a full PPR league.
Andy Hicks: The three that fascinate me most are Latavius Murray, Eddie Lacy, and Robert Woods. The Raiders need a triplet to complement Derek Carr and Amari Cooper and Murray isn't that good. I expect the Raiders to take one in a rich class and allow Murray to leave. In the right circumstances, Murray could be very productive. Eddie Lacy has produced, but Green Bay is likely to let him test free agency following a couple of seasons of fitness issues. If Lacy has his head screwed on and is motivated I can see him succeed in Numerous places, but the Seahawks stand out as an opportunity to complement Prosise. Robert Woods has taken a few years to learn his craft and Buffalo isn't the best place for him to succeed. In the right offense, I expect him to come on in leaps and bounds.
Same question, but solely from a non-fantasy perspective...
Three likely overrated free agent prospects?
Where would you like to see Tony Romo in 2017?
Andy Hicks: Romo needs to end up with a side that needs a bridge QB. Arizona could be an option as Carson Palmer is done. The Jets may need a year or two out of someone, but a new coaching staff will dictate that. Buffalo could be an option, as could Chicago, Denver, or San Francisco.
Denver makes sense as Paxton Lynch could be ready at any moment, but having Romo improves the side instantly. Unfortunately behind that line it won't be for long.
Will Grant: As a Cowboy fan, I would love to see him back in Dallas as a backup to Prescott. The Cowboys bottomed out in 2015 because they couldn't find a serviceable backup QB to their starter.
If they cut Romo loose, aren't they just doing the same thing again with Dak Prescott? Can you really expect Mark Sanchez to be entrusted with the franchise? Are you going to go and draft another rookie QB after showing confidence in Prescott?
If they do move him, I think the teams that would want him the most are the places that he'd be the least successful: Cleveland or Chicago. Both teams have a LOT of rebuilding to do and Romo would be just a stop-gap until they found their QB of the future. Behind terrible offensive lines in bad weather, I think you're setting him up for failure.
Houston might be another option but after sinking that much money into Osweiler this off-season, why would they go after a guy like Romo? The #NarrativeStreet would be off the charts if that happened, though.
Matt Waldman: I like the Jets. The offensive line is good when healthy, Brandon Marshall has that tight coverage physicality that Romo will jibe with and I think Quincy Enunwa, Eric Decker, and Robby Anderson are massive upgrades to the Cowboys receiving corps. Add the trio of Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Brandon Wilds to the group, and I think this is a team capable of competing with the Patriots for the AFC East if it remains healthy.
Romo also gets a flexible offensive coordinator in Chad Gailey and the Dallas QB is used to the intense media spotlight that Dallas shines on football the way New York shines it on everything else. It's a good risk for a team that will need a young quarterback regardless of landing Romo or not. It gives the aging, but effective, veterans one more year to shoot for something big. If Romo gets hurt again, the Jets would have likely gone with a youth movement in 2017 anyhow so not as much lost.
Chad Parsons: I would like to see Tony Romo as a backup in Dallas, to be honest. His creaky back is a limiting factor and I doubt he holds up as a regular starter for long, a position he would have if changing teams. Any other team would be an offensive line downgrade from Dallas as well, which should be a key factor for Romo considering his physical state.
As of today, here's how the playoffs are shaping up:
AFC (Seeds are projections heading into Week 17)
- 1st Seed: New England
- 2nd Seed: Oakland
- 3rd Seed: Pittsburgh
- 4th Seed: Houston
- 5th Seed: Kansas City
- 6th Seed: Miami
- 1st Seed: Dallas
- 2nd Seed: Atlanta
- 3rd Seed: Seattle
- 4th Seed: Green Bay
- 5th Seed: New York
- 6th Seed: Detroit
- Potential contenders: Washington and/or Tampa Bay
Answer the following questions:
- Which conference is the toughest this year?
- Name the weakest (TB and Wash not included) teams from each conference?
- Name a team from each conference in the 3rd through 6th seeds (including the Washington and/or Tampa if you wish) that you would not want to face.
- Presuming Week 17 keeps Jene Bramel quiet, project the outcome of the playoffs and Super Bowl as well as notable players leading the way.
Which conference is the toughest this year?
Jeff Haseley: The NFC is the tougher conference, primarily due to all of the quarterback injuries on the AFC playoff teams.
Will Grant: I agree that the QB injuries on the AFC side make it 'easier' for teams to advance, except for the fact that Pittsburgh and New England are two of the toughest teams in the league and I wouldn't want to play either of them right now. Yes, any given Sunday and all that, but it's going to be really hard to beat Pittsburgh or New England at home this season.
Andy Hicks: I agree with the others and say the NFC. The depth is strong here, whereas some damaged or weak sides are in on the AFC.
Chad Parsons: The NFC is the tougher conference. I look at quarterbacks for playoff matchups and Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford as the two wildcard teams on the road in the first week offer upset potential. Both quarterbacks are used to leading comebacks and making big throws in key situations. On the flip side, Miami may have a backup quarterback (Oakland will for sure) in the AFC and Alex Smith - no offense - will be at a significant disadvantage in Round 1 compared to the other conference quarterbacks.
Mark Wimer: Houston's offense and Miami's defense are very suspect in the AFC, while NFC is high quality from top to bottom and the potential contender Washington has a powerful offense if they get in.
Matt Waldman: I'll take the AFC. New England, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City are strong teams with balanced offenses and veteran quarterbacks and coaches. The defenses have opportunistic players and at least two of them can generate a strong pass rush.
All three teams have excellent offensive lines. I can only say that about Dallas and Atlanta in the NFC. Seattle's offensive line is horrible and it's limiting the team's ability to control the ball and keep its excellent defense fresh.
Speaking of defense, let's not forget that beyond Vic Beasley, Atlanta's defense is missing its best cover corner and its linebackers are youthful and easily fooled. Green Bay's defense is a paper champion that cannot defend the run and it's very likely it will face Atlanta or Dallas and get exposed...AGAIN. Detroit's defense? I think that phrase is an oxymoron.
Yes, Houston is weak and Miami and Oakland are further weakened due to QB injuries, but I'll take the collective strengths of New England, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City over the volume of mediocre teams after Dallas and Atlanta in the NFC.
Besides, I'm an AFC guy at heart and I think all of you on this panel are fans of NFC teams with the exception of Mamula, who is one of those neurotic Steelers fans that I love to hate. NFC fans are snobs.
Name the weakest (TB and Wash not included) teams from each conference?
Will Grant: Miami is the weakest team in the AFC. They've strung together a decent season, but Matt Moore doesn't scare anybody and he has performed well in limited duty, but when the win or go home games start, I think he's going to be the same Matt Moore we all know and love and the Dolphins will be done.
On the NFC side, I think the Lions are in serious trouble and may not even make the playoffs this year. Green Bay is a buzz saw right now, and after being blown out by Dallas, they get to face the hottest team in the NFC in a game where the winner goes to the playoffs and the loser probably goes home. Even if they manage to win, I don't see them beating Dallas, Seattle or Atlanta on the road.
Andy Hicks: I'm going to surprise many and pick the Seahawks from the NFC. Without Earl Thomas, this defense isn't anything special and they can't run the ball. They beat three awful sides in their division to advance and they are 2-3 in their last 5 games. Not good enough to advance.
The AFC is much tougher. Miami, Oakland, and Houston all have QB issues. I will settle on Houston though as they are going to struggle unless they come up against the inexperienced and Carr-less Raiders
Matt Waldman: I appreciate the Seattle pick, but I think Russell Wilson is good enough and still has enough talent on offense to keep this team a dangerous opponent in one-and-done situations. I'll go with the Giants. Eli Manning is performing the worst among all the NFC contending quarterbacks and without a steadying force of a ground game, I don't like New York's chances.
I'll also agree with those who chose Houston. Tom Savage has the arm of a playoff quarterback and his aggressive tendencies could serve as a pleasant surprise, but it's quite a jump to reach the playoffs in his third career start and actually perform well. I'm not buying it.
John Mamula: In the AFC, the Texans are my choice for the weakest team. The Texans have thrived at home (7-1 home record) with their defense. They have struggled with offensive consistency all season. Inserting Tom Savage into the mix is unlikely to help. They beat the Chiefs 19-12 at home way back in Week 2. If these teams meet again in the playoffs, expect another low scoring game.
In the NFC, Detroit is the weakest team. The Lions have too many questions at running back and on defense to make any noise in the playoffs.
Mark Wimer: Houston is weakest by far. Weak offense, mediocre defense, they benefited from a low-quality division. Of the NFC teams, I'd say Detroit is weakest due to their lack of a reliable running game, with New York sharing the same flaw.
Name a team from each conference in the 3rd through 6th seeds that you would not want to face...
John Mamula: Heading into the playoffs, I would not want to face the Steelers or the Packers. Both offenses are thriving and will be tough outs.
Mark Wimer: New York is doing what they do when they make playoff runs - peaking at the right time of the season. They have really played well on defense lately, and defense wins championships.
Kansas City looks very powerful and Tyreek Hill has given the offense just enough 'boom' potential that Alex Smith doesn't have to rely on long, dink-and-dunk drives for points these days. Hill is the 'X' factor for Kansas City that makes them very dangerous in the NFL tournament.
Andy Hicks: If the Chiefs stay the 5th seed they should wallop the Texans and be hard to beat from there on. In the NFC, the Giants look like a playoff team. It would be most interesting to see another Patriots v Giants Superbowl.
Matt Waldman: I'm also going with the Chiefs. I've written about them as a dangerous contender three weeks ago and little has changed. I think this team has enough weaponry and coaching ability to overtake the Patriots or Steelers. The last matchup with Pittsburgh was a rain-soaked disaster before Kansas City discovered the merits of Tyreek Hill. I like how the Chiefs are structuring its offense and the return of key defensive pieces paired with youthful, athletic options makes this a team that can take the ball away and then keep it away from the opposite offense.
Will Grant: No question, Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is on a mission and thanks to a couple key losses, he has a chance to bring his team to the playoffs. They are getting healthy on defense, and their rag-tag offense is finding a rhythm. If they make the playoffs after 'running the table' like Rodgers predicted, they are going to have a huge amount of momentum going into the playoffs.
Chad Parsons: Pittsburgh and Seattle are the two teams I would not want to face. Super Bowl winning quarterbacks with strong track records and X-factors in the passing game (Antonio Brown and Jimmy Graham).
Jeff Haseley: Kansas City in the AFC. Provided the Chiefs stay the third seed, otherwise, they would not fit this category They are arguably one of the hottest teams in the league and have played well at home or on the road against top competition. They have a balanced team on both sides of the ball, plus one of the best special teams units in the league. They are a top option to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay in the NFC. The Packers are on a roll lately amidst a five-game winning streak heading into Week 17 against Detroit. Be afraid of any team playing at their peak in late December and early January. Green Bay is capable of beating anyone any given week as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy. They are more than capable of playing well against any competition they could potentially face in the playoffs, including top-seed Dallas.
Presuming Week 17 keeps Jene Bramel quiet, project the outcome of the playoffs and Super Bowl as well as notable players leading the way.
Chad Parsons: Pittsburgh beats Miami easily in the opening round with Kansas City escaping a low-scoring affair in Houston. The Steelers stay hot and beat the Derek Carr-less Raiders in Oakland by multiple scores. The Chiefs narrowly lose to the Patriots thanks to a strong defensive effort. The Steelers upset New England in the title game as LeVeon Bell goes for 200 total yards and, while the Patriots keep Antonio Brown quiet, Eli Rogers and JesseJamescome up big in the passing game.
The Lions miss the playoffs after losing the Green Bay in Week 17. The Redskins lose in Seattle to open the playoffs as Washington's defense allows 41 points. The Giants narrowly lose in Green Bay 27-21 as Eli Manning has the ball with a chance to win in the closing minutes but throws a back-breaking interception. Seattle travels to Atlanta and is the second team all season to limit the Falcons to less than 20 points (Philadelphia did it back in Week 10), winning by 10 points. Dallas rolls over Green Bay, rushing for 250 yards as a team at home. Seattle pressures Dak Prescott more than any team this season as Seattle upsets Dallas for the NFC crown.
The Steelers win the Super Bowl in a shootout with LeVeon Bell winning the MVP.
Jeff Haseley: No narrative, just data...
5 KC over 4 HOU
3 PIT over 6 MIA
5 KC over 1 NE
3 PIT over 2 OAK
3 PIT over 5 KC
4 GB over 5 NY
3 SEA over 6 DET/WAS/TB
1 DAL over 4 GB
2 ATL over 3 SEA
1 DAL over 2 ATL
3 PIT over 1 DAL
Will Grant: Data and commentary...
5 KC over 4 HOU
3 PIT over 6 MIA
1 NE over 5 KC
3 PIT over 2 OAK
1 NE over 3 PIT
4 GB over 5 NY
3 SEA over 6 WAS
1 DAL over 4 GB
3 SEA over 2 ATL
1 DAL over 3 SEA
1 NE over 1 DAL
Yes, a boring match of No.1 teams but it pains me to say that I don't think Dallas is as good as their record indicates, and they could very easily lose to Green Bay at home in the divisional round if the Packers keep rolling. The Patriots are solid and Tom Brady will find a way to win, no matter who he needs to get involved. I think Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will play well in the playoffs, but if they managed to make it to the Super Bowl, I think Brady and Belichick will too much for them to overcome.
Andy Hicks: In bullet points...
- With so many moving parts in play, it seems like folly to do this. The AFC west and NFC north are still undecided and the difference between being a 2nd seed, 5th seed or in the case of Detroit missing altogether makes this a futile mission.
- At this stage, I will predict the following:
John Mamula: Steelers and Patriots are on a collision course in the AFC. The winner of that matchup will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Expect Bill Belichick will make the necessary adjustments to limit both LeVeon Bell AND Antonio Brown. Tom Brady leads the way with 3 passing TDs as the Patriots beat the Steelers 31-17.
In the NFC, the Packers keep up their offensive momentum and find a way to beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. Aaron Rodgers throws for 4 TDs with 2 TDs to Jordy Nelson as the Packers win 38-24. In a Super Bowl XXXI rematch, the Packers get the victory over the Patriots as Rodgers outduels Brady. Rodgers is named Super Bowl MVP while telling everyone to "Relax, I'm going to Disney World."
Mark Wimer: KC vs. New England for the AFC Crown and KC advances to the Super Bowl. Atlanta vs. Dallas for the NFC Crown and Atlanta upsets the Cowboys to advance to the Super Bowl. Alex Smith and Andy Reid get their Super Bowl rings.
Matt Waldman: Kansas City takes Houston. The Texans put the clamps on Tyreek Hill, but Travis Kelce and Spencer Ware come up big in the passing game. Houston feels the wrath of an opportunistic Chiefs secondary and the pass rush.
Green Bay builds an early lead and Eli Manning does just enough to lose the game in an exciting thriller filled with offense. Seattle squeezes by one of the three teams that potentially earns the final seed. Jimmy Graham comes up big in any of these matchups and expect a few Tweets directed to me about Paul Richardson.
Kansas City beats New England, harassing Brady into multiple turnovers and one of those sack-fumbles or interceptions leads to a score. Tyreek Hill comes up big on special teams and Travis Kelce continues showing the Patriots what they're missing with Gronkowski in the training room.
Seattle should lose to Atlanta because they should have lost the previous game, but I think Atlanta's defense is worse off than Seattle's and Russell Wilson is far healthier than he was in the first game. Jimmy Graham comes up big, Doug Baldwin comes up bigger, and the Seahawks win a late-game squeaker.
Dallas runs over, around, and through Green Bay and the only think that looks close about this contest will be the final score thanks go Aaron Rodgers-led garbage time. Look for David Irving and Benson Mayowa to continue their surprising onslaught off the edge.
Pittsburgh edges Kansas City, but this is a far closer game than it was earlier this year. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Jeremy Maclin lead an offensive effort that keeps the Chiefs within three points until the final minutes. Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Rogers, LeVeon Bell, and Antonio Brown pace the Steelers but it's an unlikely score from one of its tight ends that ends the game. Look for a costly turnover from one of these offenses late in the game to be the difference in a see-saw affair.
Dallas beats Seattle thanks to Ezekiel Elliott, the play of the Cowboys offensive line, and a slow start by the Seahawks that renders a furious second-half rally by Russell Wilson moot. Dez Bryant and Cody Beasley pace the passing game.
Pittsburgh beats Dallas in a rematch of the regular season game. This time, Pittsburgh jumps to an early lead and Dak Prescott finally looks like a rookie for a few plays too many. Prescott brings Dallas within range to make this game but LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown slam the door with huge plays that break the backs of the Cowboys.