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6 questions on the minds of NFL fans – ANSWERED!

Vimeo - Chris Lardieri

By Bart “Gunn” Weber –

I recently wrote an article about the 6 questions on the minds of NFL fans as we barrel toward the start of the 2017 NFL season. The questions were left vaguely unanswered as they were just musings about what NFL fans found the most interesting topics leading into the 2017 season.

Well, today I answer them outright.

The top 6 questions on the minds of NFL fans get answered (…At least as I see it all turning out).

1. Will the Raiders be the class of the AFC?
I am now officially on record as saying that I think the Raiders are headed for a disappointing season.

The schedule, though manageable, is gonna be tough. They play the NFC & AFC East divisions and fortunately have the harder games all at home against the Patriots, Cowboys and Giants. However, the Raiders are going to go into every game other than the Patriots as the favorite. They wont have long to feel those expectations either, as they open the season at Tennessee against a team with a dynamic offense led by another talented young QB. After the Jets in week 2, they do not have what looks like a gimmie game until late October when they travel to Buffalo, a place where they’ve lost two straight.

The problem the Raiders will face is they have a defense that has some talent on the D Line but isn’t particularly strong at linebacker or in the secondary. They won a lot of shootouts last season and a lot of last second close wins, and its difficult to sustain that when the competition is better. With a lot of teams on the schedule that can attack you vertically they will find it tough to stop opponents on a weekly basis. Their offense is legit but as good as Marshawn was in the past, he is now 31, hasn’t played football in over and year and spent his last full season constantly hurt and looking as if he had run out of gas. Fantasy “experts” are predicting 1200 yards and 10-12 touchdowns for “Beast Mode” this season but I don’t see it. I cannot see him making it thru the entire season unscathed, leaving his young backups to carry the load.

Something has to give. The offense will regress a little despite the talent and the back-end of the schedule in particular is loaded with teams predicted to make the playoffs. The pressure on Carr to carry this team seems like too much for such a young player, even if he has shown the ability to handle it. If the losing starts that pressure just gets heavier. I like their weapons, but the offense will not have the luxury of carrying the team for 16 games and I don’t believe they have the defense to be able to make the timely stops they will need win low scoring close games. With the schedule and division getting tougher I feel this team will see some of those close wins go the other way. My prediction: 9-7; far behind the Patriots and other cream of the crop AFC Teams.

2. Can Marcus Mariota elevate his game and lead the Titans to the playoffs

Yes, and yes, I believe Mariota takes that leap to the next level and that the Titans make the playoffs in 2017.

Armed with elite speed, vision and accuracy, Mariota was provided new weapons around him and still has one of the better offensive lines in the league; all of these improvements are designed to help this kid take that next step into the upper echelon of QBs. And since he has entered the league he is tops in red-zone production with a 116.3 passer rating, 30 touchdown passes, no interceptions, a completion percentage of 65.4 and just two sacks.

Playing the AFC North and the NFC West, Tennessee has one of the easiest schedules in the league and will easily be able to take advantage of the weak division they are in.

Even if they were to start off 1-2 by losing the opener to Oakland and their home game vs the Seahawks two weeks later, they can easily recover and be 5-2 heading into their week 8 bye.

Bottom line is this team will go as Mariota goes and I for one think he is ready to show the league what is is made of.

I think they win the opener and start the season strong, setting themselves up for a playoff run that will have the entire state of Tennessee whipped up into a crazy frenzy. I see this team willing itself to 10 wins with some luck along the way.

3. Can Atlanta avoid the curse of the Superbowl loser and make it back to the playoffs?

This one is easy to answer and that answer is an emphatic yes.

Their offense is lethal with play-makers all over the field and a QB who is really becoming a mature leader.

It’s their defense that will be the different this season as they have a lot of guys who can force opposing offenses to make mistakes. In a wide open NFC, the Falcons will once again be back as the class of the conference and make another run at the Superbowl.

I’m not saying they will make it back to the big game, but they have a much better shot than most teams considering the talent and depth they added this off-season.

4. What are the Chargers doing in LA and does anyone care?

I am a believer in the Chargers this season and I think they can put together a string of quality wins but its not gonna be easy.

If they get out to a 3-1 or 4-2 start then LA fans who just love football will make it a point to make their way to Carson to watch the show. The schedule starts off tough and doesn’t let up for most of the season but this team if they can avoid any more key injuries has the talent to make some noise, especially within their division. Their front end of the schedule is littered with division games along with landmines such as the Eagles and Patriots, but if they can get out ahead of those division games they can put themselves in a great position going into their week 9 bye week.

With a defense that has play-makers on every level and an offense that has improved itself over the past year, the Chargers have enough skill to put up a winning season and with luck may even make a push for the playoffs. If they can avoid the self destructive mistakes that seemed to come every game, then they can pull out the close games instead of being on the losing end. Nine of their losses last season came under seven points and just looking at history, those stats are bound to turn around at some point. I believe the Chargers learn how to close out those close games this season and put themselves in position to make some noise come January.

5. Can Aaron Rodgers get over the hump and make it back to the Superbowl?

Green Bay is one of those teams that even with their deficiencies on defense or in the running game, they have Aaron Rodgers and he is the great equalizer. You know as long as Rodgers is healthy and in the lineup “The Pack” have a chance to win every game and compete for championships. I could sit here and evaluate the schedule for you and give you a breakdown of how things will play out but frankly none of that matters; Rodgers is so good he transcends schedules.

With that being said, I don’t think The Packers have the run game or defense that can win them a championship. They are going to have to get by the Cowboys, Falcons, Seahawks and whoever else rises up in the NFC this season, and as good Rodgers is, I don’t believe his coaches and management have put the necessary pieces to make them successful enough to get over the hump.

There is only so much one man can do, and even though I don’t think he’s going to the Show in 2017, Rodgers is going to show the world why they should never bet against #12.

6. Can AP really get back to being the AP of old?

As I stated before, AP will be playing in the best offense with the best QB of his career and won’t have to run straight into 8 or 9 guys on every run.

Whether he is playing to prove people wrong or because he truly wants to be back on the field, he has the opportunity this season to put together the kind of year similar to what Brett Favre did when he was in Minny, a magical string of performances that lead to a deep playoff run.

With Brees and that arsenal keeping defenses honest I believe 1200-1400 yards and 10 tds is absolutely achievable. I say he lands somewhere in the 1000-1100 yard mark barring injury and has closer to 8 tds, but for a man who was vilified for his off field issues and ridiculed for his on field slip in production, this could be a redemption season that puts New Orleans in the thick of the NFC race and cements AP as one of the greatest RBs of his or any generation.

 

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