Hey guys! The NFL season will kick off in just a couple weeks and I can’t wait for the action to get started. I recently posted my season predictions on my website johnriker.com, so today I’ll piggyback off those and give my seven boldest predictions for the season. Let’s go!
Number one- the Dallas Cowboys will go to the Super Bowl. I said this last year minutes after the Cowboys fell to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs, and now I really believe it. I believe the Cowboys will be the best team in the NFC, and it comes down to three factors- firepower, stability, and opportunity.
Firepower- To reach the Super Bowl, you need playmakers on both sides of the ball and talent at the skill positions. Last year’s Super Bowl contestants, the Falcons and Patriots, had those blue-chip talents and ranked among the league’s best units on the two sides of the ball. Talent reigns supreme in the NFL.
That’s why Dallas, a team that won an NFC-leading 13 games last year, is primed to be a contender. The Cowboys found two offensive studs in quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, and these two players combined with the league’s best offensive line and talent out wide in the receiving core to give Dallas an offense that no team wanted to face. With Elliott, a bruising runner, in the backfield and a poised and mistake-free quarterback in Prescott taking snaps, the Cowboys boast an efficient ground-and-pound attack that both generates points and can sustain lengthy drives and keep the ball out of opponents’ hands. With another year under their belts, I’d expect Prescott and Elliott to have further growing pains, but to also develop other aspects of their games. The defense also added some intriguing pieces and ranked fifth in points allowed last year. And Dan Bailey, the Cowboys’ kicker, is one of the most reliable kickers in the game and gives the Boys an edge late in the fourth quarter or in overtime.
Stability- Now, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t considered the dictionary definition of stability, but I believe that the team will sustain its success from last season because of a more stable locker room. The Cowboys won 12 games in 2014, 4 in 2015, and 13 games in 2016, but that trend of inconsistency should end this year. The ball control offense gives the Boys’ consistent offensive production and also benefits the defense, which is better rested when the opposing offense comes onto the field. The leadership is superb- coach Jason Garrett and tight end Jason Witten lend experience and consistency to the organization.
Opportunity- The NFC is anyone’s for the taking this season and the Cowboys are best positioned to take the crown. The reigning champions, the Falcons, lost their offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, and take a step back this season. The Packers are a weak team outside of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks’ regression the past couple seasons is obvious and seems irreversible. Carolina and Arizona both missed the playoffs in 2016 and should be in the playoff mix, but a Super Bowl berth is a stretch with their roster holes. Perhaps the toughest roadblock will be the New York Giants, who beat the Cowboys twice last year and boast a top-notch offense and defense. But this is the year of the Cowboys, and I believe that they will defeat their NFC East foe when it matters most.
I’m penciling in a 10-6 record for the Cowboys, second in the division behind the Giants and the first wild card spot. In the playoffs, Dallas will topple Green Bay in the Wild Card Round, defeat top-seeded Carolina in the Divisional, and edge by the archrival New York Giants in an epic NFC Championship bout. I’m saying it now- the Cowboys will be in Super Bowl LII! While I do pick the New England Patriots to win another title, I would be overjoyed if Dallas could win Super Bowl number six and they would certainly present a challenge for the Patriots.
Elsewhere in the NFL…
- Tennessee and Tampa Bay will end playoff droughts. The Titans, led by Marcus Mariota, will win the AFC South with eleven wins, while Jameis Winston’s Buccaneers will sneak into the NFC playoffs as the last wild card.
- Derek Carr, Aaron Donald will take the awards stage- I’m predicting an MVP award for Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who was in contention for the award last year before a season-ending injury. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald will win Defensive Player of the Year under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
- Baltimore will win AFC North title, but Steelers will get the last laugh- The Ravens will ride a top-tier defense and rejuvenated running attack to 11 wins, but will fall to archrival Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Round.
- Carolina will win 13 games– I foresee a huge bounce-back from the Panthers, who went from NFC Champion in 2015 to 4th in the NFC South in 2016. Carolina will experience an offensive resurgence and the defense will be one of the league’s best, but it won’t be enough in the playoffs when the Cowboys come to town.
- The Browns won’t be the worst team- That title will go to the New York football Jets, who will finish with only one win and earn the top pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. Don’t get too excited Browns fans- you’ll only be one win better.
- The AFC West will see a major shake up- Last year’s division winner, Kansas City, will fail to post a winning record and finish fourth out of the four teams. The Chargers, in their first season in Los Angeles, will post a winning record and finish second with a 9-7 record. Oakland will win the division with 12 wins, while Denver will finish third with nine wins.
That’s it for my predictions! Leave your picks in the comments below, make sure to subscribe, and I’ll see you round!