NFL Preview: ’17 contenders to ’18 pretenders

By Mark Paulette,

Here are five teams that I see taking a step backwards this year in the NFL.

Pittsburgh Steelers –

First and foremost for the Steelers, they’re dealing with the hold out of Le’Veon Bell. Not only is there the obvious loss of talent as one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league won’t be on the field, should Bell return, he seems to have caused quite the storm within the locker room as other members of the Steelers feel like the running back has quit on the team.

Beyond the Bell situation, let’s not forget Big Ben struggled for large portions of last season.

And, how many times did Pittsburgh have to dig themselves out of double digit holes in the 3rd and 4th quarters of games to salvage wins?

I’m not saying Pittsburgh won’t make the playoffs, or even fail to win the AFC North, but I don’t see them being a true threat to the Pats in the AFC.

PREDICTION: 10-6

 

Kansas City Chiefs –

Tyreke Hill claimed that the Chiefs will have “the best offense in the NFL”, and like the Steelers, this is a team that could still find their way into the postseason, but I don’t see them posing any sort of threat in the AFC should they squeak in.

Alex Smith may not be the sexiest QB, but I think his absence will be felt as Patrick Mahomes, while he may be more talented, is more apt to lose the Chiefs a game.

KC faces a brutal start to the year with trips to the L.A. Chargers, Pittsburgh, Denver and New England, with home games against Jimmy G’s Niners and the Jags sprinkled in between. Not to mention late-season trips to face the Rams and the Seahawks.

PREDICTION: 9-7

 

Carolina Panthers –

Logic says the NFC South can’t have three teams with 10+ wins again and the Panthers seem to take a page out of Rick Porcello’s book with the “every other year is good” approach.

Cam Newton will be forced to carry this team because as dynamic as Christian McCaffrey is, he’s not a guy to turn and hand the ball to 25 times a game.

The Panthers O-Line is already beleaguered heading into the season and with a QB who doesn’t like to get rid of the ball quickly, that could spell trouble.

PREDICTION: 9-7

 

Tennessee Titans –

This is more a sign of respect for the AFC South than it is a knock on the Titans.

Every team in the division could make a play at the postseason. The Jags were minutes away from a trip to the Super Bowl, Houston has DeShaun Watson and its D healthy, and the Colts, while they don’t have much, have Andrew Luck back.

The Titans finished last  year losing 3-of-4 down the stretch, and averaged just 20.9ppg while allowing 22.3ppg. A split in the red like that won’t get it done in a highly competitive division this season.

PREDICTION: 6-10

 

Buffalo Bills –

Don’t forget, the Bills made the postseason last year as the 2nd Wild Card team and gave Jacksonville a run for their money in the first round, eventually falling 10-3 in Florida.

But I really shouldn’t have to explain myself here. Look at any projections, the Bills are ranked as the worst team in the NFL pretty much across the board.

Oh, and Nathan Peterman is their starting quarterback because they don’t trust Josh Allen…so they’re giving the ball to a guy who threw five interceptions in one half.

PREDICTION: 3-13