The Chant’s 2016-17 NFL Preview

Emmett Schindler and Michael Smith

The NFL rises once again as the season starts off this week. Teams show off new looks, with superstars switching teams, coaches moving across the country, and even the Rams moving to Los Angeles. With honor on the line, The Chant predicts the winners of each division in the league.


East: New England Patriots (13-3)-

Despite coming off a loss in last year’s AFC Championship game, the Patriots always spark the discussion of the top teams in the league, behind Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Rob Gronkowski. With Brady out for the first four games, the backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, will temporarily take over, as Belichick clearly noted in an interview. Garoppolo established his legitimacy in the preseason and, despite all the critics, will not lose all four games. The Patriots have made the playoffs 13 times in the last 14 seasons, winning four Super Bowls while appearing in six. As long as Brady and Belichick continue to hold their positions in the dynasty, the Patriots will stop at nothing to assert their dominance in the league.

West: Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)-

The Chiefs ended the last regular season on a great note, winning their last ten games. After easily taking down Houston in the first round of the playoffs, they simply did not have enough power or experience to take down the Patriots. Still, with an evolving defense and a solid running back depth chart, the Chiefs will only get better. Jamaal Charles posted some of the best numbers in the league for the first four games, but tore his ACL to end his season. He needs to stay healthy in order for the Chiefs to stay in the conversation as one of the top teams in the league. If their all-stars can stay healthy and the defense continues to give quarterbacks nightmares, the Chiefs will make some noise and surprise the ones who underestimate them.

North: Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)-

A team with possibly the most explosive offense in the league, the Steelers often fail to finish out the fight. The best wide receiver in the league, Antonio Brown, keeps getting better and better every season. Stars Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger need to stay healthy for the majority of the season for the Steelers to make it further into the playoffs. The struggles continues in their defense, as they ranked fourth worst in yards allowed per game and gave up nearly 20 points each week. Still, while the defense struggles, the Steelers’ elite passing game makes up for it with Big Ben’s huge arm and his wide range of receivers to choose from. Even with a few injuries, they should win this division and could add to their record all-time Super Bowl wins.

South: Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)-

Over the past ten seasons, the Jaguars never made a real name of themselves, finishing in the bottom of the league continuously. Even so, after one of their most confident seasons, they look to finally make a run at the playoffs. Quarterback Blake Bortles shocked fans last year, passing for over 4,400 yards and throwing 35 touchdowns. Receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns lit up the field with their electric catches and threats of going deep. The offense continues to develop and puts up good points every game, but the defense still needs some work. In the least competitive division in the league, the Jaguars should claw by with ease, but will have to overcome the common thought of being underdog in almost every game.


East: Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

With the best offensive line in football, a solid defense, one of the best 5 receivers in the NFL, and an exciting, talented stable of running backs, the Cowboys should cruise through a weak division. Their competition consists of a capped out, moderately talented, Tom Coughlin-less New York Giants, a high flying Washington Redskins offense led by a lot of receivers and a quarterback with one good season under his belt, and whatever the Eagles have left on their roster.

West: Seattle Seahawks (14-2)

This defense lost a step in the past two seasons, but Russell Wilson also elevated his game in response, transcending from a game manager who fed Marshawn Lynch 30 times a game to one of the three best quarterbacks in football. The offense found an exciting chess piece in second year receiver Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin looked nearly unstoppable as Wilson’s go-to target during the second half. Furthermore, Jimmy Graham started fully practicing after tearing his patellar tendon last season, and the offense returns a running back who nearly rushed for 1000 yards last season — all while serving as a backup. The defense still has the best group of defensive backs in the NFL, and a decent if unspectacular front seven. The more one examines this Seahawks team, the more intimidating the roster looks.

North: Green Bay Packers (13-3)

The Vikings lost their starting quarterback, the Lions lost Calvin Johnson, and the Bears still have Jay Cutler. The Packers also get to work with one of the easier schedules in the league. The team barely missed out on a division championship last season without their top two receivers for much of the season. Now the receiving core has better depth and experience from top to bottom and star running back Eddie Lacy has rededicated himself to maintaining a healthy playing weight. The defense’s talent and experience should do enough for a squad that barely missed out on the NFC championship last season.

South: Carolina Panthers (13-3)

A team that narrowly missed out on an undefeated season in 2015 plays a harder schedule this year, and the Panthers will not sneak up on teams like they did through most of last season. Carolina lost its best cornerback, but returns its best receiver from injury and still boasts last season’s MVP and one of the top three or four defenders in the league with linebacker Luke Kuechly. The defense should return to a top three level next season, and the offense should only improve. The overall talent, combined with a stellar coaching staff, should lend to a clinching playoff spot for the Panthers in 2016. Throw in the fact that Carolina plays a halfway-rebuilding, defense-less New Orleans, an on-the-rise but still far off Tampa Bay squad, and Julio Jones twice, Carolina’s toughest contests will come from outside the division and in the playoffs.