The 2017 NFL regular season is in the books, and the playoffs officially begin on Saturday with the Tennessee Titans facing the Kansas City Chiefs during the first game of Wildcard Weekend. What were the biggest surprises and disappointments of the season? How did preseason predictions hold up? Who’s winning the Super Bowl this year? Who’s going to be the MVP?
The TECKnical Foul cast breaks all of that down, and more, ahead of the first NFL playoff game.
1. Biggest surprise of the 2017 NFL season?
Tim: To me, the biggest surprise of the NFL season had to be the resurgence of the running back position. Rarely does a single NFL draft produce so many quality players at a single position as we saw from this season’s crop of rookie ballcarriers. This year’s running back class has made running the ball relevant in the NFL once again. From high draft picks like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook (before his injury) to Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, this class of backs hit the ground…running and never really looked back. In addition to these rookies, you can’t forget guys like MVP candidate Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman and the injured David Johnson. All together, you have a talented group of running backs poised to take their shots at the record books for years to come (if they continue trending the way they are).
Eric: The biggest surprise of this NFL season was the perception that we’ve reached the tipping point in regards to the NFL’s popularity. This is the first year where the NFL’s problems and controversies completely overshadowed the on-field product. The combination of the ongoing issues with concussions and CTE lawsuits, player protests during the national anthem, season-ending injuries to many of the leagues established stars, the in-fighting between owners and the commissioner’s office and the general incompetence of the commissioner himself all contributed to drive away many lifelong fans. Loyal listeners will note that I’ve personally been “out” on the NFL for the last two seasons, but I genuinely didn’t expect so many others to join me in my displeasure so quickly.
Camille: It has to be how dominant the Los Angeles Rams were. Going into the season, I thought they were going to be the worst team in their division (yes, worse than the San Francisco 49ers), but can you blame me? The Rams haven’t had a winning season in over a decade, they hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2004, and they started last season 3-1 before finishing the season with a 4-12 record. These 2017 Rams are the real deal and seeing them put it all together after years of mediocrity with Jeff Fisher was a pleasant surprise.
Ken: I have to agree with Camille, the biggest surprise this season was definitely the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams were one of the worst franchises over the past decade so to see where they are now is impressive. This young team is built around Jared Goff, a young quarterback who’s balling out of control; Todd Gurley , who’s a legitimate MVP candidate; and, a top notch defense, led by All-Pro DL Aaron Donald. This team was years in the making and it just took getting rid of Jeff Fisher to put it all together.
2. Biggest disappointment of the 2017 NFL season?
Tim: Plain and simple, the copious amount of injuries to star players across the league. A team made up of players that wound up on the injured reserve list would make a legitimate team that would easily dominate the league. You had superstars like Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt, Carson Wentz, Odell Beckham, David Johnson, Allen Robinson, Joe Thomas, Deshaun Watson, Eric Berry, amongst other stars lost for the season. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time so many high caliber starters were injured in the same season. For some teams it killed their entire season, for other teams it was a slight bump in the road, and for the Eagles…we’ll see in two weeks.
Eric: The biggest on-field disappointment of the 2017 NFL season has to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Many saw the Buccaneers as a dark-horse Super Bowl contender and they failed to win six games all year. Other disappointing teams like the Oakland Raiders could blame injuries to key players, but the Buccaneers were relatively healthy and still failed to meet expectations.
Camille: There are a number of different directions I could go here. I could talk about the sheer amount of injuries in the game, how much of a letdown the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were or Derek Carr’s poor season. Instead, I’m going to highlight the fact that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t signed this season. Here are some quarterbacks who started this season: Tom Savage, Nathan Peterman, Josh McCown, Drew Stanton, and Brian Hoyer. Crazy thing is...the list of subpar quarterbacks I could name includes more than just those five. I understand that it’s difficult to bring a new quarterback in during the middle of the season and expect them to pick up the offense immediately, but Kap deserved the opportunity to try.
Ken: The Dallas Cowboys. The 2016 Cowboys featured a great one-two punch with then-rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, which raised the expectations for this season. The reality of the situation is that last year’s potential didn’t translate over into this season. Between Prescott’s on-field struggles and Elliott’s off-field problems, the team never had a chance to put it all together. Last season gave Cowboys fans a glimmer of hope but this year’s edition looked like the Cowboys of old. I’m not sure how they still call themselves “America’s Team,” because they haven’t been a consistent winner in over 20 years.
3. How did you do with your playoff predictions?
Tim: Man listen…my predictions for the AFC we’re pretty spot on with the exception of the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, but the NFC?! Those predictions make it look like I was drunk walking home with strangers spouting nonsensical gibberish! It was awful! I only correctly predicted two of the six playoff teams (Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings). The Bills really came out of left field and that could be because of—or in spite of—the coaching staff there (which makes very questionable decisions but c’est la vie). The Jaguars are my favorite team that’s not my team and I expected them to do well but not THIS well; they dominated the AFC South with awesome play and some bad luck in Houston.
Eric: I correctly “guessed” 50% of the playoff teams in both the AFC (New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and Pittsburgh Steelers) and NFC (Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings), which is pretty good considering I hardly watched any football in 2016.
Camille: Not great, Bob. I correctly predicted three of the six AFC playoff teams (New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tennessee Titans) but only one of the six NFC teams (Atlanta Falcons). Injuries ruined everything for my predictions. I still can’t believe that the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and Los Angeles Rams turned out to be THAT good this season or how consistent the Carolina Panthers were after starting the season poorly. The New Orleans Saints are proof of how a respectable defense is all you need with a Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback. You hear that Green Bay Packers?! Get that man Aaron Rodgers a respectable defense...
Ken: My playoff predictions were horrendous. I only predicted three teams correctly...period (New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tennessee Titans). I was very surprised that the Green Bay Packers didn’t make the playoffs at all considering they were Super Bowl contenders. The Minnesota Vikings were a surprise because I expected them to be good but not at this level. The Philadelphia Eagles, led by Carson Wentz, were lights out. It sucks that he got injured because with him, I believe they were Super Bowl favorites. So yeah, my predictions were off but that’s the nature of the sport; you can make it to the playoffs one year and be out the very next.
4. How will the playoffs unfold?
Tim: Honestly, it’s up in the air. The door is wide open for teams to take their shot at the Lombardi Trophy with injuries to some key players for the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles teams. Without Carson Wentz, I don’t see the Eagles making it past a team with a good defense (and four of the five opposing teams in the NFC have pretty good defenses). Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams probably have the best shot to the Super Bowl outside of the Minnesota Vikings. I expect the Vikings to beat the Rams in the NFC Championship Game but ultimately lose the Super Bowl to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Eric: Prior to Carson Wentz’ and Antonio Brown’s injuries, I thought we were headed for an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl but now I think that the Vikings will get through the NFC en route to a home Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. I don’t want to live in a world where the MAGA Patriots are back-to-back champions so for the first time in my life, I’m saying “GO VIKES!” (note: Given the report of dissension in New England between Brady and Belichick, I would love to pick against the Pats; but I don’t think there is anyone in the AFC that is good enough or healthy enough to take advantage of it.)
Camille: We have eight teams in the playoffs this year that didn’t make it last year—EIGHT out of twelve. That’s crazy! I don’t think there’s any real front-runner this year due to injuries but here are my predictions: the AFC Championship Game will be the New England Patriots defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars and the NFC Championship Game will be the Los Angeles Rams defeating the Minnesota Vikings. I hate to say it, but I have the Patriots winning it all this year too.
Ken: One of the things that I love the most about the NFL is how much parity there is; unlike the NBA, where you know who will be in the Finals before the season even starts. As others have said, it’s really all up in the air as to who will win it all, so I think it’ll be an extremely entertaining postseason. I have the New England Patriots coming out of the AFC and the Los Angeles Rams coming out is the NFC. You can never count Tom Brady out but because of the Rams style of play, I think that the Rams win it all.
5. Who should win the year end awards?
Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Tim: Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Eric: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Camille: Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Ken: Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Offensive Player of the Year:
Tim: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Eric: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Camille: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Ken: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive Player of the Year:
Tim: Calais Campbell, DL, Jacksonville Jaguars
Eric: Calais Campbell, DL, Jacksonville Jaguars
Camille: Aaron Donald, DE, Los Angeles Rams
Ken: Calais Campbell, DL, Jacksonville Jaguars
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Tim: Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
Eric: Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
Camille: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
Ken: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
Coach of the Year:
Tim: Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
Eric: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Camille: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Ken: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Tim: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Eric: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Camille: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Ken: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Bonus: How’d you do in fantasy football this season?
Tim: I played in two leagues and it was straight dumpster juice in one league but I made it to the championship game in the other league with a team that was completely auto drafted. I recouped my entry fees on the season so it wasn’t too terrible, right?
Eric: Didn’t play...I’ve reclaimed my time (on Sundays).
Camille: Surprisingly well given that I stopped actively playing around Week 4. I literally just played guys who weren’t injured or on a bye week and the I wouldn’t look at my team again until the next week. That being said, I STILL ended up being a game away from the championship game in my main league (I’m pretty much a FF boss). Given my complete disinterest in fantasy football this season, this was probably my last year playing.
Ken: Decent. I was in four different leagues and although I finished in last in one, I finished in second in two and first in the other. I’m still salty that I came in last in that league, since it involved other podcasts but there’s always next year...and you can never count out K. Harris Da Gentleman.