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Season 2,
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#38 The Annual NFL Season Preview (Biggest Episode Yet!) W/Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report

August 29, 2017


Just one week from Thursday, the 2017 NFL season kicks off with the Patriots hosting the Chiefs. In that spirit, we would like to start a little tradition here on Sports Krunch…an annual NFL season preview!!! Tonight, we will give you a division-by-division breakdown of the NFL with pressing questions for each team and predict how this 2017 season (the NFL’s 98th) will pan out. And to help us do so, it is a pleasure to welcome back to the program one of the best football minds in the business, Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report.

Before we begin, I want our listeners to know that Ian lives in the great city of Houston, and that our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you and everybody of southeast Texas as you begin the long recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Here is the link to the American Red Cross

Ian’s Twitter Handle: @NFLFilmStudy

  1. AFC East
  • Other teams told Albert Breer (MMQB) that they are not counting on the Edelman’s season-ending ACL tear to significantly weaken the Patriots, and I agree. Yes, Edelman brings an irreplaceable dimension to the Pats offense, but if they can win a Super Bowl without Gronk (like they did last year), they can certainly do so again without Edelman, especially given the juice they added in the offseason. Agree/disagree?
  • Is Jay Cutler an upgrade from Ryan Tannehill? Will he help the Dolphins return to the playoffs for the second consecutive season?
  • Which team is worse: Jets or Bills?
  1. AFC North
  • Aside from statistics, how does the return of Martavis Bryant make the Steelers offense even more dangerous?
  • If the big four (Ben, Bell, Brown, Bryant) stay healthy, are the Steelers the AFC team best equipped to challenge the Patriots, or will their defensive issues (especially in the secondary) prove too costly?
  • With improved weapons around Andy Dalton and in their recently underachieving pass rush, the Bengals have the potential to bounce back to their 2015 ways and challenge Pittsburgh for the division crown. However, their OL only got worse on paper during the offseason, and they gave up 41 sacks last year. Thus, this unit (especially OT’s Ogbuehi and Fisher) could make or break the season for the Bengals. Do you think the Bengals can still contend for the division if their OL doesn’t dramatically improve?
  • The Ravens have lost ten players to season-ending injuries since June 1. Do you think the Ravens will take another step backwards and end up with a top-10 pick in the draft, or do they essentially repeat last year’s 8-8 campaign?
  • Where would you set the over/under on Browns wins this season and do you take the over or under?
  1. AFC South
  • Which unit is more likely to carry their team to the division title: Titans offense or Texans defense?
  • Is 2017 another lost year for the Colts?
  • If the Jaguars win only five games or less this year, does Tom Coughlin fire Doug Marrone and Dave Caldwell and give himself total control over the Jaguars?
  1. AFC West
  • I remain very bullish on the Los Angeles Chargers this season. Despite injuries to Forrest Lamp (torn ACL), Mike Williams (probably will start year on PUP with back injury), and Denzel Perryman (likely to miss the first half of the season with ankle injury), this team arguably remains on paper the most balanced team in the division. You still have one of the best QB’s of this century in Philip Rivers and a load of skill position talent on offense. On defense, you have a unit built with a similar basic foundation as the 2015 Broncos with two shutdown CB’s (Jason Verrett and Casey Heyward) and arguably the best pass rushing duo in the league (Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.) Barring any other significant injuries, can the Chargers win the AFC West in 2017?
  • As much as I love the Raiders offense and think it will only get better, their defense outside of Khalil Mack still concerns me tremendously and that worry was further magnified the way the Rams carved them up in preseason week 2. Do you think the Raiders take a step back record-wise this year before they take the next big leap forward?
  • This is a bridge year for the Chiefs. If the Chiefs had Philip Rivers, they would probably be the most balanced team in the division (their roster depth/talent is within millimeters of that of the Chargers). Yes, the efficient but unspectacular Alex Smith will remain their QB this year, and they will unlikely reach the Super Bowl for that reason alone barring a miracle. But Patrick Mahomes’ performance this preseason has to give Chiefs fans optimism that they might have found the final piece that will eventually push this championship-caliber roster over the top. How optimistic are you on Mahomes?
  • The Broncos are a team stuck between past glory (much of their 2015 D remains intact and several young players can break out too) and future uncertainty (new HC, offensive uncertainty, especially QB and OL). Do you think the Broncos need to take a step back in 2017 in order to better determine their path going forward?  
  1. NFC East
  • Which unit is more likely to almost single-handedly carry their team to the division title: Cowboys offense or Giants defense?
  • Eli Manning looked washed up to many people last year. How much does he have left in your view?
  • Do you think Dak Prescott can take the next big step in his development, especially if Zeke Elliott isn’t there for the first six games?
  • How big of a distraction can the feud between Kirk Cousins and the Redskins front office be?
  • Can the Eagles contend for a wild card playoff spot this year, or are they still a year away from doing so?
  1. NFC North
  • Have the Packers made the necessary improvements on defense to get back to the Super Bowl?
  • Can Matthew Stafford deliver another MVP-caliber performance?
  • Will the Vikings OL block their pathway to the playoffs again?
  • When will we see Mitchell Trubisky this year? How optimistic are you about him after watching his preseason play?
  1. NFC South
  • Given the offensive firepower here, will the NFC South be the most competitive division in football this year?
  • How big of a leap can the Falcons defense take this year? Will it be enough to win back-to-back division titles?
  • Given their offensive arsenal and young defense that dominated the second half of the 2016 season, do you see the Bucs surpassing the Falcons and winning the NFC South, and do you think they can surprise and make it to Super Bowl LII?
  • Have the Saints done enough on defense to get back to the playoffs?
  • With the addition of Christian McCaffery and the return of the OL to full health, can the Panthers replicate their 2015 success on offense?
  1. NFC West
  • Do the Seahawks have one more Super Bowl run left in them, or are they a team in decline?
  • Is this the last hurrah for Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald?
  • What can we expect from Jared Goff in year two (first in McVay’s offense)?
  • How tough of an out will the 49ers be this year? I think they can be competitive in nearly every game given Shanahan and their promising young front seven on defense
  1. 2017 Predictions
  • League MVP: Aaron Rodgers
  • Offensive POY: Le’Veon Bell
  • Defensive POY: Aaron Donald
  • Offensive Rookie of the Year: DeShone Kizer
  • Defensive Rookie of the Year: Reuben Foster
  • Offensive Breakout Performance: Alshon Jeffery
  • Defensive Breakout Performance: Bradley Roby
  • Comeback Player of The Year: J.J. Watt
  • Division Champions: Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Chiefs (if Broncos don’t sign Kaep), Vikings, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Cowboys
  • Wild Card Playoff Teams: Falcons, Eagles, Texans, Broncos
  • Super Bowl LII Matchup and Winner: Patriots over Seahawks

And that’s all for today here on Sports Krunch with DKrom. But we’ll be back in a few days with some last-minute tips for your fantasy football draft with our good friend Jake Arthur, so stay tuned!! Also, be sure to check out the episode archive as well as an up-to-date blog of mine at sportskrunch.com!!! For Ian Wharton, our producer Chris Brodhead, man in the box, I’m David Kromelow saying so long and stay awesome!!!

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