cover32’s way too early 2017 NFL predictions

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Nov 15, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) runs the ball against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Vikings defeated the Raiders 30-14. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) runs the ball against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Vikings defeated the Raiders 30-14. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

What did you say; the 2016 season just ended? That must mean it is time to look ahead towards the 2017 season by putting together cover32’s best and brightest prognosticators’ predictions and see who has the best crystal ball.

Obviously predictions this far in advance are more for fun than anything; sometimes though, the earliest of predictions turn out to be the most accurate.

Below will be the divisional winner prediction, the wild-card team prediction, the Conference Championship prediction and the Super Bowl LII prediction from each writer involved. Each writer will add an explanation as to why they have chosen the way they have as well.


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Justin Ekstrom:

NFC

North Champion:  Green Bay Packers (one seed)
East Champion:  Dallas Cowboys (four seed)
South Champion:  Carolina Panthers (three seed)
West Champion:  Seattle Seahawks (two seed)
Wild-Card:  New York Giants (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Packers
Two seed and first round bye:  Seahawks
Three seed Panthers defeat six seed Buccaneers
Four seed Cowboys defeat five seed Giants

Divisional round:
Packers defeat Cowboys
Seahawks defeat Panthers

NFC Championship:
Packers defeat Seahawks

AFC

North Champion:  Pittsburgh Steelers (one seed)
East Champion:  Did the Patriots switch divisions? No? Okay, Patriots then. (two seed)
South Champion:  Indianapolis Colts (three seed)
West Champion:  Oakland Raiders (four seed)
Wild-Card:  Denver Broncos (fifth seed)
Wild-Card:  Baltimore Ravens (sixth seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Steelers
Two seed and first round bye:  Patriots
Six seed Ravens defeat three seed Colts
Five seed Broncos defeat four seed Raiders

Divisional round:
Steelers defeat Ravens
Patriots defeat Broncos

AFC Championship:
Steelers defeat Patriots

Super Bowl LII:
Packers defeat Steelers

Thoughts:  This is the mother of all curses as I want nothing to do with the Packers winning it all in the home of the Vikings, U.S. Bank Stadium. If they do, I take full responsibility for admitting this was all to curse them; the football gods can be fickle and cruel.

Jacob Infante:

NFC

North Champion:  Green Bay Packers (two seed)
East Champion:  Dallas Cowboys (one seed)
South Champion:  Atlanta Falcons (four seed)
West Champion:  Seattle Seahawks (three seed)
Wild Card:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (fifth seed)
Wild Card:  New York Giants (sixth seed)

Playoff matchups:

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Cowboys
Two seed and first round bye:  Packers
Three seed Seahawks defeat six seed Giants
Five seed Buccaneers defeat Four seed Falcons

Divisional round:
Cowboys defeat Buccaneers
Packers defeat Seahawks

NFC Championship:
Packers defeat Cowboys

AFC

North Champion:  Pittsburgh Steelers (two seed)
East Champion:  New England Patriots (one seed)
South Champion:  Tennessee Titans (four seed)
West Champion:  Oakland Raiders (three seed)
Wild Card:  Kansas City Chiefs (five seed)
Wild Card:  Baltimore Ravens (six seed)

Playoff matchups:

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye: Patriots
Two seed and first round bye:  Steelers
Three seed Raiders defeat six seed Ravens
Five seed Chiefs defeat four seed Titans

Divisional round:
Patriots defeat Chiefs
Raiders defeat Steelers

AFC Championship:
Raiders defeat Patriots

Super Bowl LII:
Packers defeat Raiders

Thoughts:  2017 will be the year of the young quarterback. Teams like the Raiders, Buccaneers, Cowboys and Titans will all make the playoffs on the shoulders of youthful signal-callers. In the end, however, it will be Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers that reign supreme.

Heather Hilley:

NFC

North Champion:  Green Bay Packers (three seed)
East Champion:  Dallas Cowboys (two seed)
South Champion:  Atlanta Falcons (one seed)
West Champion:  Seattle Seahawks (four seed)
Wild Card:  Carolina Panthers (fifth seed)
Wild Card:  Washington Redskins (sixth seed)

Playoff matchups:

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye: Falcons
Two seed and first round bye: Cowboys
Three seed Packers defeat six seed Redskins
Five seed Panthers defeat four seed Seahawks

Divisional round:
Panthers defeat Falcons
Packers defeat Cowboys

NFC Championship:
Panthers defeat Packers

AFC

North Champion:  Baltimore Ravens (four seed)
East Champion:  New England Patriots (one seed)
South Champion:  Indianapolis Colts three seed)
West Champion:  Oakland Raiders (two seed)
Wild Card:  Kansas City Chiefs (five seed)
Wild Card:  Cincinnati Bengals (six seed)

Playoff matchups:

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Patriots
Two seed and first round bye:  Raiders
Six seed Bengals defeat three seed Colts
Five seed Kansas City Chiefs defeat four seed Ravens

Divisional round:
Patriots defeat Bengals
Raiders defeat Chiefs

AFC Championship:
Patriots defeat Raiders

Super Bowl LII:
Patriots defeat Panthers

Thoughts:  I dubb next season as the Year of the On The Road Wins. Carolina has a great quarterback, coaching staff and a solid defense, and will be back in the playoff fold. What more can I say about New England? They’re winners with a just peaking 39-year-old quarterback, solid staff and virtually the same roster as the 2016 season. Even though I foresee the Raiders as real competitors of the Patriots, at the end of the day, it’s another New England and Carolina matchup.

Miles Dittberner:

NFC

North Champion:  Minnesota Vikings (two seed)
East Champion:  Dallas Cowboys (one seed)
South Champion:  Atlanta Falcons (three seed)
West Champion:  Arizona Cardinals (four seed)
Wild-Card:  Washington Redskins (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Seattle Seahawks (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Dallas Cowboys
Two seed and first round bye:  Minnesota Vikings
Six seed Seahawks defeat three seed Falcons
Four seed Cardinals defeat five seed Redskins

Divisional round:
Vikings defeat Seahawks
Cowboys defeat Cardinals

NFC Championship:
Vikings defeat Cowboys

AFC

North Champion:  Pittsburgh Steelers (three seed)
East Champion:  New England Patriots (one seed)
South Champion:  Tennessee Titans(four seed)
West Champion:  Oakland Raiders (two seed)
Wild-Card:  Kansas City Chiefs (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Indianapolis Colts (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Patriots
Two seed and first round bye:  Raiders
Three seed Steelers defeat six seed Colts
Five seed Chiefs defeat four seed Titans

Divisional round:
Raiders defeat Chiefs
Steelers defeat Patriots

AFC Championship:
Raiders defeat Steelers

Super Bowl LII:
Vikings defeat Raiders

Thoughts:  This the year the Vikings put it together. After a magnificent start to the season in 2016 the wheels fell off after their bye. Rick Spielman and the Vikings will tighten down the lugs in the offseason and cruise to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in 2017; being the first team to host and play in the NFL’s championship game.

Much like the Vikings, the Raiders started 2016 with a bang, but were unable to complete the coup d’etat down the stretch after losing Derek Carr for the remainder of the season. A healthy Carr in 2017, with some key offseason additions to the Raiders’ defense, will make them the team to beat in the AFC. They will finish what they started in 2016 and experience their first Minnesota winter as they secure a spot in Super Bowl LII.

In the end, having home field advantage will pay dividends for the Vikings as they earn their first NFL title in five tries.

Philip Robinson:

NFC

North Champion:  Detroit Lions (two seed)
East Champion:  Dallas Cowboys (one seed)
South Champion:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (three seed)
West Champion:  Seattle Seahawks (four seed)
Wild-Card:  Philadelphia Eagles (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Green Bay Packers (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Cowboys
Two seed and first round bye:  Lions
Six seed Packers defeat three seed Buccaneers
Four seed Seahawks defeat five seed Eagles

Divisional round:
Cowboys defeat Packers
Lions defeat Seahawks

NFC Championship:
Cowboys over Lions

AFC

North Champion:  Pittsburgh Steelers (four seed)
East Champion:   New England Patriots (one seed)
South Champion:  Houston Texans (three seed)
West Champion:  Oakland Raiders (two seed)
Wild-Card:  Denver Broncos (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Kansas City Chiefs (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Patriots
Two seed and first round bye:  Raiders
Three seed Texans defeat six seed Chiefs
Four seed Steelers defeat five seed Broncos

Divisional round:
Patriots defeat Steelers
Raiders defeat Texans

AFC Championship:
Raiders defeat Patriots

Super Bowl LII:
Raiders over Cowboys

Thoughts:  The NFL has been slowly evolving into the new wave of Super Stars, 2017 will prove to be the year of passing the torch. The Cowboys will continue to dominate, The Eagles will return to the postseason, Big movers are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking over the NFC South. In the end it’s still the Cowboys’ conference to lose.

In the AFC the Patriots cruise and Oakland will continue its upward trend despite having a top-five strength of schedule. Houston’s defense will continue to cover up Brock Osweiler’s mistakes. Staving off retirement for one more year Big Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will win the North, while both Denver and Kansas City will sew up wildcards and the AFC West will be the best division in football again. The Derek Carr show runs wild through the playoffs setting up a rematch in Foxboro with the defending champs.

As the Nature Boy Ric Flair once said, “To be the man you gotta beat the man wooooo!” Carr and the Raiders put the memories of the Tuck Game to rest, eliminating the Patriots enroute to the Super Bowl to pull off a fourth quarter comeback victory to win Super Bowl LII.

Austin Erwin:

NFC

North Champion:  Minnesota Vikings (one seed)
East Champion:  Dallas Cowboys (two seed)
South Champion:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (three seed)
West Champion:  Seattle Seahawks (four seed)
Wild-card:  Green Bay Packers (five seed)
Wild-card:  New York Giants (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Vikings
Two seed and first round bye:  Cowboys
Three seed Buccaneers defeat six seed Giants
Four seed Seahawks defeat five seed Packers

Divisional Round:
Vikings defeat Seahawks
Cowboys defeat Buccaneers

Conference Championship:
Vikings defeat Cowboys

AFC

North Champion:  Pittsburgh Steelers (two seed)
East Champion:  New England Patriots (one seed)
South Champion:  Indianapolis Colts (four seed)
West Champion:  Oakland Raiders (three seed)
Wild-Card:  Kansas City Chiefs (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Denver Broncos (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Patriots
Two seed and first round bye:  Steelers
Three seed Raiders defeat six seed Broncos
Five seed Chiefs defeat four seed Colts

Divisional Round:
Patriots defeat Chiefs
Steelers defeat Raiders

Conference Championship:
Steelers defeat Patriots

Super Bowl LII:
Vikings defeat Steelers

Thoughts:  The Vikings are a team easy to lose in the shuffle because of their 2016 second half slump. The fact is, Minnesota has playmakers at every position. They are stout defensively; offense remains the question mark. The offensive line needs to be revamped in order for the Vikings to make their run. Something just feels like it’s waiting in the wings for Minnesota. Perhaps a miraculous Teddy Bridgewater comeback to win the Super Bowl in his own building? What a story it would be.

The Steelers on the other hand, have just as much talent as anyone in the NFL. Their offensive three headed monster of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown will lead them to a Super Bowl appearance. It just won’t be enough against the Vikings in front of their home crowd.

Shane Davies:

NFC

North Champion: Green Bay Packers (one seed)
East Champion: Dallas Cowboys (four seed)
South Champion: Carolina Panthers (three seed)
West Champion: Seattle Seahawks (two seed)
Wild-Card:  New York Giants (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Packers
Two seed and first round bye:  Seahawks
Three seed Panthers defeat six seed Buccaneers
Four seed Cowboys defeat five seed Giants

Divisional round:
Packers defeat Cowboys
Seahawks defeat Panthers

NFC Championship:
Packers defeat Seahawks

AFC

North Champion:  Pittsburgh Steelers (one seed)
East Champion:  New England Patriots (two seed)
South Champion:  Jacksonville Jaguars (three seed)
West Champion:  Kansas City Chiefs (four seed)
Wild-Card:  Denver Broncos (five seed)
Wild-Card:  Oakland Raiders (six seed)

Playoff matchups

Wild-Card Round:
One seed and first round bye:  Steelers
Two seed and first round bye:  Patriots
Six seed Raiders defeat three seed Jaguars
Five seed Broncos defeat four seed Chiefs

Divisional round:
Steelers defeat Raiders
Patriots defeat Broncos

AFC Championship:
Patriots defeat Steelers

Super Bowl LII:
Patriots defeat Packers

Thoughts:  The New England Patriots have the best quarterback and coach duo in NFL history and I don’t see them having any sort of setback in 2017. Their young defense is only going to improve from last season and the offense will get Rob Gronkowski back from injury. No bet in all of sports is safer than Brady and Belichick, so I’m going to take them again here.

— Justin Ekstrom covers the NFL and Minnesota Vikings for cover32 and can be reached on Twitter @thesportscrib21. Be sure to follow and comment on Facebook and Twitter.

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