It’s back!!! Tonight, the 2017 NFL season officially kicks off with the reigning champions New England Patriots remind us why they are so great against the Kansas City Chiefs. No doubt this season will have its off-field distractions (Ezekiel Elliott & Anthem protests to name a few), but that’s not why we are here.

Below are M.I.N.G.’s official 2017 NFL Predictions including division winners, best MVP candidates, top wild-card options and Super Bowl picks. Of course, this means all of it will probably be wrong.

1Cowboys Squeak Out NFC East

Has a division ever been impacted more by a second-year player than the NFC East this year?

Division Winner

Let’s start with a real tough pick here. As much as the Cowboys are the dominant team on paper, the Zeke Elliott thing will play a factor at some point. However, him being available for Week 1 (and maybe longer) has a significant effect. The New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins are all talented but didn’t do enough to improve themselves within the division. Expect Dallas to win the NFC East, but it won’t be as big of a runaway as many perceive.

Best MVP Candidate

It’s hard to pick an MVP candidate in this division because the best players are on the same team. And they basically split the vote for Rookie of the Year last season. If Elliott plays the full year, he has the better chance over Dak Prescott. However, if he misses any extended time, Prescott is the top favorite in this division. Neither will actually win it, but it’s another thing to root for in Big D.

Top Wild Card Pick

Much like last season, the Giants will probably be the only team to really challenge Dallas for the division title. This is because they somehow find a way to sneak out a couple of road division wins before disappointing at home. Personally, I love Kirk Cousins as a QB and think the Eagles are a severely overlooked team in the NFL. However, when push comes to shove, the Giants at 10-6 have the best shot at making the playoffs without a division title.

2Packers Dominate NFC North

The Most Valuable Player in the league may have his division locked up early this year.

Division Winner

Probably the second easiest division to pick (will get to the Patriots in a bit), the NFC North features an under-appreciated team and a more underappreciated player in the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers. I know most of you think I’m crazy calling Rodgers under-appreciated, but in a ‘Tom Brady’ era, everyone is under-appreciated. His team this year is better than the squad that ran the table to win the division last season. Plus, with how abysmal everyone else in that league is, expect Green Bay to have the North wrapped up by Thanksgiving.

Best MVP Candidate

With a 5-year, $27.5 million per year contract, you’d think Matthew Stafford was a multiple MVP for the Detroit Lions. However, I’m calling it now in saying that Rodgers WILL WIN the NFL MVP award. Rodgers is a tremendous talent, and there is nobody in the NFC that I think challenges the Packers enough. GB12 takes home some hardware this season. No need for a discount double-check.

Top Wild Card Pick

I’m gonna go a little sideways on this one and say Minnesota. Personally, I don’t like Detroit, and the Stafford extension was a way to distract fans from actual football. More than that, the Chicago Bears are going to be a semi-trainwreck with their lack of talent. I love the Vikings and really like both Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy being healthy again, with Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook as weapons certainly help.

3NFC South: League’s Toughest Division…

Believe in the Super Bowl hangover. It will affect Atlanta.

Division Winner

A lot of people want to go Atlanta here, but the loss of Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator is going to have some impact. Plus, I fully believe in the Super Bowl hangover and think they struggle more than most. There’s also a lot of added talent in the division. Christian McCaffrey in Carolina will be fun to watch. As will Adrian Peterson and a revamped New Orleans Saints offense. However, the most improved team in the division is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I love Jameis Winston in his third season. I think the Bucs win the division, slightly, over the Falcons.

Best MVP Candidate

It’s hard to go against Matt Ryan here, the reigning MVP when he has essentially the same team this year. However, I really do believe a new OC and a new system will bring him down a little bit. Cam Newton’s surgically repaired arm hinders his ability, and the rookies in both Carolina and Tampa Bay can’t do enough to win in. I look to the Big Easy and a recharged Drew Brees fighting to get his team back in the playoffs. Never count him out as his numbers are always significant.

Disclaimer: Having Brees in my NFL fantasy league may have an impact on this choice.

Top Wild Card Pick

Ok, so if I have the Bucs winning the division and Brees as the best player in the league, that means the Saints are going to the playoffs, right? Wrong. I think Brees has the best chance of any player in the NFC South to win MVP, but his team will miss the playoffs again. I really want to pick Carolina because I love their defense and their skill position players. However, the Falcons are reigning NFC Champs, and it’s hard to pick against them. I’m going Atlanta as a wild card team but can easily see both wild card picks coming from this division.

4Biggest Yawn of the Year: NFC West

The biggest reason Arizona makes the playoffs is in the backfield this season.

Division Winner

I really don’t want to waste much time on this division because it’s too easy. In short, the Seattle Seahawks are the best team on the West Coast, and it’s not close. Russell Wilson is healthy again, and the Arizona Cardinals are just too old to pose a real threat. However, I don’t see the Seahawks being a top-2 seed in the playoffs.

Best MVP Candidate

It’s between Russell Wilson and David Johnson in Arizona. Both are young, talented and have a solid cast around them. In today’s NFL, it’s all about the quarterback. But in this division, the Cardinals success will be based on Johnson’s ability to dominate. If he goes a little above the expectations, he could be the guy to challenge Aaron Rodgers for the trophy.

Top Wild Card Pick

This is way too easy. San Francisco and Los Angeles are atrocious. They may combine to win five games this year. I still think Carson Palmer has something left in the tank and Larry Fitzgerald only furthers his Hall of Fame resume. The Cardinals will give Seattle a run for the division title but ultimately settle for a #5 seed in the playoffs.

5Patriots Go Undefeated to Win AFC East?

The GOAT. No questions asked.

Division Winner

If you haven’t seen the prediction, USA Today feels that New England can fully run the table and avenge their 18-1 season from 2007. When you look at their schedule, and this embarrassing division, it’s not that far fetched to believe. It’s not until Week 7 against the Falcons that they face a true challenge. However, five of their last eight games are on the road at Denver, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, providing guaranteed losses. Don’t worry; they still annihilate the AFC East en route to another NFL-best record and Super Bowl appearance (teaser).

Best MVP Candidate

Is there any question? The GOAT in Tom Brady continues to dominate any and all opponents. With a healthy Rob Gronkowski (the Face of America), he even has a shot at breaking the single-season touchdown record. Yes, that is despite the injury to Julian Edelman.

Top Wild Card Pick

Hahahahahahahahahaha. Oh man, that’s funny. Two AFC East teams in the playoffs. Good one. Oh, I have to pick one? Fine. Miami Dolphins. Just because they may get to eight wins.

6A Surprisingly Close AFC North

Best running back in the game will help one of the better offenses in the league continue to roll in the AFC North.

Division Winner

I know many think Pittsburgh runs away with this thing. They aren’t wrong. The Steelers are a great team and have the most talent in the division. In fact, they are probably the only team who can challenge New England in the AFC. However, if the Bengals stay healthy, and Joe Flacco gets it together in Baltimore, who knows? Also, call me crazy, but I don’t think Cleveland sits in the cellar this season. Pittsburgh wins it, but it may come down to Week 16.

Best MVP Candidate

Much like the NFC West, it comes down to a QB vs. an RB. And much like the NFC East, they are on the same team. Big Ben and Le’Veon Bell will steal votes from each other for Most Valuable Player. Given the history of the Steelers and this division, I’ll give the slight advantage to Bell.

Top Wild Card Pick

I like the Bengals here. Andy Dalton is a very good quarterback with a lot of talent around him. The biggest issue is health here. I think Cincinnati gets close to 10-6 and sneaks into the postseason. Only to lose in the first round and have Marvin Lewis get fired.

7Wrath of the Titans in the AFC South

Expect tight end, Delanie Walker, to be the X-Factor for the Titans.

Division Winner

With the unknown mystery that is Andrew Luck’s surgically repaired shoulder, the Colts are immediately knocked out. Nobody else has a consistent enough signal-caller like Tennessee does. Plus, they were only kept out of the playoffs last year cause they went 2-4 in the division. Expect that to flip around this season as the Titans claim their spot atop the AFC South.

Best MVP Candidate

I wasn’t that high on Marcus Mariota when he came out of college. However, I’ve fully jumped on the bandwagon. With weapons like Delaine Walker and DeMarco Murray, he can definitely put up some scary numbers. Don’t forget about Derrick Henry in the backfield either.

Top Wild Card Pick

Once again, it’s kind of funny to think about two AFC South teams in the playoffs, but we have to so here it goes. It comes down to either Jacksonville or Houston. If Luck were guaranteed to be healthy, I’d lean towards Indy, but I’m going to have to say Houston. Despite not having a proven quarterback, neither do the other teams.

8AFC West: Same Faces, New Places

Derek Carr, when healthy, is one of the top-10 QB’s in the NFL. He’s healthy this season.

Division Winner

Ah yes, the division of relocation. It’s strange to think that just two years ago, the Broncos were one of the top teams in the league and are now expected to be in last place all year. The other three teams make this a challenging pick, but if Derek Carr can survive on that injured leg, the Raiders will have a fun going away present for Oakland. I expect him to, and Las Vegas gets a proven division champ in a couple of years.

Best MVP Candidate

Again, if he stays healthy, I think Carr is the best player in the division. The Raiders have a talented group, and he will very much benefit from that. Alex Smith in Kansas City has a shot and with Philip Rivers always throwing, he does too. However, the best team gets the best chance, and Carr is on that team.

Top Wild Card Pick

When you’re picking wild card teams, you have to look at the overall schedule. Outside of the division, the Chiefs are saddled with the Patriots, Cowboys, Texans, and Giants. Same with the Chargers, minus Houston, and all on the road. Still, with how L.A. revamped the defense, I give them the slight edge.

9NFL Playoff Predictions

Look familiar? Don’t worry; you’ll see it again in February.

Brief recap and official picks. My NFL division winners are Dallas (NFC East), Green Bay (NFC North), Tampa Bay (NFC South), Seattle (NFC West), New England (AFC East), Pittsburgh (AFC North), Tennessee (AFC South), Oakland (AFC West). My four Wild Card teams will be the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons (NFC), as well as Cincinnati and Houston (AFC). So let’s take a look at the bracket:

NFC Playoffs

#1 Green Bay Packers

#2 Dallas Cowboys

#3 Seattle Seahawks

#4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

#5 Atlanta Falcons

#6 New York Giants

AFC Playoffs

#1 New England Patriots

#2 Pittsburgh Steelers

#3 Oakland Raiders

#4 Tennessee Titans

#5 Houston Texans

#6 Cincinnati Bengals

As always, once we get to the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. But I truly believe this is as chalk a year as possible. I’ll take the Patriots over the Raiders in the AFC Championship and the Packers over Dallas in the NFC. Finally, I think Brady and Belichick out last Rodgers and company for another title and simultaneously announce their retirement from the NFL.

Don’t fret Packers fans. Aaron Rodgers will be the Most Valuable Player and this Green Bay team assumes the role as the dominant force… once TB12 rides off into the sunset.




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