Early NFL Betting Predictions

Divisional Picks and Early NFL Betting Predictions for the 2017 Playoff

When it comes to the 2017 NFL and Super Bowl LII betting, there are some intriguing scenarios that every football fan should take in consideration before getting on the action this season.

Can Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can go back-to-back in 2017 after ‘pulling off the impossible’ last season?

Will Matt Ryan and the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons rebound from their stunning Super Bowl 51 collapse?

Can second-year stars, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott duplicate the success they had as rookies in 2016 while leading the Dallas Cowboys to even greater heights in 2017 – and last but not least, will Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders pick up where they left off a season ago?

If you’ve got questions about the upcoming 2017 NFL regular season, then I’ve got the answers you’re looking for thanks to my NFL division picks and early playoff predictions. Let’s get started in the AFC East with the perennially powerful New England Patriots.

AFC East Odds

  • Patriots -350
  • Dolphins +460
  • Bills +520
  • Jets +2600

Analysis: The Patriots posted a league-best, 14-2 record last season en route to their fifth Super Bowl title in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, but that’s not the most impressive part about the Pats’ 2016 campaign.

You see, what makes New England’s run to the Super Bowl 51 title so impressive is that the Pats never missed a beat despite being without Brady for the first four games of the regular season as punishment for his alleged role in the now infamous Deflategate scandal.

Now, after adding veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks and running back Mike Gillislee to start at their respective positions, New England looks like a virtual lock according to the odds to win the AFC East for the ninth straight season and 14th time in the last 15 seasons overall.

MyBookie.ag reports that almost two thirds of bets to win the AFC have been placed on the Patriots and that almost 80% of the bets to win the AFC East have gone to New England. 

"New England opened the betting lines as heavy favorites to win it all, including the season opener game vs. Kansas City. We had a similar situation last season when the Patriots were listed at +230 to win Super Bowl LI and the public decided to back 'em up through the season" says David Strauss, line manager at MyBookie.ag. 

While the rebuilding Miami Dolphins had a fine first season under head coach Adam Gase in winning 10 games a year ago, I still have little to no trust in mediocre quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Buffalo Bills are heading in a new direction under first-time head coach Sean McDermott and the New York Jets are a complete mess that is likely looking to tank in the hopes of landing the top pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

Make no mistake about it people, unless Tom Brady suffers a serious injury, the AFC East is New England’s for the taking – again.

Pick: New England -350

AFC North Odds

  • Steelers +125
  • Ravens +175
  • Bengals +210
  • Browns +4000

Analysis: Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers posted a healthy 11-5 record in 2016 to beat out second place Baltimore (8-8), third place Cincinnati (6-9-1) and cellar-dwelling Cleveland (1-15) to bag their second AFC North crown in the last three seasons.

Unfortunately, the Steelers fell short of their Super Bowl hopes by getting smacked around by New England in their 36-17 AFC Championship game loss. Still, the Steelers look like the right pick to win the AFC North in 2017, seeing as how they have arguably the best trio of offensive stars in the league in Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

I’m expecting a bit of a bounce-back campaign from Cincinnati after they saw their five-year streak of reaching the playoffs come to an abrupt halt and I believe the Baltimore Ravens could challenge the Steelers for the division title because of their seventh-ranked defense.

However, I also don’t have much faith in the mild-mannered Joe Flacco, (who should be thanking Ray Lewis for his Super Bowl ring) and have even less faith in Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. 

Right now, I’m thinking all roads to the AFC North division title will run through Pittsburgh after they added a quartet of rookies that should all see significant playing time right away in linebacker T.J. Watt, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, cornerback Cam Sutton and beloved former Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner. 

The Steelers will also have troubled wide out Martavis Bryant back on the field following a year-long suspension and that will simply make their offense even more dangerous than it already is. Cincinnati and Baltimore won’t simply roll over for the Steelers, but they also won’t beat out a Pittsburgh team that came within a game of reaching Super Bowl 51 last season.

Pick: Pittsburgh +125

AFC South

  • Texans +180
  • Colts +200
  • Titans +220
  • Jaguars +550

Analysis: Despite not getting any real competent play out of the quarterback position during the stretch, the Houston Texans have gone 9-7 in each of the last three seasons and won the AFC South a year ago to claim their second straight division title under head coach Bill O’Brien.

The Texans are favored to win the suddenly competitive division again in 2017 and for good reason seeing as how they led the NFL in total defense last season and added what I believe was the best quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft in former Clemson superstar Deshaun Watson, though he likely won’t start right away.

The Indianapolis Colts have problems all over the field on defense that they won’t solve this coming season although they get an ‘A’ for effort for using their first three picks in the NFL draft and six of their first eight overall, on defensive players.

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted powerful running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick in the draft and will have a new head coach in Doug Marrone, but the Jags still have a long way to go to get back to respectability. The good news coming out of Jacksonville is that they now appear to be headed in the right direction after hiring former head coach Tom Coughlin to run their day-to-day football operations.

For me however, the pick to win the AFC South in 2017 is Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans after they won nine games to tie the Texans for the most victories in the division. As a matter of fact, I believe the Titans would have won the AFC South last season had the still-blossoming Marcus Mariota not suffered a broken fibula in Week 15.

Tennessee ranked third in rushing last season thanks to the powerful rushing of veteran DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry and I expect them to have a strong rushing attack again in 2017. 

Mariota continued his maturation process while tossing 26 TD passes and a modest nine interceptions. The Titans also added a pair of players that I believe could turn into future superstars in wide receiver Corey Davis and cornerback Adoree Jackson, the fifth and 18th overall picks in this year’s draft. The AFC South looks like it will be a three-way ‘brawl for it all’ in 2017, but I’m going with the Tennessee Titans to get it done.

Pick: Tennessee: +220

AFC West

  • Raiders +180
  • Broncos +190
  • Chiefs +230
  • Chargers +550

Analysis: The blossoming Oakland Raiders stunned everyone en route to a fantastic 12-4 season in 2016 and are now favored to win the competitive AFC West as they get set for the upcoming 2017 campaign. The Raiders have arguably the best young quarterback in the game today in Derek Carr, an elite wide receiver in Amari Cooper and the best defensive player in the league in linebacker Khalil Mack. Oakland also added a powerful running back in veteran Marshawn Lynch, though it remains to be seen just how much gas he has left in his tank

Even with all of that, the Raiders are no locks to win their division in 2017 and need to improve a defense that ranked an uninspiring 26th overall a year ago, not to mention the fact that the four teams that make up the competitive AFC West have the four toughest schedules in the league in 2017.

The Kansas City Chiefs won a dozen games last season to beat out Oakland for the division title and they’ll contend again under head coach Andy Reid, simply because Reid always seems to reach the double-digit win mark.

The Denver Broncos still have an elite defense and they could surprise in a big way under new head coach Vance Joseph if they get some competent play from either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch at quarterback. The Chargers have a new home in Los Angeles and a new head coach in Anthony Lynn, so they’re a virtual wild card in the division heading into 2017.

While I like Kansas City’s balance on both sides of the ball and picked the Chiefs earlier this offseason to win the division, I wasn’t impressed with their lackluster draft and foolish firing of GM John Dorsey this offseason. Right now, the rejuvenated Oakland Raiders are the right pick to win the AFC West.

Pick: Oakland Raiders +180

NFC East

  • Cowboys +120
  • Giants +260
  • Eagles +340
  • Redskins +400

Analysis: The Dallas Cowboys stunned their NFC East division rivals by winning a whopping 13 games last season, thanks to the immense contributions of now, franchise quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. However, the ‘Boys are not my pick to win the NFC East in 2017 for a handful of reasons.

First and foremost, the four teams that make up the NFC East have four of the most difficult schedules in the league in 2017 as the division faces off against the loaded AFC West and Seattle and Arizona in the NFC West.

Dallas also has an extra pair of games against the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers, which is why I like Dallas to finish second to a New York Giants team that has the best defense in the division by far.

The G-Men had some serious issues in running the ball a year ago in finishing the 2016 season ranked a dismal 29th in rushing and they didn’t really address those needs, but they did add veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall and that should help, seeing as how the Giants got knocked out of the playoffs because they could catch the ball.

As far as the Philadelphia Eagles (7-9) and Washington Redskins (8-7-1) are concerned, I’m expecting both teams to challenge for the division title as well, seeing as how Philly has a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz and both teams had solid seasons a year ago that they can build on in 2017. For me, the NFC East is really up for grabs in 2017 despite Dallas’ breakout campaign a year ago. The Giants are the pick to win their first division title since 2011, although I’ll admit that all four teams will have a near-equal shot to win the NFC East in 2017.

Pick: New York +260

NFC West

  • Seahawks -300
  • Cardinals +250
  • Rams +1400
  • 49ers +1600

Analysis: The Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) won the NFC West by three games over the Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1), with the Los Angeles Rams (4-12) and San Francisco Niners (2-14) pulling up the rear. Now, heading into the 2017 season, Seattle is the easy pick to win the division again seeing as how all three of their division rivals have far more problems than they do.

Seattle added veteran running back Eddie Lacy to help improve a rushing attack that fell off in a big way last season and upgraded their porous offensive line by signing Luke Joeckel in free agency and drafting center Ethan Pocic. The Seahawks also added a handful of defensive players that will somehow make an impact right away including Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell.

The Seahawks still have an elite defense and one of the top quarterbacks in the game in Russell Wilson and will only get challenged slightly for the division title by an Arizona Cardinals team that I believe could get back to being a double-digit winner in 2017 after recording double-digit victories in each of the three seasons prior to last year. I wouldn’t think twice about backing the Seahawks to win the NFC West in 2017 and you shouldn’t either.

Pick: Seattle -300

NFC North

  • Packers -130
  • Vikings +220
  • Lions +400
  • Bears +1100

Analysis: The Green Bay Packers went 10-6 to win the NFC North for the fifth time in the last six seasons a year ago and are favored to do so again in 2017 and for good reason.

The Detroit Lions are still dysfunctional and underachieve at the worst time possible. The Minnesota Vikings have an elite defense, but struggle to score more than a 1970s run-first team and the Chicago bears...well, I’m not allowed to use foul language, so I won’t even go there.

All jokes aside, not only do the Packers have the best quarterback in the division and possibly all of football in Aaron Rodgers, but more importantly, the Packers have the best and most competent front office in the division, which is why they’ve been almost perennial division winners ever since Aaron Rodgers became their starter.

Green Bay needs to improve a defense that finished the 2016 campaign ranked 31st against the pass and 21st overall, but the Packers are still the easy pick to win the NFC North – for the umpteenth time in 2017.

Pick: Green Bay -130

NFC South Odds

  • Falcons +150
  • Panthers +270
  • Buccaneers +280
  • Saints +350

Analysis: The Atlanta Falcons (11-5) snapped Carolina’s three-year run as NFC South champions in 2016 and reached Super Bowl 51 before collapsing against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, but they’re still favored to repeat as division champs, although I’m not quite sure why.

I know the Falcons led the NFL in scoring (33.8 ppg) last season and that they still have the core of their explosive offense coming back in 2017, but the NFC South is very competitive and I expect the Falcons to face a ton of challenges to repeat as division champs, especially after finishing 27th in points allowed a year ago (25.4 ppg).

First and foremost, every team in the division except Tampa Bay has won at least two division titles since 2008, with Carolina getting four, New Orleans bagging a pair and the Falcons winning three. The Falcons could also be looking at the proverbial ‘Super Bowl hangover’ in 2017, much like Carolina (6-10) did last year after losing Super Bowl 50 against Denver.

More importantly, the Falcons will face some stiff competition from a blossoming Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that won nine games last season, a Panthers team looking to rebound and a Saints team that has an explosive offense and the only Hall of Fame quarterback in the division.

Carolina (6-10) made a couple of great additions by drafting ‘super versatile’ running back Christian McCaffery and speedy wide receiver Curtis Samuel and should be better on the defensive side of the ball as their young defensive backfield will be more experienced this coming season. New Orleans (7-9) added a handful of defensive players to address their excess of problems on that side of the ball and added veteran running back Adrian Peterson to give Drew Brees some offensive balance.

The team to really keep an eye on tin 2017 may be the Tampa bay Buccaneers after they won nine games last season and added veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard to give young quarterback Jameis Winston two more elite targets to go along with Pro Bowl wideout Mike Evans.

In the end, I’m going to urge you to back Cam Newton and the Panthers to get their division crown back, by the slimmest of margins over the Buccaneers, with Atlanta finishing third and New Orleans last.

Pick: Carolina +270

2017 NFL Playoff Predictions

AFC Division Winners

New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Oakland

Wild Cards

Houston, Denver

Conference Championship

New England vs. Houston

NFC Division Winners

New York, Seattle, Green Bay, Carolina

Wild Cards

Tampa Bay, Arizona

Conference Championship

Seattle vs. Green Bay

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