As the wise Big Sean once said, “Last night took an L, but tonight I bounce back”. The 2016-2017 NFL Season was arguably the worst NFL season in over a decade. Fans were forced to endure penalties for trivialities like custom cleats and touchdown dances, heartbreaking injuries that ruined teams’ seasons, and for what seems like the millionth time … another Patriots Super Bowl. What really drove the point home was the abysmal performance of six NFL teams: the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers, the Chicago Bears, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Rams, and the New York Jets. With one of the most talented NFL draft classes behind us, fans of these horrid teams look ahead to the 2017-2018 NFL season with hopes that it will expunge the terrible records of the past and usher in a new era of prosperity for their respective teams.
Cleveland fans were lucky that they have the successes of the Cavaliers and the Indians to brag about because the Browns’ 1-15 season was a black mark on an otherwise successful year for Cleveland sports. The Browns were so bad that they even sucked at being bad. What’s the point in going 1-15, when you might as well break a record and go 0-16? When all is said and done, I think the Browns will bounce back in the upcoming NFL season. Cleveland had three first round picks, which they used to draft three players who could make an immediate impact. Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, a defensive monster who is bound to cause problems the second he steps on the field was selected first overall. Michigan Safety Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku were taken in the other two spots, and Cleveland has high hopes for these talents as well. The Browns wisely waited until the second round to draft QB Deshone Kizer, who was one of the better quarterbacks in the draft, although he has issues with decision making as well as maturity.
In addition to these new players, the Browns also retain LT Joe Thomas and LB Jamie Collins, both of which are great players with a lot of experience. RB Isaiah Crowell and WR Kenny Britt have shown flashes of brilliance, with both players expected to see an uptake in production. Additionally, the Cleveland Browns will also be going against weaker teams. On average, the teams that they are going against this season showed a relatively low 46.9% win rate last year. Three of the teams that the Browns will face are mentioned in this article (Chicago Bears, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars) and another opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, narrowly missed the cut. I believe that the Browns will bounce back in 2017. While the Browns won’t make the playoffs next year or the year after, I expect them to finish the 2017 Regular Season with an improved record of 6-10.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are lucky that they’re in the same division as the LA Rams. Both of their wins in 2016 were against their unimpressive division rival. Most of the other teams in this article haven’t made the playoffs in five or six years, but the 49ers were almost Super Bowl 47 Champions and made it to the NFC Championship in 2014. The only bright side of their season was Colin Kaepernick, but even he was incredibly inconsistent, sporting a 122.3 Passer Rating in one game and a 56.4 Passer Rating in the next. That being said, Kaepernick is no longer on San Francisco. New 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t believe that he is a good fit for the offensive system he intends to implement in the upcoming season.
The Niners chose to approach the draft defensively, using their three picks in the first two rounds to draft DE Solomon Thomas, LB Reuben Foster, and CB Ahkello Witherspoon. The Niners, in fact, outperformed most of the NFL in the draft as they also weaseled four picks out of the Chicago Bears. However, they still don’t have any offensive weapons to help them out on the other side of the ball. Rookie QB C.J. Beathard, certainly isn’t the answer to their woes, nor is Rookie TE George Kittle. While RB Carlos Hyde is a solid running-back, it isn’t enough to save the 49ers this season
San Francisco’s 2017 schedule doesn’t have many easy wins either, with an average opponent win rate of 50.2%. Their division will be pitted against the second best division in 2016, the NFC East. All in all, the 49ers won’t win many games in the 2017-2018 season. I predict them to finish the regular season with the same record as last year, 2-14, if not slightly better at 3-13.
If I was a Bears fan, I would enjoy the peace and calm of the next few months, because once the NFL Season starts, there won’t be much to celebrate. The Bears will not – under any circumstances – bounce back. The only position that I can truly say that they don’t need to worry about is the RB position. Jordan Howard was a beast last season, and quite frankly was one of the only reasons that the Bears won three games at all. He finished with the second most rushing yards in the NFL as a rookie, which is no small feat. The Bears managed to salvage wins against the Lions and the Vikings, and were fortunate enough to go against the 49ers for an easy win, resulting in a 3-13 season. If you had talked to a Bears fan only 2-3 years ago, they would have bragged about QB Jay Cutler’s cannon arm or WR Alshon Jeffery’s hands, but the Bears lost both players this offseason.
Chicago’s performance in the NFL draft hurt their chances in the upcoming season. They traded 4 picks to move up and get Mitch Trubisky, who has only started 13 college games. Overall in the draft, the Bears only had 5 picks and had no picks in the 3rd, 6th, and 7th rounds because of awful trades with other teams. The decision to draft Trubisky also hindered the Monsters of Midway because they had just signed Mike Glennon to a 3-year, $45 million contract. Don’t be fooled by the low win percentage of the Bears’ opponents (47.9%), they still have a very difficult schedule. Three out of the first four teams they play (the Falcons, Steelers and Packers) all made it to the playoffs last year, and should instill panic in the Chicago front office once they deliver the team three losses. I predict that the Chicago Bears will go 0-8 before their bye week in the regular season. If the Bears are lucky, they will finish the season 2-14, but it is more likely they will win even less than that.
The Jacksonville Jaguars went under the radar last season, at least compared to the rest of the teams mentioned in this article. However, their record is even more inexcusable being that they played in one of the weakest divisions last year, but still went 3-13. The Jaguars have a solid quarterback in Blake Bortles, but the problem is that he throws too many interceptions. In week 13, Bortles threw his 11th career pick-six, marking the most pick-sixes by any quarterback in history in their first three seasons. At that point in time, he had more pick-sixes than career wins. Bortles throws so many interceptions that he’s already in the top 50 all-time in career pick-sixes thrown. Bortles has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. The young and talented WR Allen Robinson was a vital part of Jacksonville’s offense in 2016
Jacksonville drafted Leonard Fournette in the first round, which wasn’t an immediate need, but a pick that will benefit them sooner rather than later, as he was one of the most talented running-backs in a draft class filled with amazing running backs. However, their offensive line was a huge problem, and OT Cam Robinson will go a long way in fixing that problem. Talented WR Dede Westbrook will ensure that Bortles has someone to throw to apart from Robinson and the other team’s defense.
I wouldn’t sleep on the Jaguars’ defense either. Jacksonville has a highly coveted CB tandem in AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey showed the league what he was capable off with an impressive rookie season, where he only allowed two touchdowns and an average passer rating of 68.0. Jacksonville’s coaching staff trusted Ramsey enough to allow him to cover the opponent’s best receiver. In Week 10 of the 2016 Regular Season, Ramsey managed to contain the highly skilled Deandre Hopkins to five receptions and a total of 48 yards. AJ Bouye was a key linchpin to the Texan’s top ranked defense in 2016. He used his speed to defense 16 passes and contain opposing quarterbacks to an average passer rating of 60.6. Together, the two are bound to create a lot of trouble for opposing quarterbacks this season. Players like Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson help keep opposing quarterbacks on their toes, and bolster the run defense.
The Jaguars have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL for the upcoming season. They are tied for the second-lowest opponent win percentage (.439). They are also tied for the least opponents who had nine wins or more last year (six). The Jags will go 5-11 in this upcoming season, thanks to a successful draft, a two-headed CB monster and an easy schedule.
Los Angeles Rams
If I wrote about everything wrong with the Rams, we’d be here for days so let me sum it up in one word: offense. On the offensive side of the ball, they have two underwhelming QBs who are competing for a starting spot, a running-back who had a great season in 2015 but a terrible one in 2016, an offensive line that is full of obscure players, and Tavon Austin. Even Austin did poorly last year, as Kenny Britt, who is now on the Browns led the team in receptions, targets, yards and touchdowns.
As far as the NFL draft is concerned, the Rams drafted TE Gerald Everett and WR Cooper Kupp. The hope is that the rookies will give Jared Goff consistent receivers, because as of right now, there is no one who the Rams can count on to support their young first overall pick in Jared Goff. The Rams’ schedule is in the middle of the pack with an opponent win percentage of 51%. However, they are going against one of the hardest divisions in the NFL, so don’t take their schedule lightly. The Rams won’t bounce back this year, and I expect them to do even worse. The Rams will go 2-14 this year.
New York Jets
Being from New Jersey, and being surrounded by Jets fans on a daily basis puts the downturn that the Jets took into perspective. The Jets went from 10-6 in 2015 to 5-11 in 2016. I still have fond memories of that fateful day in 2015 when they beat the Patriots. That being said, they were terrible last year. Part of the reason they went 5-11 last season was that they couldn’t seem to figure out their QB situation. They started three quarterbacks last year in Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty, and none of them could solidify themselves as the starter, let alone a starter on any NFL team. Nick Folk, the Jets’ kicker, had more points than any starting receiver or running back on the Jets last season.
Gang Green had a successful draft for the first time in years. The 2017 NFL draft marked the first time the Jets didn’t take a QB in five years. Instead, they focused on the defensive side of the ball, drafting two extremely talented safeties in the first two rounds. In the third through fifth rounds, they drafted two receivers and a tight end, which was a smart move considering their horrid receiving core. However, being that they didn’t draft a quarterback, the question on everybody’s mind is, “Who will the Jets start at QB?” Is Josh McCown the solution to all of the problems the Jets are facing in finding a QB? Will Christian Hackenberg come off the bench and be the next Tom Brady? Being as neither of these is likely and coupled with the difficult schedule the Jets have this year (53.5% win percentage) and the fact they’re going against the AFC West, the Jets probably won’t bounce back. New York will finish off the season with a record of 3-13.