Oakland Raiders Marshawn Lynch (24)
New England Patriots

Patriots Talk: Teams To Watch Out for In 2017

New England Patriots Talk: Teams To Watch Out for In 2017 In The AFC Include Familiar Enemies

Many people will say that the Patriots are already the best team heading into the 2017 NFL Season. But let’s not forget that there are plenty of teams in the AFC who are building up there rosters every week.

Right now, there are teams who will be gunning after the Patriots as they are the defending Super Bowl Champions. And understanding which ones to look out for is critical to their success.

As the old saying from Sun Tzu’s Art of War ‘Know Your Enemy’.

Oakland Raiders

One of the teams going into next season will be the Oakland (soon to be Los Vegas) Raiders. The team has done alot of work this offseason. First their Head Coach, Jack Del Rio (whom the team signed to a 4 year extension on February 12th) was a coach who within only two seasons, managed to get this team out of the playoff drought it had been stuck in since 2002 (when the team’s quarterback was Rich Gannon, seriously!) after the team let go of former Head Coach, Jon Gruden in 2001 who proceeded to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl 37 and defeated the Raiders 48-21.

Not only that, but the Raiders coach was awarded the Earle ‘Greasy’ Neale award by the Maxwell Football Club for NFL Coach of the Year. While not quite as prestigious as the Official NFL Coach of the Year award given out by the Associated Press. It doesn’t mean that Del Rio didn’t deserve some recognition for taking the Raiders to a 12-4 record but rather that the team has final become a legitimate team that can make the playoffs.

Next of course, the off season signings. The Raiders obvious signing was of course former Seattle Seahawks [Running Back] Marshawn Lynch (A.K.A BeastMode). Considering in the 2015 off-season, his retirement was a sad departure for NFL fans, but his sudden return to the league is a welcome one. However, many analysts wondered why he wanted to play for the Raiders. Shockingly, it was because he was an Oakland native and wanted to play his final years on his home team. This took the Seahawks to let go of his restriction rights to the team in a trade agreement that would allow the Raiders to sign Lynch to a new two year  contract worth nine million.

While Lynch is still only 31, he is coming back into the league for the first time since early 2016 so he has had over a year to recover from any damage and he will likely be healthy before Week 1 of this season. Beast Mode will likely be back in full shape and behind an improved offensive line, he will be the #1 threat in the backfield.

Not only that, we need to talk about their leading [Quarterback] Derek Carr. He proved last year that he is a legitimate franchise QB, and the fact he was in the running for NFL MVP proves it. Carr’s unfortunate injury before the playoffs killed any chance of them succeeding because its clear they needed him to run the offense. Carr returning brings alot to the team especially for the wide receiving core consisting of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and newly acquired [Tight end] Jared Cook. There are many options on the offense for the Raiders and that is what will make this team on defense so deadly, especially with the recent signings for the Patriots on defense (re-signing Dont’a HighTower, or signing Stephon Gilmore in free agency)

And while their defense is not on the same level of damage as the offense, they have the NFL Defensive player of the Year in [Defensive Lineman] Khalil Mack. The guy is a playmaker who can put severe pressure on any offensive linemen in the league and shouldn’t be discounted. Overall, the Raiders have the key pieces to make a serious attempt in 2017 if everyone stays healthy.

Pittsburgh Steelers

This one is a no brainer really. The Steelers are a team with possibly the best overall offense when they are healthy. The Steelers offense has been hauled by [Quarterback] Ben Roethlisberger, [Wide Receiver] Antonio Brown (Who just this off-season has now become the highest paid receiver in the NFL) and [Running Back] Le’veon Bell. The so called ‘Killer Bees‘ are a dangerous combination when all three are on the field. They are an offensive unit that can very well be the team to beat in the AFC.

However, the main problem lies with the Quarterback Big Ben himself. He has been in the NFL for well over 13 years now, starting since he was only a rookie coming out of the Quarterback Class of 2004. Ben isn’t getting any younger and he will likely be reaching retirement sooner than many expect. In terms of injuries, he has taken a massive number of hits over the course of his long career. (His overall numbers could very lead to him being part of Canton later on after retirement)

And as for Antonio Brown‘s apparent lack of self-awareness when it comes to filming during team meetings, its clear he is a distraction for the team. But instead of trying to punish the player, they decide to try to the method of making sure he stays put and retire a Steeler as the current highest paid receiver in the league. I will be honest, what Brown did was not only foolish but straight up selfish on his part. Going into 2017, he will need to make sure his attitude is in check or he will just be another head case for the Steelers (which works better for the Patriots in the long term)

Then of course, we need to start focusing on Le’veon Bell’s apparent issue with staying on the field. I will admit Marijuana shouldn’t be considered punishable by the NFL, but rather should be just fined and not suspended. It’s led to players all across the league to be out of games that otherwise could have been won. But Bell seems to not want to change despite being given the franchise tag by the organization and we likely work out a new deal with the team. (Once again, a problem that could lead to more loses, which is all the more favorable but that is of course if Bell doesn’t get injured then he can change the game…or so he has said)

Then of course, the defense which is mostly young with new players like JJ Watt’s younger brother; TJ Watt. (drafted by the team with the 30th overall pick). Alongside players, James Harrison, who seems to not want to ever retire despite being in the league almost as long as Tom Brady (went undrafted in 2002 and yet is still playing even at the age of 39). The Steelers shockingly have a very well built team all around but they have clear flaws that the Raiders don’t have.

But the Steelers are a much better run organization overall, led by the helm with cheerleader Head Coach Mike Tomlin who has been coaching the team into his 10th year now after replacing long time coach Bill Cowher, who won the team’s fifth Super Bowl in 2005. (Cowher was the one who replaced legendary coach Chuck Null all the way back in 1992) The organization with the recent loss of long time Chairman Dan Rooney, will likely go into 2017 with the expectations to make his passing an after thought with a  Super Bowl victory (which won’t be easy)

That will conclude this addition, but there are other teams that were very mediocre last year that could be very be surprising in 2017. But, that is for another time. Hope you all have a good day!

Patriots Talk: Teams To Watch Out for In 2017
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