The 2017 NFL season is just under one month away. Based on last seasons performances, how teams have managed their off-season’s and opening fixtures; three teams who have potential to improve this season stand out for me.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs fans will be happier to see who they face in weeks one and two, compared to three, four and five. Away at Miami in week one, home to Chicago in week two makes much better reading than the next three.
Minnesota had a great start last season in the NFL, the Bucs will see week three here as a tough matchup. The next fortnight will be even tougher, the Bucs facing two previous super bowl winning teams in the Giants and the Patriots. The positive thing there, both matches are home fixtures for the Bucs.
A tough opening fixture list no doubt, however, this Bucs side have got real quality. Last season, quarterback Jameis Winston had a rating (RTG) of 86.1. In 2015, his RTG was 84.2, with the weapons at his disposal, he should improve his rating once more in 2017.
The biggest weapon at the Bucs disposal is the wide receiver, Mike Evans. Evans received 96 receptions last season, making 1,321 yards. The fact the Bucs have picked up the wide receiver’s fifth-year contract option is great business.
The Bucs have got the firepower to take the NFL by storm in 2017.
After their Super Bowl loss in 2015, Carolina didn’t live up to expectations in the NFL in 2016. Many pundits didn’t expect a 6-10 record at the end of the 2016 season for the Panthers.
Their opening fixtures have been kind in 2017. Week one sees them travelling to a team who are the joint least fancied team to win the 2017 Super Bowl at Bet365 and Betway, the San Francisco 49ers. They follow that up with two home matchups against the Bills and the Saints.
2015 MVP Quarterback Cam Newton has got a point to prove in 2017, a poor 2016 season raised questions.
The business that is being put together in preseason shows real intent from the Panthers. Running backs Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker have been resigned, as well as defensive tackle Kawann Short and defensive end Mario Addison.
This is important business from the Panthers, as all four players played big roles in their 2015 Super Bowl run.
I’m extremely confident that the Panthers will be a play-off team in 2017 as they’ve managed to keep hold of valuable assets, something which isn’t easy in the NFL.
Los Angeles Rams
With this selection, I’m not saying that I fancy the Rams to reach the play-offs in 2017 like my previous two selections; but I do feel that the Rams will improve on their 2016 record of 4-12.
The Rams will celebrate their second year in Los Angeles during the 2017 campaign, two years is a suitable amount of time for a team to become settled.
Fixtures could have been a lot worse for the Rams, opening fixtures will be home matchups against the Colts and the Redskins. I fancy them to pick up at least one win, most likely to be against the Colts. Week three will put them on the road, not too far though as they will face the San Francisco 49ers.
Quarterback Jared Goff can go into his second season with some NFL experience compared to his rookie season in 2016. This season will be a great opportunity for the Rams quarterback to show why drafting went so well for him.
The Rams have got everything in place to have a positive season in 2017.