The 2017 NFL season officially kicks off on Thursday night with New England opening its title defense at home against Kansas City. While the Patriots are just one of 32 teams in the league, all eyes will be watching Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and company to see if they can repeat as Super Bowl champions. It’s a feat only seven teams have accomplished with the last being the Patriots, of course.
Like all teams, New England has undergone some personnel changes this offseason, but the biggest loss came in the preseason when wide receiver Julian Edelman tore his ACL. While the Patriots still appear to be the class of the AFC East by a wide margin, an injury of this significance could be all that’s needed to help other teams in the conference narrow the gap between them and the champs.
In the NFC, Atlanta is no doubt still smarting from its Super Bowl collapse, but the Falcons still have to be considered one of the contenders, along with the usual suspects – Green Bay, Seattle. Dallas’ outlook is uncertain until a decision is made on Ezekiel Elliott’s possible suspension and every year you always can count on a team or two to come out of nowhere and emerge. Last year that was Atlanta in the NFC and Oakland in the AFC.
So will the 2017 season be the precursor to a Patriots repeat or will another team claim the Lombardi Trophy when all is said and done? A panel of Athlon editors and NFL contributors like New England’s chances of adding another ring to the collection, although it’s not unanimous either. In addition to projected standings for each division, each panelist presents their wild card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and offers their best guess as to which teams will face off at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2018 in Super Bowl LII.