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Predictions for the 2017 NFL season

Neither will the Dolphins, Raiders, Giants, Lions or Falcons

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Half 0f 2016’s playoff field sitting out 2017? That’s just about average — six of 12 made it back this year. Giving the boot to the Dolphins, who snuck into the playoffs while every team around them imploded, should come as no surprise. The Giants and Lions are two of those ping-pong teams that go 10-6 one year and 6-10 the next without much improvement or dip in their quality of play. The Raiders will revert back to the mean (the mean being about 9-7), even with Derek Carr and Khalik Mack continuing their rapid ascensions in the NFL hierarchy. As for the Falcons? Forget about the so-called “Super Bowl curse,” which says the losing team has trouble getting back to the playoffs, let alone the NFL title game. Up until Carolina brought it back this season, the loser of the Super Bowl made it back to the playoffs the next year in seven straight seasons.

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The Cowboys won’t make the playoffs

With Romo already in our planned 2017 playoffs, any hopes for a Romo Bowl in Minnesota next February will sadly end when the Cowboys lose in Week 17 to fall out of the NFC East title race. Ezekiel Elliott will post eye-popping numbers that’ll serve as anchors for his yearly stats in the future, but Dak Prescott will fade a little as the injury bug finally catches up with Dallas and turns it from an OK 13-3 team into a good 9-7 team.

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Tony Romo’s new team will finish with a better record than the Dallas Cowboys

Though Houston seems like the most obvious host for Tony Romo’s last stand, the (soon-to-be former) Dallas Cowboys quarterback could go to Arizona, Denver or Kansas City, or maybe to a mystery suitor that comes out of nowhere to stun the NFL world by banking its near future on a 37-year-old with major back problems who has no real playoff experience. Either way, Romo will stay upright in 2017, and given that the team he’s likely to sign with is one that can, and needs to, win now, look for Tony to be playing in the postseason.

 

A new kickoff rule will be in place

Moving touchbacks out to the 25 didn’t have the intended effect on kickoffs. Things only slightly changed from the year before, and half of all kickoffs are still being returned. The NFL still doesn’t want to part with the traditional kickoff just yet (it can’t even officially throw away the idea of the 18-game schedule, even though that idea has been dead in the water for years). Tinkering with the kickoff spot (teams will have even more accuracy in pooch kicking inside the 5) or touchback placement (going out to the 30 is something out of the Arena League) isn’t going to happen, so it’ll have to be a move as drastic as the one that “saved” extra points.

 

The Patriots will not repeat

Though any such prediction will surely embolden Pats fans who like to claim that nobody believes in them (what does that even mean — it’s a football team, not the Easter Bunny) it’s the least fearless of the predictions on here. Even with the Patriots having won five Super Bowls and playing in seven this century, the team hasn’t won back-to-back in 12 years nor played in back-to-back Super Bowls over the same time span. In fact, only one team (Seattle in 2013 and 2014) has gone to back-to-back Super Bowls since 2005. Expect another AFC East win (duh) for New England, but any 40-year-old magic from Brady will have to wait until he’s 41.

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