By Ryan Hack
The NFL season kicked off on September 7, 2017 with a long lasting battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots. The Chiefs were able to pull ahead with a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, moving on to win 42-27 to start off the season. The rest of the week one games took place Sunday and Monday night.
The New England Patriots have made the playoffs in 13 of the past 14 years, only missing them in 2008. According to Junior, Daulton Der, the Patriots have been good for such a long time because “Bill Belichick is a great coach, and he gives Tom Brady the weapons he needs to do his thing.” The AFC East also includes the improving Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, along with the New York Jets. The Dolphins lost their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, to an ACL injury, so they signed Jay Cutler to lead the team. The Buffalo Bills are coming off a mediocre season, when they finished 8-8, and were able to take a 21-12 victory week one against their division rival, the New York Jets. The Jets have been falling in the standings over the years, and are now arguably the worst team in the league, not making the playoffs since 2010.
The AFC North was a close race between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens in 2016. The Steelers won the division after beating Baltimore in week sixteen last year, with a touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown with nine seconds left in the game. Pittsburgh went on to the AFC championship before falling to the Patriots. The Ravens added multiple players over the offseason to improve the defense, including safety, Tony Jefferson, and cornerback, Brandon Carr. On offense, Baltimore signed running back, Danny Woodhead, and wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin. The Ravens have not been to the playoffs since 2014, but hope to start another streak of playoff appearances in 2017. The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns both ended last season with a losing record, but had quality drafts. The Bengals took the fastest receiver in NFL combine history, John Ross, with the ninth pick overall, while the Browns had three first-round selections, adding defensive end, Myles Garrett, safety, Jabrill Peppers, and tight end, David Njoku.
Over the past couple of seasons, the AFC South has been a close race between multiple teams, usually including the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and Tennessee Titans. The Texans won the division in 2016, but mainly from the decline in talent from the Colts, after losing quarterback, Andrew Luck periodically throughout the season. Andrew Luck has been out the first two weeks of the season, and will continue to be out for the next couple of weeks, so backups Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett will get the starts. The Titans are becoming a playoff quality team after going 2-14 just three years ago, led by quarterback, Marcus Mariota. The Jaguars are in the rebuilding process, so they are not expected to be one of the major standout teams moving forward in the 2017 season.
Lastly, the AFC West is the tightest division in the entire conference. Both the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are capable of winning the division. According to Junior, Patrick Held, the Kansas City Chiefs have excelled in the division because of “the battle between Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith. It makes Smith work harder to keep his spot as starting quarterback, resulting in him playing better.” The Raiders are led by Derek Carr, and his weapons on offense including Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree make him complete his job better and easier. The Los Angeles Chargers can put up a decent fight, but have been falling apart each game late fourth quarter, preventing them from excelling in the division. Lastly, the Denver Broncos have gone downhill since their Super Bowl victory a couple of years back, but are also a team that could fight for a wild card spot.
Through the first five weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs are the only undefeated team, while most teams are sitting at a 2-3 or 3-2 record. As it has been so far, the 2017 NFL season will continue to be something to look forward to, as it will be another close battle between many teams.