Adding impact players to an already strong NFL Roster is always a big step toward improvement, look for these two teams to improve in 2017 playing in wide-open divisions in which it seems anyone can win.
Much is being made of the fact the Texans have JJ Watt back on the Defensive Line after the 28-year-old’s season was cut short by Back Surgery last year, but there may be more value in looking at the strength and potential of the Texans Defense as a unit overall, who Houston drafted to be its much-needed QB of The Future, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and what a below-average division Houston plays in (AFC South). With Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the very underrated Benardrick McKinney, Houston could really become dominating on that side of the ball and may be one of three or maybe four teams in the AFC who might be able to stop Tom Brady and the Patriots from getting to yet another Super Bowl in February.
Selecting Watson (above) with the #12 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft was a brilliant move by GM Rick Smith and HC Bill O’Brien and should help calm that vital position with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden also at the spot on the Houston Depth Chart with failed overpaid 2015 pickup and short-thrower Brock Osweiler now in Cleveland with the perpetually struggling Browns. There’s addition by subtraction and then there’s getting Brock Osweiler off your Roster and a versatile positive energy-machine like Watson on it. And this will be good for guys like RB Lamar Thomas and WRs DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. Should the Texans be able to score around of 6.0 ppg more than last year and allow 3.0 ppg less on Defense and win 2 of their 3 AFC South Road games in Indianapolis, Tennessee and/or Jacksonville, then this team could be in the AFC Championship Game possibly keeping a perceived powerhouse like the Steelers or maybe the Raiders from getting to that necessary Postseason end. Big games on the Texans'; schedule early include Week 3 at New England and at Seattle in Week 8 in two Road games that will really test this evolving team’s mettle. The Texans were a draining 2-7 ATS as a Road underdog in 2016 but averaging under 200 ypg Passing (196) will do that to an NFL team. The Texans start their season at home versus the Jaguars.
Arizona Cardinals: Time Waits For No One
Playing in the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks has never been an easy thing for the Cardinals and after going a combined 35-16 SU (30-20-1 ATS) from 2013 to 2015, Arizona took a huge step backward in 2016, finishing 7-8-1 SU (6-10 ATS) with early Losses at Buffalo (Week 2) and to the Rams (Week 3) leaving HC Bruce Arians (36-30-1 ATS) and his birds with a 1-4 Record and nothing but a long look up all season. CB Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals have a much easier Schedule this season, with this team able to possibly get off to a shocking 8-0 start if they can beat the Colts and Eagles on the Road in Weeks 2 and 5 and knock off the Cowboys and Buccaneers in Weeks 3 and 6 at Home in University of Phoenix Stadium. But the Week 1 game at Detroit against Matthew Stafford and the Lions (DET PK -120, 48, 5Dimes) may end up being not only a huge game mathematically but also psychologically for the Cardinals who will just be happy not to have to open the season facing Julian Edelman and the nasty, Deflategate-mad New England Patriots as they did last Regular Season.
Besides the decent Schedule until Week 10 (vs. Seahawks), Arizona also should be one to watch with two of its main Skill Position players—QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald—slowly getting older and near that point in their careers where their skills, strength and endurance may start to diminish. USC-product and 15th-year man Palmer (26 passing TDs in 2016) is now 37 while Pitt-product and 14-year veteran and future Hall of Famer Fitzgerald (107 Receptions, 6 TDs) is 33, and both will have to improve some this year with Palmer’s QBR (87.2) and Fitzgerald’s TD total (6) last season pretty weak for players of their caliber. Getting RB David Johnson—15 straight 100+ Yards from Scrimmage games in 2016—and the two Browns, John (39 Receptions) and Jaron (11 Receptions), as well as JJ Nelson (34 Receptions) and TE Jermaine Gresham (39 Receptions) into more productive roles will be paramount for this team which averaged 26 ppg. The Arizona Defense should be reliable and have much better ppg statistics this season with no ugly indoor games at Atlanta and New Orleans where the team allowed 38 and 48 points respectively. With Detroit in Week 1, the Colts in Week 2, the Rams (Week 7) and their two dates with the anemic 49ers (Weeks 4 and 9) all coming before the Cardinals Schedule turns tough, this team may be poised to actually make a run at their division and should be be to make money on cherry-picking early games as in the Futures Book market. Arizona’s Regular Season Team Win Total opened at 7½o -125 South Point) and is now up to 8o. Expect the Cardinals Offense and Defense to both improve and for this aging team ready to give it a go one more time. Look for Arizona to beat Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in Glendale in Week 3 .
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adding WR DeSean Jackson and TE OJ Howard Should Boost Passing Offense
Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht made some nice Offseason moves and the Buccaneers should be a force to be reckoned with this coming season despite QB Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers being the third choice by oddsmakers in the competitive NFC South behind the Falcons and the 2015 NFC champions Carolina. Tampa Bay went an impressive 4-2 SU in divisional play in the 2016 NFL Regular Season, finishing in 2nd place in the division with a 9-7 Record. And adding massive talent like WR DeSean Jackson (Redskins), TE OJ Howard (Alabama) and depth by signing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Jets) to an Offense which already had Winston, RB Doug Martin, waterbug RB Jacquizz Rodgers and WR Mike Evans should make life much easier for 2nd-year HC Dirk Koetter (9-7 ATS). Last season, the Buccaneers Offense averaged just 254.4 ypg (#18) and 22.1 ppg (Tied #18) and with Winston maturing another year and deep threat Jackson and Howard onboard along with Evans, the Passing game (and subsequently the PPG) should improve into the upper half of the NFL.
With Tampa Bay at +350 odds to finish win the schizophrenic NFC South—the one division anyone can truly win in 2017—DT Gerald McCoy, LB Kwon Alexander and the Buccaneers also possess the Defense (21.1 ppg, #15) to make this team worth a look. Tampa Bay (+2 TO Margin, Tied #13) doesn’t play an NFC South divisional game until Week 8 when they welcome Carolina to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and early Road dates at Miami (their Week 1 Opponents) and Minnesota will likely be big in the long run for this team with a Week 5 meeting with the Super Bowl Champion Patriots in the Sunshine State—a possible upset-of-the season situation for the Buccaneers. And if Tampa Bay can find a way to win at Atlanta (Week 12) and/or at Carolina (Week 16), maybe it can steal the NFC South but we best not sleep on Old Man River Drew Brees and his Saints.TEAM WIN TOTALS PICK: Cardinals Over 8 -175DIVISION WINNER PICK: Buccaneers +350 to Win NFC SouthBest Line Offered: at Bovada