• NFC North: 2017 NFL Previews

    Written by AccuScore Staff
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    NFC North: 2017 NFL Division Previews

    AccuScore is doing division previews that look at every team in the division closely, highlight roster changes, point out fantasy opportunities and predict the season to come. For the NFC North division preview, AccuScore previews the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears for the 2017 NFL season below:

    2017 NFC North Projections and Preview

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    Other Previews:
    NFC South Division Preview
    NFC East Division Preview

    Packers’ Upward Trend Will Continue

    The Green Bay Packers completed last season with 8 wins over their last 9 games. Only the Atlanta Falcons proved to be too strong in the NFC Championship game. Accuscore simulations show that Packers will continue similar trend that they set up in December and January during the last season. The prediction show that Green Bay will have 12 wins at the end of the season and end up in a battle for the NFC’s no. 1 seed, with Seattle the most likely challenger of note.

    The opening Sunday game against Seattle at Lambeau Field will be a testing way to start the season. A trip to Dallas in Week 5 and a trip to Pittsburgh in Week 12 should provide more meaning on how the Packers rank against two teams that expect to be near the top of the conference, as well.

    It would be a quite big surprise, if Green Bay’s 8 years’ streak of postseason appearances will end after this season. Their probability to reach playoffs is as high as it can be in these simulations - around 96%. Also their chances to win NFC North are very high at 90%. The computer likes Green Bay’s chances as long as Aaron Rodgers stays healthy.

    Roster Moves

    One of the biggest question marks on Green Bay’s roster is a running game. Eddie Lacy, Christine Michael and James Starks left the frozen tundra, and offensive linemen JC Tretter and TJ Lang also left cold of the North. Simulations as well as the front office of the Packers seem to be happy about the performance of Ty Montgomery, who converted from a WR to a RB during last season.

    High performed passing game improved with the move of Martellus Bennett replacing Jared Cook. The defensive side of the ball remained quiet.

    Fantasy:

    When reviewing other fantasy predictions, Aaron Rogers is a top rated QB and his main targets Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are top 25 receivers. Ty Montgomery can surprise some of the experts as he is among top 10 RBs in Accuscore fantasy predictions. New TE Martellus Bennett also belongs to top 15 TEs in the league. Even though there have been inconsistencies in the performance of the defense, Accuscore’s fantasy prediction shows them as one of the top 5 defenses in the NFL.

    Minnesota Fights for a Playoff Spot

    AccuScore projects Minnesota to have a real shot at the playoffs. Improving on last season’s 8-8 record, the Vikings project to squeak up to 9-7 and finish second in NFC North.

    Based on AccuScore’s 10,000 simulations, the most probable wins for Minnesota arrive before their bye week, which is in Week 9. First, a visit to the Cleveland Browns is usually a confidence booster for teams. Another highly likely win is a few weeks later when the Los Angeles Rams come up to the state of a thousand lakes.

    Looking for trends in the 2016 season, Minnesota gave up 16 points or fewer points in every win, with the lone exception of the win over Arizona in Week 14. A simpler way to put that: the Vikings always lost if the defense gave up over 15 points. The Vikings did exceptionally well in defensive slugfests.

    Roster Moves

    Like the division rival Detroit Lions, the Vikings also made some changes to their offensive line. Matt Kalil and Andre Smith took off and Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers came in. That should be an upgrade to the offensive line. Another change that impacts their running game is the departure of long-term franchise player Adrian Peterson. Latavius Murray from Oakland Raiders fame comes in to replace the gaping hole left by Peterson.
    Notes: Cordarrelle Patterson signed with the Raiders. Minnesota also brought in Michael Floyd.

    Fantasy:

    For fantasy players, QB Sam Bradford would be reasonable later round addition as he is ranked 16th among all quarterbacks. His primary target Stefon Diggs is predicted to be surprisingly high on the list of WRs. He might be a sleeper for many teams. Latavius Murray wasn’t among top 20 running backs during last season, but this time Accuscore’s fantasy simulations predict him to knock top 10 RBs when calculating fantasy points at the end of the season. Minnesota’s defense for fantasy is better than average but is a tier below the top shelf with Denver, Seattle and New England highlighting that list.

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    Ups and Downs Continue in Detroit

    Detroit Lions’ last season was a miniature picture of last few seasons: streaks of wins and streaks of losses. During the last seven seasons, the Lions have only once improved on the previous season’s record. This season, AccuScore is projecting the Lions to be closer to 7-9 than the impressive 9-7 of a season ago after the computer played out every game 10,000 times. The late season collapse of four straight losses showed problems on the both sides of the ball, and AccuScore isn’t convinced the Lions have done enough to address those issues.

    Roster Moves

    Detroit shuffled their offensive line a bit when Riley Reiff and Larry Warford took off and TJ Lang as well as Ricky Wagner joined the team. This change shouldn’t make a big difference for the team’s performance compared to last season, though. The defense changed personnel but did not pick up any standout playmakers. Tahir Whitehead shoulders a great deal, and he would generate good amount of fantasy points, but Detroit needs to stop the run early with Ziggy Ansah. Rushing defense as well as passing defense was below average during the last season.

    Fantasy:

    When looking fantasy points, you don’t want to pick up Detroit defense. But you could check QB Matthew Stafford later rounds. Accuscore’s fantasy prediction ranks him in top12 qb of the league. WR Golden Tate is ranked 22nd and would be reasonable addition as second or third receiver of your fantasy team.

    More Wins For Da Bears

    The Chicago Bears are not contenders. They parted ways with their long time QB Jay Cutler and traded up during the draft to add Mitchell Trubisky as a new leader of the offense. However, it looks like Trubisky will start the season as a backup and Mike Glennon, who was acquired from Tampa Bay, will be the starting QB. How many wins will the Bears get with Glennon running the show?

    Based on Accuscore’s simulations, Chicago will actually improve and claim one extra win compared to last season despite a tough schedule. The softest portion of the schedule arrives with Soldier Field hosting San Francisco and Cleveland. Those should count as two wins for the Bears. However, these games are in Weeks 13 and Week 16, and a losing season could see further turmoil with head coach John Fox’s shoulders heavy with pressure to start the season. Hosting Pittsburgh in Week 3 and at Green Bay in Week 4 are two brutal games.

    The Bears did not manage a single road win last season. In fact, the Bears only even managed to score more than 17 points in a road game once, at Indianapolis. On home they didn’t score over 20 points until week 12, when their third starting QB of the season, Matt Barkley, was running the show. Needless to say, that offense needs to improve dramatically if Chicago wants to fight for a postseason berth.

    Roster Moves

    In addition to QB change, their top receiver, Alshon Jeffery, signed one year deal with Philadelphia. The Bears attempted to cover this setback with Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright that arrived from Pittsburgh and Tennessee, respectively, but the new quarterback provides a massive question mark of the season to come. Prince Amukamara was added to the secondary that was actually pretty good, ranked 7th against the pass, during the last season.

    Fantasy:

    When reviewing fantasy projections, it is a wise move to stay away from the Bears QBs - whoever it might be at the end. Jordan Howard was a top 3 RB in total yards a year ago. Accuscore’s prediction doesn’t back up similar performance this year. He would be a top 20 running back, but not top 3. For WRs, we need to dig a lot deeper in order to find first Bears’ receiver. This means that there are no value to draft any Chicago WRs for your fantasy team. It’s tough to find certain value on a team that is clearly rebuilding.

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  • NFC West: 2017 NFL Previews

    Written by AccuScore Staff
    Follow @AccuScore on Twitter

    NFC West: 2017 NFL Division Previews

    AccuScore wraps up its 2017 NFC Division previews with a look out West, where the Seahawks are expected to rise up as one of the conference’s elite teams.

    2017 NFC West Projections and Preview

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    Other Previews:
    NFC North Division Preview
    NFC East Division Preview
    NFC South Division Preview

    Will The Cardinals Return to the Playoffs?

    The Arizona Cardinals were unable to continue their playoffs streak last year after a team coached by Bruce Arians ended the season with single digit wins for the first time ever. QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald aren’t getting any younger, but Accuscore’s season simulations reveal that Cardinals are in the playoff mix in the NFC, even if they’re not favorites to win the division.

    According to AccuScore’s 10,000 simulations, Arizona is projected to win 9 games. Division games against the San Francisco 49ers and the LA Rams, both of which don’t expect to be good, assist the Cardinals’ projections.

    Roster Moves

    The main changes come on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinals lost starters DE Calais Campbell, Safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J.Swearinger, linebackers Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor. It would be big task for others to fill these gaps. Additions Antonie Bethea (SS), Karlos Dansby (LB) and Jarvis Jones (LB) are well known players, but the Cardinals will need some of the players already on the roster to take a step forward to help plug the gaps.

    Fantasy Analysis: Arizona Cardinals

    On the fantasy front QB Carson Palmer is predicted to be Top 20 among other signal callers. The same applies to Larry Fitzgerald on the receivers group, though neither Palmer or Fitzgerald are Top 10 guys at this point in their careers. Even with the changes in defense, Accuscore fantasy prediction shows the Cardinals’ defense and special teams as a sixth best fantasy point collector during the season. Of course, playing teams like the 49ers and Rams twice helps those averages.

    The best running back in the league and arguably the no. 1 pick for your fantasy draft is David Johnson, who collected over 2,000 combined yards rushing and receiving with 20 touchdowns in 2016.

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    Best team in LA?

    The Los Angeles Rams will get local competition as the LA Chargers have moved into town and will look to steal some of the vast LA sports market. The first season for the Rams in LA wasn’t memorable, as they closed the season on seven straight losses with Jared Goff under center. Goff’s performance under first year coach Sean McVay will play a major role in the Rams’ season to come.

    The Rams are still heavy in the rebuild, and AccuScore gives the Rams less than a 1% chance of winning the division over Seattle and Arizona.

    Roster Moves

    The biggest offseason move was the departure of the Rams’ first 1,000-yard receiver in a decade, Kenny Britt. The team looks to be forming a new receiving corps led by Cooper Kupp, Nelson Spruce, Mike Thomas and Josh Reynolds. Also, a trade for Sammy Watkins gives Goff and defenses a clear no. 1 target to focus on. In addition, the Rams improved the offensive line with veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth from Cincinnati. There were also few chances on defensive backfield, but those are not making any notable differences in the simulations.

    Fantasy Analysis: LA Rams

    For fantasy players last season, Todd Gurley ultimately destroyed teams that wasted a top pick on the running back. However, the drop in value provides the perfect opportunity to pick up Gurley this season. Accuscore projections show that he should bounce back at least a bit from last season’s under 900 rushing yards. AccuScore predicts that Gurley should collect enough fantasy points to rank him as one of the top10 RBs in 2017. As far as that goes, the Rams do not boast any other Top 10 fantasy players.

    New Start in San Francisco

    The San Francisco 49ers did a complete house cleaning after the tumultuous years that followed Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. New head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch bring a new hope and a new culture, but San Franciso is now in the early days of a brand new rebuild. That said, Accuscore predicts that San Francisco will double the amount of win total from the two to four this season.

    Obviously, four wins is not exactly a blueprint to make the postseason, but the team is expected to improve on 2016’s awful year. With Arizona and Seattle in the division, though, San Francisco’s chances of winning the division are nearly non-existent.

    Roster Moves

    When a team has a new front office, a head coach and is coming off a 2-14 season, very few jobs are safe. The 49ers did a fair bit of work in the draft, but the level of success usually takes time to evaluate. Notable additions are new QB tandem Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley from Chicago. Also new target for those quarterback is veteran wide out Pierre Garcon. Garcon should improve the passing game that was the dead last season—provided he can stay healthy.

    Fantasy Analysis: San Francisco 49ers

    As one would expect, San Francisco is not stacked full of top fantasy player. RB Carlos Hyde should rush for another 1000-yard season, and those numbers would put his just outside the top 15 in RBs in fantasy points. Brian Hoyer is predicted to be 28th on the QB scale, and Pierre Garcon is ranked 48th within their respective wide receivers. The defense is projected to be ranked 27th, so Hyde is probably the only player worth focusing on from San Francisco.

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    Steady Seattle Seahawks

    Five years in a row, the Seattle Seahawks have reached the postseason. Of course, that period of time is defined by two trips to the Super Bowl and one victory in the big game. This season is not going to be very different, as AccuScore projects the Seahawks to collect 12 wins—1.5 more than a year ago. In fact, AccuScore is projecting Seattle to finish first in the NFC, not just the NFC West. AccuScore predicts the Seahawks’ playoff streak will reach six straight seasons with roughly 90% probability.

    Notably, Seattle travels to Lambeau field in Week 1, and AccuScore projects the Packers and Seahawks to finish as the top two teams in the NFC.

    Roster Moves

    The Seahawks were hardly in need of massive changes. The most interesting move is to boost up the rushing game that dropped from 3rd in 2015 to 25th in 25th. Marshawn Lynch had something to do with that. Former Packer Eddie Lacy looks to help the Seahawks bounce back in the running department.

    Fantasy Analysis: Seattle Seahawks

    Seattle’s stingy defense is ranked second in Accuscore fantasy projections. There are few other players at the very top of the respective position ranks. Russell Wilson is number 3 on the QB ranks, and Doug Baldwin slots into the same elite company among WRs. List of Top 3 fantasy players is completed by TE Jimmy Graham, who is projected to reach 1,000 yards receiving first time since 2013 season.