Every year there are players and teams who underperform. That’s just sports. If you are a Rams fan, you know what I’m talking about. You started the year with doe-eyed optimism now that your city finally had an NFL team back. Then you watched Todd Gurley limp to 885 yards and 3.2 yards per carry, both steep drops from this 2015 rookie numbers.
Gurley wasn’t the only player who saw a decline, and the disappointing performances may leave you asking: was it just a one-year slump or was it a look into the future? There are so many factors that go into a player’s performance, that it can be very hard to tell an anomaly from an omen. A change in team, quarterback, and even head coach can make or break a season. I’m here to help you out by sorting out which players are actually washed up and which will bounce back. So let my foresight calm your nerves, or possibly stress you out even more.
2017 NFL Bounce-Back Odds
Odds Adrian Peterson rushes for 1,000 yards: 3/2
There are so many questions surrounding Adrian Peterson: Is he healthy? Which team will he sign with? Did he actually injure his son? Okay maybe we’ll leave that one alone, but as for the first two questions, he returned at the end of the season and had six carries for 22 yards, so yes, he can still run, to some extent. Who will he sign with? That’s up in the air. The Vikings officially parted ways with AP at the end of February, and since then, he’s been on the hunt for a new home. That includes a recent visit to New Orleans that ended without a contract.
AP has proved that, if he’s healthy, he can reach the 1,000-yard mark without breaking a sweat. He’s hit the plateau every time he’s carried the ball at least 230 times. So the big question becomes will he get the carries? There’s no clear frontrunner for his services (meaning no team is eager to make him their bell-cow) and chemistry isn’t made overnight.
Odds Todd Gurley will top 100 rushing yards in more than one game: 12/13
Gurley called his 2016 season a nightmare. After being named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015, Gurley followed it up with an abysmal 2016, where he never rushed for more than 85 yards in a game. His average was just 55.3.
So what was the cause of the sudden downturn? The move to L.A, a mid-season coaching change, and the fact that Gurley didn’t have much to work with at quarterback are all contributing factors. So was a horrid offensive line. Jared Goff should be at least a bit better in his second year, and the Rams made nice additions to the O-line (see Andrew Whitworth). Let’s chalk it up to a sophomore slump and hope new head coach Sean McVay will help re-ignite the fire under Gurley.
Odds Ezekiel Elliott will average over 100 rushing yards per game: 1/15
Elliott had an amazing year, so why is he on this list? Because now that he’s proved he can perform to that level, it would be a disappointment if he did anything less. Elliott finished his rookie season with 1,631 yards, most in the NFL. So can he do it again? Maybe. Teams now know how he plays, so it won’t be as much of a surprise. Will he rush for over 100 yards a game? Almost definitely.
Odds DeAndre Hopkins reaches 1,000 receiving yards: 1/3
For the first time since his rookie season, Hopkins failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards. While there were a boatload of issues that led to this, one thing is certain: the play of Brock Osweiler was the primary cause. The two struggled to find a rhythm, leading Hopkins to be under-utilized.
While the Texans’ QB situation is still a little fuzzy, we have another crucial certainty on that front: Osweiler won’t be under center. Ergo, Hopkins is set for a rebound year.
Odds J.J. Watt will lead the NFL in sacks: 11/9
Watt played just three games of the 2016 season because of injury. No injury comes at a good time, but Watt’s was really bad timing. He was coming off one of the best seasons of his already storied career, making 76 tackles, leading the NFL in sacks with 17.5, and taking home his third AP Defensive Player of the Year award.
Back surgery is serious stuff, so will we see him return to form? Only time will tell, but I think there is a good chance. He did the smart thing by not coming back too early, and he now has a formidable Jadeveon Clowney to work with. Opposing teams won’t be able to key on him as much as they used to.
Odds Eddie Lacy will receive his entire “weight bonus”: 3/2
How can you talk about Eddie Lacy and not discuss his weight? The big man has struggled with it over the past few seasons, and on top of that, hardly played last year due to injury.
He signed with Seattle in the off-season, and his contract includes a weight bonus. Basically, Lacy will make $55k each time he weighs in under a set target (255 pounds in May; 250 pounds in June and August; 245 pounds from September to December). It won’t be easy though. It’s believed he’s currently nearing 270 pounds. Shedding 30 pounds is doable; keeping it off may not be.
Odds to make the 2017 NFL playoffs
Arizona Cardinals: 5/6
The Cards finished with a 7-8-1 record and missed the postseason after a stellar 2015. Why? Injuries, the play of Carson Palmer, and the fact the team couldn’t win one-score games all played a factor. Head coach Bruce Arians said there will be no major changes heading into the new season, and that they want to try to get back to the level they were at in 2015. They’ve been clawing at the toes of the Seahawks for a while, and I think we’ll see the Cards back in the playoffs in 2017.
Denver Broncos: 3/2
The Broncos have a new head coach, no DeMarcus Ware, and a couple not-so-great options at quarterback. Enough said.
Baltimore Ravens: 5/2
It’s been downhill since their Super Bowl XLVII victory. Last season, the Ravens missed the postseason for the second consecutive year. There were flashes of a good team when they started the year on a three-game win streak, but that quickly vanished, as Joe Flacco had one of his worst seasons to date. If he can find his groove in 2017, they might be able to punch a ticket into the postseason. But the Steelers will be tough to knock off in the AFC East, and the formidable AFC West could easily snag both Wild Cards.
Carolina Panthers: 3/1
Cam Newton didn’t look like himself in 2016. But he wasn’t the only reason for the Panthers’ poor play. Their secondary was awful, and both their offensive and defensive lines were bad. That’s a lot to fix in just a few months’ time. I don’t see them trumping the Falcons in the division race or outpacing the likes of the Giants, Vikings, and Cardinals for a Wild Card spot.
Odds the Cleveland Browns finish .500 or better: 9/1
After a 3-13 record in 2015, you’d think things couldn’t get any worse for the Browns … but they did. The team had just one win last season. One! So are they making the right moves to improve? Well, they got Brock Osweiler, which makes the reflexive answer no. Thankfully, they only did that in order to acquire more draft picks.
On the whole, the team is moving in the right direction. They have been stockpiling picks, they’ve stopped reaching on QBs, and are generally taking the rebuild slowly but surely. If they’d done this five years ago, they might be Super Bowl contenders by now. Of course, all that adds up to another year of on-field misery for the Browns. Winning eight games is pretty much out of the question.
Photo credit: By Joe Bielawa [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.