The Schein Nine  

 

My 2017 NFL guarantees: Bucs, Cardinals up; Jets, Saints down

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Move over, Joe Namath.

Actually, today's column is inspired by the words of a current Jet: Muhammad Wilkerson, who channeled his inner Broadway Joe on Tuesday. Well, sort of ...

"The team will definitely be positive and do more things better than we did last year," Wilkerson said, via NJ.com. "I can guarantee that. We'll have more wins than we did last year. That's a fact."

Somehow, I don't think "The Drive To 6-10" will be printed on a T-shirt. But that's neither here nor there. The man's making guarantees in May about the 2017 season. Hey, that sounds like a great idea!

Allow me to present my way-too-early guarantees for the coming campaign, Schein Nine style, starting a counter-guarantee of sorts ...

1) The Jets won't live up to Muhammad Wilkerson's expectations.

Six wins? How about if we cut that in half? Or divide by three? Or subtract by five?

The New York Jets are going to be bad this season -- like really bad. OK, dreadful. They have the worst quarterback situation in the NFL. They don't have any receiver depth. Or an offensive line. And the defense remains a far cry from those Darrelle Revis-led units that guided Gang Green to consecutive AFC title games nearly a decade ago. (After all, the Jets just ranked 28th in scoring defense last season.)

By the way, I support the plan of rebuilding. The Jets needed to break it down and start over again. And I fully supported the Jamal Adams pick. How a player with his wide-ranging skills and leadership ability fell into New York's lap at No. 6 overall is beyond me. He's the kind of piece you build around.

But 2017 is going to be rather long. Like "The New York Jets are on the clock ..." kind of long.

2) The Saints will finish dead last in the NFC South.

I loved the Marshon Lattimore pick, but it wasn't enough. New Orleans still has mega-holes on defense, per usual. The Saints finished last season ranked second in scoring offense ... and second-to-last in scoring defense. I see this imbalance continuing in 2017. And unfortunately, I even have some issues with the offense at the moment.

Adrian Peterson is done. Other teams were right to pass on the 32-year-old running back. Prior to his season-ending knee injury in Week 3 of last season, Peterson had run the ball 37 times for ... 72 yards. That's 1.9 yards per carry. Anyone know of a fountain of youth in the Big Easy? Meanwhile, Max Unger -- a fantastic piece in the middle of that offensive line -- recently underwent foot surgery and is expected to miss about five months. That injury scares me. The Saints can't do without their pivot.

And here's another issue for New Orleans: Everyone else in the division got better this offseason.

Atlanta is rightly the favorite, having just represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. While the Falcons lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan this offseason -- something that can't be understated -- they gained pass-rush and O-line help in the draft. This is a talented roster in its prime.

In Tampa Bay, Jason Licht stole O.J. Howard in the draft and signed DeSean Jackson to stretch the defense. (More on the Bucs just below ...)

And while I didn't like Carolina's free agency period, the Panthers really spiced up the offense in the draft by adding a pair of playmakers. Christian McCaffrey is dreamy -- he'll immediately upgrade the run game and improve Cam Newton's completion percentage. Curtis Samuel is another one of these mismatch weapons. This offense already had plenty of bulk -- now it has zip.

3) The Buccaneers are making the playoffs.

Tampa Bay was my sleeper pick last year. Now, the secret is out. After improving the win total by three and barely missing the playoffs in 2016, the Bucs are poised to break through this fall.

With Jackson, Howard and Chris Godwin joining Pro Bowler Mike Evans and the underrated Cameron Brate in the passing game, Jameis Winston will emerge as a legit star in Year 3. Nick Folk giving Roberto Aguayo competition will help focus and straighten out the kicking game for close contests. The defense is solid, especially with Gerald McCoy as a man on a mission.

These Buccaneers are ready for prime time -- which is why it's so great that we'll get an early look at them on "Hard Knocks."

4) The Cardinals are returning to the playoffs.

Steve Keim cleaned up in the draft, which is par for the course. Keim told me on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," that he plucked two of the top 20 players on his board with Haason Reddick and Budda Baker. I loved the aggressiveness to trade up in Round 2 for Baker. Another versatile safety for the Cardinals? Yeah, I think they'll know how to work with that (SEE: Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon, Tony Jefferson). Reddick and Baker will fit right into this creative defense, which quietly finished No. 2 in total D last year.

On the offensive side of the ball, I believe rumors of Carson Palmer's demise have been greatly exaggerated. His 2016 season wasn't as bad as many think it was and the arm strength is still there. Oh, and he has one of the best running backs in the league at his side -- David Johnson's a terror in all phases of the game.

The Cardinals lost a lot of close games last year. Special teams doomed them. I think these trends reverse in 2017. Don't get duped: This team still oozes talent. Arizona's poised for January football once again.

5) The Cleveland Browns won't be the NFL's worst team -- or No. 31!

This counts as a bold prediction, right? I remain a believer in Hue Jackson as a head coach. And this offseason, Cleveland improved the pass rush, offensive line, defensive backfield and tight end position. Now about that quarterback ...

OK, I'm not asking for the moon here. This roster still has its flaws. I'm just forecasting a football season in which Cleveland isn't the worst of the worst. With a defense that boasts talent at all three levels (Myles Garrett, Jamie Collins, Joe Haden and Jabrill Peppers provide juice) and an O-line that looks quite imposing (Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler are four fine players), the Browns won't be an absolute embarrassment. I guarantee it.

6) Aaron Donald wins Defensive Player of the Year.

For all of the questions about whether Donald is a fit in Wade Phillips' defense, let's remember a couple things ... Aaron Donald is a star. Phillips is a defensive guru. This is going to work -- very, very well.

This cat is a monster, having posted 164 tackles and 28 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. Remember: Donald is a defensive tackle. Those numbers are silly for the position.

I don't know how the Rams will fare in their first year under 31-year-old coach Sean McVay. Major questions surround Jared Goff and the offense. But I do know that Donald will wreck his fair share of games -- and eventually have some hardware to show for it.

7) Deshaun Watson starts Week 1 -- and leads Houston to the postseason.

Competition is nice. So is publicly expressing that Tom Savage is the No. 1. But two years ago, Bill O'Brien was so sick of his nominal starting quarterback, Brian Hoyer, that he yanked him in the middle of the season opener. Last year, Brock Osweiler made O'Brien sick all season -- and he got rid of him. Do you think the coach is going to let this coming season start with a QB controversy?

Deshaun Watson was drafted to be the man. He oozes smarts, leadership and talent. And beyond the quarterback position, this team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Houston's ready to make a run now. And Watson is the man for the job.

8) The Raiders play a postseason game in Oakland.

How great would this be for the fans in the Bay Area who are still reeling from the Las Vegas announcement? And it's going to happen! You can take it to the bank, Black Holers!

With Derek Carr healthy, Oakland is the class of the AFC West. The Raiders picked up valuable experience and confidence last season. And they picked up upgrades at running back and in the defensive backfield this offseason.

The Bay Area will host a playoff game in January. And no, I'm not talking about the Niners.

9) The Patriots win the Super Bowl (again).

I've written it many times since the Brandin Cooks deal. It's almost unfair. The Patriots are going to have Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler? And now they could have Mike Gillislee and LeGarrette Blount? (Tough life, Bills Mafia.) This team is LOADED -- especially on offense. My colleague Chris Wesseling just ranked the Patriots' attack as the NFL's best. It's hard to argue with him. I mean, look at all the weapons at Tom Brady's disposal: Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Gillislee, Dwayne Allen, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola. Talk about an embarrassment of riches ...

It's Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's world -- we are all just living in it.

Sorry, haters.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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