Finally, the games will count. The 2017 NFL regular season kicks off on Thursday, September 7 (see schedule at right). Here’s a look at the 10 best teams with powerhouse potential.
1. New England Patriots
Are the Patriots unstoppable? Tom Brady and Co. could be even better than last year’s team that stormed back to win Super Bowl LI in overtime.
2. Atlanta Falcons
The defending NFC champions let their big Super Bowl lead slip away, but expect the young defense to bounce back. Matt Ryan leads one of the NFL’s most dominant offenses.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s no doubt that the Steelers will light up the scoreboard with Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. And the defense is no slouch either.
4. Seattle Seahawks
They’re still the class of the NFC West, and a healthy Russell Wilson and a full-strength “Legion of Boom” on defense could have the Seahawks back among the NFC’s elite.
5. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers (above) is as good as they come, but the Packers’ weak running game and suspect secondary have made them vulnerable in big games.
6. Dallas Cowboys
After last year’s breakout 13–3 season, look for QB Dak Prescott to continue the Cowboys’ resurgence. But the six-game suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott, if it stands, could be a speed bump.
The NFL released its 2017 schedule and the Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots will open the season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, Sept. 7, on NBC.
7. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are coming off their first winning season since 2002, and quarterback Derek Carr is coming off a stellar year (and a broken leg). The AFC West is tough, but the Raiders are still on the rise.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
The core of the Chiefs’ AFC West championship team returns, and Alex Smith is playing with a chip on his shoulder after the team drafted Patrick Mahomes II as his heir apparent.
9. Denver Broncos
Von Miller and the defense remain stout, but the Broncos have an overhauled coaching staff as well as a work-in-progress Trevor Siemian at quarterback.
10. Arizona Cardinals
After a disappointing 7–8–1 mark in 2016, offensive stars Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson will get the Cardinals back into the playoffs.
NFL Primetime TV Schedule
Kansas City at New England, Sept. 7, 8:30/7:30c, NBC
New York Giants at Dallas, Sept. 10, 8:30/7:30c, NBC
New Orleans at Minnesota, Sept. 11, 7:10/6:10c, ESPN
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver, Sept. 11, 10:20/9:20c, ESPN
Houston at Cincinnati, Sept. 14, 8:25/7:25c, NFL Network
Green Bay at Atlanta, Sept. 17, 8:30/7:30c, NBC