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2017 Playbook Football 10 Questions Interviews

1. Which NFL teams do you see being 'Play On' worthy this season?
I expect to support the Eagles many times this season and won't be surprised if Philadelphia has a shot to go from 4th to 1st in the NFC East. Philadelphia should have one of the better NFC defenses and in year two for Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz this should be a very competitive team. Value may be with the Eagles going against their very popular division rivals and the Eagles had a stronger scoring differential than the Giants and Redskins last season despite finishing 7-9.

2. Which NFL teams do you see being 'Play Against' worthy this season?
After a historic offensive season Atlanta will be worth looking at as a fade team in 2017. Given the big numbers the team put up last year the spreads are likely to be shaded upward for the Falcons. Atlanta was only 11-5 last season before cruising through the NFC Playoffs by virtue of getting handed the #2 seed due to Seattle's collapse. The Super Bowl defeat hangover will take a toll and the NFC South looks like a loaded division with the Buccaneers on the rise as well as a bounce-back season for the Panthers very possible.

3. Which NFL teams do you see making it to the Super Bowl this season?
Green Bay looks like a complete team in the NFC and the gap between the Packers and the rest of the division looks fairly severe. After a lackluster regular season the Packers were the team to beat late in the 2016 season before the injury toll became too significant, still making a run to the NFC Championship with a limited roster. A proven coach and quarterback should lead the way to a successful season in Green Bay. It may be too obvious but it is simply too tough to pick against the Patriots in the AFC. The complete lack of competition in the AFC East makes it a near certainty that New England will wind up with a top two seed in the AFC and while Pittsburgh, Oakland, and perhaps a few other candidates are lurking, a repeat title run looks very possible.

4. Which College Football teams do you see being 'Play On' worthy this season?
Florida and Wisconsin are two programs that have been pretty successful with recent coaching changes the past two years and now in year three could really hit their stride. Since neither has an overly explosive offense and is led by great defensive play there is less risk of great overvaluation in the numbers. Both teams are serious contenders in top major conferences and seem likely to have fine seasons with good spread results. As has been the case the last two years, falling short of the national playoff looks like the most likely scenario but both would be top sleeper candidates if one of the Big Ten or SEC powers falls apart.

5. Which College Football teams do you see being 'Play Against' worthy this season?
USC and Washington will be heavy favorites to meet in the Pac-12 championship with both teams in the driver's seat of their divisions in part to not having to play each other in the regular season. The September results could be lopsided and heading into the Pac-12 season both teams should be top 10 squads facing steep lines every week in a grueling conference that could have pretty good depth this season. Every foe will be gunning for an upset against these teams should they stay undefeated well into the season and value could be there fading the Trojans and Huskies as both could gain clear division leads looking ahead to the title game and national picture.

6. Which College Football teams do you see making it to the College Football Playoff Championship Game this season?
Alabama and Florida State meet to kick off the season and I expect both to still make the college football playoff. The loser will still have a favorable path to win out the rest of the way and win their respective divisions and conferences. Both will get the benefit of the doubt as the top one-loss team at the end of the year as the schedules will provide enough quality competition but many of the toughest regular season games will come in favorable spots. Ohio State appears to have the best path in the Big Ten and should be favored over Penn State or Wisconsin to grab a playoff spot once again. The Pac-12 championship could decide another bid and I'll call for what feels like a minor upset right now of Washington besting USC.

7. Which new head coach hire will prove to be the best in the NFL this season?
I'm buying into 31-year old Sean McVay who is taking over the Los Angeles Rams. After consistent mediocrity under Jeff Fisher despite a talented roster the Rams have some pieces to work with and the NFC West is no longer a great division with Arizona and Seattle sliding downward last season and the 49ers still looking like a mess. McVay turned Kirk Cousins into a star at Washington and he can make Jared Goff a successful quarterback especially with a great running back in the backfield and what should be a competent defense. Making the playoffs might be a reach in year 1 but improving on last season's record and besting the season win total looks realistic for a much stronger second season in LA.

8. Which new head coach hire will prove to be the best in College Football this season?
While Tracy Claeys didn't deserve to get fired for his football results getting Minnesota to a 9-4 season including a bowl win, the flashy hire of P.J. Fleck should work out for the Gophers. A program that has lacked enthusiasm despite decent results should get a boost with the charismatic young coach that led Western Michigan to an undefeated regular season last year. Fleck is a relentless, if not reckless recruiter and he'll breathe energy into a talented roster that should open up on offense a bit more while drawing a reasonable path in the much weaker West division of the Big Ten. The Gophers might not match nine wins from last season but they'll feel like a better and more relevant program in the Big Ten which is what the program needs.

9. Final closing thought on the 2017 NFL season.
I expect more surprises in the NFC than in the AFC. New England, Pittsburgh, and Oakland deserve to be fairly heavy division favorites and while the AFC South might be completely up for grabs none of those four teams looks like a serious AFC contender. In the NFC 13 of the 16 teams have a reasonable case to be a playoff caliber squad and I don't expect any team to pull away with a massive division lead. Expect at least two of the four divisions to have new champions in 2017 and the playoff field to have a few new entrants that weren't in the picture last season with a few strong bounce back candidates from the 2015 postseason field.

10. Final closing thought on the 2017 College Football season.
The Big XII will regret bringing back the championship game this season. The league lacks a standout national contender and it will be tough for any team to run the table. A one-loss conference champion could have a valid case for inclusion in the playoff but now that team will need to beat the runner up, likely for a second time in a short time span, to keep its national playoff case alive. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both look capable of having a national playoff caliber team but it seems likely those fierce rivals could wind up splitting if they have to play twice late in the season and it could sabotage the national hopes for the conference which could be shut out of the playoff for a second straight season and third time in four years.

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