The new year brings us hope for new beginnings. As 2017 closes, over half the NFL will be watching from their couches as 12 face-off in the postseason for supremacy. For these six players and their teams, 2018 can’t come soon enough:
A disappointing year for the Raiders has turned Carr from beloved MVP candidate to perpetual scapegoat. After going 12-4 last season, Oakland entered 2017 as a trendy pick for the Super Bowl. Adding Marshawn Lynch to a talented group of skill players looked to vault them into becoming an elite offense. They’ve looked far from elite thus far– averaging just 19.4 points per game (good for 23rd in the league).
Part of that blame can be placed on the disparaging play of Oakland’s wideouts (4th in the league in dropped passes). However, Carr has taken a noticeable step back. His ball doesn’t have quite the same zip on it, and the late-game heroics have faded. An egregious fumble against the Cowboys — coupled with an uninspired performance against the Eagles to end the year will be the lasting memory for Carr’s 2017 season.
At the start of next year, Oakland’s QB will be over a year removed from his leg fracture. Carr will likely have a new offensive coordinator to work with. As such, he’ll have to prove 2017 was an outlier to justify the $125 million price tag.
As the 9-loss Raiders sulk, the 10-loss 49ers celebrate. San Francisco seems to have found their franchise QB. Jimmy G has been slinging the ball ever since moving to the Bay. The 26-year old has effectively sabotaged the 49ers’ draft position, but nobody seems to care because of how great he’s been. In just four starts, Garoppolo has recorded an 80.4 QBR while completing 69.0-percent of his passes.
Garoppolo and the Niners dissected the Jaguars last week, hanging up 44 points on the No. 1 defense in the NFL. He bullied a team chock-full of All-Pros with a receiving corps of track stars and practice players. The Niners will get Pierre Garçon back next season. Additionally, they’ll have two first round picks and the free agency period to acquire more playmakers. With a full offseason under Kyle Shanahan and a couple of new weapons on offense, the 49ers could be contending sooner rather than later.
Godspeed to anybody that has to tackle Elliott next season. After enduring one of the wildest investigations in recent NFL history, Elliott eventually served a six-game suspension during the meat of Dallas’ schedule. Dallas went 3-3 in his absence, and Elliott returned in a must-win game against the Seahawks. In the game’s most crucial moment, Dallas elected to pass the ball on the goal line.
The drive eventually led to a missed field goal by Dan Bailey — effectively ending the Cowboys’ season. The six weeks away from football could have only added more fuel to Elliott’s fire. The bruising back already runs with more vigor than anybody else in the league. Next year will be even scarier for opponents.
A cruel 2017 saw countless stars go down to the injury bug. Odell Bechkam Jr., Aaron Rodgers, and J.J. Watt were all forced to miss most of the season due to severe injuries – and each of their respective teams missed the playoffs as a result of their absence. A name that can be lost in the shuffle of the injured reserve list is Arizona’s Johnson. It’s easy to forget Johnson’s injury since it happened in Week 1 (which feels like a century ago), but the league lost one of their brightest stars that week.
Just two years removed from an NFC Championship game, the Cardinals failed to live up to expectations in 2016. Entering 2017, they were thought to be solely a one-man act with no playoff hopes. Johnson would rack up the yards, as the team racks up the losses. However, the Cards have quietly fought all year long despite losing Johnson and Carson Palmer to injuries. With Johnson back in the fold, the Cardinals are an intriguing pick to make the postseason next year.
Hopkins’ insane touchdown grab against the Steelers in Week 16 showcased the elite talent of the young wideout. Antonio Brown continuously proves he’s the best receiver in the league, but Hopkins and a slew of other names are making Brown constantly work to keep that title.
The Clemson product is first in the league in receiving touchdowns (13), second in receiving yards (1,378), and fifth in catches (96). Most of those numbers were posted while catching passes from the likes of T.J. Yates and Tom Savage. Hopkins (and all of Houston’s fan base) cannot wait until DeShaun Watson returns under center.
Adams has had a rough year. Not only has his starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed over half the year due to injury, but Adams has also been the recipient of two of the most brutal hits of the NFL season.
The first came at the hands of Chicago Bears’ linebacker Danny Trevathan. Adams was being held up by Trevathan’s teammate, and was mere milliseconds from being called down for forward progress. The second hit was produced by longtime Carolina Panther Thomas Davis on a crack-back block during an interception return. Both hits caused concussions, and the second one forced Adams to miss a game.
He hopes to get his All-Pro QB back and put all of those nasty hits behind him in 2018.
The once vaunted defense that led the Broncos to a Super Bowl championship is now a shell of its former self. After finishing in the top-5 in points allowed in each of the last two seasons, the Broncos have dipped to 22nd in 2017. The unit allowed 23.7 points per game – good for last in the AFC West.
Denver’s group has seemingly quit amidst some of the worst quarterback play in recent memory. A revolving door of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch hasn’t done much to inspire the other side of the ball. Their regression certainly isn’t for a lack of talent.
Miller remains one of the top edge rushers in the league, and the cornerback duo of Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib have barely lost a step. With a high draft pick incoming, John Elway could bring back some excitement to this franchise by selecting their next signal caller.