Carolina Panthers – Can Cam Newton Return to MVP Form?
The 2015 MVP took a massive step back last year. Accuracy issues, poor offensive line play, and a lack of receiving depth all factored in to Newton’s porous season. Newton posted a 52.9 percent completion rate (30th in the league), and his 78.8 quarterback rating placed him lower than esteemed signal callers such as Case Keenum and Blake Bortles. Rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel help make the offense more dynamic, but it’s still up to Newton to get the ball to his playmakers. This year could show if an abysmal 2016 is the new norm for Newton.
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Chicago Bears – Can They Throw The Ball?
It doesn’t really matter if it’s Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky commanding the snaps under-center. This passing attack will struggle mightily. Glennon spent the last two years of his career backing up Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay. When pressed into action, he wasn’t all that great. Duly, Glennon hasn’t played crucial minutes in a meaningful game in two years. Trubisky is a rookie that started a total of 13 games at the collegiate level. Additionally, their inexperienced, underwhelming receiving corps features a slew of journeymen and the often-injured Kevin White. Jordan Howard is likely to see a high amount of stacked boxes this year. If the passing game is even just league average, the Bears will take a big step towards becoming relevant again.
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Cincinnati Bengals – Can They Stay on the Field?
A rare poor regular season in 2016 saw the Bengals missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Marvin Lewis’ club was beset by injuries and turmoil throughout the year. Key offensive stars A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, and Tyler Eifert missed a combined total of 20 games in the season. Andy Dalton and a diluted Cincy roster played well through the injuries, but this team can’t function nearly as efficiently if that many star players are forced to miss games. All three are ready to go in 2017, though the team’s starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict could be missing some games as well to kick off the 2017 season. The Bengals will have to stay on the field as often as possible if they want a chance to win the gritty AFC North.
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