We are just one week away from July, meaning we are just one month away from August and actual (preseason) football. Training camp doesn’t start until late July, though, so we have a bit of a quiet period in the NFL. There are a lot of things that are still changing, and rosters will look different in September than they do now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make some predictions. So, who is the top MVP candidate on each team for the 2017 NFL season?
Baltimore Ravens: QB Joe Flacco
What needs to happen: Flacco follows up 2008 NFL Draft classmate Matt Ryan’s MVP season and plays lights out with Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Breshad Perriman to throw to; the Ravens win the North and get a top-two seed in the AFC.
Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green
What needs to happen: Rookies John Ross and Joe Mixon take the attention away and Tyler Eifert stays healthy, allowing Green to see more favorable coverage; he catches 100 passes for the first time in his career and goes over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns as the Bengals offense puts up record-breaking numbers.
Cleveland Browns: QB Cody Kessler
What needs to happen: The new additions to the offensive line give Kessler time to find Kenny Britt and a healthy Corey Coleman; Cleveland goes from one win to above .500 and playoff contention in large part to clutch play from the second-year quarterback.
Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Le’Veon Bell
What needs to happen: Pittsburgh runs away with the AFC North and Le’Veon Bell goes over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns; a win over the Patriots in December thanks to Bell’s dominance gives the Steelers a shot at the #1 seed.
Buffalo Bills: RB LeSean McCoy
What needs to happen: McCoy leads the league in rushing and keeps his yards per carry above 5.0; the Bills win 11 games and earn a wild card spot in the AFC.
Miami Dolphins: RB Jay Ajayi
What needs to happen: Adam Gase really does give Ajayi 350 carries and stays as efficient as he was last season, which gives him over 1,700 rushing yards; the talented back also improves as a receiver, and the Dolphins make the playoffs for the second straight season.
New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady
What needs to happen: Brady’s new target Brandin Cooks gives us flashbacks to 2007 and the Patriots win the AFC East yet again; TB12 continues to play better than ever in the face of Father Time.
New York Jets: DE Leonard Williams
What needs to happen: The Jets locker room decides they aren’t going to be content with being in the basement; Williams single-handedly wins a handful of games and New York is somehow still in it past Thanksgiving.
Houston Texans: DE J.J. Watt
What needs to happen: Jadeveon Clowney’s 2016 breakout gives Watt more freedom to wreck opposing offenses; he breaks Michael Stahan’s single-season sack record and the Texans feel good about their postseason chances no matter who is playing quarterback.
Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck
What needs to happen: The offensive line is finally stays together and builds some chemistry; Luck throws 40+ touchdowns and single-digit interceptions as the Colts look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender under Chuck Pagano.
Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Leonard Fournette
What needs to happen: Fournette is every bit as good as Ezekiel Elliott was last season despite a weaker supporting cast; the rookie lives up to the hype and the talented Jags team finally reaches its potential.
Tennessee Titans: QB Marcus Mariota
What needs to happen: After throwing 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions last season, Mariota is even better with Eric Decker and Corey Davis in town; Tennessee makes the playoffs behind Mariota’s 4,000 passing yards and 35 touchdowns.
Denver Broncos: LB Von Miller
What needs to happen: Denver’s defense takes matters into their own hands and dominates all season; Miller records 20 sacks for the first time in his career and the Broncos make the playoffs despite shaky quarterback play.
Kansas City Chiefs: QB Alex Smith
What needs to happen: Smith takes the Chiefs selection of Patrick Mahomes as an insult and makes sure there is no doubt who the quarterback is; he breaks all his career-highs and it is clear that Kansas City is a real threat to the Pats.
Los Angeles Chargers: QB Philip Rivers
What needs to happen: Keenan Allen stays healthy and Mike Williams plays like he did at Clemson, plus the two new offensive linemen create a balanced offense; Rivers looks comfortable in LA as the Chargers become the third team in the division to make the playoffs.
Oakland Raiders: QB Derek Carr
What needs to happen: Carr puts up the biggest numbers of his career with Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook, and Cordarrelle Patterson all added to the offense; Oakland gets a top-two seed behind Carr’s rocket arm and clutch play.
Chicago Bears: RB Jordan Howard
What needs to happen: A contending Chicago team relies on defense and a ball-control offense led by Howard; after rushing for 1,313 yards as a rookie, Howard proves the doubters wrong and solidifies himself as the next great Bears running back.
Detroit Lions: QB Matthew Stafford
What needs to happen: Detroit makes the playoffs for the second year in a row; Stafford throws for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns like he did in 2011, but this time without Calvin Johnson.
Green Bay Packers: QB Aaron Rodgers
What needs to happen: The Packers offense rivals the Patriots as the most fun in the league to watch with converted receiver Ty Montgomery basically being another receiver for Rodgers to throw to; #12 goes for 4,500 yards and another 40 touchdowns with single-digit interceptions.
Minnesota Vikings: QB Sam Bradford
What needs to happen: Minnesota plays like they did early in 2016 as health cooperates; a full offseason with the offense allows Bradford to undoubtedly join the NFL’s elite passers.
Dallas Cowboys: QB Dak Prescott
What needs to happen: Prescott avoids a sophomore slump and the Cowboys win the NFC East again; it might be impossible to not throw more than four interceptions, but Dak also improves upon his 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns.
New York Giants: S Landon Collins
What needs to happen: The Giants defense is the best in the NFL; Collins has another all-around monster season, and New York knocks Dallas from the top of the NFC East.
Philadelphia Eagles: QB Carson Wentz
What needs to happen: Whatever work Wentz did this offseason fixed his mechanics and he becomes more efficient in his second year; Alshon Jeffery stays healthy and Nelson Agholor breaks out as Wentz leads the Eagles to the playoffs, throwing for 4,000 yards and 30+ touchdowns.
Washington Redskins: QB Kirk Cousins
What needs to happen: Cousins likes throwing to Terrelle Pryor more than he did Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, and he leads the league in passing yards after nearly doing so last season; Washington jumps the Cowboys and Giants in the NFC East.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones
What needs to happen: Julio finally surpasses 10 touchdowns as new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian makes it a point to feature him near the end zone; Matt Ryan doesn’t mind his teammate getting the award with 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton
What needs to happen: Christian McCaffrey is the best thing to ever happen to Newton, as the rookie gives him another security blanket underneath and he completes over 62% of his passes for the first time; the 2015 NFL MVP returns to form as both a runner and passer as Carolina regains control of the South.
New Orleans Saints: RB Adrian Peterson
What needs to happen: AD overcomes another injury and proves doubters wrong yet again; despite splitting time with Mark Ingram, the 32-year-old sees light boxes in a Brees-quarterbacked offense and rushes for 1,500 yards on his way to his second MVP award.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston
What needs to happen: Winston embraces his team being on Hard Knocks this summer and turns the Bucs into a playoff team in his third season; after throwing for just over 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Winston throws for 4,800 and 32+ touchdowns with DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, and Chris Godwin being added this offseason.
Arizona Cardinals: RB David Johnson
What needs to happen: Johnson does basically exactly what he did last season, but the Cardinals win more games and make the postseason; fantasy owners rejoice.
Los Angeles Rams: RB Todd Gurley
What needs to happen: Sean McVay immediately turns things around for the Rams and does a lot better than the previous regime in utilizing the talented back; Gurley rushes for 1,600 yards and double-digit touchdowns as LA fights for a playoff berth.
San Francisco 49ers: RB Carlos Hyde
What needs to happen: Hyde rushes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns as the Niners win close game after close game; playing all their November games at home, San Francisco is able to beat the Cardinals, Giants, and Seahawks to gain momentum heading into December.
Seattle Seahawks: QB Russell Wilson
What needs to happen: After throwing for a career-high 4,219 yards in 2016, Wilson continues to improve that number like he has in each of his first five seasons; he throws for 4,500 yards in a balanced offense as the Seahawks show they aren’t done with this core after a controversial offseason.