With less than a month to go before the NFL kicks off the 2017 regular season schedule, fans everywhere are hoping that this is the year their favorite team makes it to the big game. The big question once again this season is a familiar one: Can anyone stop Tom Brady and the New England Patriots?

Always expect the unexpected

While on paper, most fans would agree that the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys could be headed for a collision course to meet up in Super Bowl 52, don’t count on it. Why? Because the NFL is full of surprises, and seven times out of ten the early Super Bowl favorites don’t win the big game.

Let’s be honest. Not many people expected the Atlanta Falcons to be in Super Bowl 51 -- let alone be one quarter away from winning it. The same can be said for Super Bowl 50 and the Carolina Panthers. It is always easy to look back on the season when it is complete and say “I knew so-and-so would be great!” It is always easy to play the Monday morning quarterback situation, explaining how you knew a team would be great after they shocked the NFL world, but failing to mention it to anyone else. The key is finding the surprise teams before the season begins.

Will the defending champion New England Patriots win back-to-back Super Bowls? They sure look like they can, but what team or teams have the capability to surprise everyone in 2017?

Here are three teams that are going to do better than expected.

Teams that will surprise

The Detroit Lions: It is time for Matt Stafford to become the king of the jungle for the Lions. Stafford has several weapons on offense that should be able to help him and the team contend for the NFC North crown. At +600, or 6/1 odds to win the North, they are worth taking a gamble on.

The New York Giants: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! That’s how the Giants team must feel when they hear how good the Dallas Cowboys are going to be this season. Dallas, Dallas, Dallas! The G-Men could have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, and newcomer Brandon Marshall will have a lot to do with it.

The Buffalo Bills: No, they won’t dethrone the New England Patriots and win the AFC East, but they may win nine games this season and flirt with a postseason spot, which will make the fans in Orchard Park ecstatic.


The Dallas Cowboys: No, this prediction isn’t because Ezekiel Elliott is out for the first six games of the season. It is because defenses will be ready for the super duo of Prescott and Elliott a lot more than they were last season. Dallas will still have a good season, but they will either miss the postseason or just squeak in as a wild-card team.

The Seattle Seahawks: Once again Las Vegas and NFL experts alike are handing the Seahawks the NFC West crown. The cracks are starting to show. They will have a tough time in 2017.

The Houston Texans: One year wonders? Probably not, but this season they won’t catch folks off guard. Tom Savage won’t lead the Texans to the AFC South crown, but watch out if Deshaun Watson gets some playing time.

This kid is the real deal and could make the Texans an interesting squad to watch this fall.

Below is a look at the current odds for each NFL team to win their division, along with my predictions:

NFC North

  • Green Bay Packers: 4-11
  • Minnesota Vikings: 7-2
  • Detroit Lions: 6-1
  • Chicago Bears: 50-1

Winner -- Detroit Lions

NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons: 8-5
  • Carolina Panthers: 2-1
  • Tampa Bay Bucs: 4-1
  • New Orleans Saints: 4-1

Winner -- Atlanta Falcons

NFC West

  • Seattle Seahawks: 1-4
  • Arizona Cardinals: 3-1
  • LA Rams: 25-1
  • San Francisco 49ers: 40-1

Winner -- Arizona Cardinals

AFC East

  • New England Patriots: 1-14
  • Miami Dolphins: 11-4
  • Buffalo Bills: 7-2
  • NY Jets: 9-2

Winner -- New England Patriots

AFC North

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-3
  • Baltimore Ravens: 11-4
  • Cincinnati Bengals: 13-4
  • Cleveland Browns: 80-1

Winner -- Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South

  • Indianapolis Colts: 9-4
  • Houston Texans: 9-4
  • Tennessee Titans: 2-1
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: 5-1

Winner -- Indianapolis Colts

AFC West

  • Oakland Raiders: 9-5
  • Kansas City Chiefs: 2-1
  • Denver Broncos: 7-2
  • LA Chargers: 4-1

Winner -- Denver Broncos