The start of the NFL season is upon us as the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs get set to take the field on Thursday night. As the nation gears up for the first snaps of the 2017 season, the predictions have begun pouring in. Every year, there’s one team that seemingly comes out of nowhere to make a playoff run, or one that falls far short of its lofty preseason expectations.
Lending their voice to the proceedings, CBS Sports Radio hosts Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney, Marc Malusis, Greg Gianotti and Brian Jones all weighed in on which team they think will surprise people this season.
“I think it’s going to be the Tennessee Titans that surprise some people,” said Malusis. “Now, a lot of people have talked about them, so maybe it’s not that big of a surprise but I loved Mariota coming out of Oregon. I was a big Ducks fan at that stage. I love the way he goes about playing. They’ve added some weapons down there including Eric Decker in the offseason. I think the Titans defense is good enough and Mariota now with a couple years under his belt, as long as he can stay healthy being that dual-threat quarterback improving in the passing game, I think the Titans are going to be one of those upstart teams.
The Titans have been a popular preseason pick among many NFL experts heading into the season, but Brian Jones points to a different team in the AFC for his surprise team this year.
“I think it’s going to be the Cincinnati Bengals,” said Jones. “Watch out. I know it’s a controversial pick with Joe Mixon. But, this guy’s a dynamite football player. That, coupled with Andy Dalton, who will play much better this season and they get healthy wide receiver A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert at the tight end position, along with John Ross the number one pick out of Washington, look out for him.”
Cincinnati has had an interesting offseason, allowing two of their top offensive linemen in tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler to sign elsewhere, but the offense did add some potent weapons. While Malusis and Jones point to the Titans and Bengals as potential good surprise teams this year, Tiki Barber has his eyes set on a team that he thinks will disappoint this season: the Kansas City Chiefs.
“They did something interesting this offseason in drafting Pat Mahomes in the first round and he’s not playing the ‘I want to be the backup and I want to learn from Alex Smith. He’s saying: ‘I want to play right away. And, he’s actually showing that he could be capable of playing right away,” said Barber. “Now, we know Alex Smith is one of the most consistently non-bad quarterbacks in the NFL. He only threw eight interceptions last year, but he only had 15 touchdowns. So, he doesn’t take risks. I think the pressure of the young buck pushing him may force him to take some risk, which could be detrimental to the team.
Barber’s co-host, Brandon Tierney, went to the NFC for his team that he believes will disappoint this season with the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys finished 13-3 last season and Tierney believes that this year the defense is going to catch up to them.
“Their defensive deficiencies will be illuminated by the inability to really maintain and own time of possession, a stat they destroyed last year,” said Tierney.
The NFL season opens on Thursday night, September 7th, when the New England Patriots play host to the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium.