Just like that, it’s over.
A brisk 17-week regular season filled with injuries to superstars, protests and the emergence of some up-and-coming teams has finally ended. Other than the twelve teams that made the playoffs, this, for the most part, mercilessly ends their campaign. But some more than others will wish the season just kept chugging along instead of an eight-month hiatus stopping them from playing the sport.
For some teams, it’s because their young talent has finally started to emerge; others just wanted this season to end so their prized superstars can get back on the gridiron. Here are the top three teams looking forward to the 2018 season.
San Francisco 49ers
This is the obvious one. The Niners are the hottest team in the NFL, and it’s not even close. San Francisco capped off their 6-10 season winning 6 of their last 7, including being the only team to go undefeated in the month of December.
With the stunning acquisition of Superman-turned-franchise-QB Jimmy Garoppolo, the Niners have transformed from a lowly one-win team to a playoff contender. But unfortunately for fans of the 49ers, the season has to come to an end—despite their five-game winning streak.
Expectations will be sky high coming into the season, as the Niners will be the trendy offseason pick. And for good reason. Garoppolo will have time to master Kyle Shanahan’s complex offense while gaining a better rapport with the offensive skill players. Not to mention, the Niners will have more than $115 cap space before signing Jimmy G to a long-term contract or franchise tagging him. That will give the franchise plenty of money to upgrade the offensive line, receiving corp, pass rush and secondary.
And despite trading their second-round pick for the former Patriots backup, the Niners will have at least nine draft picks, including four in the first three rounds.
The future is bright in Santa Clara.
The Texans had a rough year at 4-12, but Houston still has to be feeling pretty good about itself. No team was hit harder by injuries: The Texans lost potential Rookie of the Year Deshaun Watson, perennial All-Pro J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and others.
In a division that has a lot of young and talented teams, the Texans could emerge as the early favorites in 2018 if the team can play draft and free agency right. Unfortunately for the Texans, Houston won’t have their first two picks due to separate trades with the Cleveland Browns.
The Texans still have to like what they’re building with a dynamic offense centered around Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers’ passing game could look completely different next year, and that might be a good thing for Green Bay.
The Pack did a great job of locking up their best receiver, Davante Adams, to a contract extension. The team could also move on from fan favorites Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
But the Packers have to be excited about next year due to the return of Aaron Rodgers. The best QB in the NFL arguably completely transforms the Packers from a bottom-of-the-barrel squad into a Super Bowl contender.
While this was a tough season in Title Town, the Packers found three running backs who can create quite the three-headed monster next season. That’ll only make the Packers more dangerous.
The Packers will potentially have to add multiple receivers, but that offense should be even better next year. If only the Packers can fix their defense.