A lot of crazy things happened in the sports world in 2016. For the first time ever we had a unanimous MVP. Cleveland finally won a championship, and the Cubs did too. Kevin Durant jumped ship. Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and the Browns took losses. We said goodbye to Charles Woodson, Big Papi, the Black Mamba, and A-Rod. We said hello to Tebow in a baseball uniform and two rookies in Dallas. 2016 was such an odd year that we found ourselves caring about swimming, and Bartolo Colon found himself hitting home runs.
Needless to say, we can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for sports fans. But heading into the year, here are the five main storylines the world will be looking at in 2017.
- The Cowboys Are Super Bowl Contenders
The Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the NFL. That’s the first time I’ve said that since the mid-90’s. And the thing is, although there are weapons across the field for America’s Team, the two main stars are rookies. Quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot are both serious MVP candidates, and the defense that was questionable before the season has been good enough to help guide Dallas to the top seed in the NFL.
So regardless of Dak or Zeke winning awards other than the obvious Rookie of the Year trophy headed to Dallas, it is a storyline in itself that these two players have the Cowboys future looking as bright as it has since the days where Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith were in their shoes.
Prediction: The Cowboys’ rookie duo gets all of the love, the offensive line is the real reason they are the best team in football. Dak won’t be able to make it through the NFC playoffs this year though because the NFC is by far the harder conference, and the Seahawks, Packers, Giants, and Falcons are all legit contenders for this year’s Lombardi Trophy.
- Can the Cubs Build a Dynasty?
Last season the Cubs had one of the best seasons in MLB history, winning 103 games and their first World Series title in 107 years. Still, the Cubs were very close to losing the World Series going down 3 games to 1 against Cleveland, despite having arguably the best lineup baseball has seen in decades. Throw in the best pitching staff in baseball, with the lowest ERA in the Majors last year and the Cubs were destined to end the streak.
This year they get back Kyle Schwarber for the year as he returned from his early season injury in time for the World Series. They also move Wilson Contreras to full-time starter behind the plate which is a huge bonus for the Cubbies. But will the losses of All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman (Yankees) and outfielder Dexter Fowler (Cardinals) be too much to overcome for the Cubs? Vegas doesn’t think so. Chicago’s NL team is still the favorite to win the 2017 World Series thanks in large part to the best lineup, best rotation, and best front office in baseball. Well played Chicago.
Prediction: The Cubs definitely have the talent to repeat their historic championship season, but they were close to being knocked out last year, and this year the AL will finish the job.
- Will the Warriors’ Super-Team Win it All?
Last year the Warriors had the best Power Forward (Draymond Green), Shooting Guard (Klay Thompson), and Point Guard (Steph Curry) in the entire league. Heck, Curry was so good he may have had the greatest regular season in basketball history, becoming the first ever unanimous league MVP. And the team was so good that they set a record for the most wins in regular season history.
Still, the Warriors lost to a Lebron James-led Cavaliers team in the Finals. So what did Golden State do to make sure that they would finish the job this season? They went out and signed the biggest NBA free agent since Shaq. Kevin Durant makes this year’s Warriors team the most talented squad to ever grace the floor in the NBA. But does signing a player who choked away a 3-1 lead in the Conference Finals help a team who choked away a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals? Yes. Yes it does.
Prediction: The Warriors will win the title this year with the help of Kevin Durant. If somehow James’ Cavs upset them in the Finals again, Lebron becomes a top-5 player of all-time.
- Will Nick Saban Become College Football’s Greatest Coach Ever?
In this writer’s mind the answer has already been decided. Alabama head coach is the greatest college football coach of all-time. His resume speaks for itself. The living legend has over 200 victories, and seems on his way to his 6th National Championship.
This year’s Crimson Tide team might be his best ever, with a defense that is arguably the best college football has ever seen. A sixth title would leave Saban one short of fellow Alabama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant, but Saban is competing in a much tougher era, and has accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time.
So what might be the bigger question is, when will Saban finally stop coaching and give other coaches in the SEC and around college football a chance at a National Championship.
Prediction: Saban is already the best coach in college football history, but a win against Clemson in this year’s National Title Game cements his place atop the list in every circle of reasonable fans.
- Can Russell Westbrook Keep it up?
The answer is no. Right now Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is averaging better than 30-10-10, aiming to become the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for an entire season (although statistically it was much easier to do when the “Big O” played).
The thing is, it is nearly impossible for a player, even one of Westbrook’s caliber, to keep that kind of pace, although OKC head coach Billy Donovan would love for his star to somehow do so, and keep the Thunder in contention in the tough Western Conference.
Prediction: Russell Westbrook falls short of averaging a triple-double for the season, dropping below double digits in rebounds during march and never recovering. He will however average 28-9-11 on his way to being named the NBA MVP.