The New Year is fast approaching and now is a good time to gaze into our crystal ball and make some bold predictions for the world of sports in 2017. Who will win the Super Bowl? Who’s on tap to be named Most Valuable Player in their respective sports? And which sports legends will retire in the coming 12 months? We break it all down right here, right now. And while we can’t guarantee these predictions will come true, we can assure you readers that a lot of thought, consideration and debate went into making these bold picks. Enjoy!
10. The New England Patriots Win the Super Bowl
You can make this prediction most years, and there’s nothing new about the Patriots running over the competition in the NFL, as they’re currently doing. But the question heading into Super Bowl 51 is: Who can stop the Patriots this season? The interesting thing season is not how good the Patriots are, but how bad the teams expected to challenge them are. The two top teams in the NFC from last season – the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers – are each struggling, while perennial NFC powerhouse such as the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers are blowing hot and cold. In the AFC, there seems to be even less competition for the Patriots. The Indianapolis Colts are struggling, while the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are each having so-so seasons. Sure, last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Denver Broncos, still have a good defense. But their offense is operating with a rookie at the quarterback position, and it shows. Heading into 2017, it looks like a case of the Super Bowl being the Patriots’ to lose. And with Tom Brady out for revenge after his four game suspension at the start of the season, would anyone bet against the Pats and Brady to win it all?
9. Russell Westbrook Named NBA MVP
The NBA season is long and a lot can happen between October and June. But right now, is there any single player in the NBA who is doing more to help his team win than Russell Westbrook? After his fellow All-Star teammate (and supposed friend) Kevin Durant bolted the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, the question on everyone’s mind was: what happens to the Thunder now? As good as Westbrook is, no single player can carry an entire team on their back, right? Well, so far this season, Westbrook is doing everything he can to prove the critics wrong and show that the Thunder can win without Durant. In the first week of the NBA season, Russell scored a career high 51 points in a game against the Phoenix Suns, while also racking up 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He also took 44 shots in that game. Sports writers are now wondering, out loud, if Westbrook can be the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for the entire season. So far, he’s on track. It’s still early, but no player means more to his team in the NBA than Russell Westbrook means to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
8. Milos Raonic Wins A Tennis Grand Slam
Milos Raonic is currently the fourt ranked tennis player in the world, despite the fact that he’s never won a Grand Slam title. The 25-year old Canadian, who stands 6’5″, has been consistently ranked in the top ten since he turned pro in 2008. In 2016 he had a career year, reaching the Wimbledon Finals, where he lost to current World No. 1 Andy Murray. And if you look at the current top five players in the world, Raonic is the youngest and the one who seems poised to breakout and start winning slams. Both Murray and Novak Djokovic are each pushing 30, while Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are on the back end of their respective careers. This leaves a coming void for a younger player to fill, and Raonic seems on the cusp. While he’s suffered through some recent injuries, he is still young enough to recover and challenge the main players on tour in 2017. He also added John McEnroe as coach, someone who knows something about getting over the hump. If Djokovic starts to fade in 2017, look to Raonic to move in for the kill.
7. The Cleveland Cavaliers Repeat as NBA Champions
LeBron James isn’t going anywhere. If he and the Cleveland Cavaliers can overcome the 3-1 hole they were in last season, and rally to beat the heavily favored Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, then anything is possible. And having delivered the first professional sports title to the City of Cleveland in more than 50 years, LeBron’s confidence seems to have only grown. Plus, the Cavaliers continue to fire on all cylinders with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving both healthy. While the Warriors added Kevin Durant in the off-season, the Cavaliers are rolling and lost only two of their first 15 games. Come the playoffs, the Cavaliers look to be an even more well-oiled machine, capable of taking all comers in the league (sorry fans of the Raptors, Bulls, or Celtics). Fun fact: if LeBron James makes the NBA Finals in 2017, it will mark his seventh consecutive finals appearance – a record that is crazy to even contemplate. King James looks poised to rule the NBA kingdom for years to come. Get used to it.
6. Connor McDavid Wins NHL Scoring Title
Right now all the focus in the National Hockey League seems to be on rookie sensation Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs (or maybe that’s just a geographical bias on our part). But let’s not forget about the previous rookie sensation that took the league by storm – Connor McDavid. Fully healthy and with his skates firmly under his feet, McDavid looks ready to become the first sophomore to lead the NHL in scoring since Sidney Crosby did it with 120 points in the 2006-07 season. If he can stay healthy, McDavid looks ready for a true breakout season with the Edmonton Oilers. We expect a monster season from the 19-year old pheonom, where we predict he will outscore the likes of Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin to take the Art Ross Trophy in 2017. The key will be for Connor McDavid to stay healthy. He missed 45 games last season with a broken clavical, he’ll need to work hard (and get a bit lucky) to stay on the ice and keep firing the puck into the net.
5. Arsenal Finish Atop Premier League Standings
Perennial soccer powerhouse Manchester United have been struggling for a few seasons now and many sports writers see an opportunity for rivals Manchester City or Chelsea to finish on top of the English Premier League standings in 2017. But don’t count out Arsenal. For the first few months of the season, they have kept within a few points of the league lead and look set to make a serious championship run. Manager Arsène Wenger has worked wonders with this team over the past two decades, and the Gunners only lost once in their first 13 league games (an opening day loss to Liverpool) – proving they can literally go toe-to-toe with the best clubs in the Premiership. If top scorers Alexis Sánchez and Theo Walcott can continue to add to their totals, then Arsenal can be a true contender in 2017. Manchester City and Chelsea will be there too, but our money is on Arsenal to finish on top in the new year.
4. Dustin Johnson Wins The Masters
There’s no tournament in golf more coveted than the Masters, and in 2017, we expect to see Dustin Johnson slip into the famous green jacket. Having gotten the monkey off his back with a win at the 2016 U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson seems more relaxed and confident than at any time in his career. That should help him not only compete on the biggest stages on golf in 2017, but start winning more trophies too. The guy who always seemed to blow it in the final round of the biggest golf showcases looks to have banished the boogie man that haunted him and is now ready to take his rightful place among golf’s champions. We expect to see Johnson in the lead at all the major golf tournaments in 2017, but we also expect him to win the biggest prize out there at Augusta. His famous athlete father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, will be proud.
3. Tom Brady Will Become The Oldest MVP in NFL History
Some people are betting on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to win the MVP award in the NFL in 2017. But is anyone having a more impressive season than Tom Brady? Never mind that Brady has stormed back from a four game suspension to lead his New England Patriots to glory – he’s doing it all at age 39. At a time in his career when most quarterbacks, even the great ones, are breaking down and stumbling (remember Payton Manning last season?) Tom Brady seems to only be getting better. The consensus is that Brady is better at age 39 than he was at age 29, which is unheard of in a league where nobody outruns Father Time. If Brady hangs on to win the MVP this year, he’d become the oldest Most Valuable Player in NFL history, an honor that currently belongs to Rich Gannon (2002) and Peyton Manning (2013), who were each 37-years old when they won the award. At this point, Brady seems like a lock for the 2017 honor.
2. Golfer Phil Mickelson Retires
He’s turning 47-years old in 2017 and averages more than $50 million a year in earnings and endorsements, so the time looks right for golfer Phil Mickelson to call it a career and ride his golf cart off into the sunset. Plus, the popular golfer has been musing about retirement since 2013 – saying a combination of ailments and higher federal and state taxes make it difficult for him to continue playing golf and raking in all that money he earns. And in 2016, Mickelson was named in a federal insider trading lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which it is alleged that the five-time major winner made nearly $1 million from stock trades in 2012 by using information that was not publicly available. Phil Mickelson apologized publicly and said he will repay the money, but the negative publicity clearly wore on the man. Add to these issues the fact that his wife Amy had battled cancer in recent years and we see Mickelson as the most likely top sports star to call it a career in 2017.
1. The Cleveland Indians Win the World Series
You heard it here first, folks. The Cleveland Indians will get back to the World Series in 2017, and this time they’ll win it all. The first thing the team did the day after they lost in a classic Game Seven showdown with the Chicago Cubs was re-sign team manager Terry Francona and star players such as Carlos Santana – ensuring that the core of the team remains in place. Plus the fact that the Indians now have an even bigger chip on their collective shoulders, and we can expect to see this ball club literally come out swinging in 2017. After all, nothing motivates a team like a tough loss in the finals. With the Cleveland bullpen still strong and the bats cracking, we expect to see the Cleveland Indians win their first World Series since 1948. Place your bets early…