If AJ Green and Tyler Eifert can remain healthy, the Bengals will win the division. Their defense only changed for the better, replacing Rey Maulaluga with Kevin Minter and drafting Carl Lawson, who is my early pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Ben Roethlisberger was awful on the road last season and I believe it carries over to this season. Big Ben will cost them games this season. Usually a 10-6 record would equal a playoff appearance, but with the AFC West being so stacked Pittsburgh will lose a three-way tie for the wild card spot between the Chargers and the Chiefs.
Injuries will cause the Ravens to have another mediocre season despite being well-coached and talented. Joe Flacco will continue to show why he is the most overpaid player in the NFL.
The Browns will provide their fanbase with excitement this season, and that’s all they can really ask for. No one’s expecting the Browns to do well, but it will be fun to watch how rookies Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, David Njoku, and Deshone Kizer all play in starting roles this season. If those guys pan out, maybe the Browns will win more games than I give them credit for.
One of the best offensive lines in the league will carry the Titans to heights that no one could have imagined prior to last season. Marcus Mariota has two of the best tackles in the league on either side of him and a playmaking corps that now consists of DeMarco Murray, Eric Decker, Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker, and Derrick Henry. Their defense won’t improve much, but the Titans will put up more points than anyone else this season, so it shouldn’t matter.
The Texans won’t be able to sneak into the playoffs without a good quarterback this season, especially because of the improvements the Titans made this offseason. Whether it’s Tom Savage or DeShaun Watson, this offense will still be painful to watch and another year of DeAndre Hopkins’ prime will be wasted. The loss of AJ Bouye will also prove to be more detrimental to their defense than people would like to admit.
I’m assuming that Andrew Luck will be available after Week 4. Even with that assumption, the Colts just aren’t a good football team. Without Luck, there roster is most comparable to the Jets. A schedule full of competitive teams will allow the Colts to draft someone that’s not a quarterback in the Top 5, so there’s something to look forward to.
Blake Bortles was the issue last year, so naturally the Jaguars did nothing to change that. Looking at this team on paper, you think to yourself that there’s no way it doesn’t make the playoffs. The defense is absolutely loaded, with (just to name a few) Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye, and Telvin Smith. Their offense has incredible depth at receiver and an ultra-talented running back in Leonard Fournette. Please Jacksonville, give the rest of your team some help. It sucks watching you waste all the talent you have.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have dominated the NFL for the past two decades and it won’t stop this season. Tom Brady is somehow playing the best football of his career and it seems as if no move of theirs should be questioned. I can’t see them losing a game this season no matter who they play.
A tough schedule and lack of depth will keep the Dolphins from reaching the playoffs twice in a row. Cutler will perform better than Tannehill ever has and DeVante Parker will have a breakout season, but ultimately they’ll fall short because of strength of schedule. 8-8 is a good record for a team that has to face the AFC West and the NFC South this season.
The Bills are clearly looking to rebuild and their play will show that. Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy will play with a ton of heart because that’s who they are as players, but the team around them will not be good enough to stay afloat.
New York Jets
The Jets are the worst team in football and it’s not even close. If Christian Hackenburg and Bryce Petty end up starting games for the Jets this season, you’ll know the season is on track. The Jets are on their way to ruining another USC quarterback.
The Raiders defense concerns me, but I believe a great offensive line with Marshawn Lynch and Derek Carr in the backfield will help them win the division. The Raiders will win 11 games, but they won’t be pretty. Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith may make Raiders fans tear their hair out this season watching them in the secondary.
Kansas City Chiefs
A great secondary and front seven (when healthy) will help the Chiefs secure another playoff birth. Tyreek Hill will have another great season and will ultimately win games with his big play potential. Alex Smith doesn’t excite anyone, but he’ll get the job done.
Los Angeles Chargers
In front of a whopping 20,000 people, the Chargers will make the playoffs. Firing Mike McCoy was the best thing they did this summer, and they’ll finally reach their potential because of it. Philip Rivers has a ton of weapons to work with and their defense is anchored by two of the best edge rushers in the league, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
A tough schedule and the loss of Wade Phillips will ultimately spell a disappointing season for the Broncos. Their run defense was suspect last year, and it didn’t improve in the offseason. Wade Phillips leaving as their defensive coordinator will also make more of a negative impact than people think it will.