Week one of the NFL schedule kicks off this Thursday night. However, we’ll save the week one previews for next week. Let’s take an early look at how the AFC playoff picture could shape up at the end of the season.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-4)- Some fans and experts might not like this prediction since the Chiefs are going through a lot of change on offense. Two seasons ago, this team traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. In the off-season, the Chiefs decided not to keep JuJu Smith-Schuster on the roster. It’s time for receivers like Skye Moore and Marquez Valdez-Scantling to earn their salaries. The Chiefs defense lost a household name as they were unable to keep Juan Thornhill on the team since he signed with the Browns. How will affect the defense? We’ll find out.
2. New York Jets (12-5)- This could raise a few eyebrows and receive a lot of confusing looks. The Jets aren’t really a powerhouse team right? I’m recent history, this team was as true an underdog as the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will change things and get this team going in the right direction. Rodgers and receiver Garrett Wilson will have great team chemistry right away. The defense will be an absolute juggernaut with big names like Cornerback Ahmad (Sauce) Gardner and Defensive Tackle Quinnen Williams. This defense might regularly limit opposing offense to under 16 points a game.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (12-5) – The AFC North might be the toughest division to predict but it’s safe to go with the Bengals for now. Although this team will face the best competition in the entire NFL, it’s hard to dismiss the offense that has at least five big time playmakers. As long the elite players on this offense remain healthy, this team will be virtually unstoppable. Quarterback Joe Burrow, Receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Receiver Tee Higgins, Receiver Tyler Boyd and Runningback Joe Mixon will take on any defense and always have chances to win.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6)- The Jaguars are in an interesting but mostly weak division in the AFC South. Although this team was a pleasant surprise last year, the fact remains that the AFC South is not an established powerhouse division. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence will easily lead this team to its second consecutive AFC South Division crown.
5. Baltimore Ravens (10-7)- The Ravens defense will keep this team in a lot of games. The offense needs to step it up and Quarterback Lamar Jackson needs to stay healthy. The Ravens also need Runningback J.K. Dobbins to avoid major injuries and play no fewer than 13 games. Will Jackson establish rapport with Receiver Odell Beckham Junior right away? Jackson will probably throw to Tight End Mark Andrews a lot then establish team chemistry with Beckham and rookie Receiver Zay Flowers.
6. Los Angeles Chargers- (10-7)- As a team that usually has one of the best offenses in the league, it’s usually a foregone conclusion the Chargers will make the playoffs. Quarterback Justin Herbert will lead his team to a postseason appearance again.
7. Cleveland Browns (10-7)- It’s tempting to say this team will easily become a fifth or sixth seed. However, even with the outstanding job that General Manager Andrew Berry did this entire off-season, it’s best to keep expectations in check. This team has a tendency to really “drop the ball” with high expectations so it’s best to be somewhat conservative about giving this team too high of a ceiling. However, Quarterback DeShaun Watson looks sharper than in last year’s pre-season which is a very good sign. Watson might be on track to have a Houston like performance which is a welcoming sign in Cleveland. Terrible Quarterback play typically haunts this team like a horrifying horror film on Halloween night that gives fans nightmares for months. Newcomers Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin will provide Watson with a lot speed and ability to confuse most defenses. Defenses will have a lot to think about this season. Runningback Nick Chubb could post Derrick Henry like numbers if he avoids any major injuries. Receiver Amari Cooper had a great bounce back season and he’ll likely perform better this season. Also, Tight End David Njoku could be a fearsome weapon in this offense. Will the revamped defense under coordinator Jim Schwartz turn things around? Will newcomers Zadarius Smith and Dalvin Tomlinson make opposing offense scream their names? Will Thornhill be the safety the Browns need?