The NFL Draft and the majority of the free-agent moves and trades are bound to occur before the season are done, and now we are heading into the summer. Summer means training camp and OTA’s, and we are less than a hundred days away from the start of the season. While that is close, it is still definitely too far out to start making playoff predictions right? Yeah probably. We are ignoring that observation though and making predictions for how I think the playoff picture is going to look after one of the craziest off-seasons of all time.
1. Buffalo Bills
A less competitive division than the AFC North and West means that the Bills have a good shot at the 1 seed in the AFC. They were a coin flip away from the AFC Championship last season after a sensational game against the Chiefs, and only look stronger heading into this season. I see big things happening for the Bills (as evidenced by my predictions), and locking up the top seed will make their journey to the Super Bowl one game shorter than the rest of the AFC powerhouses surrounding them.
2. Indianapolis Colts
Before you send your fingers into a frenzy on your keyboard denouncing this entire article for the Colts here, just use your brain first. The Titans were far from the best team in the AFC talent-wise last season, but they locked up the top seed anyways. Why? Four games against the Jaguars and Texans in interdivisional games makes their schedule than the rest of the AFC teams running the gauntlet. I see a similar type of occurrence with the Colts this season in the AFC South. They ride the easier schedule to the top of the conference and lock up the second seed over some of the teams that you may argue have a more talented roster. It shouldn’t be too surprising to include them in my predictions.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers’ off-season was among the best in the entire league, and they needed it. This division has four playoff-caliber teams, and the Chargers made the moves necessary to look like the best in the bunch. The sheer competition in this division makes me think that the opposing AFC West teams will keep each other out of the top seed. It’ll be a race to the end in this division to separate the winner from the potential wild card teams. I think the Chargers will be the winner and take the 3 seed in the AFC as a result of this.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals went on a Cinderella run in the playoffs last season that nearly ended in them hoisting the Lombardi trophy. Had Joe Burrow had about half a second more time in the pocket, who knows what would’ve happened. The Bengals addressed their putrid line in the off-season and added other pieces as well while keeping many of their star performers. They are poised for another good season and hopefully another playoff run, but they have to get through the competitive AFC North first. This likely sees them securing a seed towards the middle of the playoff pack rather than the top. I see the Bengals getting in as the 4 seed here.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The highest wild card team in the AFC is a team that will probably be discouraged by being only a wild card, the Kansas City Chiefs. They are going to have a lot more competition in the AFC West this year than they are used to and Patrick Mahomes’ squad may find themselves in some unfamiliar territory as a result. They have more holes in their roster than other teams in the division, which leads to them not winning the division and having to settle for the top wild-card spot in the AFC this year.
6. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens got bit by the injury bug hard last year, and they are bound to be better this year. The problem is the whole AFC looks terrifying. I love the idea of them making a run from a wild card spot, and it could very well happen. An inconsistent passing attack and a lack of good receivers are going to keep Baltimore from winning the AFC North, but they’ll likely be in the wild-card picture when it is all said and done.
7. Denver Broncos
The Broncos went out and got their quarterback this off-season after years of being the embodiment of “a QB away.” This roster is good, but a lot is new here. There are bound to be growing pains, and that will keep them from winning the ridiculously competitive AFC West. They’ll sneak into the last playoff seed and hope to make a run with a great roster on both sides of the ball.
1. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams won the Super Bowl last year and they reloaded to prevent any falloff. They should be among the favorites to win it all again this year and were a fairly easy pick for me at the top of the NFC. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp lead the offense, and Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey lead the defense. Need I say more? Watch out for the Rams.
2. Green Bay Packers
People are predicting a hard season for the Packers after they traded away Davante Adams. I simply don’t see wide receivers as an important enough position to agree with that, and I think the Packers will still be towards the top of the NFC this year. They will probably need to see something out of some other receivers to go far in the playoffs, but the roster is good enough and their division is bad enough for me to be comfortable putting them right here at the second seed.
3. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans got ravaged by injuries after starting the season strong. They were 5-2 when Winston went down at QB, and they went on to use the most different starters in a single season ever. The Saints were also a Rams Week 18 collapse away from being in the playoffs. After a stellar off-season and time to recover, a healthy Saints squad will be dangerous. They also own the Buccaneers in the regular season. Look for a big bounce back in New Orleans as Jameis Winston will now throw to Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry. Watch the defense as well, as they were already among the league’s best and still went on to add Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas had a bad off-season, there’s no debating that. People are quick to act like this is a bad roster though when it simply is not. Their division is weak and they are my pick to come out of it on top. I like the offense more than most, and they will have one of the best lines on both sides of the ball. Don’t count the Cowboys out just yet, as much as we’d all like to just to not have to listen to their fans.
5. Arizona Cardinals
This is a big season for Arizona. They need to take a step forward. If they have another late-season collapse, I better see Kliff Kingsbury working at the McDonald’s drive-thru. Kyler Murray and the offense will be good, and the defense should be better. I like the idea of the Cardinals making some noise, and if they don’t, change has to happen. If they finish strong for once, watch out.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
I’ll be honest, I don’t like the Eagles. I do have them in my predictions because of their division being weak and their ability to take advantage of that. This is a great roster in most places, the problem is the quarterback situation. Jalen Hurts is not a Super Bowl-caliber QB in my eyes, and those hyping him up to be probably looked at his fantasy football points as the only evidence to do so. The rest of the roster is there, so playoffs are likely, but the idea of a Super Bowl or top seed is far-fetched. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m probably not.
7. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers always find ways to win, and I don’t see that changing too much this year. They are likely undergoing a quarterback change, and the play of Trey Lance is the key to their season. I think a tough division and growing pains will get them pushed to the bottom of the playoff picture, but a playoff berth seems likely in the weaker NFC. Also, I will not bet against this team after watching them for the last few years. Back-to-back as the 7 seed for San Fran, and they are a team no one wants to see in the playoffs.
Close But No Cigar Predictions:
These are the four teams that I almost had making the playoffs but decided against in favor of some of the other wild cards listed above. It wouldn’t surprise me if these teams made it, but as of today, I don’t see a spot in the postseason for these clubs. Maybe they will make a future predictions list.
A great off-season has them poised to take a jump, but Tua Tagovailoa simply isn’t good enough to hang with the other QBs that’ll be in the AFC playoff picture. This will be a year of big decisions in Miami after narrowly missing the playoffs.
The Browns went out and got their QB, but will he play? A great running back tandem, the addition of Amari Cooper, and a top-tier offensive line make this offense solid. The defense is also very respectable. Off-the-field drama surrounding Deshaun Watson and a tough division keep the Browns out of the playoffs this year for me though.
Every year we say how the Vikings could make the playoffs and surprise everyone because of how good their roster is sometimes. I’m not falling for it, the Vikings have a new coach and some holes to fill before I can comfortably put them in the playoffs. It is another year of just on the outside looking in for Minnesota.
The Lions may seem like the odd man out here but I almost put them in over any of the wild card teams in the NFC. I really like the Lions. They are making an effort to win in the trenches on the offensive line and defensive line. They had a great draft all around. Their coach is exactly the kind of coach that gets the most out of his players. I really wanted to put them in here, but a jump that big in one year may be a stretch. Don’t count them out though in the next few seasons as their roster slowly comes together.