The Kansas City Chiefs are the team to beat in the AFC. Patrick Mahomes is one of the greatest quarterbacks we have ever seen in the National Football League. With one of the great head coaches in Andy Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs are looking like they could be one of the all time juggernauts in the league. With the bar so high, who has a chance at de-throning the Chiefs?
Indianapolis Colts- AFC South
The Colts are one of the best coached teams in the NFL. Last year they made it to the playoffs with Phillip Rivers in the final year of his career. This year they have Carson Wentz under center after a big offseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. Wentz has a bevy of weapons at his disposal with Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr, and T.Y. Hilton just to name a few. The Colts have had a great offensive line for the last few years and they still do even after swap of Anthony Castonzo for Eric Fisher. On the defense, they are young, fast, and menacing. Up front is one of the most talented players in the league regardless of position in DeForest Buckner. The Colts first two picks in the 2021 NFL draft, Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, will be flying off the edge for the front four. Behind the line is one of the league’s best linebackers in Darius Leonard and he is playing next to up and coming strong side backer Bobby Okereke. The Colts are running with a very solid cornerback room with Xavier Rhodes, T.J. Carrie, and Kenny Moore II who is arguably the league’s best slot corner. As for the safety duo, Khari Willis, who is a very underrated player, is holding down the strong safety spot. 2020 third round pick from Utah, Julian Blackmon, will be starting at free safety and he is a great pass defender who plays with great quickness and range. Overall, this is an incredibly sound team with some of the league’s most elite coaching. GM Chris Ballard has knocked it out of the park since he came in 2017. This is a team with the fire power and discipline to take down Mahomes and the high flying Chiefs.
X-Factor: Re-Emergance of Carson Wentz
Buffalo Bills- AFC East
If any team convinced me they could take down the Chiefs last year it was the Bills. At quarterback is 2018 first round pick from Wyoming Josh Allen, who I think will firmly be in the MVP race this season. The running game is serviceable with Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and Matt Breida. The passing game is the shining star for this Bills offense. Stefon Diggs is one of the best wide receivers in the league and has incredible chemistry with Josh Allen. Emmanuel Sanders is the WR2 for the Bills while coming off of a 700+ yard season with the Saints last year. Cole Beasley is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL and doesn’t get enough attention. 2020 fourth round pick Gabriel Davis from UCF had a surprisingly good rookie season and provides a big red zone threat for Allen and the Bills. This is a Bills offensive line that is getting better and better as the seasons go on and I think they are truly above average this year. The defensive line has been un-able to generate pressure against quarterbacks the last few years and that just might change this year. The rotation at defensive end of A.J. Epenesa, Jerry Hughes, Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr., Mario Addison, and 2021 first rounder Gregory Rousseau is arguably the leagues best defensive end room. On the interior is the breakout waiting to happen in Ed Oliver and two above average veterans in Vernon Butler and Star Lotuleilei. The Bills have thrown a ton of resources at the defensive line and they might have just solved their problem. Behind this great front is the young stud Tremaine Edmunds at MIKE, recently extended Boston College alum, Matt Milano playing the WILL spot, and nine year vet A.J Klein holding down the SAM position. This is one of the most solid linebacker rooms in the NFL. The concerns come at cornerback. Tre’Davious White is a proven pro and is among the league’s best. Levi Wallace is a below average outside corner who isn’t a liability on the outside but he definitely isn’t a strength. In the slot is veteran Taron Johnson and he has shown that he can be great inside. The concern comes at the spot opposite of Tre White. Strong safety Jordan Poyer and free safety Micah Hyde form the best safety duo in the league in my opinion. Add in that the Bills have some of the best coaching in the NFL and this is a team that is better than the one the Chiefs saw in January.
X-Factor: Pass rush
Los Angeles Chargers- AFC West
This may come as a surprise to some but these bolts need to be taken seriously. Justin Herbert just had one of the best rookie seasons we have ever seen while posting the second most passing yards from a rookie quarterback and he didn’t even start week one. The Chargers have a solid backfield with Austin Ekeler and the developing sophomore Joshua Kelly. They can definitely combine talents to make a great ground game for the Chargers. At WR1 is one of the league’s most underrated talents in Keenan Allen. Allen is an incredible route runner with super plucky hands. Charger’s 2017 first round pick Mike Williams is one of the league’s best WR2s. He may not be what we expected when he was selected seventh overall but he is a big time jump ball threat who can stretch the field. Finally at WR3 is sophomore Jalen Guyton. Guyton was Herbert’s go to deep threat and should only get better from here. Jared Cook was signed in free agency to start at tight end and he will be the perfect mentor to 2021 third rounder from Georgia Tre’ McKitty. These two tight ends are both big, fast, and have explosive traits. The weakest link for the Chargers last year was the offensive line seeing as Justin Herbert was sacked 32 times and hit way more than that. They made a huge improvement across the board. Rashawn Slater was the Chargers’ 2021 first round pick and he will be incredible at left tackle. At left guard is free agency upgrade Matt Feiler from the Steelers. The Chargers made waves when they made Corey Linsley the, now second highest, paid center in the league. Oday Aboushi is the biggest question mark on this unit at right guard but he should be at least average. Finally right tackle Bryan Bulaga is a great player who has been one of the league’s best for years. This bolts defense is what gives me hope that they are a different team. Now that Brandon Staley is the head coach, the Chargers will run a 3-4 defense up front. Up front will be Joey Bosa, Linval Joseph, and Jerry Tillery. I think this is one of the league’s best front threes and they are loaded with pass rush potential and run stopping prowess. Off the edges at outside linebacker is Uchenna Nwosu and 2021 fourth rounder from Duke, Chris Rumph II. I think Uchenna Nwosu can put the league on notice this year and post some wild sack numbers. Rumph II is a high ceiling player who can learn from Uchenna and Bosa and hopefully develop into a threat on the outside. At inside linebacker is the athletic duo of Kenneth Murray and Kyzir White. I think Kenneth Murray is going to be an absolute stud in the NFL and can be special under the guidance of Staley. Kyzir White is an undersized college safety turned linebacker. Even though White is small, he is speedy and reliable and can continue to develop next to Murray. The cornerback room is a little shaky but not terrible. On the outside is the much improved Michael Davis and the 2021 second rounder Asante Samuel Jr.. Despite his size, I think Samuel Jr. can be special and he has some traits you can’t teach. In the slot is potential HOF player Chris Harris Jr. and he is the least of the worries with this cover unit. If you ask me, I think that when healthy, Derwin James is the best safety in the league. He is a more talented and more versatile Jamal Adams and has virtually no weaknesses. Derwin James can become an all time great safety under Brandon Staley. At free safety is the high ceiling project of Nasir Adderly. Nasir is a ball hawk with great range but he must develop. Hiring Brandon Staley as head coach was the best thing the bolts could have done because he brings on a defensive expertise to develop all of these raw high ceiling defensive players.
X-Factor: Raw talent development
Dark Horse: Miami Dolphins-AFC East