The annual ritual of predicting the Super Bowl champion following the schedule release continues. The teams have not started mini camps yet but that never stopped us from making wild predictions. I went through every match-up from the coming season, assigned a winner to every game and subsequently came up with win-loss record for all 32 NFL franchises.
The series starts with the AFC edition. Keep an eye for the NFC version and final Super Bowl prediction coming soon.
Buffalo Bills – 6-10
Bills are media darlings for the 2020 season. They have a great coach and leadership in the front office. Buffalo has one of the tougher schedules. Even though everyone’s predicting a 10-win season, the public is underestimating the Jets and Brady-less Patriots. Josh Allen has cannon for an arm but his is far from being an upper-echelon quarterback leading this immensely talented team (read defense).
Match up to look for: Week 1 – Jets: The match up can set the trend for the season and the division.
New York Jets – 7-9
Jets won 7 games last season without Darnold’s availability for most of the season. The strength of schedule was relatively easy last year compared to 2020. I am a Sam Darnold believer and expect Bell to do a lot better in his 2nd year under Gase. 7 win feels like the floor for Jets in a substantially watered down AFC east minus Tom Brady.
Match up to look for: Week 9 – New England Patriots: This season will be all about taking the throne away from New England Patriots. Week 9 will be the first time Darnold meets Belichick again since prefacing to seeing ghosts on live TV.
New England Patriots – 8-8
Tom Brady is gone. Patriots will take the field without the greatest player to play the sport leading them out in Foxboro for the 1st time in this century. They have an unknown commodity at quarterback in Jared Stidham. This will be Bill Belichick’s biggest challenge in a long time. The offensive line and defensive back position are still few of the best in the league. The record might be a little skewed by the pedigree of Patriots and the mindset of trusting them till proven otherwise. The feeling remains that they will either make the playoffs or they will have a crash of epic proportion.
Match up to look: Week 4 – Kansas City Chiefs: If anyone can stop Patrick Mahomes on paper, it will be Bill Belichick.
Miami Dolphins – 5-11
Flores did an amazing job with a roster made of stick figures last season. They finally got the quarterback they wanted in 2020 draft. Tua Tagovailoa has health question the size of Andes but his talent is undisputed. The team has a lot of holes but a good quarterback can overshadow most. Will Tua be the next Marino?
Match up to look for week: Week 7 – Los Angeles Chargers – This might be the debut of Tua in teal jersey.
Denver Broncos – 7-9
Broncos finished last season with a sizzle from Drew Lock. Elway didn’t leave any stone unturned to improve the skill position on offense. Jerry Jeudy falling to their lap felt like a godsend. Von Miller had an off year but it would be foolish to count him out in Vic Fangio’s defensive system. The win prediction might be a little rich and playoffs a bit far fetched (as mentioned by many in the media).
Match up to look for: Week 10 – Las Vegas Raiders: Broncos V Raiders are always a classic. A great jersey match up. New stadium and city would add to the vibe.
Las Vegas Raiders – 6-10
Derek Carr is not my favorite quarterback. He is the epitome of average QB play. Mariota doesn’t help the cause either. The current climate of the world along with all the moving pieces related to moving a franchise into a new city and facility will make it immensely difficult for the Raiders to play to their maximum potential.
Match up to look for: Week 2 – New Orleans Saints: This will be the 1st home game for the Riaders in Vegas.
Kansas City Chiefs – 12-4
The team feels unstoppable. Patrick Mahomes is the present and future of the league. A 12 win season feels conservative as a prediction. The addition of Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the 1st round of 2020 draft as a 3 down back sounds unfair for the remainder of the league. Chiefs not winning 12 games every year for the next 10 years will be an upset.
Match up to look for: Week 1 – Houston Texans – The unveiling of Championship banner at the Arrowhead and a match up between arguably the two best quarterbacks in the league would be fireworks.
Los Angeles Chargers – 6-10
Tyrod Taylor has not been able to keep his job with a rookie quarterback sitting behind him. The job of head coach Lynn looks under distress with a dwindling season and fan base last season. Joey Bosa needs to rise to his potential and make some impact on the defensive end. Herbert could make or break the season based on his performance and potential irrespective of their final record.
Match up to look for: Week 6 – New York Jets – Potential Justin Herbert sighting?
Tennessee Titans – 10-6
Tannehill’s underrated. Vrabel is underrated, the defense is underrated, Derrick Henry has proved to be the best at what he does at every level. AFC south has always been a spotty division. It will be playoffs or bust for Titans if they are not able to build upon last year.
Match up to look for: Week 17- Houston Texans: Could be a match up for the playoff spot.
Indianapolis Colts – 10-6
Phillip Rivers looked his worst last year in Chargers jersey but the best O-line in football could help his performance by strides in Indy. The defense is strong and Frank Reich is as good a play caller as any. The quarterback is the most important position in a team and the back up quarterback is the 2nd most important position in the team. Colts arguably have the best back up QB in football (alongside Andy Dalton – Cowboys) behind their aging starter. Marlon Mack and TY Hilton need to raise their game to top 10 RB and WR value for teams success.
Match up to look for: Week 12 – Tennessee Titans: In a competitive division, every match up counts.
Houston Texans – 9-7
Deshaun Watson is a top 3 quarterback but they somehow traded a top 3 WR in Deandre Hopkins! I went through every game and gave them a 9-7 final record. As annoying as Bill O’Brien’s decisions as a front office personnel can be, he is a top tier coach. Texans have consistently made the playoffs from their division and I don’t feel good about my prediction. Undermining Watson doesn’t sound like a good idea.
Match up to look for: Week 2 – Baltimore Ravens: Watson V Jackson (fireworks!!)
Jacksonville Jaguars – 2-14
Jacksonville is trying really hard to lose for Lawrence, can we make that a thing? Minshew is a good back up quarterback but his tangibles don’t translate into starting calibre prospect. The front office has been in turmoil with public disagreement among players and personnel. I will be surprised if Doug Marrone retains his job next season. 2020 looks like the prequel to a franchise reboot.
Match up to look for: None. It’s going to be dire.
Baltimore Ravens – 10-6
Lamar Jackson is coming off a MVP season but the Greg Roman offense needs to upgrade this coming year to do the same damage as last season. The division got tougher with Big Ben coming back and Burrow & AJ Green joining the fray. The defensive backfield is getting older as well. It will be tough to repeat the dominance from last year but never count out John Harbaugh from throwing curveballs once the season starts.
Match up to look for: Week 15 – Jacksonville Jaguars: I can sense a prolific ass whooping by Baltimore.
Pittsburgh Steelers – 9-7
Big Ben is back and I am still blocked on twitter by him. Juju Smith is not a WR1 but a very good WR 2. James Conner is a good RB but not a top 5 ball carrier. That being said, the O line is great and the defense is cut throat. Tomlin will be fired up to get his strong hold back in AFC north but the division is closer than ever.
Match up to look for: Week 6 – Cleveland Browns: Mason Rudolph revenge game and the most heated rivalry in sport.
Cleveland Browns- 10-6
The team went 6-10 through Freddie Kitchens as their head coach and the slew of mishaps & inexcusable indiscipline from the top to bottom. The talent of the team is undisputed. The only teams coming close to Browns talent are the Chiefs and the Cowboys. That should in itself put them in conversation for a deep playoff run. The presence of Hunt and Chubb in the backfield under Stefanski’s play action/ run heavy system has the potential of becoming unstoppable. As ridiculous as it sounds, the ceiling for this team is the SuperBowl and the floor is nothing lower than the playoffs. Clowney could still sign with them after the negotiations stalled. Pairing him with Garrett and Vernon as pass rushers could be, as the kids call it, sick. They have the highest remaining salary cap and the only way forward for this Andrew Berry led team is going for the glory before Mayfield moves into his second contract. AM I being too optimistic about the Browns season? some might call me a homer but the talent is undisputed.
Match up to look for: Week 16 – New York Jets: Darnold VS Mayfield Part II. My two favorite young quarterbacks face off.
Cincinnati Bengals – 5-11
I have no doubt that Joe Burrow will be electric. Burrow feels like the most failure proof prospect coming into the league because of his poise, accuracy and that inner dawg. He is the perfect character/ leader that the franchise needed. As much of a boost that Burrow was, the team is still weak at other positions. It will be tough to pull out a winning season specially in AFC North.
Match up to look for: Week 1 – Los Angeles Charger: The city is dreaming again and Burrow will be more than likely their 1st game started. There is no time better than the time of hope and ample success as a sports fan.
The new playoff rules will have 7 teams instead of 6 coming out of each conference. The rule also reduces playoff bye from 2 teams per conference to only 1. The too early playoff prediction for AFC:
Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots
Wildcard Round Predictions:
#2 Cleveland Browns VS #7 Pittsburg Steelers
WINNER: #2 Cleveland Browns
#3 Indianapolis Colts VS #6 Baltimore Ravens
WINNER: #7 Baltimore Ravens
#4 New England Patriots VS #5 Tennessee Titans
WINNER: #5 Tennessee Titans
#1 Kansas City Chiefs VS #7 Baltimore Ravens
WINNER: #1 Kansas City Chiefs
#2 Cleveland Browns VS #5 Tennessee Titans
WINNER: #2 Cleveland Browns
Conference Championship Round:
#1 Kansas City Chiefs VS #2 Cleveland Browns
SUPER BOWL bound from AFC
#2 Cleveland Browns
It's bold but it's May as well. Kansas City Chiefs could very well be the team on the top again. There is a very minute difference among the top few teams in AFC and the smallest of margins could change the seeding on its head. Ben Roethlisberger remains the dark horse in AFC given his age and return from an year long injury.