A small detour from the offseason grades due to the release of the schedule. There are talks that week’s 3 and 4 can be moved to the end of the season in the event of disruption continued. The record in brackets are an assessment of what a team would do with an “average” schedule – how good a team is. The record without brackets are the prediction now the schedule has been released after going through the schedule and predicting every single game of the upcoming season.
Buffalo Bills 8-8 (10-6)
The Bills, like the rest of the AFC East, have a tough schedule. The few weeks that will really strain the Bills are 9-10 and 13-16. Here they face the Seahawks and Cardinals before embarking on a 4-game test of 49ers, Steelers, Broncos and Patriots with only Pittsburgh played at home in Orchard Park.
Miami Dolphins 3-13 (5-11)
The AFC East is the only division where all 4 teams are under win totals before seeing the schedule. This might help Miami in the long run as they move further up the draft board (Ja’Marr Chase, a second-year gift for Tua?). Not even Fitzpatrick can save the Dolphins this year, but the future is very bright.
New England Patriots 8-8 (9-7)
Regression for the Patriots but not to the extent some expect. At the week 12 point, 3-8 is a possible outlook. After the everyone calls Brady the system and dams Belichick as an average coach, the schedule lightens. They do face a 3-game road trip at that point but it starts with both LA teams so the effect isn’t as bad as it could be. The Pats and Bills will rely on strength of schedule to get into the playoffs as they split the series with the home team winning both meetings.
New York Jets 5-11 (8-8)
The Jets had a great draft and free agency but it will take at least another year (especially under the current circumstances which will decrease training times through the summer) to really come together as a unit. This mixed with a tough schedule which includes being matched against both “West” divisions which are the best in the league. Plus ending against the Browns and then in Foxborough means they’ll have to rack up wins early.
Baltimore Ravens 13-3 (12-4)
Baltimore’s first big test is week 3, hosting the Chiefs on Monday night. That can be a big win for the Ravens but they will have to be careful when visiting the best D-Line in football the next week against Washington. I have the Ravens as the 2 seed in the AFC but they can get that one seed with consistency and Jackson continuing his MVP calibre play. At least the end of the season is kind with the Jaguars, Giants and finally the Bengals.
Cincinnati Bengals 3-13 (3-13)
Burrow opens at home against the weak Chargers, but he will face a tough defence featuring Joey Bosa, Derwin James and 1st round pick Kenneth Murray. His first win can come at home against the Jaguars in week 4. The issue for the bengals is they have a young QB in a division full of great defences. The NO.1 overall pick is getting thrown straight into the deep end.
Cleveland Browns 12-4 (10-6)
With a tough opening game in Baltimore, the Brown can gain confidence with the Bengals and Redskins the next weeks followed by a winnable game in Dallas. A nice midseason bye (week 9) and playing both New York teams in the last 3 weeks contribute to a season the fans of Cleveland have long deserved, and this team it’s a football team in the NFL, not a madden team like the last few years.
Pittsburgh Steelers 7-9 (7-9)
The Steelers have a slightly worse record than last year despite getting Big Ben back due to the Browns improving and being matched with a surprisingly strong AFC South (if you remove the Jaguars). The Steelers are one of the most unknown teams, Big Ben is an unknown quantity when returning, the defence is going to be great, but can it stop Jackson or the Browns, or can it stop the AFC South of Rivers, Watson and Derrick Henry? Steelers are a complete wild card.
Houston Texans 9-7 (9-7)
The Texans aren’t as good this year and will not be as good for a while. However, they still have Deshawn Watson and JJ Watt (for at least a few games … hopefully). After a tough start, including the Chiefs in the season opener followed by the Ravens, Steelers and Vikings, they can steal a game from the Titans and improve through the latter part of the season due to a lighter schedule from the mid-point.
Indianapolis Colts 13-3 (11-5)
Over the first 7 games of the season (8 weeks), the Colts will only have tough tests against the Vikings and Browns. This allows Phillip Rivers to settle in, Rivers will improve massively in Indy as a change of scenery is exactly what he needed. If the division comes down to the wire, a week 17 matchup against the Jags is favourable as the Texans and Titans can take each other out.
Jacksonville Jaguars 1-15 (2-14)
The ultimate rebuild will start (again) in Jacksonville. Their sole win could be week 6 hosting the Lions. Other winnable games include week 3 and 4 (Dolphins and Bengals respectively) and week 8 against the Chargers. Overwise, it’s a very long year down in Duvall.
Tennessee Titans 11-5 (9-7)
The Titans will have a slowish start to the season and might enter the final quarter of the season at 7-5. However, teams will start wearing out and Derrick Henry will only get stronger, especially facing 4 teams that are week or can’t stop the run well in the Jags, Lions, Packers and Texans. The Titans can make another late run and be that team in the playoffs that nobody wants to play – just like last season.
Denver Broncos 11-5 (10-6)
I’m well and truly supporting the Broncos to outdo expectations this year. That front seven with the draft they had to give Drew Lock weapons (and protection) will propel them into the playoffs. The Broncos are helped by being better than the Chargers and Raiders, giving them 4 in division wins. Plus, they can steal a win in Mile High off the Chiefs week 7. However, they are still second best behind the Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs 14-2 (13-3)
The best team in the AFC may be the best in the NFL. After losing to the Ravens (week 3) and Broncos (week 7) away from home, the Chiefs win all other games, including close games against the Bucs (week 12) and Saints (week 15). However, they could easily swing the other way which may cost the Chiefs the top seed in the AFC as the Ravens may have the tie breaker.
Las Vegas Raiders 5-11 (5-11)
The Raiders have an issue of being in a division with Broncos and Chiefs and having to face the NFC South, a top division. They can get a few wins against AFC East opponents, Jets (Week 13) and Dolphins (Week 16) as well as both Charger games. The Raiders won’t be easy opponents but will often come up short in the big games.
Los Angeles Chargers 3-11 (5-11)
A team that sits at the bottom of its division, they will be waiting for Herbert to grow into a franchise QB. Tyrod Taylor is a good QB but the schedule is harsh. After meeting (and probably winning) opening week against the Bengals, they face the Chiefs, Panthers, Bucs and Saints in weeks 2-5. This sets the tone for the season which ends against the Broncos and then the Chiefs. A tough year for the Chargers.