By Jack Johnson, Sports Radio 810 contributor
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Last season finish: 16-3 (Lost in Super Bowl LV, 31-9, to Tampa Bay)
Key additions: LT Orlando Brown, G Joe Thuney, DT Jarran Reed, CB Mike
Hughes, RB Jerrick McKinnon, C Austin Blythe, S Will Parks, FB Michael Burton
Key losses: LT Eric Fisher, RT Mitchell Schwartz, CB Bashaud Breeland, WR
Sammy Watkins, LB Damien Wilson, RB Damien Williams, EDGE Tanoh
It’s hard to put any team above the Chiefs until proven otherwise. They’ve won the AFC
West for five consecutive years and have a strong chance to make it six. The offensive
line, which was a disaster in Super Bowl LV, was heavily addressed with the additions of
Brown and Thuney. Though we haven’t seen the new unit in action, it’s the most
talented line Patrick Mahomes has had protecting him since he entered the league in
In terms of the schedule, Kansas City’s has the 13th-weakest in the NFL. Of their 17
games, only seven will come against 2020 playoff teams.
2. Buffalo Bills
Last season finish: 15-4 (Lost in AFC Championship 38-24 to Kansas City)
Key additions: WR Emmanuel Sanders, RB Matt Breida, TE Jacob Hollister, RT
Bobby Hart, G Forrest Lamp
Key losses: WR John Brown, DT Quinton Jefferson, WR Andre Roberts
The Bills, like Kansas City, are coming off a humiliating loss in the postseason. After
they closed the regular season with six-straight wins and scored more than 30 points in
four of those games, Buffalo appeared to be the Chiefs’ most dangerous threat.
However, with Super Bowl LV in their sights, the Bills were thumped at Arrowhead
Stadium 38-24 in the AFC Championship game.
This offseason, Buffalo replaced Brown with Sanders in its receiving core and beefed up
its offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills maintain its strong
secondary and above-average pass rush. With the AFC East still in rebuild mode,
Buffalo has a clear shot for the second seed in the AFC.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Last season finish: 12-6 (Lost in AFC Divisional Round 17-3 to Buffalo)
Key additions: RG Kevin Zeitler, RT, Alejandro Villanueva, WR Sammy Watkins,
RT Ja’Wuan James
Key losses: LT Orlando Brown, EDGE Matthew Judon, EDGE Yannick Ngakouu,
WR Willie Snead, RB Mark Ingam, C Matt Skura, G D.J Fluker
For the majority of Lamar Jackson’s career, he’s never had a No.1 receiver. That being
said, Jackson has relied on his tight ends and running game to win football games.
However, as has become apparent, Baltimore is not a come-from-behind team. When
trailing by 10-or-more points, Jackson is 1-7 (1-3 in the postseason). Until that changes,
the Ravens can’t contend with the Chiefs or Bills.
In hopes of changing that stigma, Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta brought in
former Chief Sammy Watkins and added a deep threat through the draft in Rashod
Bateman. That doesn’t solve all the problems, but enough where the Ravens should
finish as a top-3 team in the AFC.
4. Tennessee Titans
Last season finish: 11-6 (Lost in AFC Wild Card 20-13 to Baltimore)
Key additions: WR Julio Jones, EDGE Bud Dupree, CB Janoris Jenkins, WR Josh
Reynolds, EDGE Denico Autry, CB Greg Mabin, CB Chris Jones
Key losses: EDGE, Jadeveon Clowney, CB Malcom Butler, WR Adam Humphries,
DT, DaQuan Jones, WR Corey Davis, CB Adoree’ Jackson, TE Jonnu Smith, CB
The headlining move of the offseason was the Titans acquiring Julio Jones from the
Atlanta Falcons — giving them an offensive trio of Jones, Derrick Henry, and AJ Brown.
The offense, which was fourth in the league in scoring last season, should become even
more dynamic through the air.
One of the problems, though, is the pass rush. The Titans added Autry up front, but it’s
hard to imagine the unit putting enough heat on the quarterback to take over games.
The Titans’ offense is good enough to outscore opponents in the regular season, but
can they do it against Kansas City, Buffalo, or Baltimore in January?
5. Cleveland Browns
Last season finish: 12-6 (Lost in AFC Divisional Round 22-17 to Kansas City)
Key additions: EDGE, Jadeveon Clowney, DT Malik Jackson, CB Troy Hill, DT
Damion Square, S John Johnson, LB Anthony Walker Jr
Key losses: DT Sheldon Richardson, CB Terrance Mitchell, S Karl Joseph, DT,
Larry Ogunjobi, WR Marvin Hall, DT Vincent Taylor
The Browns, from top to bottom, have one of the most talented rosters in the league.
Their offensive line is, arguably, the best in the NFL with a lethal one-two punch of
running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. On top of that, Cleveland returns Odell
Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry in the passing game.
On defense, the pass rush is scary. Myles Garrett, Malik Jackson, and Clowney lead the
charge up front and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Anthony Walker man two of the
The Browns will have an immense amount of expectation on their shoulders, but they’re
more than capable of living up to it and then some.
6. Indianapolis Colts
Last season finish: 11-6 (Lost in AFC Wild Card 27-24 to Buffalo)
Key additions: QB Carson Wentz, LT Eric Fisher, LG Chris Reed, DT Isaac
Rochell, DT Antwaun Woods, LT Sam Tevi, K Eddy Pineiro
Key losses: QB Phillip Rivers, QB Jacoby Brissett, EDGE Denico Autry, S Tavon
Wilson, LB Anthony Walker Jr
There will be a new quarterback under center in Indianapolis this season and his name
is Carson Wentz. Wentz, a former first round pick, had a sour ending to his time in
Philadelphia as he was benched for rookie Jalen Hurts. With a change of scenery,
Wentz has a shot to thrive in one of the weaker divisions in the NFL.
The Colts have the fourth-weakest schedule in the NFL and play in a division where
there will be a rookie quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) and a question mark in Houston.
Though their regular season begins with five potential division winners, the back half of
their schedule includes five teams that finished .500-or-worse last season.
7. Miami Dolphins
Last season finish: 10-6 (Missed playoffs)
Key additions: CB Justin Coleman, LB Bernardrick McKinney, QB Jacoby
Brissett, CB Jason McCourty, LB Brennan Scarlett, DT Adam Butler, WR Will
Fuller, C Matt Skura, G Jermaine Eluemunor, RB Malcolm Brown, G D.J. Fluker,
LB Duke Riley,
Key losses: EDGE Kyle Van Noy, EDGE Shaq Lawson, LG Ereck Flowers, S Bobby
McCain, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Matt Breida, C Ted Karras, P Matt Haack, DT
The Dolphins are the first team on the list that did not make the playoffs in 2020.
However, they were in the hunt until the final game of the regular season when they
were belted by Buffalo.
Despite losing key members on their defense, which ranked in the top-10 a year ago,
Miami adds McCourty to its secondary and Scarlett and McKinney to the linebacking
For better or worse, the Dolphins’ success in 2021 relies on the production of Tua
Tagovailoa. In a handful of games after being named the starter, Tagovailoa was
replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick in tight ends. With Fitzpatrick in Washington, it’ll be up to
Tagovailoa if he can shoulder the responsibility of leading a playoff caliber team.