The Weekly Reed: Way too early AFC playoff predictions 


With the NFL season upon us, I wanted to take the time to lay out my thoughts on which teams I think will make the playoffs this winter. If you’ve ever read one of my predictions beforehand you might know how awful they typically are. Hopefully, I can get something right this season. 

AFC East: Buffalo Bills 

Starting in what I think will be one of the more competitive divisions this season, I think the Bills will find a way to win the AFC East for the fourth straight time. When a team extends their GM and Head Coach at the same time that typically means they’re doing something right, and the Bills have been one of the best teams in the league in recent history. The Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs connection just works so well and now with all the off-the-field drama done, they can focus on another season together. While the Jets acquired Aaron Rodgers and his Christmas list that came with him, I still don’t think it’s enough to be better than the Buffalo Bills. The big concern for me is how well the new offense runs. The last team to hire Nathaniel Hackett as their offensive coordinator didn’t work out too well but I think Rodgers still has a lot left in the tank. New England is a sneaky team, one who I think claims a Wild Card spot at the season’s end, but they just signed a bunch of washed-up stars and released all their backup quarterbacks, so I have no clue what to think of them. Miami is a team that I believe will face a lot of regression in 2023. Tua Tagovailoa had an injury-riddled campaign and his future health should be a concern for the organization.  

Order: 1. Bills, 2. Jets, 3. Patriots, 4. Dolphins 

AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals 

As a completely biased Steelers fan, it always hurts not to put them first. Despite all the upgrades the Steel City made, I still lean towards Cincinnati winning the AFC North. Joe Burrow has led the team to two straight AFC Conference Championship Games and there are 30 other teams who would love Ja’Marr Chase as their wide receiver (I think Minnesota’s happy with Justin Jefferson). Even though I don’t have them winning the division, I still think Pittsburgh ends up finishing second in front of Baltimore and Cleveland. Kenny Pickett finished the season strong last year and coming out of the gates as the starter should show just what type of player he’ll be. The defense improved, Broderick Jones and a couple other signings helped improve the offensive-line, so the pieces are there to be successful. As for Baltimore, locking down Lamar Jackson and getting him a receiver seemed to be their top priorities and they did just that. Jackson earned a 5-year $260 million deal and got superstar Odell Beckham Jr. as his new target. OBJ’s injury history is what stands out to me as of late, but if healthy he’s a solid option for Lamar who finally gets a really talented receiver. Lastly, I still have no faith in Cleveland. Deshaun Watson gets his first whole season as the starter after missing part of last year due to his suspension, but I don’t see how they can succeed having to play the other three teams in this division.  

Order: 1. Bengals, 2. Steelers, 3. Ravens, 4. Browns 

AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars 

The AFC South is a weird division for me. I’m not a huge fan of most of the rosters here, but they’re also just a really young division. By the season’s end, we could potentially see three rookie starting quarterbacks (Stroud, Richardson and Levis) with Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars being the most experienced heading into his third season. Jacksonville’s performance last year in the playoffs really solidifies for me that they’ll win the division again. The Jaguars were down 27-0 against the Chargers and fought back to win 31-30 in the divisional round, then lost to the Chiefs by just a touchdown a week later. On top of that, Calvin Ridley gets to play this year and it’s hard not to pick the Jags. Deandre Hopkins signing makes the Titans at least interesting for this season, but between Ryan Tannehill and Will Levis, I’m not confident in their quarterback play, and I’m scared to see Mike Vrabel run Derrick Henry into the ground for yet another year. Both the Texans and the Colts announced first-round picks C.J. Stroud (#2) and Anthony Richardson (#4) as starters for the season. Each franchise is hoping for these players to lead their teams in the next few seasons, but I doubt this is the year they both pop off.  

Order: 1. Jaguars, 2. Titans, 3. Texans, 4. Colts 

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs 

Surprise, I think the Chiefs will win the AFC West. Crazy how having the best quarterback in the NFL really improves your teams’ chances at winning games. However, it’s not like the other teams in their division are really giving them a run for their money either. Denver had a disastrous start to the Russell Wilson era of Bronco football and traded a first and second round pick for coach Sean Payton. For some reason it feels weird to say that Jimmy Garoppolo might be a downgrade from Derek Carr, especially because Garoppolo played in the Super Bowl a few seasons ago, but I think it is. While Vegas has a great receiver in Davante Adams and superstar talent on defense with Maxx Crosby, it’s still not enough to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Chargers might be good, but they just haven’t been that impressive the last few seasons with Justin Herbert at the helm for me to pick them. 

Order: 1. Chiefs, 2. Chargers, 3. Raiders, 4. Broncos 

AFC Wild Cards: New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots 

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