We’re weeks away from the 2021 NFL regular season kickoff, which team will call themselves Super Bowl LVI champions? Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s go division by division, with a 1-10 confidence level.
AFC East: Buffalo Bills
Confidence Level: 9.5
Buffalo suffered a heartbreaker in last year’s AFC Championship game. After last year, it has become clear that they are the Kansas City Chiefs’ biggest threat in the AFC. Bills QB Josh Allen shows significant improvements each year and with the edition of Stefon Diggs last year Allen became elite.
One can only imagine that a full normalized off-season can only help Allen grow even more in an offense he consistently dominated in last year. I expect the Bills to not only win this division, but I expect Allen to make a solid run for the 2021 NFL MVP.
Runner-Up: New England Patriots
Although Bill Belichick went out of his comfort zone and take chances in free agency in what looked to be a teenager with their first credit card, how can you bet against him? Coming in second place would not be an accomplishment in Belichick’s eyes, but even with the talent, they added this off-season I cannot see them matching this flourishing Bills team.
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
Confidence Level: 10
Besides a Patrick Mahomes injury there’s really no excuse for the Chiefs to not repeat as AFC West division champions. The Chiefs have won this division five years in a row now. After a disappointing and yet embarrassing Super Bowl effort last season, the whole organization should be well motivated to reestablish themselves as the best team in the NFL.
Runner-Up: Los Angeles Chargers
If any team in this division has a chance to give the Chiefs a run for their money, it’s young star QB Justin Herbert and the Chargers. A roster already filled with talent prioritized improvement on the offensive line, signing elite Center Corey Linsley, and drafting Left Tackle Rashawn Slater were both moves that will cause drastic change.
New Head Coach Brandon Staley and Herbert will build on the culture they started to form last year. Will it be enough to jump from third to first in one year? I would still bet against it.
AFC North: Cleveland Browns
Confidence Level: 5
The AFC North is a division filled with hope. All four teams are expected to improve from last year. However, the Browns have the most talent in this division with a stacked offense. This is a huge season for QB Baker Mayfield who has all the offensive weapons a quarterback could dream of, now it’s time to get results.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. will return to play and the Brown’s chances to win this division will only increase if Mayfield is willing to take some chances and just let Beckham Jr. make plays. The running game will be lethal, if the Browns offense can limit turnovers I expect this team to be a high-seeded division winner. The confidence is so low because of how good this division can be.
Runner-Up: Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson has done nothing but win since he stepped into the NFL. This team only seems to get better and better each season, they just haven’t been able to get over the hump. I expect this team to give the Browns a very good run for their money, and leave the slumping Steelers and young Bengals in the dust.
AFC South: Tennessee Titans
Confidence Level: 7
The Titans ran the ball basically any chance they could get last season. 3rd and 6, 4th and 1, didn’t seem to matter, Derrick Henry was their choice for good reason. I don’t believe anyone can sustain that type of usage for consecutive seasons, and the Titans seem to know that too.
The Titans made a big move by acquiring WR Julio Jones to take pressure off of A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry who carry heavyweight in that offense. Ryan Tannehill who has proven he is a very good QB in this league will have all the weapons he needs to repeat as AFC South Champions.
Runner-Up: Indianapolis Colts
I must admit I am not high on QB Carson Wentz. But this roster is just too good to place anything less than second in this division. If Carson Wentz can just be average and stay healthy for the entire season they will have a shot to win this division, but that is no small “if.”
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
Confidence Level: 5.1
How can anyone be sure about this division? Flip a four-sided coin. My coin landed on the Cowboys. They have some of the best offensive weapons in the NFL. This is a team that only finished one game back last year without their quarterback Dak Prescott. Their defense truly couldn’t be any worse than it was last season. But after all, this is the Cowboys, buckle up, we may be in for a surprise.
Runner-Up: Washington Football Team
Washington has one of if not the best defense in the NFL. Edge rusher Chase Young is going to continue to bloom and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is totally capable of the game managing this team to at least nine wins. Because of their defense, they will be in a lot of close low-scoring games, and Fitzpatrick will only have to turn into Fitzmagic for one drive a game. Washington could easily crush the Cowboy’s hopes this year.
NFC West: Los Angeles Rams
Confidence Level: 6
This division could easily go in four different directions. The Los Angeles Rams have had an offseason to remember. Months after trading for veteran QB Mathew Stafford, the Rams lost their star, RB Cam Akers, with a torn Achilles. I believe that Stafford and other superstars Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey will be enough for the Rams to become serious super bowl contenders again after a few years of disappointment since their Super Bowl loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2019.
Runner-Up: Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is another guy in this league I don’t like to bet against. Even with holes all over their roster in what seems like every year, they are able to compete for the division till the end. Last year they won 12 games and weren’t at full strength. With their experience, they could easily win this division with some big division wins.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers
Confidence Level: 10
Aaron Rodgers. A bad man. He’s back, and he’s out there for something that seems like more than just another season. Every year Rodgers shows up with one goal in mind and that’s to be the last team standing. This year, however, he will be playing for a new contract and maybe even his last year with the Packers.
You may not like him, but there’s no denying his talent, and his ability to carry this team on his back to the playoffs year in and year out.
Runner-Up: Chicago Bears
Maybe an unpopular opinion here, but I believe the Bears have the second-best chance to win this division if Justin Fields is their QB. I have Fields as my second most NFL-ready quarterback behind Trevor Lawrence. With a top-notch defense and a playmaker on the other side of the ball like Fields, I believe they can win the close games they will play with the Vikings and Lions.
NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Confidence Level: 8
Tom Brady is not just a guy you don’t want to bet against. He’s a guy you want to bet with. Head Coach Bruce Arians will not allow the Bucs to become complacent during the course of the season. He and Brady will make it clear that they are here to repeat as champions. But it might not be as easy as you think.
Runner-Up: New Orleans Saints
The Saints were left with a pretty big hole at the QB position after Drew Brees retired. It’s unclear what the long-term plan is. But for this season, I believe Sean Payton will be able to figure things out enough for second place. Michael Thomas will have to rebound from a disappointing season after being on most people’s top three WR lists.
We’re in for one hell of a season. Fans will be in the stands. Another trophy will be on the line. And Tom Brady will look to break his own record again for the oldest QB to ever win a Super Bowl. Dak Prescott is back. And Ben Roethlisberger will give it one more shot.