*denotes playoff qualification
- The Baltimore Ravens enter the season with sights on the Superbowl, having finished last year with the best regular season record, and QB (Quarterback) Lamar Jackson crowned league MVP. However, the Ravens were upset in the playoffs by the Titans, marking 2 straight years the Ravens were defeated in their first playoff game. The Ravens will undoubtedly be great, but will they show up when it matters?
- The Pittsburgh Steelers excel on one side of the ball, possessing one of the league’s great defenses. However, the offense was dire last year, sorely missing QB Ben Roethlisberger. Now Roethlisberger returns, but is 38 years old and coming off surgery to his throwing arm. If Ben is his old self, the Steelers could be Superbowl contenders, if he is finished then so are the Steelers chances.
- Last year many pundits crowned the Cleveland Browns ‘off-season champions’ after acquiring pro bowlers Odell Beckham Jr and Kareem Hunt. The Browns didn’t live up to the hype, as their season turned into ill-disciplined disarray. After a calmer off-season and better coaching appointments, this could be the year the heavily talented Browns live up to expectations. But don’t be surprised if dysfunction arises again.
- The Cincinatti Bengals were the leagues’ worst team last season. This granted the Bengals the first pick in the draft, used to select QB Joe Burrow. Burrow’s potential is huge and he should be the catalyst for turning the Bengals fortunes around. But with a poor defense, tough division, and shortened off-season for Burrow to settle, it will only be small steps in the right direction.
- For the first time in decades, pressure falls onto the Buffalo Bills to take the division. The Bills come off a solid season and have added to their ranks, notably wide receiver Stefon Diggs, but also several starters on defense. Questions remain over QB Josh Allen, but if he can play steady it might be enough for the Bills.
- The story of the off-season was the departure of legendary QB Tom Brady. Brady and head coach Bill Belichick led the New England Patriots to a record tying 6 Superbowls. In replacing Brady, the Pats signed former league MVP Cam Newton. Cam is a star but has been plagued with injuries and will be working with weapons Brady found inadequate. Also, there have been multiple defensive starters lost this offseason. But the Pats are perennial winners and if anyone can make it work it is Belichick.
- The New York Jets ended 2019 on a high, winning 6 of their final 8 games, and young QB Sam Darnold showed his potential. However, head coach Adam Gase continues to frustrate with poor play calling, and the losses on defense of CJ Moseley and Jamal Adams will be costly, resulting in another mediocre season.
- After trading away their talent in 2019 to stash for a rebuild, the Miami Dolphins looked certain to be the league’s worst, but coach Brian Flores established a no excuses culture and led the Dolphins to 5 wins. This off-season was different, as the Dolphins added talent on both sides of the ball, including drafting highly touted QB Tua Tagovailoa. However, more pieces are needed, meaning this looks like a year of progression rather than a playoff challenge.
- The Indianapolis Colts were a QB short of being a threat last season. The defense looks strong, and has been bolstered by adding Deforest Buckner. Colts signed 38-year-old QB Philip Rivers, attempting an instant fix at the position. Rivers was released by the Chargers, who felt his days at the top were over, the Colts will soon find out.
- Bill O’brien upset Houston Texans fans and bewildered everyone with some questionable off-season moves. O’brien traded All-pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins for out of favour running back David Johnson. The loss of Hopkins will hurt, but we cannot forget the Texans had the Superbowl champions on the ropes in last season’s playoffs, and QB DeShaun Watson remains one of the game’s finest.
- The Tennessee Titans upset the Ravens to make the NFL’s final four last season. Tennessee used the off-season to secure QB Tannehill and rushing leader Henry to long-term deals, also adding Jadeveon Clowney on defense. However, they have lost several defensive starters, and the sustainability of Tannehill is debatable, as he performed uncharacteristically well.
- Apart from QB Gardner Minshew’s potential, there isn’t much to like about the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have suffered an exodus of their dominant defence. This is a team entering a rebuild and will be fighting for a handful of wins.
- Superbowl champion’s Kansas City Chiefs look ready to roll again, inking talisman Patrick Mahomes to a 10-year contract, and retaining their other key players. The Chiefs defense is a weak point, but so far bends but doesn’t break, allowing the Chiefs powerhouse offense to have the final say.
- Commonly mentioned as a dark horse, the Denver Broncos are stacked with offensive weapons and possess a solid defense. The big question is whether QB Drew Lock is the real deal and can make the most of the talent around him.
- This Las Vegas Raiders have some young talent on offense and although the defense lacks blockbuster names it has quality at each level. The popularity of QB Derek Carr with head coach John Gruden is debatable, signalled further by signing an expensive backup QB. Any Gruden team will be competitive, but perhaps lacking in quality for a real playoff run.
- The Los Angeles Chargers possess talent in skill positions and have a decent defense, but the team seems to lack conviction, not helped by moving to LA, and releasing long time QB Rivers. Also, injuries have hit the Chargers yet again, already losing standout defensive player Derwin James for another season.