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My take:

East: believe in no one, but would take the Dolphins if you guaranteed me Tua would stay healthy the full year, and skeptic of the Bills.

West: same as you

South: same as you, but I believe Houston is the most underrated (they're bad, but not as bad as purported)

North: believe in everyone, skeptic of no one.

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If I had to take one team besides the Chiefs out of the whole conference to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, it would be the Bengals. Joe Burrow is a winner, we haven't seen the best of him; and the team around him is solid, if not quite complete. But if they were in the NFC, in any division, they'd probably be favored to win it.

Edited to add: *TRIGGER WARNING* the following has really nice things to say about Aaron Rodgers.

Hard knocks has me very intrigued about the Jets. And I find Aaron Rodgers quite affable and this confuses me. Was I just that dismissive of him? Was it the Seattle sports media I consume? Or was he a much more insufferable asshole then, than he is now? He was a top 5-10 player I "sports hated" on as soon as he became a starter in Green Bay. And it's not like the Jets are a team I care about one way or the other. But I find that I like Aaron Rodgers on that show. He's confident but light-hearted and good at banter with all the position coaches and teammates. And there's been at least a moment or two when he struck me as kind, when tutoring Zach Wilson or encouraging an undrafted rookie. He can be a surly prick, but I already knew that. In fact, I thought that was 80% of his personality, and I've watched hours of him on Pat MacAfee (holy shit, PatMac is so popular my spellcheck knew him!) and I really thought Rodgers was a self-aware, somewhat troubled guy, but too narcissistic to grow as a person; no matter how many shaman-guided acid trips or darkness retreats he goes on. I'm a cynic and I know that about myself. But if there's ever been a person that was in "that guy's a douchebag" territory that I changed my mind on like I did with Aaron, I can't remember who it might be. I'm not saying I'm buying his jersey or anything. But he either changed or I had him wrong all along. He's kind of like Philip Rivers -or dare I say, Matt Hasselbeck. He's competitive as shit, and that doesn't lend to being a fun to be around, laid-back person. But I get the feeling he's trying to live his best life, and I wish him success.

Until we beat them in the Super Bowl. Stranger things have happened.

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founding
Sep 4·edited Sep 5

Aaron Rodgers is fun to hate on, but I do think he makes that offense significantly better. There is not much reason to doubt that the Jets' defense will be very good. I feel like they have the better overall and deeper roster than the Bills. What I'm trying to say is that I think the Jets are for real, and I hate myself for thinking that because a big, sick part of me wants to watch them (and all their hype) go down in flames. But, if we were all Jets fans, I'm pretty sure we'd have at least that same glimmer of super bowl optimism that we currently hold for our Seahawks. The Jets have to get past the Bills just like we have to get past the niners, but if you think we will do it, then I challenge you to find a reason why the Jets can't as well.

Note: Josh Allen is a perfectly good reason, but can you think of another one?

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(Banned)
Sep 4

I agree on the AFC East. The Bills are as good as anyone in that division and the Dolphins worthy of skepticism.

For the AFC North, I go with the Bengals. I see Burrow really coming into his own this year. The Browns are worthy of more than skepticism, disdain. Sure they might surprise but I'll believe when (if) I see it.

I like the Jags in the AFC South because I like Lawrence a lot. I think this is the year he emerges as one of the very best. Right up there with Mahomes, Allen and Burrow. As for the Colts, I have both skepticism and disdain for any team owned by the Irsays. They operate under a huge handicap, similar to the Cardinals' handicap operating under the Bidwills. But I must say I was surprised to see flashes of something special in Richardson during the preseason. Sometimes he looked lost out there. He could be erratic. But in the last game, he made some great choices and threw some balls with touch and accuracy. So I can no longer say I'd be surprised if he emerged. He's of course a rookie and is going to have growth pains. But the Colts could surprise as an emergent team, perhaps even one that makes the playoffs.

I'm with you on the AFC West. How can anyone not choose the Chiefs? It would be almost a shock if they didn't finish first. As for Denver, it looks like Payton has the team back on track. He certainly has Wilson looking a lot more like his old self. I still think he's lost a step or two from when he was maybe the 6th best QB in the NFL. Then, he was capable of carrying his team on good days. Payton's staff will know how to use Wilson's strengths and hide his weaknesses so he can reemerge as one of maybe the ten best NFL QBs and allow his skills to erode slowly. So, while I don't see them winning the conference, making the playoffs wouldn't shock me. In this conference, I'm most skeptical of the Raiders. Garoppollo is a heck of a nice guy. Of all the QBs in the NFL, he's the one I'd be most likely to want as a friend. But he's also the least talented of all the starters in that conference. None are truly bad. I'd rate Jimmy as perhaps a notch above average. Which is good enough to own the bottom of that division unless the wheels spin off in Denver. I respect Herbert too much to say that about the Chargers.

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Bills Yay. Jets Ney - On paper it's all peaches and cream across the river, but I have a feeling they'll get off to a rough start and they'll implode as AR gets pissy, the young stars get pissy, and the all-in push blows up spectacularly. It can't work for everyone and the Jets are unfortunately lined up to be the big bust.

Bengals Yay. Browns Ney - What do you not llike about the Bengals? They continue to protect Burrow, have arguable the best WR1-3 in the league, with a usable run game. Defence is kept fresh and above average. They feel as slam dunk as the Bills, but with more recent success and less drama.

Jags Yay. Colts Ney - Hot damn is the AFC South a bit of a mess. But i think after a long time wandering, the Jags have something solid building. Still a few years away but there seems to be a project coming together, whilst the Texans rebuild we wait and see, and the Colts and Titans continue to drop like stones.

Chiefs Yay. Broncos Ney - Chargers are gonna Charger, that's a given. I don't buy into Peyton as the savior in Denver. RW3 is not Brees, and that team is not the Saints he built so well. Plus they can't seem to keep any WR healthy, so even if RW is throwing his choices are gonna be Fred & George drafted from the DQ down the road.

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founding

AFC EAST

Epic: Bills’ roster building. These guys know what they are doing

Brutal: The idea that a 40-year QB--no matter his credentials--can turn around a franchise with one winning season since 2010

Division Winner: Buffalo

AFC NORTH

Epic: Mike Tomlin’s track record--no losing seasons in 16 seasons, 22nd-best winning percentage ever, 16th-winningest coach ever

Brutal: Browns ownership. Jimmy Haslam can’t hide behind Daniel Snyder any more

Division Winner: Cincinnati

AFC SOUTH

Epic: Derrick Henry is so dominating a RB that Ryan Tannehill became a winning QB in Tennessee

Brutal: Anthony Richardson’s rookie season

Division Winner: Jacksonville

AFC WEST

Epic: Patrick Mahomes may well be on a path to supplant Tom Brady as GOAT

Brutal: The child-like faith in Sean Payton. Even if Russell returns to form, Denver is in the same division as Mahomes and Justin Herbert

Division Winner: KC

NFC EAST

Epic: The population of the entire D.C. area singing “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead” as one

Brutal: The Eagle scoring defense against good offenses. Look it up

Division Winner: Dallas

NFC NORTH

Epic: Um...

Brutal: Wayne Fontes (66-67) is the Lions all-time winningest coach

Division Winner: Detroit

NFC SOUTH

Epic: The two leading candidates for OROTY (Bijan Robinson and Bryce Young) could come from this division

Brutal: The Falcons go all-in with Desmond Ridder

Division Winner: Carolina

NFC WEST

Epic: Two teams will be vying for the conference’s best record

Brutal: Two teams will be vying for the league’s worst record

Division Winner: Seattle

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founding

I'm with you other than the Ravens -- in admittedly the toughest conference in the league to call. But I don't think it's the Ravens, here's my rationale:

- Everything you've rightly said about Harbaugh notwithstanding, he's missed the playoffs 5 times including two yrs ago. Arguably there's a guy in his own division -- Mike Tomlin -- with an even more stellar resumé.

- Talk about a team built around its quarterback! What happens if Jackson goes down again, or with the new big paycheck is a little more "business-oriented".

- Compounding that, they've got a new offensive coordinator whose NFL resumé is the Jaguars, the Browns and the Bucs pre-Brady; and the '20-'22 Bulldogs, where he did get the most possible out of Stetson Bennett I guess, but with clearly lopsided benefits in terms of roster which he won't have in Baltimore...hard to see how he'll be better for Jackson than Greg Roman who got him an MVP, and who has done it twice with running QB's -- with Kaepernick also got to the Super Bowl. I'd be worried about their 1st yr together

- Lastly, there's this pesky little upstart team called the Bengals, with a QB on his rookie contract who seems to be at least the peer of Jackson overall, but with a better supporting cast.

Tough to call I agree, but I'm feeling Bengals - Steelers - Ravens - Browns (can't get myself to put them higher, esp with Watson who other than Russell, so far looks to be the worst trade of all time)

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This is a non-sequitur, relative to all of your recent thoughts about the Seahawks this year, but I have had this nagging feeling that the bulk of the defense will be too small, weight-wise, and that big running backs like Derrick Henry are going to shred us, especially with our plans to fill out the defense with defensive backs.

Just putting that out there.

Seems we'll be putting lots of pressure on the front 5 to contain.

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I am guessing there is an "NFC" article coming so I will refrain from commenting on those teams. If for some reason KC should falter (the D misses Chris Jones too much? Mahomes loses his cape?) I think the Chargers would be the team to take advantage. They have to be good sometime, right? I also think Russ isn't disciplined enough to work within Payton's game plan and things will fall apart there, so call me a Denver skeptic.

The AFC Eaast is going to be very interesing and the Bills are the class of the division. Call me skeptical of the J-E-S-Ts, because Rodgers might actually melt in the NYC media spotlight especially if the team does not have early success. His R-E-L-A-X speech won't play well in that market.

Other than that, yeah, the A-R show in Indianapolis is going to be 'fun to watch'--for whoever the Colts play on Sunday.

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BELIEVE:

Chiefs

-duh. Reid + Mahomes

Steelers

-Tomlin + defense + Pickett growth

Jaguars

-toss-up with TN

Bills

-Allen + solid D

Seahawks

-most solid QB, best offense + Pete

Vikings

-most solid QB. D > Lions D

Saints

-better QB than ATL. Panthers not yet

Eagles

-best all-around in NFC. Good coaching

SKEPTICAL

Chargers

-same reason as SSJ

Bengals

-can they run? OL doubts. Def is just ok

Colts

-AR is not a good QB. Good athlete, only

Jets

-AARon's OLD buddies w/no OL <> hype

Rams

-mmmm, mint jelly....

Bears

-this is NOT fantasy football

Falcons

-I can't pick the ENTIRE division?

Giants

-lost key defenders. Danny is meh

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Quite rightly, your teams to be most sceptical of in the East, North and South all have big question marks over their QBs, whether through injury (Tua), experience (AR) or has-he-still-got-it-ness (Watson).

By comparison, those we (probably all) believe in have some much certainty at QB they're hard to look past.

I want to overlook the importance of QB positionally, but it's so damn difficult!

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Some bold predictions:

(1) Buffalo does not make the playoffs.

(2) The Denver Broncos win more games than the Los Angeles Chargers

(3) The Houston Texans win more games than the Tennessee Titans.

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Picking a team to win the AFC east is no easy task. I will agree, with the Bill's, because the culture has changed so dramatically since this regime took over and drafted Josh Alen. I could have chosen the Jets, but I think their offensive line will be a real problem. Their left tackle is said not fit enough to complete a game without coming off the field on numerous occasions.

You made a comparison of the Jaguars being like the Browns. Jacksonville has been a dumpster fire on and off for their existence. The key is they have had their high moments including winning a playoff game last year. I know they have been to atleast two AFC championship games. The Browns, oh my gosh could be the most consistently bad professional sports franchise in North America, when looking at the big four professional leagues. I am making a distinction in a turtle derby. What I would like to see is if Drew Lock moves on next year, we must pick up Nathan Rourke, the Jags third string QB. He is good enough to start for ten NFL teams and make them better. Rourke had a very good preseason, but as he is an unknown Canadian he ends up on the Jags practice squad. I watched him play two seasons with the BC Lions, and this preseason and he is special. He has all the tools plus the brains and toughness. A four year starter at Ohio University, so add on a great deal of experience. Side note his brother has been starting for Ohio U the last couple of seasons and he is also very good. Twenty NFL teams were interested interested in signing Rourke. I can't understand why he chose the Jags as he would never replaceTrevor Lawrence. Rourke also had the best play of the preseason and coach Peterson thinks he is very good. He impressed while getting third string snaps all summer. OK stepping off my soap box.

I agree the Chiefs are still the top dog in the NFL. I could say they will stay that way as long as Patrick Mahomes stays healthy. That is true, I will include as long as Andy Reid continues to lead the way. Andy Reids players, are like Pete Carroll's, both teams love playing for their coach

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I think it's worth noting that Richardson gets compared to Tim Tebow, a bit. He is big, has a big arm with low accuracy, and played at Florida. Tebow didn't make your under 50% list only because he was at exactly 50% completion over the 4 games he played in as a rookie. He was only right at 50% because in his 1st appearance he went 1-1 in passing. He was under 50% for the 3 games he started at the end of the 2010 season. In his 1st full season of being the starter, he had a 46.5% completion percentage.

This is important to note, not because I want to correct the factual record, but because I have also heard ARichardson compared to Tebow as "not as far along as a passer, yet." Now, my anecdotal "what I have heard"s may not be consensus, or be from sketchy sources, because I really don't remember who said what.

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