Now that the dust has settled in a wild off-season, we have a pretty good idea what teams will look like heading into the 2021 season. The draft is over, and free agency has just about wrapped up as well. That means it is time for our AFC playoff seedings prediction. It’s still early, but let’s see how we do come January.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (15-2):
Unless something catastrophic happens to Patrick Mahomes, this team is the class of the AFC. Kansas City fixed their biggest weakness by signing Joe Thuney, and trading for Orlando Brown. They also drafted the best center in the class in Creed Humphrey. Now that their offensive line is rock solid once again, look for the Chiefs to dominate the AFC once again.
2. Buffalo Bills (13-4):
The Buffalo Bills didn’t get a whole lot better this off-season, but they didn’t get worse either. What they do have is the second best quarterback in the conference in Josh Allen. If first round pick Gregory Rousseau finally gives them a consistent pass rusher, this team could be a serious Super Bowl contender. The Steelers will get a first hand look at this team week one. https://www.steelers.com/news/steelers-release-2021-schedule
3. Cleveland Browns (12-5):
This one pains us to admit, but the Cleveland Browns have a stacked roster. They filled their biggest hole at safety by adding Josh Johnson via free agency. Then had another very good draft adding players like Gregg Newsome, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Anthony Schwartz. The Browns are no longer a laughing stock having finally put together a competent coach and front office. The only thing that will hold this team back is whether or not quarterback Baker Mayfield can elevate his play to a Pro-Bowl level. If that happens, the sky is the limit for this team.
4. Los Angeles Chargers (12-5):
The Chargers fixed their biggest problem in 2020…….they fired the coach. Anthony Lynn is a good coach, but a terrible head coach. They replaced him with former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. He led the Rams to the number one overall defensive unit last season. The Chargers also completely revamped their offensive line adding Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler in free agency, and then drafting Rashwan Slater 13th overall. Add that to one of the best young quarterbacks in the league in Justin Herbert, and you have the surprise team in the AFC playoff seedings in 2021.
5. Indianapolis Colts (11-6):
Colts quarterback Carson Wentz had his best seasons when Frank Reich was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. Now that they are reunited in Indianapolis, look for big things out of Wentz in 2021. The Colts off-season wasn’t all that spectacular outside of the Wentz trade. With the rest of the AFC South having a down year, the Colts should have no problem taking that division in 2021.
6. Baltimore Ravens (10-7):
The Ravens did not have the best of off-seasons. They lost Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, and Matt Skura to free agency, and had to trade left tackle Orlando Brown. They did sign guard Kevin Zeitler from the New York Giants. After being turned down by just about every free agent wide receiver including Ju Ju Smith Schuster, they finally landed Sammy Watkins. The Ravens offensive line looks shaky for the first time in a long time. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is coming back from a serious injury, and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva is playing a totally different position and may be declining. The Ravens defense will be solid, and their running game will continue to be a problem. That wil be good enough for a playoff spot in the AFC.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7):
The Steelers have tons of questions entering the 2021 season. The offensive line could be a real problem, and the secondary is thin to say the least. Then there’s the question of their 38 year old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. How will he play in 2021 after finishing 2020 poorly? Will he, and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada be able to gel? Like we said, lots of questions.
Pittsburgh did remarkably well in free agency considering how little cap space they had to work with. Bringing back Ju Ju Smith Schuster, Cam Sutton, and Tyson Alualu were major wins for Kevin Colbert. There were some tough losses too however. Losing Bud Dupree really is a blow to this defense. He was the perfect pairing for TJ Watt, in what was Pittsburgh’s best pass rush duo in over a decade. Losing both Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson leaves the secondary in serious question. Overall the Steelers ended up much better off than anyone could’ve predicted when the smoke cleared in free agency.
The draft was predictably good once again for this franchise. There are few better than Kevin Colbert in this area. How they went about it was a bit curious however. Instead of addressing the offensive line and secondary early, they instead chose to draft a running back in the first round. Steelers draft: Stuck in the past Time will tell if this strategy ends up working out for the Steelers. Waiting until the later rounds to address this offensive line could prove costly.
There is every possibility the Pittsburgh Steelers could be a playoff team in 2021. We are admittedly being very much on the optimistic side in predicting this. The teams that may be pushing them for a playoff spot in the AFC aren’t all that impressive however. We are not convinced Tua Tagovailoa Is a post season caliber quarterback for Miami. New England completely revamped their entire team, meaning there will certainly be a sizable adjustment period for them. Nobody knows what the Raiders are doing whatsoever. So it maybe by default, but in our AFC playoff seedings prediction the Steelers will be the seventh and final team.