As we hit mid-July, the NFL finally takes a rest. The NFC and AFC division fights only occur on Twitter during this stretch of time. For about three weeks, starting late June and finishing in July, the NFL has pretty much nothing going on. No training camps, no minicamps, no major free agent signings.
During this time is when players, coaches, executives, and owners alike take time off. Most go on vacation with their families before starting the NFL season and reporting to training camp. This time of the year is when all the predictions come out, from who will the Super Bowl to the rookies of the year.
And there’s a reason for it: nothing else is happening, so you might as well speculate. I thought I would join in on the fun and predict the AFC division winners. For the most part, the division winners seem to be pretty clear.
2021 AFC Division Winners Predictions
The AFC has two clear top dogs; the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. After that, it becomes much harder to predict AFC division winners.
The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts will fight it out over the AFC South with the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars leagues behind those two teams.
In the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns will all fight to win the AFC North crown. That division is especially close and more competitive than any other AFC division. So, who will come out on top? Let’s start with the easy ones.
AFC East Division Winner: Buffalo Bills
The Bills were able to accomplish in 2020 a goal that had been in the making for 20 years: win the division. Yes, the lack of Tom Brady in the division clearly helped, but the Bills took the steps forward that they needed to. Josh Allen looks like a top-seven quarterback in the NFL and has arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL on his team. Throw in a great head coach, and a good secondary, the Bills have everything that they need.
The Bills will win the division with little fight from the New England Patriots, who will be too busy rebuilding to put up much of a fight. The Miami Dolphins will offer more competition, though that will rely on the growth of Tua Tagovailoa. And the Jets, while trying to put together a strong front seven, are about two years away from competing for the division. They just do not have enough talent to put up a fight for an AFC division title.
AFC West Division Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
Aside from the AFC East, this seems to be the easiest prediction on this list. The AFC Divisions are all full of competitive coaches and teams, but no one knows how to win his division better than Andy Reid. Ried has led his team to win the AFC West each of the past five years.
And the only thing that might upset my prediction for AFC division winners might be the Las Vegas Raiders. You might have expected me to point out the Los Angles Chargers. However, the Chargers have not had the success against the Chiefs last year the way the Raiders did. The Raiders beat the Chiefs once and nearly did it twice. For whatever reason, they seemed to be the only team that was able to give the Chiefs trouble last year, at least, in the AFC.
And…well, there’s no need to mention the Denver Broncos. Unless, of course, Aaron Rodgers is traded to the Broncos, in which case I’ll need to update these predictions.
AFC South Division Winner: Tennessee Titans
You may or may not have seen this coming. While I did infer that the Colts would put up a fight against the Titans, I don’t believe that the Colts can wrest the division away from the Titans. They just have too much firepower, and their quarterback situation is much more secure compared to the Colts. The Titans’ biggest question is their defense, and while they added to their pass rush and cornerbacks in the draft and free agency, it might not be enough.
The rest of the AFC South is pretty weak, the Jaguars won’t offer anything other than some occasional “wow” plays from Trevor Lawrence. The Texans might as well forfeit all the games they play this season, I would be surprised if they won more than two games in 2021. The Colts are the Titans’ toughest opponent inside the division. And with questions at quarterback with Carson Wentz, I’ll take the Titans to win it.
AFC North Division Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
This one comes as a surprise. Throughout all of the off-season, critics have claimed the Steelers will place 3rd, or even worse, fourth in their division. They are quick to point out the receivers that the Baltimore Ravens have brought in, or the secondary players the Browns have acquired. However, they ignore two things.
One, that the Browns pass rush, especially on the interior, is still lacking. After the losses of Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon, the Browns have done little to replace the two. Thus, the interior of their defensive line is still weak. The Ravens pass rush is similar, except it lacks the star talent of a player like Myles Garrett. Instead, they will return players that had a combined 5.5 sacks in 2020.
The second point is that, like Ried, Mike Tomlin knows how to win the AFC North. He has won it seven times in the last fourteen years and won it last year. Aside from a newly made offensive line, the Steelers return almost every starter from 2020. They added a new running back in Najee Harris and replaced their offensive coordinator.
Paired with a great defense, I think the Steelers will edge out the competition in the AFC North. They swept the Ravens last year, would have swept the Browns if they kept their starters in during week 17, (and almost won that game regardless), and split with the Cincinnati Bengals. I don’t think enough has changed for the Steelers to not repeat as AFC North champions.