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By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear me out...The most courageous 2017-18 NFL season predictions – Part II

 

September 9, 2017

COURTESY/ MGN

Previously on "The most courageous 2017-18 NFL season predictions" I made predictions for the 16 NFC teams, next up the AFC and playoffs predictions.

And now the conclusion to "The most courageous 2017-18 NFL season predictions"

AFC EAST

BUFFALO BILLS

If you can figure out the Bills front office plan send a resumé into ESPN or FS1 because even the NFL insider experts are at a loss for words.

They clearly want to rebuild but they're doing it very oddly by getting rid of their young talented players (Sammy Watkins) or letting them walk (Mike Gillislee, Stephon Gilmore). It's a weird strategy for tanking.

Their treatment of Tyrod Taylor didn't make sense either. Taylor has his flaws but he's still a serviceable QB, but the Bills were simultaneously trying to push him out the door and keep him from going during the offseason.

Prediction: 4-12, miss the playoffs, they have a dumb trade in them before the deadline.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 4 – It's a disaster behind Taylor.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Consider me in the minority but bringing Jay Cutler out of retirement was a smart move. Even though he turns the ball over more than you'd like, he's an upgrade over Ryan Tannehill. Cutler will take advantage of their big receiving targets like DeVante Parker, the offense should be better than last season and is it just me, is Cutler actually enjoying himself in Miami? I've never seen the guy smile this much in his whole career.

The 'Fins defense is solid and Adam Gase is a legitimately good coach. They're going to have another good season and barring any crippling injuries the playoffs are within reach.

Prediction: 10-6, make the playoffs as the No. 5-seed, seriously Cutler looks happy in Miami

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 0 – Cutler was the best available QB and Matt Moore is one of the better backups in the league. Plus, even though 'Fins owner Stephen Ross thought about signing Kaep. Kaepernick's glowing remarks about Castro probably wouldn't sit well with the Miami fan base.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

It's the end of a dynasty!

But it's Week 1.

The power in the East is dead!

But it's Week 1.

A new era is dawning!

But it's Week 1.

The Chiefs win Thursday night was impressive but last I checked it's still September and the games that count the most are played in January and February. I'm sure it was quite delightful for the Pats-haters out there to watch New England get smashed but those tears of joy will turn to tears of sadness in January when the Pats make it to yet another Super Bowl.

The Pats won't be dead until Bill Belichick retires or is actually dead.

Prediction: 13-3, wins the AFC East, No. 1-seed in the playoffs, will be the best team in the AFC by Week 12.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: -5, they have the best QB situation in the league, the G.O.A.T. as the starter and future star waiting in the wings.

NEW YORK JETS

They're going to stink and Todd Bowels will be unfairly fired at the end of the season. Moving on.

Prediction: 2-14, best case scenario they get the No. 1 overall draft pick, worst case they win more games than they should and get the fifth pick.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 8 – But what does it matter? They're not going anywhere this season.

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Deflategate curse lives! The Ravens, along with the Colts, snitched out the Pats during the 2014 playoffs and neither has made the playoffs since. In fact neither has posted a winning record and it's going to continue with another losing season in 2017.

Prediction: 6-10, miss the playoffs, they need to figure out a way to rid themselves of this curse.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 2 – They could use Kaepernick, but I totally understand them wanting to pass after Kaepernick's girlfriend's tweet. I doubt they had the papers ready like Ray Lewis said, but I get why Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti would want to scrap signing him.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

The Bengals should be better than last season but then again they're the Bengals, so what does that really mean? A playoff berth paired with a quick exit? They're stuck in this hell of being a playoff team, yet aren't a serious contender.

Prediction: 9-7, miss the playoffs, Bengals owner Mike Brown brings everyone back for another season of just good enough.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 1 – Not impressed by AJ McCarron.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

The Browns will be better this season that is a guarantee! They'll still have a losing record, but they will be better. While we all laugh that they have to pay Brock Osweiler $16 million for not being on their roster, it was a smart trade. If you're a rebuilding team you should take on bad contracts for draft picks. You're rebuilding, you're not going anywhere so you might as well load up picks anyway you can.

Prediction: 5-11, miss the playoffs, Kiser is surprisingly decent.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 0 – I actually like Cody Kessler.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers are going to be scary good on offense once again and with Martavis Bryant back that's another big play waiting to happen. I am a tad worried about Le'Veon Bell missing time during his holdout, but he did jump right into it and was great last season after his suspension.

Picking up Joe Haden will be huge too for this defense that has been porous the past few seasons.

Prediction: 11-5, wins AFC North, make the playoffs as the No. 3-seed.  

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 1 – We've seen enough of Landry Jones to know he isn't good.

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS

The AFC South is a dumpster fire. None of these teams is among the top 8 of teams in the AFC.

But someone has to win this putrid division and the Texans are in the best position to do so. They have the better defense and their offense is somewhat competent.

I like Deshaun Watson but he doesn't seem quite ready to be a starter just yet. I'm afraid that because Tom Savage is going to be awful that the Texans will rush Watson into action. He'll develop bad habits and be out of the league in a few years.

I'm also a smidge worried about J.J. Watt. He's healthy but back injuries tend to linger longer than expected. I'm sure he'll power through it and be the monster he's always been, but it's something to keep an eye on this season.

Prediction: 8-8, wins AFC South, enters playoffs as No. 4-seed, easily the worst team in the playoffs.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 3 – Savage is terrible and Waston is a season away from becoming a starter. The Texans would be more threatening with Kaepernick under center.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The AFC South has a new bottom dweller! The Colts have disaster written all over them this year. They have no idea when franchise QB Andrew Luck will return and they've been devastated by the terrible draft picks and free agent signings during the GM Ryan Grigson era.

My favorite NFL offseason story involved Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano. The tension between the two men was well known. Neither cared for one another and both blamed the other for the team's failure the past two seasons. Where the good part comes in is what Colts owner Jim Irsay did, he tried to repair this tattered relationship by sending the two men to group counseling with a psychologist hired by the team.

Long story short, it didn't work and Irsay fired Grigson.

I love that story so much I wish I could wipe it from my memory everyday just so I can reread it to experience the initial joy and laughter all over again from now until my final day on this rock.

Prediction: 3-13, miss the playoffs, they rush Luck back only for him to get hurt again and Pagano is canned in Week 10.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 5 – The season is lost with Scott Tolzien, Kaepernick could have kept things afloat until Luck's return, whenever that will be.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

This offseason has been a weird one for my favorite team. We added some fun and exciting pieces like Calais Campbell, Barry Church and Leonard Fournette, but there's still an albatross under center.

After working super-duper hard in the offseason Blake Bortles has little to show for it. He was atrocious in training camp and the preseason and still given the starting job. It doesn't make sense unless Tom Coughlin and the crew are trying to tank this season.

Hang with me.

The Jags defense is going to be among the top five defenses this season that is capable of winning games on their own. But there isn't a reliable QB on offense to make them a serious playoff contender. The 2017 Draft and free-agent market didn't have that QB of the future (Although Kaepernick would have been a good filler for the next few seasons), to Coughlin's liking.

However, the 2018 Draft has some promising prospects and getting another high draft pick can finally land the Jags that franchise QB they've missed since Mark Brunell. But the defense is too good to tank. So how do you go counter that? You start Blake Bortles! The man has more career pick-6s that wins. It's a full proof plan.

This might sound like the delusional/wishful thinking of a Jags fan, but it's the only reason you start Blake Bortles after all that you've seen the past two months.

Prediction: 4-12, miss playoffs, (nervously chanting) it's all part of the plan, it's all part of the plan, it's all part of the plan.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: ∞ – Is there a number more than infinite??

TENNESSEE TITANS

The Titans love is a bit much for a team that was quite average last season. In a must-win game against last season they got rolled, by the JAGS. Marcus Mariota did leave with a broken leg halfway through but he wasn't playing well before that.

Prediction: 7-9, miss the playoffs, looking for a new coach in the offseason.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 2 – Matt Cassel's agent is the real MVP.

AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS

Before their final preseason moves, I was all in on the Broncos and a bounce back season. Now I'm not so sure. Their big move of letting TJ Ward go to sign Brock Osweiler was odd. It smells like Elway and company are laying the foundation for a secret tanking season, in case things go south.

While Trevor Siemian is the starter, (It could be the Bortles-effect but I think Siemian is a solid QB) I don't believe Elway has much faith in him or Paxton Lynch. Why else would he bring in Osweiler other than to lock up a high draft pick?

The defense is still scary good and will probably keep Elway from bashing in the "Emergency Tanking" glass, but this team still feels like they're going to fall short this season.

Prediction: 8-8, miss the playoffs, the Broncos will stay in contention for most of the year but a late-season collapse causes them to miss the playoffs.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 10 – With this defense behind him Kaepernick would work out just fine in Denver.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The Chiefs looked good Thursday night. It took a while for that offense to get going and I could have sworn someone slipped some psychedelic mushrooms in my drink because Alex Smith threw further than eight yards. Twice!

While they put the beatdown on the defending champs, I'm not ready to crown them best in the AFC, because it is September. They'll be good this season but they do have one of the tougher schedules, the AFC West is the best division in football and Alex Smith is still their QB. One game doesn't erase an entire career built on check-downs.

That said they'll still win 10-plus games this season and get enough people to buy into them before they lay an egg in the playoffs.

Prediction: 12-4, wins AFC West, No. 3-seed in the playoffs, lose another disappointing playoff game to the Steelers.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 0 – Patrick Mahomes is going to be awesome next season.

L.A. CHARGERS

ESPN's Bill Barnwell always does a terrific column on teams expected to improve and decline for the upcoming season. In it one of the main stats he uses for his case for each team is their record in close games, (games decided by seven points or less). Because whether you had a crazy high or low record, teams typically tend to fall back to the average.

For the Chargers last season they had rotten luck. They were 1-8 in close games, blew five halftime leads and four games of which came during the two-minute warning. Plus, their roster looked like a MASH unit.

This year will be a better season for the Chargers, they're healthy, for the most part, and they're going to win more of those close games. That's why I'm calling it now, the Chargers will make the AFC playoffs as a No. 6-seed, dinky stadium and all.

Prediction: 9-7, shock the NFL world by making the playoffs, really wish they were good enough to host an NFL playoff game, it would be hilarious.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 1 – Not sure how Cardale Jones' progression is coming along.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

This might not be as unpopular an opinion considering we live in Broncos territory, but the Raiders are overrated this season. They're the sexy dark horse pick to make it to the Super Bowl but they reek of disappointment this season. They'll still have a winning record this year, yet, they're going to miss the playoffs.

Their record in close games (games decided by seven points or less) in 2017 was 8-1. That's not going to hold and they'll lose more close games this season, probably due to their defense.

Prediction: 9-7, miss the playoffs, Broncos fans rejoice.

Number of Kaepernick kneels needed: 2 – We all saw what happened during last year's playoffs.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

NFC Wildcard

Vikings over Eagles

Bucs over Panthers

AFC Wildcard

Steelers over Chargers

Miami over Houston

NFC Divisional

Seahawks over Vikings

Packers over Bucs

AFC Divisional

Patriots over Miami

Steelers over Chiefs

NFC Championship

Seahawks over Packers

AFC Championship

Patriots over Steelers

Super Bowl

Seahawks over Patriots

 
 

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