AFC predictions: Going all-in on the Steelers

AFC East

1. New England Patriots 8-8

2. Buffalo Bills 8-8

3. Miami Dolphins 5-11

4. New York Jets 5-11

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Patriots: They are a big wild card with Tom Brady gone, but the system, strong defense, and benefit of playing in this division results in yet another AFC East title … Jarrett Stidham replaces Cam Newton at some point during the season, as the Pats make the playoffs while the Bucs don’t in 2020.

Bills: Devin Singletary is one of the most over-drafted fantasy backs, as Zack Moss finishes with more fantasy points as a rookie … Stefon Diggs isn’t a top-35 receiver, while Josh Allen fails to live up to his lofty expectations — Gardner Minshew finishing with more fantasy value.

Dolphins: Mike Gesicki finishes as a top-five tight end, while DeVante Parker is a bust candidateRyan Fitzpatrick is a nice Superflex value, while Matt Breida is Miami’s most valuable fantasy back … The Dolphins are moving in the right direction, with Tua Tagovailoa’s development the most important aspect of 2020.

Jets: Sam Darnold breaks out and is a top-15 fantasy QB, but the Jets might have arguably the worst defense in the NFL, and Adam Gase is simply too much to overcome ... Le’Veon Bell doesn’t finish as a top-35 fantasy back (I’d draft Latavius Murray over him), while Chris Herndon is a top-10 tight end.

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5

2. Baltimore Ravens 11-5 (Wild Card)

3. Cincinnati Bengals 8-8                

4. Cleveland Browns 7-9

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Steelers: Pittsburgh enters 2020 with the league’s best defense and with a now-healthy Ben Roethlisberger, arguably the best roster overall … Diontae Johnson lives up to the hype and is a top-30 fantasy wideout, while James Conner finishes as a top-10 running back and should be going in the second round of drafts right now (get Benny Snell late) … James Washington and Eric Ebron are two of the best sleepers at their respective positions … The Steelers are my pick to win the Super Bowl, so I absolutely love them at 30/1 (check out this recent podcast for more gambling talk).

Ravens: Baltimore enters as the biggest Super Bowl favorites and will be among the best teams in football even if they experience some regression … Lamar Jackson is the real deal, although he fails to repeat as fantasy’s #1 QB … J.K. Dobbins finishes with more fantasy value than Mark Ingram, while Marquise Brown is a top-15 fantasy wideout (Miles Boykin is a sleeper).

Bengals: Joe Burrow is a star immediately and finishes as a top-10 QB, helping the Bengals nearly win the Wild Card … Tyler Boyd records 110 catches, while Auden Tate and C.J. Uzomah are deep sleepers … Joe Mixon has a monster year and finishes as a top-five fantasy back, ahead of Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook.

Browns: Nick Chubb scores 15 touchdowns, but Odell Beckham Jr., Austin Hooper, Jarvis Landry and Baker Mayfield all disappoint their fantasy managers. There’s a non-zero chance Case Keenum gets starts for the Browns this season, and not because of injury … I don’t hate Myles Garret at 25/1 to win DPOY.

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts 10-6

2. Tennessee Titans 10-6 (Wild Card)

3. Houston Texans 7-9

4. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Colts: Jonathan Taylor finishes with more fantasy value than Aaron Jones and Josh Jacobs and looks like a nice flier at 65/1 to score the most RB fantasy points this season, which seems long for someone who should almost be considered favored to be a top-five RB pick in 2021 … T.Y. Hilton ends the year as the better fantasy WR than Odell Beckham Jr., Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Amari Cooper, while Parris Campbell is a sleeper … The Colts have the league’s easiest schedule, the NFL’s best offensive line, a suddenly elite defense, a smart coach, and get a big upgrade at QB, so they are legit Super Bowl contenders.

Titans: Over 14 games with Ryan Tannehill last season, Derrick Henry totaled 1,887 yards with 17 touchdowns while playing hurt, and he’s going to be more involved as a receiver in 2020. He’s a real threat to finish as the #1 fantasy player this year and shouldn’t be lasting outside the top-five picks of any draft, including PPR formats … The Titans will regress in some areas (like scoring TDs nearly every RZ trip), but A.J. Brown is the real deal, and Tannehill played like a legit MVP last season. Tennessee had a double-digit lead on the road in the AFC Championship game, so it certainly wouldn’t surprise if they make another run at the Super Bowl.  

Texans: Deshaun Watson can’t overcome years of poor decisions by Bill O’Brien, but he’ll help fantasy managers plenty anyway … Duke Johnson is the most desired Houston fantasy back named DJ during the second half of the season, while Brandin Cooks is a disappointment … Kahale Warring is a dynasty sleeper, while Jordan Akins is a 2020 sleeper.

Jaguars: Chris Thompson helps in PPR leagues, but Jacksonville’s backfield is a mess throughout 2020, and the Jags set the unofficial record time oof going from the NFL’s best defense to possibly its worst … Tyler Eifert is a sleeper, while Gardner Minshew is more than that … The team with the worst roster in the NFL cut Leonard Fournette, who was one of football’s worst players last season, so his signing with the Bucs did nothing more than hurt Ronald Jones’ value (yet somehow created fantasy buzz, as Fournette’s perceived value remains perplexing) … Trevor Lawrence is starting Week 1 in 2021 for Jacksonville, although passing on Justin Fields proves to be a mistake.

AFC West

1. Kansas City Chiefs 12-4

2. Denver Broncos 9-7 (Wild Card)

3. Los Angeles Chargers 6-10

4. Las Vegas Raiders 6-10

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Chiefs: Their biggest fantasy concern is seemingly how much their players will sit out in the second half of blowouts … Patrick Mahomes tossed 50 TDs as a first-year starter and got 9.7 YPA with a 10:0 TD:INT ratio in September last season before dislocating his kneecap shortly thereafter. He essentially breaks models he’s so silly good, and like Mike Trout in baseball, we now have a prohibitive MVP favorite every year in football for the foreseeable future. Matching Mahomes with Andy Reid’s scheme and all this speed simply isn’t fair … Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the #4 overall player on my board, so I’m expecting a huge season from the rookie.

Broncos: Drew Lock could ruin this playoff prediction, but Denver has a strong defense and is the rare team who may still have home-field advantage … The Broncos are loaded at the skill positions, but the competition for targets will be heated … Melvin Gordon finishes as a top-12 fantasy back.

Chargers: Joshua Kelley emerges as a real threat to Austin Ekeler’s touches, as the two finish far closer in fantasy value than their ADPs suggest … Justin Herbert ruins the fantasy value of many Chargers over the second half of the season, and the team’s good-looking defense on paper has already lost Derwin James for the season, and history suggests the injuries will continue to pile up.

Raiders: Darren Waller finishes outside the top-15 fantasy tight ends, while Bryan Edwards proves the better pick than Henry Ruggs, both in fantasy and reality for Las Vegas (what a time to move a franchise there) … Josh Jacobs is a great looking back, but his situation isn’t ideal, so he’s more of a mid-RB2 with a misplaced ADP of a top-10 back.

The NFC preview is coming soon.

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