Steelers own top spot in first 2016 AFC projections

Nathan Jahnke projects the 2016 records for every AFC team, with Le'Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 1.

| 6 months ago
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Steelers own top spot in first 2016 AFC projections


Yesterday, we unveiled our first run of NFC projections for the 2016 season. Today, things turn over to the AFC, where the top few teams have remained near the front of the pack for the past few seasons. For some of those teams, there are reasons to be concerned, which leaves room for a sleeper to make an impact in the playoffs. While plenty can change between now and the start of the season, here is how I expect each AFC team’s schedule to shake out.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (projected record: 13-3)

Entering the 2015 season playoffs, the Steelers were the team that no one wanted to face. It took Peyton Manning’s best game of the second half of the season to knock the Steelers out, but the team should be improved in 2016. Le’Veon Bell was the highest-graded running back in the league before he went down with injury, and is likely to be the best next season, as well. At center, they bring back a healthy Maurkice Pouncey, who was a top-five center in 2014, and was replaced by Cody Wallace, who was a bottom-five center in 2015. If the Steelers can just stay healthy, they have the most talent among AFC teams that are likely to be postseason competitors.

2. New England Patriots (12-4)

The Patriots have lost plenty of players, but replenished their roster with new talent to make up for it. The most promising addition was Martellus Bennett, who forced 25 missed tackles in 2014, a mark that no tight end got close to in 2015. There are still concerns with the offensive line, depth at wide receiver, and depth with their edge rushers, but New England has overcome worse situations. The biggest thing that could hold the Patriots back is their quarterback situation; currently, Brady is expected to miss the first four games due to his suspension. His absence to begin the season may hurt their playoff seeding, but they should still be in a good position to win the division.

3. Oakland Raiders (11-5)

In 2015, the Raiders were a team that played better than their record indicated. They followed that up this offseason with some of the league’s biggest free-agent signings, including Kelechi Osemele, Sean Smith, and Bruce Irvin. In each of the last two years, Osemele was among the top five guards in run-blocking grade. Cornerbacks are one of the most inconsistent positions from one year to another, but Smith has stopped that trend; the former Chief has never allowed a catch rate above 59 percent, and each of the past four years he’s recorded at least eight passes defended. Throw in Derek Carr, who had the highest grade for a quarterback age 26 or younger, and Amari Cooper, who should improve in his sophomore season, and you have the recipe for a special year.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)

The Bengals have spent each of the last four years hovering between 10 and 12 wins, and this year should be no different. They lost a few veteran players over the offseason, but for the most part, they were either underperforming, or defensive backs over the age of 30. The biggest concern is the lack of depth at wide receiver, but it helps when they have A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert, who were both among the top four players at their respective positions. At the positions where they lost players, they have high draft picks in waiting whom they have groomed to take over. While we don’t know if those players will live up to expectations, the Bengals have enough going right for them to expect at least another trip to the playoffs.

5. Denver Broncos (10-6)

The defending Super Bowl champions are expected to take a step backwards this season, with the question being how much of a step back do they take. While the quarterback position is the one most talked about, they lost players at several positions who helped them throughout the season. On offense, while guards Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez weren’t at their best during 2015, they were still better than other players Denver had on the line. Malik Jackson led their defensive line in pressures (60), while linebacker Danny Trevathan had the second-most stops (53); They have by far the biggest question mark at quarterback among the top 10 teams on this list, but still have the talent everywhere else to keep them in the top five.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)

After an 11-win season, there is reason to believe the Chiefs will take a step back in 2016. Few teams use their dime defense more than Kansas City, but they lost half of their defensive backs, including Sean Smith to a division rival. On the offensive line, they had two players with an above-average grade: Jeff Allen and Ben Grubbs. Neither will be on the roster in 2016, although they did sign RT Mitchell Schwartz to help make up for it. In what should be the most competitive division in the AFC, it will be difficult for the Chiefs to recreate the same success they had last year.

7. Houston Texans (8-8)

In 2015, the Texans won the weakest division in the NFL, which will be a little more difficult in 2016, thanks to improvements by the Jaguars, and the Colts having a healthy Andrew Luck back. This spring, the Texans revamped their offense, and between the first four rounds of the draft and free agency, added a new starter at quarterback, two new running backs, two new wide receivers, and three new interior offensive linemen—all to go along with the sixth-highest-graded receiver from last year, DeAndre Hopkins, and two decent starting tackles. The defense, on the other hand, remained largely the same. If everything on offense clicks, the Texans could be a dangerous team in the playoffs, but there is also a chance things could take a while to work themselves out, and they’ll find themselves in the middle of the AFC South.

8. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

The Ravens had a disappointing 5-11 season but for a decent reason: players like Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Eugene Monroe, Chris Canty and Terrell Suggs all landed on injured reserve. In 2014, Suggs recorded 15 sacks, 12 hits, and 38 hurries, which the 2015 Ravens sorely missed. Steve Smith at least lasted seven games into the 2015 season, and in that time, he had 2.90 yards per route run, good for second in the league (behind only Antonio Brown). Adding safety Eric Weddle in free agency and offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley in the draft should help offset the losses of safety Will Hill and linemen Kelechi Osemele. If Flacco can return to the quarterback he once was, the Ravens should make a return to the playoffs; last year, however, with an overall grade of just 68.5, he was only the 24th-best QB out of the 38 with qualifying snap counts. If he continues to be a below-average quarterback, the Ravens will only be average.

9. Buffalo Bills (8-8)

The Bills were as close to average as a team could get in 2015, and not much changed for the team over the offseason. The most notable free-agent addition was Zach Brown, who held quarterbacks to a passer rating of 61.0 when targeted—second best for all linebackers who were thrown at 20 or more times, just behind Luke Kuechly. The loss of Mario Williams won’t hurt much, as his 5.7 pass-rushing productivity was the fourth-lowest for 4-3 defensive ends. It’s unclear when first-round pick Shaq Lawson will be able to contribute, so with not much changing, we are likely to see more of the same from Buffalo in 2016.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)

The Jaguars are expected to be one of the most-improved teams in the NFL, and for good reason. On defense, they added Malik Jackson to their line and Prince Amukamara at cornerback—both earned higher grades than anyone else on the Jags’ defense last year. On the offensive line, they added Kelvin Beachum, who also had a higher grade than anyone else on the O-line. On top of that, they had one of the best drafts, adding Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack, who will join last-year’s first-round pick, Dante Fowler, Jr. (returning from injury). On the downside, they still have weaknesses across the rest of the line, and their linebackers and safeties currently on the roster underperformed last year. It might take some time for all of this new talent to gel together, but they should still be noticeably better.

11. New York Jets (7-9)

While the Jets were a tiebreaker away from making the playoffs in 2015, they also had one of the worst offseasons of any team. They lost nose tackle Damon Harrison and halfback Chris Ivory, and while they found replacements in free agency, the replacements aren’t as good as the players they lost. Last year, Ivory forced 47 missed tackles on his 247 carries; anticipated starter Matt Forte has never hit 40, despite six seasons with more than 247 carries. Future nose tackle Steve McLendon has 48 run-stops in his seven-year career, Damon Harrison had 49 last year alone. If they are unable to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick, they’ll have one of the worst quarterback situations in the conference, which will hurt their playoff chances even more. The team still has a great defensive line and a nice pair of wide receivers, but outside of that, New York seems to be on the decline.

12. San Diego Chargers (6-10)

In 2015, the Chargers played a little better than their 4-12 record suggests, but not enough happened over the offseason to make us believe San Diego will be a lot better. They made some solid moves in free agency with cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Dwight Lowery, and center Matt Slauson, but they also lost talent in safety Eric Weddle (Ravens), cornerback Patrick Robinson (Colts), and wide receiver Malcom Floyd (retired). Their biggest move was adding defensive end Joey Bosa, the man with the most QB hits in college football last season (21). They simple don’t have enough star power to make a strong playoff run. Their only player with a grade above 85.0 last year—and under the age of 30—was cornerback Jason Verrett, who has yet to allow 100 passing yards in a game, and ended the season allowing just 8 and 7 yards in his last two games, respectively.

13. Indianapolis Colts (6-10)

Indianapolis managed an 8-8 season in 2015, despite missing Andrew Luck for part of the year. However, due to their division, they were still in the mix near the end of the regular season. In reality, the Colts were probably worse than their record reflected. For this offseason, they lost more talent than they brought in. Their biggest addition was cornerback Patrick Robinson, who surrendered just 0.78 yards per coverage snap last year, sixth-best for cornerbacks. That doesn’t make up for the losses of Jerrell Freeman, Coby Fleener, and Dwight Lowery, though. While they get Luck back, he started 2015 with six straight games with a below-average PFF passer rating. They will again rely on Frank Gore at running back, who had his lowest yards per carry of his career in 2015, at 3.7. If Luck can be the player everyone expects him to be, the Colts can make a run at getting into the playoffs, but if he plays anywhere close to how he did in 2015, they don’t have the talent to make up for it.

14. Tennessee Titans (5-11)

The Titans had arguably the worst team in football in 2015, and not enough happened over the offseason to expect things to be much better. The team’s big addition was DeMarco Murray, who had an excellent 2014 season, but over the rest of his career, has been an average running back. He leaves the team with the second-best run-blocking grade in 2015 (Philadelphia) to join the team with the 23rd-best (Tennessee). The addition of first-round pick Jack Conklin should help in the future, but rookie offensive tackles have struggled in recent years. Only two of the 13 offensive tackles to receive significant playing time as a rookie these past two seasons had an above-average grade. If Marcus Mariota can make a big leap in year two, then the team could be competitive in the AFC South. If not, then we can expect more of the same out of Tennessee.

15. Cleveland Browns (4-12)

The Browns had one of the best drafts of the year, but only received a B+ for a total offseason grade because they did so poorly in free agency. They lost several good players, with some of them at the peak of their careers, including offensive linemen Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz. The future looks bright for Cleveland, though, due to all of the solid rookies they added, but it’s unfair to expect them to carry the team in 2016. The Browns’ biggest addition of the offseason is WR Corey Coleman. Baylor QBs had a 133.1 passer rating when targeting Coleman last year, so if anything, there should be some exciting plays from him this season before the Browns begin their move up the rankings.

16. Miami Dolphins (4-12)

The Dolphins were a 6-10 team last year, lost two of their highest-graded players on defense in Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby, and lost two of their best players on offense in Lamar Miller and Rishard Matthews. In return, they invested in defensive end Mario Williams, who is 31 and coming off the worst year of their career. Their other big additions were linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell. Both players had their best seasons in 2013, so it’s unlikely that they will have a large enough impact to push Miami closer to the playoffs. At least some of the talent is there, but they haven’t been able to put things together yet, so it’s difficult to expect more from the Dolphins soon.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • shaunhan murray

    Just wow I …I …uhh wow. Buying a little high on the Raiders there , can they please be solid ONE full season please just one, last year they were much worse especially Cooper ad Carr in the 2nd half of the season. The Dolphins man it looks bleak when u put it the way u did it is hard to see them winning alot of games, I love my steelers but they are hilariously inconsistent sometimes and a dominant 13-3 season, which would be the best record in the league according to yall, doesn’t feel like its in the works, I see 11-5 but they do find there way to the AFC championship game and as long as they dont have to play in New England than a super bowl visit

    • shaunhan murray

      They do have an easy schedule, every tough opponent they play in Pittsburgh so maybe its more feasible than I thought

    • BigRod

      i havent broken down schedules / rosters / etc but from general reading raiders Defense I believe has reportedly vastly improved. along with the offensive line upgrades. Much will hinge on Carr. Raiders are still in a tough division as evidenced by Den and KC’s ratings on this list. I like the optimism for RaiderNation but dont see them anywhere near the 3rd best team in AFC. PFF seems unkind to the Texans… hell im colts fan and hate to see what the texans (along with rest of division) have done over the offseason… but gotta give credit where credit is due.

      sure Brock Osweiller is a risk… but ffs they were playing Hoyer several other scrubs last year. Texans Defense is flat out nasty when healthy. unless they lost some key contributors on that side of ball.. specifically im thinking of the CB (jefferson?) then i cant see fading the texans from the playoffs. Oh and lets not forget… they finally moved on from a RB that can only last 4 games a season. AFC South has improved but thats not really sayin much. chalk up 4 wins at minimum within division for Houston. not much of a chance they go below .500 outside of AFC south. If Osweiler finds his way under a solid coaching staff Texans could make noise in the playoffs.

      • Brandon

        PFF has been raving about the Raiders all last season. As a chiefs fan I had laughed at the raiders rankings on PFF’s power chart. They were constantly ranking the raiders ahead of the chiefs. In the games that KC won against Oakland PFF gave the raiders players better grades. Which makes no sense. I do predict they will have their first winning season in 10+ years I don’t predict them to jump ahead of KC and Denver. Kc has a schedule advantage to sweep Oakland once again. We get our bye week before our visit to Oakland (see what happened to the Broncos in 2015). Then Oakland has to travel on a short week on TNF to arrowhead. Smith is 7-1 versus the raiders. They’ll go 9-7.

        I have to disagree with Houston. I consider the Texans an easy W for my team at least. Brock isn’t very good. Led the league in 3 and outs. I see jags or the colts taking the division. Jags are bound to have a breakthrough. Luck will run the south like Manning did for years.

        • codered5

          Go back and look at when pff ranked the Raiders as the worst team in the afc to start the year in 2015. The Chiefs best players are getting up there along with the Houston injury. I think presuming that they’ll be the same team next year is a stretch. Justin houston is really good and hes hurt. Tampa Hali is really good and hes getting up there. I think the cheifs can be good but age is more than a number. They loose sean smith. Dj is getting up there as well as Charles. Eric berry will be really good so you have that. Abdullah retired. The other safety left. I hear Tampa Hali eats a lot of kale so maybe that helps.

          • Brandon

            Not 2 worried. We have a wonderful mixture of veterans and rookies. DJ still is preforming at a high level along with Hali. Sean Smith was the 13th best corner but we can do without him. Berry and Parker are a legit 1-2 safety punch. Peters has the potential to be a top 10 CB. Houston’s injury is up in the air. There is no guarantees hell miss majority of the 2016 season. Charles has yet yo digress in his play. Still averaged over 5.0 yards per carry. U add that to Kelce and Maclin. With the emergence of west and ware. We have a top 3 defensive line. We’ve accounted for the retiring of abdullah who was our third safety behind parker and Branch who was our fourth. Both played great but we’re used primarily for nickel packages. Berry is coming off of his best season.

            I don’t remember that about the raiders. All I know is PFF constantly ranked them above KC which is a joke to me. Kc has owned Oakland and the way our schedule is set up well sweep them once more.

          • Bill Doerr

            Branch was not KCs #4 Safety he was their Nickel/Dime FS as he posses elite speed, athleticism & elite coverage skills. With his 4.28 speed he was a sideline to sideline guy who could fly and track anyone down & with his Elite cover skills he consistently shutdown excellent receiving TEs. Parker is more of a base package Safety, Branch will be sorely missed.

          • Brandon

            Branch was their fourth string S. It doesn’t like that way due to the extensive time missed by abdullah. Branch was blessed with the Gaines injury who was our nickel CB. He’s pretty good yes but due to extensive investment into Abdullah and Parker he was projected at four. At the beginning of.the year Parker and abdullah were our starters until Berry got back into shape. Its nothing against Branch. Our nickel defensed utilize 4 safeties and 2 corners after Gaines injury.

          • Brandon

            And no he won’t be sorely missed because we would of utilize him very little if Gaines didn’t face injury. Your basing your opinions off of fan based skeptism and excitement of Branch joining Arizona and you should be. he’s a good player. Elite speed but honestly he was utilized very little for the chiefs.

          • Brandon

            Here is a piece to burst your bubble written by PFF. “Elite cover skills” is a false statement.

            Branch falls down a bit on this list due to the fact that he hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2012. Branch may not be a lockdown cover guy, but he is one of the most physical safeties in the NFL. He was one of the most feared blitzing safeties back in his days with Oakland, and has a +20.2 combined run and pass-rush grade for his career. His size (6-foot, 210 pounds) might not suggest it, but Branch is best suited for a box role.

            He’s a sitational box safety and no he doesn’t run a 4.28 anymore. He’s fast but not that fast anymore. That was his draft 40. Trust me when I say he isn’t as fast as he was with Oakland. He’s more like a 4.35 player now.

          • Mark Moton

            Wat happen to mr shutdown TE’s in the playoff last year. (Gronkowski) Lol

          • crosseyedlemon

            I don’t think very many fans take power rankings seriously regardless of the source. The websites know that they will always get a traffic boost when these lists are posted so naturally that is more important to them than whether the lists have any validity.

          • Brandon

            True. This is what’s known as the dead period in football.

          • Bill Doerr

            KC also lost one of their best Safeties in 6″1/210pd FS ( can also play SS n Corner) Tyvon Branch who posses Elite 4.28 speed, and elite athleticism & is an elite coverage with elite coverage skills, excels in man & is a shutdown coverage DB. He is going to be missed.

          • Brandon

            He won’t be missed seeing Branch wasn’t as big of a contributor as you’re leading on. Like I said you are using fan baser skeptism to justify your excitement about acquiring. U make it sound like he was our best rated safety. He was actually our third best. Berry, Abdullah, were ranked higher and Parker was ahead of him on the depth chart due to his versatility and lengthier contract. You’re not a chiefs fan. You didn’t watch every game. Branch had a lost of.rust at the start. He was good at the end. But like I said he was our fourth safety. Third best rated safety. He was only utilized in nickel packages. Not a.starter. not an every down player.

          • Bry

            You idiot Branch was a Raiders. Worst injury problems. Not the same athlete he was coming out of college. Freaking chiefs fan. Talk about Tyvon smh. He sucks

          • Tim Edell

            Your the idiot bro Branch played with KC last year

          • Tim Edell

            While Branch does bring elite athleticism to the game he is far fro elite in coverage my friend!

    • warcrimes

      Cooper had a foot injury that final half dozen games and the Raiders lost their best o-lineman, Hudson and their RT, Watson to injury.

      My prediction for the Raiders last year was 9-7 to 7-9 depending on injuries, they have talent but were very thin and they stumbled down the stretch because of it.

      • OakDog

        you forgot Austin Howard as well. Take 3 starters off any line and the offense will suffer.

      • shaunhan murray

        The steelers lost there 2 best lineman for all of last season and faced a tougher schedule than the year be4 and were still ranked similarly, actually were 2nd in rushing DVOA, I agree with the Raiders record but I think there lineman might be overrated due to a very quick passing game.

        • warcrimes

          lol okay

          • shaunhan murray

            Its what happened….

          • warcrimes

            Yeah but so fucking what? What does that have to do with the Raiders?

          • shaunhan murray

            Just cause some oline injuries doesnt mean ur rookie WR is suddenly gonna drop more passes and ur qb regress

    • Thomas Bell

      …that, and in another article on the same site, they have Pitt CBs/secondary at 24 slot if I recall.

  • Tony

    Lol no.

    • [email protected]

      Excuse me sir, i’m the lead editor here at PFF and i’d like to offer you a job.

      • crosseyedlemon

        That’s funny! If you pay him by the syllable you can save enough to offer me a position too :)

  • Jesse Hentsch

    You don’t think Adam Gase replacing Lazor as the OC is going to have a bigger impact in Miami than losing Miller and Matthews? What about the way Parker stepped up at the end of the season? He made everyone forget Matthews by the end of the season. The offensive line last year was atrocious after James was hurt with Fox at RT. You don’t think replacing Dallas Thomas (your worst rated G) with Laremy Tunsil will have a huge impact. Just a little extra info but Tannehill is 6-2 when Albert, Pouncey, and James all start/finish a game. If the o-line is improved the record will be as well. As far as the D, Alonzo and Maxwell are huge upgrades to the players they are replacing and Williams will have a resurgence while replacing an over rated Vernon. I say over rated because he struggles setting the edge and he was always late in getting to the QB with most of his sacks coming from pressure pushing the QB straight to him. He is also a penalty machine due to him always arriving at the QB a hair to late. Now I don’t think the Fins will win the division but they may be a playoff contender and they sure as hell aren’t going to be at the bottom of the barrel in the AFC.

    • JamesW89

      Oh look common sense. This article and the writer are Pure trash. I wish I could get paid to spew as much trash as this guy daily. Fucking cakewalk job.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Last season the Steelers backed into the playoffs thanks to the Jets inability to beat Rex Ryan during the final week and now they are going to post a 13-3 record? By what miracle is this going to happen? The Steelers did little to upgrade during the off season and earned a weak grade from PFF as a result….but suddenly they are the best team in the conference. This makes no sense.

    • Nicholas Neve

      well lets see here they drafted a cb in the first round a safety in the second and a dt in the third so i dont understand how they did nothing, they actually did a lot. Now lets get this straight first of all the only team to throw for over 300 yards last year on denver was sixburgh oh and they did it twice once without the best wr in the world. Chris harris jr hasant allowed a td in two years and ab ran right by him like he was a kid playing pee wee football. now we had the second best offense stat wise in the nfl with most of our key players hurt for the majortiy of the season. sixburgh was a fumble away from beating a world class defense in the playoffs without the best wide reciver in the world the best running back in the world the best center in the world and also our second string running back. oh and bens throwing shoulder was banged up. this year we will be healthy pouncey and leveon will be back and antonio brown and leveon bell on the field together is a scary scary thought record shattering potential here. the six time world champions offense will be unstopabble this year and all the analysts know it. i assume your a bengals fan lol you have my sympathy but win something a playofff game a super bowl a afc championship game hell even a regular season prime time game lmfao #25yearsandcounting all hail the six time world champions !

      • Jody

        They had a healthy Antonio Brown and needed a miracle to beat a suspect Bungles team – and backed into the playoffs to boot. Adding new players via the last draft may mean nothing, since first year players rarely make an impact. Bell may not be himself coming off the injury until at least mid season. No way in hell they go 13-3, homer.

        • Nicholas Neve

          antonio brown was not there when they lost to denver bud

          • Brandon

            Browns presents doesn’t guarantee a W. Just me as a chiefs fan I’ve been screaming the injury excuse for years. Houston and Charles have yet to play a full Playoff game. Mac was down versus New england. Yadda yadda yadda. Injuries do affect the game but doesn’t guarantee a win.

        • BigSteelThrill

          Suspect? That was a 12-4 team playing at home.

      • Brandon

        Pittsburgh was beat by a decimated Baltimore team. Enough said right there lol.

        • BigSteelThrill

          Balt and Pitt will continue to beat the crap out of each other regardless of records. Its a brutal division game = ‘nough said.

      • Brandon

        Lol best running back in the world? I don’t think Jamaal Charles (highest YPC in the history of the NFL) or AP plays for Pittsburgh. He’s top 5 not the best.

      • crosseyedlemon

        Typical of Steeler supporters to always assume criticism is coming from Bengal, Raven or Brown fans. Of course paranoia and delusion is what keeps them thinking they are still living the glory days of the 70s.

        • Brandon

          I’m a chiefs fan and I’d say the Steelers and the Patriots are the top two dogs in the AFC. Steelers when healthy are a good team. Capable of beating anyone. Same thing with my Chiefs. When healthy they have the potential to beat anyone.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Bears fan but I thought Andy Reid deserved coach of the year honors for bringing the Chiefs back from the dead last season. I see the Raiders replacing the Steelers in the playoffs for what it’s worth.

          • Brandon

            I think Pittsburgh would be a safer bet than Bengals or Ravens. I got Oakland going 9-7 missing the playoffs. I don’t know AFC north and west are tough divisions. The cookie could crumble anyway pending on injuries. Bengals were the healthiest team in 2015. Pittsburgh and New England were the only two teams not in the top 10 that made the playoffs. Oakland has gotten better but San Diego (was a winning team prior to 2015)Denver and KC are all worthy foes. Kc has the easiest schedule out of all four rivals. Oakland will fall short. Rio isn’t a very good coach.

          • crosseyedlemon

            The NFC projections looked pretty good but I think these AFC ones are suspect. I can’t see the Chargers winning 6 unless they start playing teams for the Pac 10. They will likely draft in the top 3 next season. Broncos will get no help from their offense so asking Von Miller to produce 10 wins will be a tall order. I think both the Chiefs and Raiders move ahead of them.

          • Brandon

            San Diego was similar to Baltimore. Decimated by injuries. In 2014 they were 9-7. In 2013 three AFC West teams made it into the playoffs. The chargers made it to the divisional round. Every season is more than likely an outcome of who has the most injuries and who doesn’t. Itll be competitive I know that much. I got oakland missing the playoffs by a hair. Denver making the wildcard and KC winning the division in week 16.Christmas night Sunday night football. Believe it or not but Rivers is the best QB In the west.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Injuries are automatically used as the excuse of choice when teams under perform but all teams suffer injuries. An athlete in perfect physical health is certainly not immune from making mental mistakes.

          • Brandon

            Injuries do matter. Some more than others. Those are facts not excuses. Especially offensive injuries. In fact more often than not the playoffs are predicted by the healthiest teams. Yes every team has injury’s. That’s obvious. Its who gets injured that matters. There is a system to judge the serouisness of the loss of player. For example losing a backup role player isn’t equivalent to losing a pro bowler. In fact more often than not the team that suffers more injuries than the others often are the ones to lose.

            http://mobile.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/sports/football/13injuries.html
            This article breaks down the formula of judging each players injuries.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Any system that tries to place some value on the impact of an injury will be flawed because even the players themselves have no idea as to what their pain threshold will be until they actually try to extend themselves under game conditions. Fans by nature always assume a team will have a difficult time adjusting to injuries but most experienced coaches have learned strategies for lessening that impact. A perfect example from last season was when the Chiefs lost Charles in week 6. Most people thought that was the death blow for Kansas City but they adapted and went on an extended win streak without him.

          • Brandon

            No actually if you read the New York times article they provide a statistical break down of how injuries to running backs rarely effect the rushing production. I’m.a chiefs fan so ya I still knew we weren’t done after week 6. I knew my team. Injuries do affect the game. For example Pittsburgh beat Denver no problem with Brown than couldn’t be it him without him. Or like Brady losing his last 4/6 games when gronk and edelman went down, or even Dalton injuries costing the Bengals the number one seed. I’m done with this conversation simply because I gave you the articles and u didn’t read them you just skimed them. No point in arguing in someone that has to be right. Like I said your example was actually answered by The new York times if you would of read it. Injuries affect the game period.

          • Brandon

            Colin Cowherd is fond of saying, are more concerned with being right than with getting it right.

          • Brandon

            Here is also another article breaking down AGL. Average games lost. http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2016/2015-adjusted-games-lost

          • crosseyedlemon

            If I’m interpreting the chart from that article correctly, then it appears that the Falcons, Cowboys, Raiders and Colts were all much healthier last season than the prior year….yet they all missed the playoffs.

          • Brandon

            There are two ways to measure ‘injuries” this article is AGL. Which measures more of length than quality. You got read the entire article to fully understand the theory.

            *copy and pasted*
            Obviously, AGL is about totals rather than measuring the quality of the specific players injured. Dallas had a pretty good AGL count this year, but it was really a lost year for the Cowboys, and we could have called it after Week 2. By then, the Cowboys basically lost Tony Romo (Week 2 collarbone injury), Dez Bryant (Week 1 foot injury) and Orlando Scandrick (preseason torn ACL) for the year.

            You’ve gotta mix two different types of theories. Read BOTH articles and you’ll understand there is two ways to judge injuries lost.

          • warcrimes

            Rio isn’t a very good coach? You have anything to back that up or just talking out your ass?

          • Brandon

            His 9 years in Jacksonville with only one playoff appearance. Is that just talking out my ass?

          • crosseyedlemon

            The win/loss record doesn’t always tell the true story though. Bill Belicheck was only 36-44 with the Browns but I suspect most GMs would consider him better than that.

          • Brandon

            Ya but has Belichick also won rings as a defensive coordinator for the giants. Del Rio hasn’t. Belichick also.had idk 10+ years of experience on Rio. Rio was a player in the eighties. Bill started coaching in 1975. Rio didn’t become a coach till 1997. A whole lot of experience difference. Belichick is a good coach but he’s a product of Tom Brady. The one season he went without Brady he failed to make the playoffs even with a 11-5 record. That says something.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Your comment about Brady just proves my point that the win/loss record depends to a large degree on the talent a coach has to work with….and Del Rio has had lean talent for most of his coaching tenure.

          • Brandon

            He’s also drafted in the top 10 of every single one of his losing seasons(or so I’d guess) so that kinda contradicts itself.

          • Ron

            Lol,go suck mommy’s nipples,total idiot

          • Brandon

            Oh man that’s a good one. I guess I can’t question your parents for letting u on the computer to late but it is the weekend. I’m guessing youre a kid lol.

        • Nicholas Neve

          Living in the 70s lmfao so since 05 the steelers havent been to 4 superbowls and won two of them hahah bow down to the kings of the nfl

          • crosseyedlemon

            Shouldn’t you Steeler fans be building another statue to commemorate a busted play?

          • Nicholas Neve

            just keep on hating and the steelers will just keep winning superbowls !

          • SamyyCiao

            ? Huh

        • shaunhan murray

          Been to 4 superbowls in the past 20 years…

      • Brian K. Rhodes

        How can you say they will be healthy? Bell has endured season ending knee injuries two years in a row now. He is a great RB when healthy but the injuries take their toll. Ben missed games last year for the first time in 3 seasons. It could become a trend. The NFL is a survival contest. The chances of having all your weapons all season is very low.

      • Tim Edell

        That CB they drafted however was Artie Burns…. buff said!

  • gllmiaspr

    The methodology that PFF is employing seems to be to look at the team W-L record and then add the raw PFF grades of all the new players and substract the raw PFF grades of the players that left. They apparently are converting the change in total grades to additional wins or losses.
    This neglecting any changes that may come through coaching and is assuming that the performance of the team will be equal to the sum of the individual player performances. Both assumptions are flawed as football is a team sport where teams have won without many stars and coaching has been an essential part in developing team chemistry.
    I believe this is the 1st year PFF has done this exercise. But if PFF had done this exercise to the Dolphins last year they would have come out as a 10 win team. As we know they were lucky to end 10-6.

    • crosseyedlemon

      I don’t need the headache that would surely occur trying to understand PFF methodology but at times the logic used seems contradictory.

      • gllmiaspr

        I have followed them and they are pretty good on what they report.
        I think in general the QB PFF grade is a better indicator than QB rating or anything else out there to evaluate a QB.
        But they have no access to the playbooks so they can only evaluate the play that is actually called.
        And their belief that they can add individual player grades and come up with a W-L total is mistaken IMO.

        • crosseyedlemon

          I’ve read that the NFL is contemplating changes to the QB rating system. The formula hasn’t addressed changes to the game that have taken place since it was originally created decades ago and the league would like to fix that.

        • Brandon

          Are u sure about that? Idk sometimes even the QB stat can be completely wrong. For example a Monday night game packers versus the chiefs. They graded Rodgers out negatively because he followed his game plan of short throws yet it results in 5 TD’s. So tell me what type of logic explains how a 5 TD performance can ever be looked at as a bad day at the office? Then they tried to write an article to defend their opinion explaining that short throws don’t count for much of a play for QB’s and esc. Point being even their QB stats are wack.

          • gllmiaspr

            Regarding the QB play I do not always agree with their grades but I agree with the concept.
            I remember a 57 TD pass that Thill threw to Charles Clay in the 2013 game against SD. The ball traveled 7 yards in the air.
            A wide open Clay caught it.
            Clay broke 7 tackles on the way to the end zone.
            Clay got 2 for his play (best). Thill got zero for average as an NFL QB is supposed to complete a 7 yard pass to a wide open WR. If he had missed it would have been a big minus.
            I also remember the game against the Bills at home in 2014. Thill ended up with a passer rating of 114. He completed screens and short passes. Missed badly on deep throws to wide open WR. Got killed by PFF in my opinion deservedly.
            The methodology falls short because it does not evaluate how the QB changes the play at the line and the protection. But it does a decent job in grading the QB did which often has nothing to do with the result of the play.

          • Brandon

            I just have to disagree with their evaluation with the short throw. If that’s what the defense is giving you than that’s what you have to take. I do see you point tho but I think QB grades are flawed. I’ll never see why a check down is graded as nothing if that’s the best play possible. A QB has a game plan and if they follow it to a T they should have great PFF scores regardless of their method of scoring. I’ll never agree with a QB getting a negative PFF grade just because he took what the defense gave him.

        • Thomas Bell

          The perfect example being the Raiders at 11-5. Though someone always emerges from the bottom to make the playoffs the next year, it’s commonly a team who finished the previous season strong. Didn’t the Raiders drop several to end the season, with Carr regressing? There is something to be said for establishing a culture of winning — and having a team that is accustomed to actually winning the games.

    • Brandon

      Pff is only good for certain stats. Some are good some are a load of crap.

    • Rafael Rondon

      Do you have a better algorithm for projecting wins?

      • gllmiaspr

        No. I do not believe there is one as every specific situation is different. It would be interesting to see how this compares to Bovada’s predictions (which have also been far from perfect).

  • Bill Doerr

    I just don’t see the Steelers as the top #1 team in AFC !!!! PIT has an Elite DE in C. Heyward, Above AVG in DE S. Tuitt , AVG NT, Ryan Shazier would be an ILB if he was not extremely injury prone n live on the sideline, ILB Timmons is AVG, OLB J. Harrison is almost 40 but effective still but how much longer?? Bud Dupree has been a Bust so far ranking as the worst OLB n the NFL via PFF ( I wanted AZ to draft him but now am SOO Glad PIT Took him 1st & we drafted 2nd round pick 6″3 1/2 & 265PD OLB/DE Markus Golden who via Pro Football Focus was the HIGHEST Ranked Rookie OLB ranking 18th overall of 54 with a +5.7 Pass rushing grade credited by PFF w/ 7.0 sacks, 14 QB Hits/ among the league leaders in QB pressures with 45 & a plus +3.7 run blocking grade, going into just his 2nd season he has a very bright future) & is very raw.
    The Steelers secondary is a MESS!!!! They are relying on rookie CBs & they highly Drafted CB Artie Burns who was looked at as a projected 3rd rounder. Their Safeties are purely AVG. The Steelers just simply do not have the Defense to be a SB contender or have the AFCs best roster.

    • Brandon

      You’re also forgetting Pittsburgh beat Cardinals with a back up QB. That should tell you how elite Pittsburgh is.

    • shaunhan murray

      Secondary isnt not as bad as it is made out2 be, 16th ranked passing DVOA 3 or 4 really bad games stick in people’s minds but they were olay 4 alot of the season, they even did a really great job against the “Best Deep passing offense in the NFL”(Cardinals)

  • Richard

    I am a Steelers fan and I think 13-3 and a #1 seed is more than a little on the optimistic side. I was thinking more like 11-5 and maybe a 2 or 3 seed. Winning 13 games is just going to be a tough row to hoe in that conference as they always beat each other up so much.

    I thought that was going out on a limb until I scrolled down to the Raiders at 11-5. While I think the Raiders are going in the right direction I just do not see 11-5 this year. If they continue the way they are going then I can see it next year but it just does not seem like they are there yet.

  • Scott Bedno

    Chargers out of conference schedule–Jax (at home), Colts, Saints (at home), Atl, Titans (at home), Miami (at home), Texans, Bucs (at home), Carolina, Browns. That’s 5-3 at a minimum, let’s say 4-4 in conference, that’s 9-7, fighting for a playoff spot. Carr is a nice young QB, but I’ll take Rivers TODAY over Carr, Alex Smith, and Sanchize. They lost a bunch of coin flip games last year and have improved in the offseason. They will be a factor.

    • crosseyedlemon

      San Diego is a beautiful city but you really need to get out of the sun. The Chargers have about as much chance of going 9-7 as the Padres have of winning the World Series.

      • Scott Bedno

        Ha, San Diego is beautiful, but so is the Chargers’ non-conference schedule–Titans, Browns, Jags, Saints, Bucs, Miami, Atlanta, Saints. A lot of potential Ws there.

        • OakDog

          you do know that all the afc west teams play the same two conferences.

          • Scott Bedno

            Certainly, I can certainly see any of the AFC West teams going 9-7 or better. My point is with less injuries and a top QB facing a weak schedule, I don’t see the Chargers as a six win team.

  • James Winslow

    I still have the broncos knocking the steelers out of the playoffs.

  • crosseyedlemon

    The AFC team I think is in the best position to shock people is Buffalo. Both the Jets and Dolphins have serious issues to address and if Brady were to be lost for the season upon returning from his suspension that would really open the door wide for the Bills.

  • JamesW89

    I wish I could get paid to write total garbage bullshit about football and not worry what anyone thinks. Did you even try with these rankings? The Dolphins analysis is fucking terrible and doesn’t account for ANYTHING besides individual contribution last season. Nevermind injuries, nevermind having no true HC for 3 years, nevermind not having an O line, forget mario, byron, AND kiko were all out of scheme last 2 years. Oh and lets forget that we also adde Tunsil, Isa, and a couple other KEY players.

    • crosseyedlemon

      I’m not bothered that I don’t get paid to write total garbage bullshit….but it would be nice to get paid to read it.

  • terpmaniac

    The Steelers would not have been in the playoffs if the Jets had beaten the Bills the last game of the season. Please do some damn research.

    • BigSteelThrill

      Only because Ben missed games. They went 8-4 with him starting.
      Losses incl playoffs? Pats. Broncos. Bengals. Seahawks.
      They did drop his game against Baltimore though.
      Now go look at this year schedule. <<<<<<<<<
      Health remains key, as it does for everyone, I doubt PFF/we are predicting injuries at this juncture, however.

  • OakDog

    The Raiders boast the only team with all their lineman rated at 80+ and four of those were starters last year and returning. Their defensive line includes Dan Williams the 3rd rated run stuffing NT, Mario Edwards Jr( who’s a beast; just watch his film),Khalil Mack( the only player ever to be named all pro in two different positions),Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith(in November), Shilique Calhoun(3rd rated edge rusher in college last year), Denico Autry, Jihad Ward, and Stacy Mcgee. That’s a crazy line up and now that we actually can cover the back end for more than 2 seconds it’s gonna be a terrible season for opposing QBS. They signed CB Sean Smith who has been consistently allowing only 59% completion percentage against in last four years and is perfect for man coverage, Amerson who was one of the top cbs last year, reggie Nelson(Tied for the most picks in the league with 8 and highly ranked safety as well, and drafted the best consensus safety pick out of college which scouts were comparing to Earl Thomas and is a heat seeking missile; just watch his college highlights. Hate to say this but it is no longer that the raiders improving is speculative; rather it’s reality! All this talk means nothing they will show all the doubters for sure and I guarantee that no team they face will circle us as an easy win. Just win Baby

    • crosseyedlemon

      I think most fans around the league will be happy to have the Raiders back as nasty villains. It’s was fun hating on Brady and the Patriots for a while but now they have become pathetic….playing the “we have been done wrong” card while trying to elicit sympathy.

  • spenser

    Im sorry but this list with dolphins below the browns makes absolutely no sense to me. The dolphins are dramatically better and deeper at O line with a QB who had previously been sacked the most out of any QB in the NFL in the past 2 years and stll threw for over 4000 yards. They bring in an Offense Guru in Adam Gase as head coach and at the same time add plenty of depth in the form of pass rushers. Yea you might not be able to compensate for OV in the form of Mario Willams but Mario, Jones and andre branch might be able too. Im not saying they are going to win the AFC east or anything but i expect this team to better than a 6-10 team.

  • Broncobronson24

    Not at all a pats fan, but they should probable be no.1 only for the reason is they actually have a defense and Pittsburgh was 32 in the league. That will be their downfall again they have moved away from the heart and soul of their organization. But their offence is outstanding.

  • Michael Harber

    This is pretty good, not sure Broncos slip that far but maybe… I like that you don’t buy the hype train that is the Miami Dolphins every year trying to reinvent themselves and also that the Colts bad drafting is finally catching up to them as they have almost no talent around one the games best young QBs. Wasteful. I think your assessment of the Bills is fair, but I happen to think we get to 9 wins.

  • Anthony95

    its crazy that you dont mention for Chargers addition of Mebane, henry, or benjamin. with mebane, luiget, and bosa SD will have a d-line that can stop the run and get pressure on QB (something they have lacked for years) which is a vast improvement. Add to that Tuerk and signing Slauson they have addressed biggest issue on o-line (play at C which was horrible last year) so should be huge upgrade and lets lineman fill into more natural positions while improving depth. also benjamin is an upgrade over floyd by a wide-margin as is getting allen back healthy. not to mention henry will be vast upgrade on TE 2 he is excellent blocker which added with upgrade at C should vastly improve run game, plus he can stretch the field and is heir apparant to Gates. oh and team added a true fullback who played with gordon at wisconsin and will add additional blocking especially in short yardage to save some pounding on gordon and open running lanes. this team was desimated by injuries in 2014 and 2015, so with just a bit less injury bug plus with improvements on def and o-line, running game, TE, wr, and special teams this team will surprise alot of people when they make playoffs in 2016.

  • terpmaniac

    Ain’t no way on God Green Earth are the Steelers going 13-3! Not with that mediocre defense and their crappy secondary. Not going to happen. The Pittsburgh lovefest has been going on for 3 years now..when are you people going to learn?