3. Division winners
KN: Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Chargers, Eagles, Vikings, Saints, Rams
The AFC East, AFC North and NFC West are the easiest divisions to figure out. The Patriots could sleepwalk their way to the AFC East title, and the Steelers shouldn't have much trouble in the AFC North. Outside of the Rams, the NFC West is the worst division in football. Things get a bit trickier from there, particularly in the NFC East, where the first team to nine wins might take the division.
BL: Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Eagles, Vikings, Saints, Rams
Picking against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady just doesn’t make sense in the punching bag known as the AFC East. With or without Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers still have a top-10 offense in a weak division. 'D' might not always win championships anymore, but Jacksonville's more than enough to get the job done in AFC South. It's tough to go against Andy Reid and the Chiefs offense in the AFC West, which could be one of the NFL's better races. The Eagles are strong in every phase with enviable depth throughout a talented roster. Addition of Kirk Cousins combined with continued dominating 'D' should make Vikes a North lock. The Saints' offense remains state of the art, and now they can play some defense, too. The Rams have more star power than just about every team in the league, certainly more than any division foe.
EE: Patriots, Ravens, Texans, Chargers, Eagles, Packers, Falcons, Rams
On the AFC side, the team that sticks out is the Ravens. I had them as a progression candidate this season, even if they’re not sexy, and my belief has only been hardened with the questions surrounding the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell. The Texans are your worst-to-first team, as the Jaguars come up a bit short matching their buzz. In the NFC, I have the Packers and Vikings both finishing at 11-5 and the North decided on a tiebreaker. The Falcons are my go-for-broke team this season; I think they’re mostly terrific, top to bottom. Oh, and the Eagles will be pushed in the East.
AA: Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Chargers, Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons, Rams
The Patriots and Steelers overcome distractions and handle success better than the Jaguars and Eagles, opening the door for Houston and Dallas to rediscover their 2016 form after nightmarish campaigns. If the Chargers weren’t the Chargers, I’d pick them to run away and hide in the West. But they will develop that killer mentality this season with Bosa and Melvin Gordon emerging as daggers. The Rams and Vikings take small steps back, but the Rams benefit from a transitioning division, while the newness in the North helps Minnesota maintain. The Falcons offense will be better, and their defense is on the verge of something special.
HA: Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Chargers, Eagles, Vikings, Falcons, Rams
I’m guessing everybody agrees on all but the Texans and Falcons. With everybody else overhyping Deshaun Watson, it’s the Texans' defense that excites me with Watt and Mercilus back, and I do expect Watson to do enough to put these guys back in the playoffs. I know the Saints are a popular pick, but I still have my doubts and just think the Falcons are a more talented team — that defense may be special this year.