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AFC predictions: How each team will finish this season

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert runs onto the field with his teammates before an open practice session at SoFi Stadium.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert runs onto the field with his teammates before an open practice session at SoFi Stadium on Aug. 8.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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Here’s a quick look at the predicted order of finish for every NFL team in the AFC this season:

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AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes looks to pass in the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Aug. 27.
(Ed Zurga / Associated Press)

1. Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes is the NFL’s most dynamic quarterback and will be playing behind a retooled offensive line. Secondary could be a problem.

2. Chargers: Justin Herbert was phenomenal as a rookie and, barring a sophomore slump, should be fun to watch. As in years past, team is still looking to get offensive line right.

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3. Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr is coming off an excellent season and has some dangerous targets. Defense needs to step up for first winning season under Jon Gruden 2.0.

4. Denver Broncos: Denver is still looking to find a quarterback but the team is able to establish the run and has a stout defense. Is that enough for more than two wins in this tough division?

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AFC East

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen looks to pass during a preseason game on Aug. 28.
(Jeffrey T. Barnes / Associated Press)

1. Buffalo Bills: Could be season Buffalo hoists the Lombardi Trophy. Josh Allen has arm and receiving weapons to strike fear in the division and league.

2. Miami Dolphins: Defense is a strong suit for Miami, which led the NFL with 29 takeaways last season. Is Tua Tagovailoa the answer at quarterback? We’ll see.

3. New England Patriots: Bill Belichick has upgraded his defense, which should be faster and even more stout. Mac Jones is the team’s first rookie to start QB since Drew Bledsoe in 1993.

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4. New York Jets: Robert Saleh has fans excited, but team already has lost defender Carl Lawson for season. Lots of hopes riding on QB Zach Wilson.

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AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes against the Detroit Lions on Aug. 21.
(Don Wright / Associated Press)

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger is 39, but that’s not a disqualifying age for QBs (See: Brady, Tom). His elbow is healthier and he has a lethal cast of receivers.

2. Cleveland Browns: This could be the year Cleveland turns the corner … but we’ve heard that before. The Browns unquestionably are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.

3. Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore led the league in rushing the last two seasons, but they haven’t been able to throw. Injuries are already an issue.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow is back and playing on a reconstructed knee. Will be interesting to see him reestablish a rapport with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase.

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AFC South

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans in January.
(Matt Patterson / Associated Press)

1. Tennessee Titans: With Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and now Julio Jones, the Titans check the box on offensive productivity. Now they need the retooled defense to match.

2. Indianapolis Colts: If Carson Wentz can get/stay healthy, he’ll enjoy ther benefit of one of the NFL’s best lines. This defense is improving and plays hard.

3. Houston Texans: Houston’s running game has improved, and it better. The drop-off at quarterback from Deshaun Watson to Tyrod Taylor warrants others stepping up.

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4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jacksonville won one game last season, so at least improvement is a low bar for No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence. Last year’s defense was worst in team history.

Here’s how every team in the NFC is set to finish over the course of the 2021 NFL season.

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