Coming out of Week 5, we’re beginning to get a much clearer view of where teams will likely end up at the end of the season, whether that be a divisional champion and snatching a playoff birth, or continuing a streak of incompetence and ending with a top draft pick. Here’s every team’s best-case scenario.
Or I should say realistic best-case scenario because every team’s best ending would naturally be winning the Super Bowl, but there are obviously some teams that are simply not in that position this year.
Buffalo BillsEmbed from Getty Images
The Bills are one of those teams that are in a position to make a deep playoff run and possibly win the big game. In fact, they were favored coming into the season and still are through five weeks. With that in mind, it’s clear that their best-case scenario within the realm of possibility is a Super Bowl title. They’ve consistently been able to make the playoffs the past few years, especially since Josh Allen has come onto the scene and grown into an elite quarterback, however, all of that has resulted in is just one AFC Championship game appearance.
This year, I expect much more, their first Super Bowl appearance since the early 90s when they made the big game four times in a row, losing all four times. I fully expect Allen and this talented team to break that curse soon, preferably this season.
New York JetsEmbed from Getty Images
The Jets, along with another team that plays at MetLife, have been one of the biggest surprises of the year so far, as they are off to a 3-2 start with a win in their last two games. Now, their quality of opponents is something to take into consideration, as those two wins were against a bad Steelers squad and a Miami team on their 3rd-string quarterback. Still, they scored 40 points in that win against the Dolphins and their wins against both the Steelers and Browns feature 10+ point comebacks, so maybe Robert Saleh really has helped this team turn a corner.
Their rookie running back Breece Hall is also worth mentioning, as he has been crucial to the Jets’ surprising amount of success on offense. That being said, this isn’t the year where they restore the glories of Joe Namath’s days and win a ring, but I definitely could see them getting back to the playoffs and even upsetting a team with bigger aspirations.
Miami DolphinsEmbed from Getty Images
Tua doesn’t suffer permanent damage, gets healthy, and for some reason decides to stay with this team after leading an MVP campaign and Miami to their first Super Bowl since the 70s.
But since we’re going for realism, let’s hope those first two are the case here.
New England PatriotsEmbed from Getty Images
With Belichick still the head coach, you can never truly count the Patriots out. This team has the talent to get to the playoffs, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Matt Judon in particular has been a beast and already has 6.0 sacks through 5 games, a little over one per game.
Though, there are significant holes. While Bailey Zappe actually doesn’t look to be too bad while he fills in for Mac Jones, their offensive firepower is…underwhelming. Damien Harris has been solid, but he just went down with a hamstring injury that’ll likely result in multiple missed games. Their receiving room is meh at best. More often than not the defense has to pick up for a lackluster offense.
In conclusion, at best they might make the playoffs and win a game, but don’t get your hopes up.
Kansas City ChiefsEmbed from Getty Images
Like it’s always been since Mahomes took over the starting role in 2018, the ceiling for the Chiefs is, of course, the Super Bowl.
Even though the Texas Tech product lost arguably his best weapon in Tyreek Hill to free agency, as well as one of the better safeties in the league in Tyrann Mathieu, the Chiefs have hardly shown any signs of slowing down. If it wasn’t for some questionable playcalling and injuries against the Colts in week 3, they’d be undefeated right now.
Their defense does leave a lot to be desired, as they currently sit 24th in yards allowed per game and 23rd in points allowed per game, but I don’t think they’re enough of a liability to prevent this team from making it to their fifth consecutive AFC Championship game.
Los Angeles ChargersEmbed from Getty Images
The Chargers’ best-case scenario is simple. Everyone- or at least everyone who makes the biggest impact for them- gets healthy. Kenan Allen, Justin Herbert, and maybe even Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater make an earlier return than anticipated.
When this team is at full strength they can be a contender. That’s the problem, they’ve been injured since week one. If they can heal up, and quicker than they’re expected to in the cases of Bosa and Slater, they’ll be in a good position to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Denver BroncosEmbed from Getty Images
The Denver Broncos have easily been one of the most disappointing teams so far this season. They were thought to be at least in the running for the AFC West division title after acquiring former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in a trade that involved Noah Fant and 5 picks. Unfortunately for Broncos fans, Chef Russ has not been able to cook much of anything this season.
So what’s their best-case scenario? Nathaniel Hackett is gone by the season’s end. Hackett has been a terrible hire, and that’s been clear since his coaching blunder at the end of their week one matchup against Wilson’s former team.
Besides that, maybe they’ll get a good quarterback in free agency or draft a gem in the later rounds since their round-one pick in 2023 was traded in that aforementioned deal to acquire Russ. This is not a playoff team, so Broncos fans will have to do what they’ve done since Peyton Manning left and look to the future.
Las Vegas RaidersEmbed from Getty Images
The Raiders, like the Broncos, have also been disappointing to kick off the season, starting 1-4, blowing winnable game after winnable game.
So, what’s their best-case scenario? Well, all of their losses have been within a touchdown, so if they could learn to close out games, maybe they could make the playoffs? It’s hard to do when you start the season losing 4 out of 5, but it’s possible. Though, if you’re a Raiders fan, it might be best to look to the future and hope that Adams and Carr’s college connection will be able to carry this team to something greater in 2023.
Baltimore RavensEmbed from Getty Images
This team should have Super Bowl aspirations, but if they want them to come true, then their defense is going to have to start closing out games. The Ravens should be undefeated, however, that’s hard to do when you keep blowing hefty leads. They blew a 20-3 lead against the Bills last week, and a 21-point lead to the Dolphins in Week Two. They even almost blew one to division rival Cincinnati this past week, albeit that one was much smaller, only 10 points, and they came out with the victory still.
Their best-case scenario? Learning to hold a lead. Once they do that, this team will be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Ravens have the talent to win the big game this season, which would be their first since Joe Flacco’s magical 2012 playoff performance that was capped off with a ring, so I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to say they could win it all this season.
Oh, and getting rid of Greg Roman. Ravens fans have been screaming into a wall for far too long about it.
Blaming Lamar for Greg Roman’s terrorism is disgusting https://t.co/pX0oS0lJuY— 𝘥𝘫 ★ (@djayruntz) October 10, 2022
Cleveland BrownsEmbed from Getty Images
I know they’re 2-3, but the Browns haven’t been as terrible as everyone was expecting to kick off the season. To be fair, when Jacoby Brissett is your starting quarterback in 2022, hopes aren’t going to be too high. Though, Brissett hasn’t been too awful, at least for the role he has of filling in until controversial star quarterback Deshaun Watson takes over late in the season.
So, the best-case scenario for the Browns? Well, if Brissett can keep their record near .500, then Watson should be able to right the ship once he gets back. Despite how allegedly terrible of a person he is, the Clemson product still has a ton of talent and could lead this team to the post-season if the team’s in a manageable enough spot. Do I see them winning or even making the Super Bowl once he comes back though? No, they’ll probably win a playoff game or two, but this is not Cleveland’s year.
Cincinnati BengalsEmbed from Getty Images
The Bengals have easily been one of the most disappointing teams this season. From going to the Super Bowl to starting the season 2-3, baffling playcall and inconsistent play from the offense have been the story of the Bengals season. The biggest thing holding them back is Zac Taylor having playcalling duties, as they would likely have a better record if he wasn’t in control.
As for the best-case scenario, Zac Taylor gives up playcalling duties to Brian Callahan, Burrow returns to his less disappointing 2021 form, and the defense continues to be as solid as they have been so far this season. Maybe, just maybe with all of that, they could make another Super Bowl run, but honestly, I doubt it, especially with how competitive the AFC is this year. Making the playoffs are still not too much of a long shot, though.
Pittsburgh SteelersEmbed from Getty Images
The Steelers are 1-4 and likely are going to have their first losing season under Mike Tomlin, so their best-case scenario is just that Pickett continues to develop and hope the Black-and-Gold Brigade strike gold in Free Agency/Off-season.
That’s it, because hopes for success this season have been all but thrown out the window at this point.
Tennessee TitansEmbed from Getty Images
Mostly thanks to their very weak division, the Titans will be in the playoffs again this season. However, they will likely be one-and-done for the second year in a row. None of their wins has looked that impressive, especially considering that they’re going up against what should be far inferior competition, and they haven’t looked great at all in their losses, including a 41-7 beatdown at the hands of the Bills on national television.
I think it’s safe to say that unless they miraculously turn things around and start looking much better than they have been to start the season, their floor and ceiling is making the playoffs. I’d say even winning just one playoff game is a stretch.
Their best-case scenario? Hope Malik Willis develops nicely and becomes a good starter by next year.
Jacksonville JaguarsEmbed from Getty Images
The Jaguars are a hard team to get an accurate gauge on. In some games, they’ll look extremely impressive, such as shutting out the Colts and blowing out the Chargers in L.A. Then, in other games, they’ll give both the Commanders and Texans their first and only victories on the season.
Trevor Lawrence’s ups and downs have synced completely with the team’s as a whole, so their best-case scenario is simply that he continues to develop and is a more consistently good quarterback at the NFL level. While I don’t think that Jaguars will make it to the playoffs this season, it’s shaping up to be less terrible than the last few and I could see them grabbing a Wild Card spot or even winning the division next year.
Indianapolis ColtsEmbed from Getty Images
The Colts’ record is deceiving because it looks like they’re just a mediocre team at first glance when in reality they are pretty terrible. They haven’t looked impressive at any point this season, not even in their wins. Even most people would agree that their surprise victory over the Chiefs was moreso the Chiefs beating themselves than the Colts actually winning.
Matt Ryan is the latest addition to the Colts’ Carousel of Quarterbacks and it’s clear that he’s on his last leg, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he retired either this season or the next. With that being said, their best-case scenario for this season is being mediocre and not completely terrible. Though, I think at this point they should be focused on the future. Their true best-case scenario is getting a quarterback in this upcoming draft with a similar upside that Andrew Luck had and not destroying him by the time he hits his prime.
Besides Dameon Pierce being as good as advertised, Texans fans haven’t had a whole lot to cheer for this season. It’s been terrible game after terrible game, with the only thing making all of them worth watching being Pierce’s inspired rushing attack, breaking tackle after tackle each time he gets the ball.
So, like many others, their best-case scenario is the future. They grab some good free agents and have a good draft where they maybe draft Davis Mills’ replacement. All Texans fans have to look forward to is watching the Florida product continue to dominate on the ground and the team improving in the off-season because they aren’t doing anything this year.
So, those are all the teams in the AFC’s best-case scenarios. Next week, I’ll be tackling the NFC, determining who are Super Bowl contenders and who should just look forward to the off-season.