On March 14th, 2022 at 12pm EST, the legal tampering period began and teams were allowed to extend offer sheets to free agents with the premise that on March 16th at 4pm EST (start of the league year), the contracts will be signed. Since then, the landscape of the AFC has completely shifted with mass influx of talent from the NFC to the AFC as well as a re-shuffling of talent in the AFC.
Over the past 7 days, the AFC has welcomed Russell Wilson (Denver), Von Miller (Buffalo), Randy Gregory (Denver), Davante Adams (Las Vegas), Chandler Jones (Las Vegas), Khalil Mack (Los Angeles) and Matt Ryan (Indianapolis) to name a few. Elsewhere, high-end talents shuffling from one AFC team to the next, including: Deshaun Watson (Cleveland), JC Jackson (Los Angeles), Yannick Ngakoue (Indianapolis) and Mitch Trubisky (Pittsburgh).
Last season, the Titans, Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, Raiders, Patriots and Steelers all made the playoff. That said, there will likely be new playoff teams budding from these transactions, and premier teams that will miss the playoffs due to unforeseen expectations.
AFC starting QBs:
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 21, 2022
As we look at it now, one may reasonably assume that the Bills, Chiefs and Titans all win their respective divisions/make the playoffs. That leaves the Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Patriots, Dolphins, Browns, Bengals, Ravens, Colts, and Steelers (all viable playoff teams), vying for 5 spots.
This is an embarrassment of riches for the AFC, with a reasonable chance of some high level NFL talent missing the playoffs. For example, it could be a reasonable assumption that the 8 teams end up being: Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Chargers, Broncos, Browns, Bengals and Colts. This leaves teams led by Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Josh McDaniels out of the playoffs. It would be the first time since they’ve all been in their current spots that none of Belichick, Tomlin or Harbaugh are in the postseason.
While the entire AFC West has made major upgrades, there is a minuscule chance that all four teams can make the playoffs. Running a fully random simulation (using nflseedR), the chance of the AFC West sending all four teams to the playoffs is roughly 0.5%. That begs the question: which of these teams will NOT make the playoffs in 2022?
The Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Patriots, Dolphins, Browns, Bengals, Ravens, Colts, and Steelers are all in contention for a playoff spot.
At this stage, former NFL General Manager Mike Tannenbaum feels that the Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins, Browns, Bengals and Steelers all miss the playoffs. Meaning the Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Chargers, Patriots, Ravens and Colts will make the playoffs.
Former Eagles President Joe Banner agrees partly with Tannenbaum in the thinking that the Broncos, Dolphins and Steelers will miss the playoffs, but adds in that the Patriots will miss as well. If the Patriots and Steelers both miss the playoffs, it will be the first time that neither of them made the playoffs in a season since 2007.
Both Tannenbaum and Banner both made it clear they feel that the Chiefs, Bills, Titans, Chargers and Ravens should all make the playoffs.