Tier 2: Not Far Behind
Los Angeles Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs
The Los Angeles Chargers haven't made the playoffs since 2013 but they're one of my favorites to make it to the Super Bowl this year. Philip Rivers has thrown for at least 4000 yards and 27 TDs in nine of his last ten seasons. Receiver Mike Williams returns after an injury-plagued rookie season; he's the extra redzone threat Rivers needs to alleviate some of the pressure from Antonio Gates. It's a shame they lost Hunter Henry but Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon are still two of the best at their position in the league. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin round out the weapons as every quarterback needs a few deep threats.
This might be the best defense Philip Rivers has gotten to play with as well. The main ingredients of a great defense are two edge rushers (Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram) and a shut-down cornerback (Casey Hayward). They were third in passing touchdowns allowed, third in passing yards allowed, and sixth in total turnovers. However, they were the worst in the league against the run. If they could get even a little better in that department, the Chargers could be a serious threat to their conference.
Deshaun Watson returns to the Houston Texans and I can't remember the last time I saw so much hype for a quarterback in their second season. Watson set the world on fire in his six starts last year before an ACL tear ended his season. The potential peak of Watson is all we've seen; that's equally exciting and worrisome, although I'm not too concerned. DeAndre Hopkins can bail any QB out of a play, Will Fuller is one of the best deep threats in the league, and Bruce Ellington is back to cover the intermediate routes. They also added receiver Keke Coutee in the draft who reminds me of Tyreek Hill.
Running back D'Onta Foreman will start the season on the PUP list but he should overtake Lamar Miller's starting job when he returns. Not only did they add Tyrann Mathieu in free agency, but JJ Watt is returning from his injury and you guys know what they can do.
The Kansas City Chiefs' playoff hopes come down to Patrick Mahomes. Alex Smith looked like the league MVP at times last season but they still felt comfortable enough to let him go so Mahomes could take over. If you're unfamiliar, go look at his college game logs; you would think he was playing Madden on rookie level.
My main concern is that he's definitely going to turn the ball over more than Alex Smith. Mahomes is still learning and Smith has always been one of the best in the league at maintaining possession. However, we could be seeing the types of games Deshaun Watson was putting together last year. With all the offensive talent surrounding him, he's one of the players I'm most looking forward to watching this season.