3. New Orleans Saints
Another year, another brutal playoff loss for the Saints. Still, their only major personnel departure was Mark Ingram, and Alvin Kamara is good enough to make up for most of the production lost. They started slow defensively, but pulled it together near the end of the year, and are still stocked with talent on that side of the field.Drew Brees and Sean Payton will lead one of the league’s top offenses. Their top defenders should improve. They have talent at every important position. Barring another horrendous officiating mistake or a blown coverage at the worst possible moment, the Saints are a good bet to finally make it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009.
2. New England Patriots
Death, taxes, and the New England Patriots, man. They lost Rob Gronkowski, and their receiving group is thin as Josh Gordon’s situation remains unresolved. Yet everyone considers it folly to count New England out of championship contention as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick lead the charge, and everyone would be correct. With a defense stocked with talent and the greatest quarterback to play the game under center, the Patriots are never out of it, and will likely make their tenth straight AFC Championship Game.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Despite the looming shadow of the Patriots, the Chiefs earned the top spot on this list. They have the reigning MVP who could somehow get better in his second year as a starter. The NFL didn’t suspend Tyreek Hill, a crucial part of their offense, and they didn’t miss a step when they found themselves without Kareem Hunt at the end of the season. Their defense didn’t get that much better, which was a major issue. But Patrick Mahomes is so good it doesn’t matter. He can make any throw at any time to each level of the field. He’s the best player on the field at almost any moment at the sport’s most important position. The Chiefs are favorites until proven otherwise, and the best team in the league.