Off the Gridiron: Way too early NFL playoff predictions

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

Despite their Super Bowl loss, the 49ers have the infrastructure to win the division again. Despite losing DeForest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders, the 49ers snagged University of South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and Arizona State University wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the first round, who will help the 49ers gear up for another deep playoff run.

NFC North: Detroit Lions

This might be a little bit of a shocker, but before quarterback Matthew Stafford got injured last season, the Lions looked like one of the better teams in football. With an offense including Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., TJ Hockensen, Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift, the Lions could be a force to reckon with in the NFC North.

NFC South: New Orleans Saints

I was tempted to go with the Bucs here, but the Saints’ core of Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore is way too talented to pick against. This group is too talented to not win a Super Bowl, but this next season may be its last chance with Brees.

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

Despite losing Byron Jones in free agency, the Cowboys offense could be unstoppable after selecting CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the NFL Draft. An offense featuring Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Lamb should terrify the rest of the NFC East.

Wild Card

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady will be throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Vita Vea will be getting after opposing quarterbacks. While it will likely take some time, the Bucs will be a menace in the NFC.

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Now that Kliff Kingsbury is working with the Kyler Murray/Deandre Hopkins tandem, this offense could be unstoppable. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons should give a huge boost to their defense, helping this team take the next step.

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Despite losing offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski along with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Stefon Diggs, the Vikings will lean on Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins to have another solid season.

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

The reigning Super Bowl champions have the NFL’s most explosive offense and have no plans of slowing down, as indicated by the Clyde Edwards-Helaire pick. With the talent on their offense, the Chiefs merely need their defense to be somewhere close to average if they want another shot at the Super Bowl.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

Expect some regression from the Ravens as teams design better defense game plans for Lamar Jackson, but the Ravens are still the class of this division. Leaning on their tireless running game and solid defense should be enough for them to take the division for the second year in a row.

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

Phillip Rivers finally has an incredible offensive line and an offensive maestro as a coach. With Rivers leading the offense and DeForest Buckner leading the defense, expect the Colts to make some noise in the AFC.

AFC East: Buffalo Bills

After the addition of Stefon Diggs, the rebuilding plan in Buffalo is just about complete. Now that Josh Allen has a legitimate No. 1 option and that Tom Brady has left the Patriots, the AFC is there for Buffalo’s taking.

Wild Card

  1. Cleveland Browns

Despite last year’s dysfunction, I think coach Kevin Stefanski will be a calming presence and help rein in the talent across the Browns’ roster.

  1. Houston Texans

Even though they traded Deandre Hopkins for aging running back David Johnson, I still believe in the talents of Deshaun Watson as quarterback and Bill O’Brien as a coach, if not as a general manager.

  1. Denver Broncos

I am very excited about the Broncos. An offense with Drew Lock, Phillip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant will be electric. On the defensive side, they have Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, AJ Bouye and Justin Simmons.