AFC X-Factors: Mahomes In A Tier Of His Own - Prediction Machine

AFC X-Factors: Mahomes In A Tier Of His Own

AFC X-Factors

AFC Is Run By Quarterbacks

The AFC is absolutely loaded this season, and with only 7 teams making the playoffs in each conference, it’s difficult to imagine nine teams missing the post season in 2023.

It’s never safe to assume anything in the NFL this time of year, but if the Bengals, Chiefs, Jaguars, and Bills live up to their high expectations, that leaves only three playoff spots left for teams like the Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers, Browns, Jets, Titans, Steelers and Broncos. Be careful betting futures tickets on AFC teams as the path is crowded.

Unlike the NFC which features a lot of unknowns and a wide open door to the playoffs, the AFC competition will be fierce and it may come down to which QBs stay healthy and avoid a Russell Wilson like drop off.

With that in mind, QBs will be the X-factors in the AFC and below we’ve ranked them by tiers.

Tier 1: King Patrick

Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City)

Mahomes stands alone in his own tier since he’s the reigning Super Bowl MVP and league MVP. Mahomes routinely puts up jaw dropping numbers and even a bad ankle in the playoffs couldn’t slow him down last season. As we enter 2023, the only question mark related to Mahomes is how he’ll perform with the subtraction of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, but similar questions were asked when Mahomes lost Tyreek Hill and he was just fine.

Tier 2: Elite 

Justin Herbert (L.A. Chargers), Josh Allen (Buffalo), Joe Burrow (Cincinnati) 

This trio of QBs are absolutely electrifying which is why they all have odds of +1200 or shorter to win the league MVP.

Burrow enters the season with questions surrounding his health, which isn’t good for a team which had offensive line struggles last season. Allen and Herbert are expected to bring their team to the playoffs, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in difficult divisions.

Tier 3: Close to Elite, with some Question Marks

Lamar Jackson (Baltimore), Aaron Rodgers (N.Y. Jets)

It wasn’t easy to put the last two league MVPs not named Patrick in the 3rd tier but there are some legitimate question marks to put some doubt in your mind about these guys. Rodgers is in a new offense with a shaky offensive line and is working against father time. Jackson also has a new offensive coordinator and has always faced questions about his accuracy. 

Tier 4: Set to Explode

Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville), DeShaun Watson (Cleveland), Russell Wilson (Denver)

Nobody would be surprised if these guys made the leap into the elite tier this season. Watson was considered elite earlier in his career and still only 27-years-old. Lawrence showed major improvement between his freshman and sophomore campaigns and looks poised to live up to his pre-draft hype.

Wilson was probably the hardest player in the AFC to put into a tier because he went from elite to dumpster fire last season, but I’ll trust Sean Payton to have a big impact on Wilson this year.

Tier 5: Underrated 

Tua Tagovailoa (Miami), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Jimmy Garoppolo (Las Vegas)

It’s easy to forget Tagovailoa was putting up MVP numbers before his horrific concussions took place. I’m higher on both Pickett and Garoppolo than most people and if both can stay healthy they’ll surprise some people this season.

Tier 6: Meh

Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee), Mac Jones (New England)

These guys aren’t good enough to be in tier 5 and they deserves to be a step above the rookies in tier 7, so they get the “meh” tier. Tannehill is always an injury concern and he’s proven he can be a reliable option behind center when healthy. While DeAndre Hopkins may not be in All-Pro form, he’ll easily be one of the best WR options Tannehill has had.

If Trevor Lawrence got a pass for his shaky rookie season with Urban Meyer, then we shouldn’t write off Mac Jones after his sophomore slump with Matt Patricia calling plays in New England.

Tier 7: The Rookies

C.J. Stroud (Houston), Anthony Richardson (Indianapolis)

Richardson was recently named the Colts’ starter and while Stroud hasn’t officially been named the QB yet, he’s fully expected to. Both QBs are on rebuilding teams and are expected to struggle this season.