8. Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders are the worst team in the AFC West but they are still a top-10 team in the AFC that could very well make the playoffs for a second year in a row. If the Raiders were in a division like the AFC South then they would really like their playoff chances. In the West, they could get lost in the shuffle.
Derek Carr is an overlooked quarterback who may not be elite but does not make a lot of mistakes, either. He can thrive with good weapons around him and the trio of Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller is the definition of having good weapons.
The pass-rush is great but the secondary is a bit suspect and could end up being the thing that holds the Raiders back. Vegas better hope that Josh McDaniels is the offensive mastermind that he is touted to be because they are going to be in a lot of shootouts.
7. New England Patriots
Talent-wise you can make the case for the Las Vegas Raiders over the New England Patriots. However, the Patriots are extremely well-coached in all three phases of the ball and play winning football. The ceiling is higher for Vegas but the floor is significantly higher for the Patriots.
The Patriots are going to need Mac Jones to be better in year two if they are going to compete in a tougher conference and they are also going to need to add weapons around him. While the defense lost J.C. Jackson to the Chargers, Bill Belichick has made a long living of elevating guys with that next-man-up mentality.
The Pats are a team that could easily end up being the 13th-best team in the conference if Jones takes a step back and McDaniels really was super important to the team. However, I have to respect the floor and consistency of a team that just won 11 games with a rookie quarterback.