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2017 NFL midseason predictions: Who'll snag AFC wild cards?

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  • By NFL.com
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At the midpoint of the 2017 NFL season, our analysts refresh their predictions on the major individual awards, the entire playoff field and Championship Sunday/Super Bowl LII outcomes.

Click here to glance back at our analysts' preseason predictions.

AFC EAST

Judy Battista: New England Patriots. Edelman and Hightower are gone, but Belichick and Brady will figure it out.

Jeffri Chadiha: Patriots. Even a suspect defense won't keep Brady and Belichick from claiming another division title.

Gil Brandt: Patriots. They've been shaky on defense but are getting better -- and they still have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Plus, the Pats finish with two straight in Foxborough.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Patriots. No one's questioning this.

Steve Wyche: Patriots. Taking the Pats, although the Bills could make it interesting.

Ike Taylor: Patriots. The division is close right now, but the Patriots will pull away.

Charley Casserly: Patriots. They are getting better by the week.

Heath Evans: Patriots. Bill Belichick is the greatest mind in the game. There's no way the Pats don't win the division.

Adam Schein: Patriots. Obviously.

Reggie Wayne: Patriots. As long as Belichick and Brady are involved, this team wins the East.

Alex Gelhar: Patriots. As long as Tom Brady is under center, this is his division.

Adam Rank: Patriots. The division seems to have gained ground on them ... but the Patriots still seem like they are playing a long con and will end up not only winning the division, but taking the top seed.

AFC NORTH

Judy Battista: Pittsburgh Steelers. Ignore the drama -- this is by far the best, most balanced team in the division. And it might be the AFC's best.

Jeffri Chadiha: Steelers. After an inconsistent start, they've hit their stride. They should run away with this division in the second half.

Gil Brandt: Steelers. They're playing great pass defense and lead the division by two games, with five of the final seven contests on their schedule coming at home. Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is a star in the making.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Steelers. The other teams in the division aren't very competitive.

Steve Wyche: Steelers. They're good and the rest of the division is not. I feel so bad for Browns fans.

Ike Taylor: Steelers. Did you actually think I was going to pick anyone else?

Charley Casserly: Steelers. They're playing better defense than in the past, in a division that does not have another playoff-worthy team.

Heath Evans: Steelers. No one in the division can stop Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown.

Adam Schein: Steelers. Offense is loaded -- finally running with Le'Veon -- and the defense is improved.

Reggie Wayne: Steelers. Pittsburgh struggled early, yet still holds a healthy division lead.

Alex Gelhar: Steelers. The Steelers secure the division on the formula of feeding Le'Veon Bell and playing lights-out defense.

Adam Rank: Steelers. Look like the class of the division. The Ravens (my preseason pick) have way too many injuries. And the Bengals are doing Bengals things. Ditto for the Browns.

AFC SOUTH

UPDATE: After the publishing of this piece, news broke that dynamic Houston rookie Deshaun Watson suffered a torn ACL in practice Thursday. The Texans QB is out for the season.

Judy Battista: Jacksonville Jaguars. Yep, I'm a believer. A tough defense and a transcendent running back complete the Jaguars' turnaround.

Jeffri Chadiha: Houston Texans. Deshaun Watson is the real deal. He can help this team survive without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.

Gil Brandt: Tennessee Titans. The Titans, Texans and Jaguars could each plausibly come out on top, but I'll go with Tennessee, given that the Titans can expect to win three of their four remaining road games (at Indianapolis, at Arizona and at San Francisco). They do have to face the Steelers in Pittsburgh on a short week, but they also get to play Houston and Jacksonville in Tennessee, and they've already beaten the Jaguars in Jacksonville, so they hold the edge there.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Texans. Watson is leading this team on and off the field. With the help of a fine defense, the former Clemson star secures a playoff spot before Week 17.

Steve Wyche: Titans. At some point, they will finally put it all together. The Jags and Texans will contest for the title, but ...

Ike Taylor: Texans. They've won the division the last two years without steady QB play. Rookie Deshaun Watson only makes them better.

Charley Casserly: Texans. Deshaun Watson -- with a good defense -- will be the difference.

Heath Evans: Texans. This team's becoming more balanced with Watson under center. Plus, this defense is a nightmare for any team.

Adam Schein: Jaguars. Tough. Physical. Incredible D and run game.

Reggie Wayne: Texans. They have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and will keep improving through Week 17.

Alex Gelhar: Texans. The offense, led by Deshaun Watson, carries the Texans into the postseason.

Adam Rank: Jaguars. My friends down in Duval County, Florida, have a stifling defense. And a pretty good running back, too. It's going to be a dogfight with Houston, but I feel comfortable saying the Jags are going to come out of this on top.

AFC WEST

Judy Battista: Kansas City Chiefs. A career season from Alex Smith makes the Chiefs a serious title threat.

Jeffri Chadiha: Chiefs. If they can fix their defensive issues and get healthy, the Chiefs will be a tough out in the postseason.

Gil Brandt: Chiefs. Alex Smith is playing at an MVP level. The defense is average, but the running game is very good.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Chiefs. Ya'll thought I was crazy when I said Andy Reid would outcoach Bill Belichick in the NFL opener. But I was right. You can never count out Reid's team.

Steve Wyche: Oakland Raiders. They seem to be gaining some traction, but they still have to win more division games.

Ike Taylor: Chiefs. Alex Smith's airing out the ball, Kareem Hunt is tearing it up and the defense is holding its own.

Charley Casserly: Chiefs. Probably the best team in the NFL.

Heath Evans: Chiefs. Andy Reid always puts his team in good position to make a run in the postseason.

Adam Schein: Chiefs. The Alex Smith rebirth is fun! And the Chiefs are the best team in the AFC.

Reggie Wayne: Chiefs. K.C. is one of the most balanced teams in the AFC.

Alex Gelhar: Chiefs. An early-season lead in the standings helps the Chiefs coast into the postseason on the back of their high-powered offense.

Adam Rank: Chiefs. This could end up being a lot closer, but they were given a gift by the Chargers not picking the right kicker out of training camp -- and it's going to end up being the difference.

AFC WILD CARD 1

Judy Battista: Denver Broncos. A superlative defense carries a mediocre offense. Sound familiar?

Jeffri Chadiha: Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags' defense is nasty enough to carry them to the postseason.

Gil Brandt: Jaguars. I think two teams will come out of the AFC South, and I'll go with Jacksonville to join Tennessee.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Jaguars. They're headed in the right direction under Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone.

Steve Wyche: Kansas City Chiefs. They'll have cooled down, but they remain one of the best teams in the AFC.

Ike Taylor: Oakland Raiders. This team has too much talent not to make the playoffs.

Charley Casserly: Jaguars. Defense carries them to the playoffs.

Heath Evans: Miami Dolphins. I love the culture Adam Gase has implemented in Miami. The Dolphins -- no matter who's starting under center -- aren't great, but they're good enough to squeak in.

Adam Schein: Buffalo Bills. Finally! With a real coach -- and Tyrod and LeSean -- the drought is over!

Reggie Wayne: Broncos. The offense does just enough and the defense again carries the team.

Alex Gelhar: Bills. With many other contenders taking each other out, Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy end the Bills' playoff drought.

Adam Rank: Houston Texans. They finally have a quarterback! That's going to be significant.

UPDATE: After the publishing of this piece, news broke that dynamic Houston rookie Deshaun Watson suffered a torn ACL in practice Thursday. The Texans QB is out for the season.

AFC WILD CARD 2

Judy Battista: Buffalo Bills. Yep, I'm a believer here, too. Sean McDermott never pays for a drink in Western New York again after delivering the first postseason appearance of the millennium.

Jeffri Chadiha: Bills. The Bills haven't been afraid to part with some big names over the past year. They also look capable of returning to the postseason for the first time in 18 years.

Gil Brandt: Bills. The drought ends! Buffalo is just average on both offense and defense, but the Bills are exceptional in one key area: turnover differential, where they were plus-14 heading into Week 9. They control their own destiny, with four games remaining against AFC East opponents (after Thursday's showdown with the Jets), including two against New England.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Los Angeles Chargers. They got off to a slow start, but they'll come on strong down the stretch.

Steve Wyche: Bills. Sean McDermott has this squad playing hard, and the defense can be counted on.

Ike Taylor: Jacksonville Jaguars. They have a Super Bowl-caliber defense and -- how's the saying go? Defense wins championships? Hmmm ...

Charley Casserly: Bills. Same as Jacksonville -- the defense leads them into the playoffs.

Heath Evans: Jaguars. They've built a fantastic defense that's set them up for success in years to come.

Adam Schein: Houston Texans. So flawed. Yet, Watson is so special.

UPDATE: After the publishing of this piece, news broke that dynamic Houston rookie Deshaun Watson suffered a torn ACL in practice Thursday. The Texans QB is out for the season.

Reggie Wayne: Tennessee Titans. Marcus Mariota puts the Titans in the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Alex Gelhar: Jaguars. After successfully hiding Blake Bortles for 16 games, the "Sacksonville" Jaguars earn a trip to the postseason.

Adam Rank: Bills. I would have had the Chargers in here had they pulled out the upset in New England, which I kind of thought they would. Instead, I'm going with the Bills.

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