With the 2021 NFL season just around the corner, our analysts predicts the playoff field:
Participating analysts: Brian Baldinger, Judy Battista, Jeremy Bergman, Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gil Brandt, David Carr, Brooke Cersosimo, Jeffri Chadiha, Gennaro Filice, Chase Goodbread, Marcas Grant, DeAngelo Hall, Dan Hanzus, Maurice Jones-Drew, Shaun O'Hara, Dan Parr, Kevin Patra, Scott Pioli, Adam Rank, Chad Reuter, Gregg Rosenthal, Marc Ross, Adam Schein, Marc Sessler, Nick Shook, Matt Smith, Joe Thomas, Lance Zierlein.
NOTE: All betting lines -- listed alongside each team -- are courtesy of Caesars Sports Book and are current as of 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 2.
AFC EAST CHAMPS
(27 votes: Baldinger, Battista, Bergman, Bhanpuri, Blair, Brandt, Carr, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Filice, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, O'Hara, Parr, Patra, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Ross, Schein, Shook, Smith, Thomas, Zierlein)
T-2. Miami Dolphins (+340) | 1 vote: Sessler
T-2. New England Patriots (+350) | 1 vote: Pioli
Why Scott Pioli chose the Patriots: I have a LOT of respect for the Buffalo Bills, so this was a tough decision, to say the least. It comes down to this: The Bills are facing a first-place schedule for the first time in 25 years, which includes a visit to Miami in September (never fun!). The Patriots' defense, offensive line, run game, special teams and smart situational football are the keys that will carry them a long way. Mac Jones doesn't have to be great. Like Tom Brady early in his career, the rookie signal-caller just has to make certain he's not the reason the team is losing games. The Pats' passing attack will center around high-percentage throws -- short and intermediate -- and Jones will progress as the season does. I also have a difficult time picking against the NFL's greatest head coach of all time.
AFC NORTH CHAMPS
(19 votes: Battista, Bergman, Blair, Brandt, Chadiha, Filice, Grant, Hall, Jones-Drew, O'Hara, Parr, Patra, Pioli, Ross, Schein, Shook, Smith, Thomas, Zierlein)
2. Baltimore Ravens (+120) | 9 votes: Baldinger, Bhanpuri, Cersosimo, Goodbread, Hanzus, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Sessler
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (+400) | 1 vote: Carr
Why Adam Schein chose the Browns: The Browns are loaded and legit! Myles Garrett is one of the best defensive players in football. Nick Chubb anchors an elite running attack. Baker Mayfield has found his groove under Kevin Stefanski. Forget about the "Factory of Sadness" -- it's time to fully believe in this franchise.
AFC SOUTH CHAMPS
(22 votes: Bergman, Bhanpuri, Blair, Carr, Cersosimo, Filice, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Jones-Drew, O'Hara, Parr, Patra, Pioli, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Ross, Schein, Sessler, Shook, Thomas)
2. Indianapolis Colts (+145) | 7 votes: Baldinger, Battista, Brandt, Chadiha, Hanzus, Smith, Zierlein
Why Chase Goodbread chose the Titans: As long as Ryan Tannehill and Julio Jones stay healthy, this offense will be all but unstoppable, alternating between Derrick Henry and the passing game. Add in a breakout year for Jeffery Simmons on the defensive line, and the Titans might have the weakest division in football on ice by Thanksgiving.
AFC WEST CHAMPS
(28 votes: Baldinger, Battista, Bergman, Bhanpuri, Blair, Brandt, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Filice, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, O'Hara, Parr, Patra, Pioli, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Ross, Schein, Sessler, Shook, Smith, Thomas, Zierlein)
2. Las Vegas Raiders (+1800) | 1 vote: Carr
Why Jeffri Chadiha chose the Chiefs: The Chiefs have had the most explosive offense in football the last three years. The scary thing is their defense could be the best it's been during the Patrick Mahomes era.
AFC WILD CARD TEAMS
We asked voters to pick the three wild-card teams from each conference, ranking their picks from 1 to 3 based on where they project the squads to land in the pecking order. Here are the vote totals for the AFC:
|Rank||Team||WC Team 1 (3 pts)||WC Team 2 (2 pts)||WC Team 3 (1 pt)|
|1.||Ravens (35)||8 VOTES: Blair, Filice, Jones-Drew, Patra, Ross, Schein, Shook, Thomas||5 VOTES: Battista, Carr, Chadiha, Grant, Smith||1 VOTE: Hall|
|2.||Patriots (27)||4 VOTES: Baldinger, Bergman, Hall, Reuter||4 VOTES: Filice, Patra, Rosenthal, Shook||7 VOTES: Brandt, Carr, Goodbread, O'Hara, Rank, Schein, Smith|
|T-3.||Chargers (25)||3 VOTES: Cersosimo, Goodbread, Smith||6 VOTES: Bhanpuri, Blair, Brandt, Parr, Ross, Schein||4 VOTES: Baldinger, Chadiha, Reuter, Sessler|
|T-3.||Steelers (25)||5 VOTES: Grant, Hanzus, O'Hara, Parr, Zierlein||3 VOTES: Hall, Jones-Drew, Thomas||4 VOTES: Battista, Bergman, Ross, Shook|
|5.||Browns (17)||2 VOTES: Bhanpuri, Rank||5 VOTES: Baldinger, Cersosimo, Goodbread, Reuter, Sessler||1 VOTE: Hanzus|
|6.||Dolphins (14)||2 VOTES: Battista, Chadiha||2 VOTES: Bergman, Pioli||4 VOTES: Grant, Jones-Drew, Rosenthal, Zierlein|
|7.||Broncos (10)||1 VOTE: Rosenthal||1 VOTE: Rank||5 VOTES: Bhanpuri, Blair, Filice, Parr, Patra|
|8.||Titans (7)||1 VOTE: Brandt||2 VOTES: Hanzus, Zierlein||NO VOTES|
|9.||Bills (6)||2 VOTES: Pioli, Sessler||NO VOTES||NO VOTES|
|10.||Colts (5)||NO VOTES||1 VOTE: O'Hara||3 VOTES: Cersosimo, Pioli, Thomas|
|11.||Chiefs (3)||1 VOTE: Carr||NO VOTES||NO VOTES|
NFC EAST CHAMPS
(19 votes: Battista, Bergman, Bhanpuri, Brandt, Chadiha, Filice, Goodbread, Grant, Jones-Drew, Parr, Patra, Pioli, Reuter, Rosenthal, Ross, Schein, Sessler, Shook, Zierlein)
2. Washington Football Team (+225) | 9 votes: Baldinger, Blair, Carr, Cersosimo, Hall, Hanzus, Rank, Smith, Thomas
3. New York Giants (+400) | 1 vote: O'Hara
Why Lance Zierlein chose the Cowboys: Not only is Dak Prescott back in the fold with a trio of dangerous wideouts, but a slimmer, quicker Ezekiel Elliott will be right by his side. There is no doubt the offense will be quite potent this season, but the addition of rookie linebacker Micah Parsons should not be overlooked. The No. 12 overall pick's talent and explosiveness could be the difference-maker in Dallas ultimately winning the division.
NFC NORTH CHAMPS
Why Dan Hanzus chose the Packers: The ugly offseason soap opera is in the rearview (for the time being) and now we can get back to seeing the Packers for what they are: The deepest, most talented team in the NFC North, led by an all-time QB with ... wait for it ... something to prove. We don't typically attach this designation/narrative to a reigning league MVP, but such is the mercurial nature of the great Aaron Charles Rodgers.
NFC SOUTH CHAMPS
Why Adam Rank chose the Buccaneers: Hey, here's something you might not have heard over the offseason: The Buccaneers are returning all 22 starters. Amazing, right? But honestly, Tom Brady never rests. And now, with a full year under the quarterback's belt in Tampa Bay, I hate to say this team might be better.
NFC WEST CHAMPS
(15 votes: Battista, Blair, Carr, Cersosimo, Filice, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, Parr, Pioli, Reuter, Schein, Shook)
2. San Francisco 49ers (+200) | 12 votes: Baldinger, Bergman, Chadiha, O'Hara, Patra, Rank, Rosenthal, Ross, Sessler, Smith, Thomas, Zierlein
3. Seattle Seahawks (+280) | 2 votes: Bhanpuri, Brandt
Why DeAngelo Hall chose the Rams: This is arguably the toughest quartet in football, as a game or two could be the difference between winning the division and finishing last. The NFC West will once again belong to Sean McVay's Rams. Los Angeles is the most balanced and complete team, and the Rams now have a great veteran QB who'll make all the difference.
NFC WILD CARD TEAMS
We asked voters to pick the three wild-card teams from each conference, ranking their picks from 1 to 3 based on where they project the squads to land in the pecking order. Here are the vote totals for the NFC:
|Rank||Team||WC Team 1 (3 pts)||WC Team 2 (2 pts)||WC Team 3 (1 pt)|
|1||Seahawks (41)||6 VOTES: Battista, Carr, Reuter, Ross, Shook, Thomas||9 VOTES: Bergman, Blair, Chadiha, Goodbread, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, Parr, Pioli||5 VOTES: Baldinger, Grant, O'Hara, Patra, Sessler|
|2||Rams (36)||11 VOTES: Bergman, Bhanpuri, Brandt, Chadiha, O'Hara, Patra, Rank, Rosenthal, Sessler, Smith, Zierlein||1 VOTE: Thomas||1 VOTE: Ross|
|3||49ers (35)||9 VOTES: Blair, Cersosimo, Filice, Grant, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, Pioli, Schein||3 VOTES: Battista, Bhanpuri, Shook||2 VOTES: Parr, Reuter|
|4||Saints (25)||3 VOTES: Baldinger, Goodbread, Parr||6 VOTES: Brandt, Grant, O'Hara, Ross, Schein, Smith||4 VOTES: Battista, Chadiha, Pioli, Rosenthal|
|5.||Washington (9)||NO VOTES||1 VOTE: Patra||7 VOTES: Bergman, Bhanpuri, Brandt, Filice, Jones-Drew, Shook, Zierlein|
|6.||Cowboys (8)||NO VOTES||2 VOTES: Carr, Cersosimo||4 VOTES: Blair, Hall, Smith, Thomas|
|7.||Vikings (6)||NO VOTES||2 VOTES: Baldinger, Rosenthal||2 VOTES: Cersosimo, Hanzus|
|8.||Cardinals (5)||NO VOTES||1 VOTE: Filice||3 VOTES: Carr, Rank, Schein|
|T-9.||Bears (4)||NO VOTES||2 VOTES: Rank, Zierlein||NO VOTES|
|T-9.||Panthers (4)||NO VOTES||2 VOTES: Reuter, Sessler||NO VOTES|
|11.||Giants (1)||NO VOTES||NO VOTES||1 VOTE: Goodbread|