Ranking the AFC: Title still goes through Mahomes, Chiefs

Sep. 11—1. Kansas City Chiefs

Why they will win: KC has Patrick Mahomes, and he's as good a gunslinger as you will find in the game. Two Super Bowls and an AFC title game in the last three years. That rings out loud as championship consistency.

Why they won't: The loss of one of the most dynamic weapons in the game, Tyreek Hill, and the lack of a reliable run game might ultimately catch up with the Chiefs.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Mahomes, 2. Tight end Travis Kelce, 3. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Theme for 2022: To be considered great (Mahomes) and a dynasty, you need to win more than one Super Bowl.

2. Denver Broncos

Why they will win: Russell Wilson remains one of the most lethal weapons in the game. He has skill players around him and tools with which he can work.

Why they won't: New coach in Nathaniel Hackett implements a new system. Time may not be on their side.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Wilson; 2. Running back Javonte Williams; 3. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Theme for 2022: Russ and his revival. It's time to prove that Wilson won in Seatlle in spite of Pete Carroll, not because of him.

3. Buffalo Bills

Why they will win: All reports out of Buffalo are that the Bills are razor sharp, poised to get over the top and reach their first Super Bowl since Jim Kelly and Co. dropped four straight in the 1990s.

Why they won't: Coach Sean McDermott and QB Josh Allen, together, stand on the precipice of being branded in a negative light. Are they the unit that "almost" gets there regularly? Allen is paid like a superstar (6 years, $258 million) and he owns a 3-3 playoff record. If you are raising an eyebrow on those numbers, you aren't alone.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Allen; 2. Wide receiver Stephon Diggs; 3. Tight end Dawson Knox.

Theme for 2022: Until this franchise breaks through, every season will always have one goal, erase the memory of Scott Norwood and "Wide Right."

4. Baltimore Ravens

Why they will win: Lamar Jackson is healthy. Explosive running back JK Dobbins is back after missing his rookie season to injury. And this is a dynamic roster that is went through colossal injury issues a year ago. The franchise is due.

Why they won't: Every time Lamar takes off on a run, the franchise is one hit away from disaster. That's a huge burden for a quarterback who does his best work on the run.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Jackson; 2. Tight end Mark Andrews; 3. Dobbins

Theme for 2022: It's time to live up to the hype. Baltimore is still a franchise that strikes fear into people, despite the fact that the Ravens have one playoff win since 2014.

5. LA Chargers

Why they will win: Justin Herbert is poised to be the most efficient and dangerous passer in the game with mega-weapons to match. He's got dynamite receivers in Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, along with one of the most explosive run/receiving threats in the game with Austin Ekeler. The Chargers should hang plenty of points on the scoreboard.

Why they won't: There is such a lack of excitement since this franchise moved to Los Angeles. Now with the Rams winning the title, the feeling that this is a second-class citizen in LA could seriously bring this franchise down.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Herbert; 2. Ekeler; 3. Williams

Theme for 2022: We are ready. The NFL is behind Herbert being the next great in this game. He is in his third year, and the time is now.

6. Miami Dolphins

Why they will win: After back-to-back winning seasons (10-6 and 9-8), the Dolphins loaded up to make a run under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. They possess one of the game's top receiving tandems in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Why they won't: Until he proves better, Tua Tagovailoa remains an enigma at quarterback.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Hill; 2. Waddle; 3. Chase Edmonds.

Theme for 2022: Move over Buffalo, the Dolphins are swimming through.

7. Tennessee Titans

Why they will win: Mike Vrabel might be one of the best coaches in the game with a system in place and an attitude that is all business, championship driven. They also happen to have the most powerful running back in football with Derrick Henry.

Why they won't: In the end, this game comes down to the quarterback, more often than not. And Tennessee is reliant on Ryan Tannehill.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Henry; 2. Wide receiver Robert Woods; 3. Wide receiver Treylon Burks

Theme for 2022: One step further, please. Vrabel is counting on Tannehill to raise his game a notch, a la Matt Stafford with the Rams in 2021. If the QB was just average in the playoff opener last year, the Titans beat Cincinnati. Tannehill threw three picks and ended their season. He needs to be better.

8. Indianapolis Colts

Why they will win: Jonathan Taylor is the franchise running back by which all others are judged. And the Colts added a serviceable quarterback in Matt Ryan.

Why they won't: In Atlanta over the past couple years, Ryan had been showing his mileage. He gets one of the game's fiercest offensive lines to work behind, but the onus will be on him to deliver.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Taylor; 2. Wide receiver Michael Pittman; 3. Wide receiver Parris Campbell

Theme for 2022: Win third down, win games. Ryan needs to be a game manager on early downs and a chain mover on third down.

9. Las Vegas Raiders

Why they will win: The pieces have been loaded for something special to happen. Pickups like receiver Davante Adams and pass-rusher Chandler Jones have supplanted an already-playoff team.

Why they won't: New head coach Josh McDaniels didn't exactly slay the beast in his first head-coaching stint with Denver, going 11-17 before getting axed in his second season.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Adams; 2. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow; 3. Tight end Darren Waller

Theme for 2022: Just win, baby! Or A Tradition of Excellence. Pick one of those tacky, old Raider sayings. The time is now.

10. New England Patriots

Why they will win: Bill Belichick is still a top three coach in the game. Mac Jones is in the top half of the quarterbacks.

Why they won't: Have you seen anything in this preseason that would give you any indication that things are clicking?

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Wide receiver DeVante Parker; 2. Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne; 3. Jones.

Theme for 2022: The run to the playoffs in 2021 was no fluke. The Patriots are back.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

Why they will win: Tradition. And a run under Mike Tomlin that has to be respected. In 15 seasons at the helm, Tomlin has never fielded a sub-.500 team.

Why they won't: One of the most reliable QBs in the game, Ben Roethlisberger needs to be replaced. It appears that Mitch Trubisky is the interim answer. We shall see how that works out for them.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson; 2. Running back Najee Harris; 3. Tight end Pat Freiermuth.

Theme for 2022: Make life easy for Mitch. If the offensive line can hold up, there are playmakers everywhere on offense. Keep things simple for Trubisky, who was miserable with the Bears and served as Josh Allen's backup most recently in Buffalo.

12. Cincinnati Bengals

Why they will win: Quarterback Joe Burrow had a dream season in 2021. We'll see if he can keep the motor running. The Bengals added some help up front, which means the offense should be even better this time around.

Why they won't: Simple. Super Bowl losers always struggle the next year ... unless Tom Brady is your quarterback.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Wide receiver Jamar Chase; 2. Running back Joe Mixon; 3. Wide receiver Tee Higgins

Theme for 2022: Think the unthinkable. Since 2016, nobody other than Brady has shaken the curse. Burrow could seriously add to the resume and the folk hero status if he somehow found a way.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars

Why they will win: Trevor Lawrence, after a pathetic rookie year, grows into himself into first-year quarterback-friendly head coach Doug Pederson.

Why they won't: Yes, he had to deal with clueless Urban Meyer, but doesn't Lawrence have to draw at least some doubts by now? He doesn't have the most stellar cast around him, that is unless second-year running back Travis Etienne is the real deal.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Etienne; 2. Lawrence; 3. Wide receiver Christian Kirk

Theme for 2022: A new day is here. The excitement this franchise received by drafting Lawrence in 2021 was genuine. Now, it's time to back it up and convince the NFL they belong.

14. Houston Texans

Why they will win: If you take an unbiased look at 2021, Houston got a ton accomplished. The Texans found a QB in rookie Davis Mills. The dumped big money vets and drafted what looks to be wisely. It's time for a step up.

Why they won't: They are the Texans, destined to implode. Lovie Smith is a nice story taking over, but he's not exactly coming in on a heater. In his last head-coaching stint, Smith went 8-24 in two seasons at Tampa.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks; 2. Running back Dameon Pierce; 3. Wide receiver Nico Collins

Theme for 2022: Someone pay attention to us! Back-to-back four-win seasons wreak of obscurity. It's tough to take the franchise seriously.

15. Cleveland Browns

Why they will win: They find a way to hang tough through the first 11 games. And QB Deshaun Watson saves the season when he comes off the suspended list.

Why they won't: Watson hasn't taken a real snap since the 2020 season. He'll spend the second half of this season knocking the rust off and readying himself and this franchise for 2023.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Watson; 2. Running back Nick Chubb; 3. Wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Theme for 2022: Hang on for Deshaun. When in shape and in his groove, Watson is among the game's elite. You just wonder how this group feels about him, his $400 million guaranteed contract and the fact that he might not even be ready when he returns in November.

16. NY Jets

Why they will win: They won't.

Why they won't: Zach Wilson's rookie campaign was a cause for major concern. And this team's luck might be the worst in sports. Mekhi Becton is done for another year with injuries. This team, 27-70 in the last six years, is just destined for a 2-15.

Fantasy Football Studs: 1. Wide receiver Elijah Moore; 2. Wide receiver Corey Davis; 3. Running back Breece Hall.

Theme for 2022: Get out of the cellar. The gap between the Jets and the three other teams in the AFC East is massive. Forget about making the playoffs. A third-place finish (out of four teams) in the division might be a cause for a parade down Fifth Avenue