AFC WILD CARD GAME 1
Judy Battista: Cincinnati Bengals. Two new coordinators could make for a tough transition, but Hue Jackson should get the best — and maybe a playoff win — out of Andy Dalton.
Brian Billick: San Diego Chargers. The Chargers made the playoffs as the third team in the AFC West last year, and they’ve only gotten better. San Diego added key free agents in Brandon Flowers and Donald Brown and lost little to no production from last year’s team.
Gil Brandt: Bengals. Andy Dalton gets better each year, and Cincy’s defense is still top-notch. Yes, there are two new coordinators (Hue Jackson on offense and Paul Guenther on defense), but both were promoted from within, which should greatly reduce the potential of any hiccups.
Gregg Rosenthal: Chargers. They are a legitimate top-10 team led by a legitimate top-five quarterback.
Chris Wesseling: Baltimore Ravens. I’ve bought into the changes on Gary Kubiak’s offense. The running backs and Steve Smith are in for bounceback seasons.
AFC WILD CARD GAME 2
Judy Battista: San Diego Chargers. If freshly minted offensive coordinator Frank Reich can continue Philip Rivers’ renaissance, the Chargers should be able to manage a brutal schedule and edge out the quarterback-needy Texans for this slot.
Brian Billick: Baltimore Ravens. Last year was an anomaly (the first time in the Harbaugh/Flacco era that the Ravens missed out on the postseason). Baltimore will get back on track in 2014 with a rejuvenated offense under the guidance of new coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Gil Brandt: Chargers. I was really impressed with the additions the Chargers made this offseason, in both free agency — running back Donald Brown and cornerback Brandon Flowers stand out — and the draft. First-round pick Jason Verrett will be a good cornerback for them.
Gregg Rosenthal: Ravens. Just getting the offense back to mediocre should be enough for 10 wins.
Chris Wesseling: Chargers. The Bolts’ offense is underrated. The secondary and pass rush are much improved.