Ranking top 2024 challengers to potential Chiefs three-peat: Bengals, Texans among 11 candidates to explode



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The Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL’s current dynasty, rivaling the Tom Brady-era New England Patriots as football royalty. And they have no plans to slow down, with reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes declaring immediately following 2023’s title that he has eyes on a potential three-peat. Could the Chiefs truly capture a third straight Lombardi Trophy? Mahomes’ track record suggests as much. In the meantime, we’re taking an early look at candidates to spoil such a run.

A lot can change between now and the start of the 2024 season. But here are 11 different clubs who have at least some reason to believe they can dethrone Mahomes and Co. next February:

Deep sleepers

  • The Atlanta Falcons now have a sturdy quarterback in Kirk Cousins to go along with ascending skill pieces and an underrated defense in a wide-open division. But Cousins’ history suggests they’ll be more steady than special.
  • The Dallas Cowboys still have some of the game’s top playmakers on both sides of the ball, but Dak Prescott’s offensive line has more questions than at any point in recent memory. And this franchise has long succumbed to big-game hurdles.
  • The New York Jets have an improved line for returning quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as well as a proven defense. But Rodgers is a big question mark at age 40, despite his Hall of Fame resume from Green Bay.

Honorable mentions

  • The Baltimore Ravens could once again use more receiving help for reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. But Derrick Henry’s bruising style should help the run game, and Justin Madubuike’s return should help anchor the tough defense.
  • The Buffalo Bills turned over a big chunk of the lineup for cap purposes, and they’ve struggled to get over the hump. But they will be a threat as long as Josh Allen is under center, and the James Cook-Stefon Diggs combo remains elite.
  • The Green Bay Packers are still very young, reliant on a lot of up-and-comers at pass catcher. But Josh Jacobs should keep Matt LaFleur’s ground game intact, and Jordan Love’s got such a high ceiling as a gifted gunslinger.

Top contenders

5. Detroit Lions

Jared Goff may be more solid than spectacular under center, but a sterling offensive line goes a long way, and he’s still got one with Zeitler coming aboard and Graham Glasgow returning to a unit also featuring star tackle Penei Sewell. The dynamic young duo of Jahmyr Gibbs and Amon-Ra St. Brown provides home run pop, and the front seven should be slightly improved, too. The biggest hurdle might be recovering from 2023’s emotional road back to the playoffs under never-say-die coach Dan Campbell.

4. Philadelphia Eagles

This feels like a real boom-or-bust operation here — a team that could make these rankings look incredibly silly if it can’t shed the dysfunctional stink that was the end of their 2023 campaign. On paper, this is still an all-star offense with Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and a top-tier line welcoming Barkley’s dynamism. But embattled coach Nick Sirianni has new coordinators on both sides of the ball, so it may take time for all the pieces to become cohesive.

3. Houston Texans

Houston could benefit from a wide-open AFC South, but the biggest reason the Texans should be on everyone’s radar is second-year quarterback C.J. Stroud, who flashed MVP stuff in 2023. As long as his front and outside weapons stay healthy, he should be primed to sling it again. DeMeco Ryans’ defense, meanwhile, should be even better in support, with Hunter and Al-Shaair bringing an imposing physicality to the front seven. The short- and long-term future looks bright.

2. Cincinnati Bengals

While everyone flocks to predict another Ravens run or a big leap by the quarterback-shuffling Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bengals are busy preparing to reintroduce the Joe Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase-Tee Higgins triumvirate to the NFL. Neither Burrow nor Higgins was fully healthy in 2023, and while contract talks loom over Higgins, all signs point to his return. Rankins and Stone are underrated defensive adds, but it comes back to the quarterback here: when upright, Burrow is a game-changing point guard.

1. San Francisco 49ers

It’s the easy answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one. San Francisco has doubled down on its front-seven investments, quickly replacing rentals like Chase Young with reliable vets like Collins and Floyd. Offensively, meanwhile, Brock Purdy is still coming into his own as the poised figurehead of Kyle Shanahan’s multipurpose attack. The health of key weapons Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel is always worth monitoring, but the 2023 runner-ups remain one of the NFL’s most balanced.





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