Following up my last preview on the NFC we’ll take a look at the AFC. At this moment this conference seems very weak compared to its NFC counterparts. The AFC North and AFC East divisions in particular to me are worst in football. There may be a surprise team that jumps out of the East, but I wouldn’t bet high money on that.
The AFC West is intriguing, and I think they could have 3 of their teams finish 8-8 or above. Where I struggled the most though was with the AFC South. I believe Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee all have a chance to reach double digit wins if things work out in their favor. Their strength of schedule is particularly weak as they play the AFC and NFC East, two very weak divisions outside of their leaders. Look for those 3 teams to be in a very tight playoff race by the end of the season.
Enjoy Week 1!
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Prediction: 11-5, 2017 Record: 13-3
After a disappointing end to their 2017 season the Steelers will look to get back on track this year and make another run to the Super Bowl. This could very well be their last chance to accomplish this goal. Its tough to say how many years Ben Roethlisberger has left in him and the Le’Veon Bell situation will cause some chemistry shake ups early on the in the season. However, I do believe backup running back, James Conner, will be able to feel that void in the Pittsburgh backfield and keep the Steelers rushing attack productive.
2. Cincinnati Bengals: Prediction: 9-7, 2017 Record: 7-9
I don’t know how Marvin Lewis is still the head coach of this football team but the Bengals are my AFC sleeper team this year. I think they will actually be a lot better than most people think. They’re roster top to bottom seems to be very solid this season and it really just depends on the play of Andy Dalton to determine how things end up for Cincinnati. I see them fighting for a wild card spot come end of season.
3.Baltimore Ravens: Prediction: 8-8, 2017 Record: 9-7
After overhauling the offense this off-season, Baltimore is looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. Quarterback, Joe Flacco, did not play very well at all last season, and he will be fighting for his job with every single game this season. With 1st round draft pick Lamar Jackson waiting for his opportunity, Flacco is going to have to play out of this world for the Ravens to not sit him. They return most of their starters on defense but failed to add any big game changers. I can’t see them being good enough to win this division or make a push for a wildcard spot.
4. Cleveland Browns: Prediction: 6-10, 2017 Record: 0-16
You can only go up after going not winning a game in the previous season. The Browns on paper actually look kind of impressive and I have seen a lot of people mock them to be in the playoff hunt. However, people need to slow down and realize that they are still the Browns. This is the first season after a complete roster turnover, so there are going to be some growing pains at first. I can see them being one of those teams who are competitive in a lot of games but can’t seem to find a way to win. Judging by hard knocks, that will be due to coaching. Next season the Browns should be closer to where they want to be.
- New England Patriots: Prediction: 12-4, 2017 Record: 13-3
Once again you can pencil the Patriots down as AFC East division champs before the season even starts. You could say this is the worst Patriots team we have seen in a long
time but it doesn’t matter because everyone else in their division is just terrible. As long as Bill Belichik and Tom Brady can will this team into the playoffs, they will have a chance at a Super Bowl appearance.
2. Miami Dolphins: Prediction: 5-11, 2017 Record: 6-10
Miami added a lot of different personnel to the offensive side of the ball this off-season in order to turn things around, but I don’t think it will matter too much. My main concern with the Dolphins is if Ryan Tannehill can stay healthy. If he can and shows flashes of his solid 2016 season then maybe I would bump them up a couple wins. However, I think he struggles having lost two major weapons in Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi.
3. New York Jets: Prediction: 4-12, 2017 Record: 5-11
After two consecutive seasons of finishing 5-11, the Jets are desperately looking to be competitive again. Their hope lies with rookie quarterback Sam Darnold who is being thrown into the fire. I like Darnold and think he will be a solid pro one day, but I can’t see any scenario in which he is able to turn this team around and achieve a winning record. They have very little weapons on offense, Robbie Anderson has shown flashes but lacks consistency, and its unknown if Quincy Enunwa can return to the form he showed before getting injured. The defensive front 7 is their strength and may be able to keep them in some games, but the secondary is a major problem and will more than likely be exposed by good offenses.
4. Buffalo Bills: Prediction: 2-14, 2017 Record: 9-7
Bills fans close your eyes. Somehow after making the playoffs for the first time in 17 years the Bills have regressed so far to possibly being the worst team in the NFL. However, its weird, because I would say they’re on the right path to getting back to success. Getting rid of Tyrod Taylor was probably the worst decision they could have made for this season. The Bills front office and coaching staff seemed to neglect Taylor last year for willing them to a playoff appearance. Remember when they benched him for literally no reason –while they were in the heat of the playoff race– for Nathan Peterman who threw 4 interceptions in his first 9 passes. Bizarre. Peterman has been named the starter for week 1 ahead of first round draft pick, Josh Allen, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Allen definitely has the better arm but judging off of pre season, his accuracy can be very wild at times. I don’t think it matters who plays most of the season at quarterback for the Bills, their lack of offensive weapons outside of LeSean McCoy will be worrisome and the defense has definitely regressed from what it was the past couple of seasons. The secondary is solid but that won’t be enough to win games.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Prediction 11-5, 2017 Record: 10-6
Everyone seems to writing the Jaguars off just after making it to the AFC championship last season. It may have something to do with their roster being so young and not believing they can live up to the expectations they have placed in front of themselves. This Jaguars defense is one of the best in the NFL and the offense has been tuned to make another playoff push. As long as they can stay atop of the division then the only worry I have is if Blake Bortles can be consistent enough to win them big games, which they will have to do in this division.
2. Houston Texans: Prediction 10-6, 2017 Record: 4-12
Finally healthy, the Texans should be looking to make a strong case for a playoff position. Jaguars cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, is right. One day Deshaun Watson should have an MVP award to his name, and that year may come sooner than people think. Watson was proving all of his doubters wrong last season, terrorizing his opponents before he got injured and if he can grasp that form again the Texans will be a problem for the entire league. Watson is backed by a solid supporting cast in DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller, and Will Fuller who should make life so much easier for Watson. On the defensive side JJ Watt is finally healthy, and can re join Jadeveon Clowney on the defensive line, and the addition of Tyrann Mathieu at safety will prove to be one of the best signings in the league. As long as the offensive line can give Watson time, the Texans should be playoff bound.
3. Tennessee Titans: Prediction 10-6, 2017 Record: 9-7
A new staff in Tennessee will look to fine tune this Titans team to get them back into the playoffs. 2017 ended with the Titans winning a close wild card matchup in Kansas City then getting smacked by the Patriots. Quarterback, Marcus Mariota, will be looking to turn things around after having statistically the worst season of his career with just 13 Touchdowns and 15 interceptions. New offensive coordinator, Matt LeFleur, who is coming from the Los Angeles Rams, will be looking to get Mariota back on track. Tennessee should remain solid on defense and as long as they can slow down Houston and Jacksonville, and win the “easy” games, the Titans may sneak their way back into the playoffs.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Prediction 4-12, 2017 Record: 4-12
Andrew Luck is finally healthy, and thats great, but the Colts still need a lot of work in order to return to what they once were. Luck returns to a team that has failed to obtain solid weapons in his absence. 4 time Pro bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is still there and fellow pro bowler Jack Doyle will join him at tight end as Luck’s main receiving options. After that there is a significant drop off. The offensive line may be better than it was when Luck went down, but it won’t be enough to compete in this division. The Colts defense may have been the worst in the league last season and that doesn’t seem to be changing at this moment. The AFC south definitely isn’t the cake walk that it once was and Indianapolis will surely struggle in the division.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Prediction 12-4, 2017 Record: 9-7
This may finally be the year the Chargers are able to get over the hump and get back into the playoffs. With the Broncos and Raiders declining and coming off losing records, and the previous divisions champs, Kansas City Chiefs, losing Alex Smith and Marcus Peters, this is the perfect time for the Chargers to bounce back to the top. This team will go as far as Philip Rivers will take them and he may finally be ready to make that Super Bowl push again. His receiving core in Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin is loaded with talent. Unfortunately, tight end Hunter Henry is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in OTA’s but they have enough depth at the tight end position to fill that void for the time being. Melvin Gordon is back and will be looking to make a statement in a contract season. Los Angeles defense has potential to be the one of the best in the league. Rushers Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram are a formidable force and the star studded secondary may be the best in the league. As long as they can slow down the run and stay healthy, this Chargers team will be very good. The NFL may very well get the Los Angeles vs. Los Angeles Super Bowl they want.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: Prediction: 9-7, 2017 Record: 10-6
Don’t expect much of a drop off for the Chiefs this season. Alex Smith is being replaced by Patrick Mahomes at quarterback who is oozing with potential but very unproven. They’re all in on Mahomes and it should be a fun roller coaster to watch. Mahomes will be surrounded by solid talent to make his life a little easier. Wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins and Tight End, Travis Kelce, will be very solid options for Mahomes to have in his debut season. Kareem Hunt in the backfield should return to being one of the best backs in the league and can carry the load for the Chiefs offense at times. Kansas City will need work on their run defense if they want to remain among the AFC’s elite. Replacing Peters with Kendall Fuller in the Smith trade is solid and the return of safety, Eric Berry, after tearing his achilles in the season opener last season, will be helpful for the defense.
3. Denver Broncos: Prediction: 8-8, 2017 Record: 5-11
The Broncos main problem the past few seasons has been quarterback. If Case Keenum’s MVP caliber season in 2017 wasn’t a fluke then they may have temporarily solved it. He’ll have solid receiving weapons to work with in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Devonte Booker and Royce Freeman in the backfield may end up being a very solid 1-2 punch for Denver. If Keenum can replicate his 2017 season then Denver’s offense may be able to put up a lot of points. Denvers defense isn’t what it once was but the addition of Bradley Chubb will get things pointed in the right direction. Losing Aqib Talib at cornerback is a big blow but they’re hopeful Bradley Roby can step up to the plate. Look for the Broncos to be competitive once again.
4. Oakland Raiders: Prediction 6-10, 2017 Record: 6-10
What is even going on in Oakland? At the moment there seems to be a huge disconnect from Jon Gruden’s staff and his team. There are maybe six or seven guys in the NFL right now, that without a doubt you would not trade away from your team, no matter the circumstance. Khalil Mack is one of those guys. Without Mack this defensive unit drops significantly. However, this Raiders team is far too talented in other aspects of the field to completely fade off. While Gruden’s coaching may not be what it once was the talent level on the roster should be able to carry them to some quality wins. If Derek Carr can stay healthy and return to his 2016 form then the offense should be solid with Amari Cooper at receiver, and running back Marshawn Lynch. However, I think they’re still about a year away around from being where they want to be.