US Sports Veteran
The AFC as a whole has been dominated by the New England Patriots for years now, but whether they’ll continue to reign or not is a topic for another article. Right now, let’s focus in on the divisions, where some major offseason shakeups could see last season’s rankings completely flip with some teams going from worst to first and others free falling to the bottom of the standings.
The Patriots have won their division 15 times since the turn of the century. The last time they didn’t win was in 2008, so I’m not going to pick against them now. The New York Jets were last in the division last year, but I think head coach Todd Bowles and possibly Sam Darnold can right the ship and get them to second in 2018. The Miami Dolphins will have Ryan Tannehill back after his ACL tear last year. Despite losing a ton of key players, I still think they can finish third. The Buffalo Bills made the playoffs as a wild card last year, but now their quarterback situation is anything but stable. I just don’t trust that their offense, outside of LeSean McCoy, will show up in 2018.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the greatest offensive triple threat in the league, and even though their defense will struggle without Ryan Shazier, I think they’ll still blast their way to first place in the division. The Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs for the third straight year in 2017. I don’t see it happening four times in a row. They finish second in the North and earn a Wildcard spot. People forget that Andy Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowler, A.J. Green is a top five receiver, and Geno Atkins is a future Hall of Famer. The Cincinnati Bengals take third. That leaves the Cleveland Browns in fourth again. Even if they revamped their team over the last two years, we’ve yet to see it in action and, let’s be honest, the Browns tend to mess things up.
The Jacksonville Jaguars take first because of their incredible defense that will have them competing for a Super Bowl. Behind sophomore star, Deshaun Watson, and a healthy J.J. Watt the Houston Texans finish second and make their case for a Wild Card spot. The Indianapolis Colts will finish third because Andrew Luck will finally come back, but he’ll struggle as he adjusts to the game after significant time off. And the Tennessee Titans, a 2017 Wild Card team, finish last with an underperforming offense.
This will be the most competitive division in the AFC this year, but the Denver Broncos go from worst to first, reclaiming the division title with their new quarterback, Case Keenum. The Los Angeles Chargers are built for their best season in years and Philip Rivers tries to get his team to the playoffs with a Wild Card bid. I think the second team in the West is likely to edge the second team in the South out for the Wild Card. The Oakland Raiders finish third in their second disappointing season in a row as Jon Gruden adjusts to being back with the team as the head coach. And the Kansas City Chiefs go from first to worst because Patrick Mahomes struggles to find consistency and the defense struggles to stop the pass without Marcus Peters. Running back Kareem Hunt seems like he could be in for a sophomore slump too.
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