NFL Kickoff Primer: AFC Outlook
The AFC is on the rise for the first time in a long time. The east has been dominated by the New England Patriots, the west was predominately the Denver Broncos but now features a powerhouse Oakland Raiders team, with the Chiefs following right behind.
The NFC has been known for taking the reigns in games over AFC opponents posting a 24-20 suterowl rings since the formation of the NFL in 1970.
The tables are turning and the AFC is on the rise, here is a look at the top eight AFC teams that will make a run for the Lombardi trophy.
8. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have been in the conversation for a while, it’s just been a matter of bringing the talent together to work in unison. A lot of the players are playing like high school football players looking for the stat instead of the team win.
Ndamukung Suh needs to step up and play like the top defensive tackle he’s being payed to be. This year the front seven can step it up with Kiko alonzo, and rookie Raekwon McMillan running the linebacking corp and veteran Lawrence Timmons will most certainly help lead the charge.
The only problem, Jay Cutler is quarterback. Who knows? Cutler could revive his career as starting quarterback for the Dolphins. Ryan Tanehill had been known for not stepping up in the huddle and taking command, maybe Cutler changes that.
The ‘Fins are still too young, and lack the leadership needed to win, two more years and they could start making deep playoff runs.
7. Denver Broncos
The Broncos are seemingly falling apart from the inside out. T.J. ward was cut last week, the QB situation is a disaster, including the resigning of Brock Osweiler.
The defense still looks strong with Von Miller of course leading the charge and cornerbacks Bradley Roby, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. still form a three-headed monster in the secondary.
Oh yea, let’s not forget, they resigned Brock Osweiler.
Typically, the Broncos would make a strong case for one of the top-seeded teams in the AFC, but the offensive struggles will prove to be a problem, although it won’t cut them out of the question just yet.
6. Houston Texans
Another perfect example of a young, talented, defensive stacked team with more QB issues.
Granted Deshaun Watson, former NCAA had a good pre season but Tom Savage is supposedly the undoubted starter for the Texans.
A lot of questions remain offensively but a strong defensive performance last year got them into the playoffs before sputtering to a halt against the Patriots. Having J.J. Watt back in the lineup is going to bolster an already stacked defense.
Look for Houston to compete hard but not be able to compete against the top five.
5. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans acquired former Patriot Logan Ryan this offseason. He will pair with another McCourty (Jason) to form a dynamic duo for a secondary that struggled much of last season.
The offense is young and talented with sleeper QB Marcus Mariota leading the charge, who supposedly has been taking over as a true leader of the offense. The O-line invites him everywhere which is important because it all starts in the trenches.
Look for their wins to go up by two or three.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Martavis Bryant is back after an entire season of suspension, Le’Veon Bell figured out his contract issues and Antonio Brown is still at his finest. This is Big Ben’s last season and the Steelers aren’t going to go down without a fight.
2016-17 was a good one after making it all the way to the AFC Championship until they ran into the Patriots. Bell got hurt in that game, and the defense ran out of gas.
With a revamped defense and a reloaded offense, the Steelers could make another run for the championship.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
The defense is proven (unlike the Steelers) and the offense led by veteran Alex Smith is primed for a deep run.
The Kansas City Chiefs finished atop their division in 2016-17 (12-4) with multiple injured players. If they can stay healthy, just like the majority of teams, they will finish atop the AFC standings again.
Not the AFC West, but the AFC standings.
However, another team will hold he AFC West championship at the end of the day.
2. Oakland Raiders
The Carr ran out of gas at the end of last season.
Yes, the pun was intended but it was plain obvious that without Derek Carr at the helm, the Oakland Raiders are not completely helpless but they aren’t the same. It’s easily comparable to asking a right-handed person to write with their left hand, it’s not impossible but it’s not pretty and not gonna go anywhere.
They have one of the best O-lines in the league, a fantastic front seven and Marshawn Lynch is back for blood. Maybe Jack Del Rio will run it instead of pass it on the one.
After finishing 12-4, the Raiders will dominate the AFC west and faceoff against the Patriots for the AFC title.
1. New England Patriots
In the wise words of Bill Belichick (paraphrasing), they are the reigning Super Bowl champs… not defending. It’s the start of a new season, there is nothing to defend only another Super Bowl to win.
They have a better roster than last year, Tom Brady will be starting the season at QB and Rob Gronkowski is back and healthy. Not to mention, the defense looks better than it ever has with newly acquired Stephon Gilmore.
One could go on and on all day about how well the Patriots played in 2016-17 and how surreal the Super Bowl comeback was, but once again in the wise words of Belichick “It’s on to 2017.”
They’re win the AFC and be Super Bowl contenders yet again.