Now that the NFL starts its season the 8th of September, time is almost out for predictions, so let’s invoke the “Two Minute Drill” offense for AFC predictions.
Every year people try to talk themselves into a team other than the New England Patriots winning this division. One year, it’s the Miami Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill leading the charge. The next, it’s the Buffalo Bills defense that will dethrone the Patriots. The New York Jets will … well, let’s just move on.
This year, the Patriots have to overcome Tom Brady’s four game suspension, so it’s inevitable that someone will use this fact to fuel more dreams of the Patriots yielding the division title. Yet, in the end, the Patriots will win, ending the dream once again.
Winner: New England Patriots
Denver could still win this division since they are so dynamic on defense; however, starting an inexperienced quarterback should come with consequences, right? It’s true that Denver’s quarterback play wasn’t that great last year, so forecasting that Trevor Siemian could perform at the same level isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Still, this is a pretty big gamble by the Broncos.
Oakland looks dangerous, particularly on offense, but they are inconsistent.
San Diego – hmm, no, which is too bad, because this is the one team in this division I can get behind.
It pains my soul to pick the Chiefs to win this division. I’m sure Alex Smith is a great guy who plays the game the “right way”, puts in the work, great in the locker room, etc., but I like quarterbacks who take chances and throw it deeeeeeeep; therefore, watching the Chiefs gut out three-point wins with Alex Smith passing up open receivers down the field to show off his five yard accuracy will force me to contemplate watching political experts break down the latest election poll.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
This division is Pittsburgh’s to lose. They have an explosive offense with one of the best big-game quarterbacks in the NFL. The defense is fast, and if the Steelers can improve their secondary, look out rest of the league. My main concern with this team other than its players getting suspended is Ben Roethlisberger’s health. With Ben, Super Bowl contender. Without Ben, not so much. In addition to Ben’s health, stay away from the illegal substances, fellas. For some reason, this really makes the Sith Lord Commish mad. Yep, really, really mad.
Is Joe Flacco elite? He is when throwing deeeeeeeeeep, so what did the Baltimore Ravens do last year? They left him with Steve Smith as the only legitimate deep threat. The stalwart defensive players from the 2013 Super Bowl team are either gone or slowing down to the point where they need replacing. (Hey, aging happens to everyone on earth.) The Ravens will improve this year, but they won’t really contend.
Cleveland Browns — Nope.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the safe pick for the division winner. Even if Andy Dalton goes down with injury, AJ McCarron can provide enough offense to win games, which is to say, he can keep the team out of the ditch while the defense dominates opposing offenses. Besides, doing well during the regular season and winning the division isn’t the hurdle for this team.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
The Houston Texans upgraded the quarterback position by signing Brock Osweiler, and at the very least, Head Coach Bill O’Brien will not have the headache of dealing with Ryan Mallett this year. How much of an upgrade is Osweiler, though? The Denver Broncos chose not to keep him, and in the NFL teams just do not let good quarterbacks go. Heck, they don’t even let mediocre quarterbacks go (see the NY Jets). The Texans have the offensive weapons, a solid defense, so they should contend, and If Osweiler plays well, they will win the division. For the record, I am betting against Osweiler being good.
After drafting Derrick Henry, the Tennessee Titans drew some criticism for seemingly returning to the “three yards and a cloud of dust” offensive philosophy. Why would they do this when the league has pretty much given quarterbacks a golden ticket to pass for 4000 yards and touchdowns galore? Well, dynamic running backs are still valuable; especially, with young quarterbacks still finding their way in the league. Unfortunately, even if the Titans improve offensively, they will still find it hard to climb out of the division’s basement.
Will Blake Bortles continue to improve? Can the Jacksonville Jaguars field a team that will challenge the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts? Bortles’ number one option is Allen Robinson, who caught 80 passes for 1400 yards with 14 touchdowns. The offense will definitely move the ball; however, like Bortles’ passing mechanics, they are not quite consistent enough to win the division.
With the rule changes favoring quarterbacks and offenses, the NFL has made sure that franchise quarterbacks are the gold standard for success. Teams with supremely talented defenses can win, but things are much easier with the franchise quarterback. Hey, passes and points are what the fans want, right? At the moment, the Indianapolis Colts possess the only true franchise quarterback in the division. As long as the Colts can protect Andrew Luck, he will make up for a lot of the team’s deficiencies.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts