Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Yes folks, the Patriots are once again Super Bowl Champions. They will win the AFC East for an eleventh straight season. But who joins them in the postseason, and what other AFC teams are Super Bowl contenders.
1. New England Patriots
There are two simple things that lead to the Patriots success. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Plus, I think their receiving group is actually really strong. They don't have Rob Gronkowski, but he was not himself last year, having to deal with so many injuries. They added Demaryius Thomas, drafted N'Keal Harry, Josh Gordon is back, and Julian Edelman is Julian Edelman: great hands, reliable, will get the job done. The Patriots have won the AFC East ten years in a row. They have been to the Super Bowl three straight years and four out of the last five. This is no longer a quest to be the greatest dynasty of all time, because that has already been completed.
2. New York Jets
Le'Veon Bell might be a bit rusty to start the season, but he is a great running back. I expect him to be used a lot in buth the rushing and passing games. If Adam Gase is smart he will shove the ball in Bell's stomach a lot, and let Sam Darnold continue to develop. Darnold is young, but he needs to cut down on the interceptions. The Jets don't have any huge name wide receivers, but they have a lot of variety at the position. Robby Anderson can blow by defenders with his speed, Quincy Enunwa is one of the more physical receivers in football, and Jamison Crowder is a strong slot receiver. Their defense was weak last year, but additions of C.J. Mosley and 3rd overall draft pick Quinnen Williams should help.
3. Buffalo Bills
Last season among qualifiers, Josh Allen had by far the worst QB rating at a dismal 67.9, he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns, and his completion rate was barely over 50%. I guess there is nowhere to go but up (or to become a backup). The Bills decided to give Allen some more weapons to throw to though, as they added John Brown and Cole Beasley. I am interested in how head coach Sean McDermott handles the running back position. They let LeSean McCoy go, but added veteran Frank Gore and draft pick Devin Singletary. I included Singletary in my fantasy football sleepers article, because he could be a huge surprise this season if he ends up the lead back for the Bills. A lot of that is due to their much improved offensive line.
4. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill is gone, Ryan Fitzpatrick is in. Fitzpatrick will have the starting job, but will have to fend off former Arizona Cardinal Josh Rosen. Right now, it appears that Rosen is the franchise QB, but Miami might ruin that thought if they go after Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or Georgia's Jake Fromm in this coming draft. The Dolphins don't have much talent, period. Kenyan Drake is over rated, he is not consistent, and is inefficient at gaining necessary yardage. Miami released their top wide receiver of 2018 in Danny Amendola, and are left with a bunch of average players at the position. Sports Illustrated said that the Dolphins opponents last year "produced more big plays than Broadway." That pretty much sums it up on defense.
1. Cleveland Browns
This team is loaded with talent, but there are still going to be many growing pains with a young QB, a new coach, and many players that have never shared the field together before. That said, I believe that Baker Mayfield will be an MVP candidate. Odell Beckham Jr. will help this entire offense, as he almost always will draw two defenders. Guys like Jarvis Landry and David Njoku should beneift from his presence even if they see less balls thrown at them. Nick Chubb is scary fast for a big running back, and when Kareem Hunt returns from suspension this offense will be even more dangerous. Their defense was poor last year, but they will improve in 2019. Denzel Ward is a great young corner, Myles Garrett is joined by Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson to provide a scary defensive line.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell are gone, and the Steelers can finally play without so much drama surrounding them. But don't get me wrong, those are two incredible players. JuJu Smith-Schuster will now draw the top cornerback, but that won't be a problem, he is an elite wide receiver. James Connor was good, and will improve this year after filling in for Bell last year. Ben Roethlisberger can at times be unstoppable, and other times be extremely inconsistent. He throws too many interceptions. This team, like Roethlisberger will look strong at points, and terrible at others. They won't be able to fend off the emerging Browns because of these inconsistencies.
3. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have one of the best defensive groups in the NFL. It is their offense that needs a ton of improvements. Everybody knows it, Lamar Jackson has got to start focusing on the passing game rather than the running game. That will not win him games. It hurts though when he doesn't have any great receivers. Their rushing game set franchise records last year, but their offense is way too one dimensional. In Jackson's seven starts he threw for at least 200 yards only once. He was 6-1 though, but he must be more well rounded next year. This team needs a lot of upgrades on the offensive side of the ball.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
For the first time in 16 years, Marvin Lewis is not the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are trying to copy-cat pretty much everything about the Los Angeles Rams, but the problem is that their quarterback is Andy Dalton. He is not going to lead a championship contending team. His receiver group is really talented. A.J. Green will have to work back from injury, but breakout star Tyler Boyd had over 1,000 yards last year. Tyler Eifert is a big question mark as his career has been filled with injuries.Joe Mixon also emerged last year, and should be near the top of the league in rushing yards this year. This is not a good defense though, and in general, not a very good team.
1. Houston Texans
I don't know if anyone in the league is happier about Andrew Luck's retirement than Deshaun Watson and the Texans. While saying that though the Texans lost someone of their own in preseason and that is Lamar Miller to a likely ACL tear. DeShaun Watson is a really strong quarterback. Last year he was the first QB ever to throw for at least 4,000 yards and rush for 500 yards. The Texans have got to protect him though. He was sacked an NFL high 62 times, and hit 126 times. DeAndre Hopkins is one of if not the best wide receivers in the game, and if their depth can stay healthy, this is a very deep wide receiver goup. The secondary is weak, and a loss of Jadeveon Clowney could hurt a lot, but they still have J.J. Watt. They've won this now very weak division three out of the last four years, and I don't see why they won't do it again.
2. Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota had a litany list of injuries last year. Whether that was the reason for his less than stellar play we do not know. On the positive, Derrick Henry emerged as an elite running back. This is going to be a run first offense, and that means it is going to be a Henry first offense. He had just 474 rushing yards through 12 games, yet miraculously finished the year over 1,000 yards. Dion Lewis is a strong backup. The titans made effort in bringing in wide receivers with the additions of second round pick A.J. Brown and the signing of Adam Humphries from Tampa Bay. The Titans have an excellent secondary, and will use what Sports Illustrated calls "The NFL's most schematically aggressive and diverse defense."
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
I see this team being in the middle of the AFC Championship game team in 2017, and the 5-11 team of last year. There are reasons for optimism for the Jaguars, and I believe the defense will bounce back. I might be eating my words later in the season, but I just don't think Nick Foles is at the level to be a starting QB in the NFL. It doesn't help that he might have the worst group of wide receivers in the game. They don't have any big name wide receivers, and are relying on new unproved tight ends to fill that position. Simply put, this offense should revolve around Leonard Fournette. He has got to stay on the field. If he plays close to 16 games, then the Jags really could contest for the playoffs, if he doesn't his option most likely won't be picked up, and it will be another rough season in Jacksonville.
4. Indianapolis Colts
This is what I wrote before Andrew Luck retired: It is time for someone to say it: Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Colts running game was mediocre last year. They lacked consistency, and turned the ball over too many times. Marlon Mack should get 1,000 yards this year if he can stay healthy though, and provide some stability. T.Y. Hilton continues to prove that he is an elite wide receiver. Eric Ebron was also very strong in his first year with the Colts. Indy added some more depth in the offseason with WR Devin Funchess, and at the draft with speedy wide receiver Paris Campbell. Indianapolis definitely could finish higher than fourth in this division, but without Luck, they will not contend for the playoffs.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs absolutely electric offense led to KC getting the first seed in the AFC last year, but they fell in overtime to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill form the most dangerous receiving duo in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes was insane in his rookie season. Over 5,000 yards, 50 touchdowns, and an MVP season. Yet despite all that, they could not get the job done. Andy Reid has been an NFL coach since 1999. He has won the NFC once, and never won a Super Bowl. In my mind, he has to prove that he can get the job done. This is one of the worst defenses in the league, period. They added a few guys, but last year finished 24th in points allowed, and 31st in total defense. The Chiefs better watch their back, as the Chargers are right on their heels in the AFC West.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
It seems that everyone has the Chargers as a sleeper pick to win this division, and then contend for the Super Bowl, and I can't disagree. While Melvin Gordon is a good player, if his holdout continues, it is not the end of the world for LA. Austin Ekeler is a very capable back. Without Gordon last year the Chargers went 4-0, and put up 31 points a game. He is asking for way too much money. Philip Rivers is getting a little too much hype though. Remember, he hasn't led this team past the second round since 2007, and the last time they won the division was 2009. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are a scary duo on the edge. The combination of a strong offense and defense shoul lead to success for the chargers in 2019.
3. Oakland Raiders
Antonio Brown showed up to camp in a hot air balloon, got frostbite, threw a fit over having to use a new helmet, and then threatened the Raiders GM. But, he is an incredible wide receiver. Derek Carr would have benefited greatly from having him on the field, and Brown would have opened up a lot for this offense. No matter what anyone says, his loss hurts a lot to this team. Last year, the Raiders traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, who both lit it up with their new teams in Chicago and Dallas respectively. The returns though led to Oakland having three first round picks in 2019. They drafted Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, and Johnathan Abram. There were a lot of other additions and losses to this team. Derek Carr is not as bad as people think. He should be more comfortable in the pocket this season, as there have been upgrades to the O-line.
4. Denver Broncos
Before last season, the Broncos had not had two consecutive losing seasons since 1972. I'm afraid that they're going to make it three in a row. They once again have a new head coach and a new quarterback. Joe Flacco is just not good anymore though, he couldn't keep Baltimore over .500, yet his replacement Lamar Jackson had a 6-1 record. I expect the Broncos, despite Phillip Lindsay's explosive rookie season, to spread out the ball more in the rushing game. Expect Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker to get more touches. They have some promising young receivers, but until they develop, this is a weak spot on their team. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are going to be a devastating duo. This defense should once again be very strong, and the Broncos will be tough to play against, but not competitive to win this tough division.