Updated: Jul 6
Analyzing each AFC team, ranking them among their division, and predicting their record for the 2020 season.
1. New England Patriots: 10-6: It looked like the dynasty was over, but Bill Belichick being Bill Belichick, goes out and signs Cam Newton. This brings New England right back to title contenders. It will be a totally new offense with Newton at the helm, but it should help guys like Julian Edelman (who can no longer be double teamed), NKeal Harry (who will see more targets than Brady was willing to give him), and James White (who will not have such a pass only tell). The Patriots still have an elite defense as well. Yes, they lost a few guys, but they still have by far the best secondary in the league, and defensive lineman are almost interchangeable for Belichick. The Pats are right back where they belong: AFC East favorites.
2. Buffalo Bills: 9-7: The Bills were second to just the Patriots in the NFL last year as they gave up just 16.2 points per game. The problem was their bottom ten offense in the league, which scored just 19.6 PPG. Bills mafia are hoping for another step forward from Josh Allen, but no doubt the biggest move was trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Adding Zach Moss to their backfield should help a lot as well, especially in goal line situations. Look for him and Devin Singletary to take more of the carries that Allen had last season. This young Buffalo team is right in the hunt for the AFC East.
3. New York Jets: 6-10: The Jets put a lot of emphasis on helping Sam Darnold in the draft by taking multiple offensive lineman, and wide receiver Denzel Mims. Now, it is up to Darnold to prove that he is the QB of the future, and can lead New York to success. The Jets have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, and have significant question marks at receiver, pass rush, and secondary. With all the changes in the AFC East, the Jets are just doing their thing, which simply isn't good enough.
4. Miami Dolphins: 4-12: The Dolphins are doing their very best to become the Patriots — Ted Karras, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Eric Rowe — but they are far from being a contender at this point. They wisely are building up their pieces around Tua Tagovailoa. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still at the helm, but this is a very different team from last year. Last season they gave up the most points in the league, failed to score 20 ppg, and had the worst +/- in the NFL, so the floor is pretty low for Miami.
1. Baltimore Ravens: 12-4: As last year's best regular season team, the Ravens are a clear top two team in the AFC. Last year they had the NFL's best offense, and third best defense, and they honestly only got better this offseason. They heavily improved their front seven with the draft choice of Patrick Queen, and the signing of Calais Campbell. They also added weapons for Lamar Jackson. Whether the Ravens can win a Super Bowl is pretty squarely on if Jackson can replicate what he did last season.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7: Last year the Steelers lost their final three games, and had no consistency at the QB position, yet still managed to finish 8-8. Going into the 2020 season, they boast one of the league's best defenses as well. You really don't know what you're going to get with this offense though. Ben Roethlisberger and James Connor are huge question marks as to how productive they will be. They also have talent, but inconsistency at the wide receiver position.
3. Cleveland Browns: 7-9: Even with an easy schedule, and a good amount of talent, let's be honest here: it's the Browns! Having a new coach is always an adjustment, but simply put, the pieces are there for Baker Mayfield to succeed. They added tight end Austin Hooper, and boosted their offensive line as well. This offense has tons of talent. They definitely have the potential to be a playoff team, but this is a make or break year for Mayfield and his team.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-13: Freshly off arguably the greatest college football season of all time, Joe Burrow is back home. The first overall pick is the presumed future of the Bengals. The franchise hasn't won a playoff game in three decades, and it's going to take at least a few years to get them back in the postseason. The Bengals also drafted wide receiver Tee Higgins in the second round, so this offense has a bright future. For now though, the Bengals are looking like a prime candidate for another high pick.
1. Indianapolis Colts: 9-7: The AFC South is easily the most difficult division to predict, but I see the Colts squeaking this one out. They have made a ton of moves to improve their team. First, they went out and signed QB Phillip Rivers. Then they traded for DE Deforest Buckner. In the draft, they helped Rivers out by taking wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., and running back Jonathan Taylor. The Colts were middle of the pack in pretty much everything last year, but I see these moves pushing them into the playoffs.
2. Tennessee Titans: 9-7: The Titans are going to go 9-7, it's what they do best. They have had that record for four years in a row now. I know they went to the AFC Championship game, but that was the very maximum of their potential. I have always felt that Ryan Tannehill was under-rated, but now it has flipped in the other direction. There is no question that this offense revolves around Derrick Henry. He is one of the best backs in the game, but this is going to be a tough fight in the AFC South.
3. Houston Texans: 8-8: The Texans won this division two years in a row now, but a disastrous offseason drops them down. Head coach Bill O'Brien traded away superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for running back David Johnson, and then seemingly lost the respect of his entire team. No one knows how healthy Johnson really is, and the Texans rushing game was doing well enough (9th in the league in YDS/G). I still believe that Deshaun Watson is one of the best QB's in the NFL, but the Texans have to protect him much better if they want a shot at the playoffs.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-13: The Jaguars offseason strategy was basically to dump all of their good veterans. They traded Nick Foles, A.J. Bouye, and Calais Campbell, and would have done the same with Leonard Fournette if anyone had wanted him. Bottom line is: it's gnoing to be a long season in Jacksonville. By no means is Gardner Minshew the solution at quarterback, and in a division where every game matters for the teams above them, the Jags might just end up being the NFL's worst team.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 13-3: I don't usually predict teams to go back to back, but it's hard not to with the Chiefs. Their offense is just unbelievable, and the defense took a huge step forward last year, a large reason they won the Super Bowl. Barring an unanticipated disaster, the Chiefs should breeze to the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the world, and he has elite talent around him in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The Chiefs also drafted LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, making this offense even scarier.
2. Denver Broncos: 8-8: The Broncos were 3-8 before rookie quarterback Drew Lock took over the starting QB role, yet they finished the year 4-1 with him. Denver has put a lot of effort into building up their offense around Lock since. They took wide receivers with their first two picks of the draft (Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler), and signed running back Melvin Gordon. If Drew Lock can perform, then the Broncos offense might finally start catching up to their defense, and they will be tough to beat. That is a big if though.
3. Las Vegas Raiders: 6-10: The new team in Vegas was 7-9 last year, but they were still a -106. The way Jon Gruden and his staff have gone about the offseason shows that they think they are contenders, but I just don't see it. They reached on a few picks to select Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette in the draft, but those two are talented players. They also added cornerback Prince Amukamara this offseason. The problem is not the Raiders talent, but the very poor depth below them.
4. Los Angeles Chargers: 5-11: After an incredibly disappointing 2019 season, the Chargers are starting over. Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon are out, in is rookie QB Justin Herbert. The Bolts problem last season was not being able to win close games, and it might be the same in 2020. They still have talent on offense (Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry to name a few), but even with those guys, they had a below average offense. They will likely start the season with Tyrod Taylor at the helm, making matters even worse.