NFL 2017: AFC Preview (Condensed)

image1

Tom Brady and the Patriots reloaded in the offseason. Does the rest of the AFC stand a chance?

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC East

New England Patriots – The Patriots won another title last season with a roster that wasn’t supremely talented. During this offseason, New England added significant upgrades on offense at RB and WR and on defense at DE and CB. Also, TE Rob Gronkowski returns after missing much of last year due to injury. It looks like the Brady-Belicheck combo will be the cream of the crop once again in the AFC. Although, it seems when the Patriots reload like this, they find a way to disappoint in the post season. We’ll see if this season will be different. Prediction: 15-1 (AFC East Champs)

Miami Dolphins – Miami made the playoffs somehow last season. But they don’t have much momentum going into 2017. It doesn’t help that they lost Ryan Tannehill to injury in training camp and had to replace him with a Jay Cutler they had to drag out from the announcer’s booth (Why didn’t they sign Kaepernick?). Positives: they found an answer a RB last season (Jay Ajayi) and they are pretty solid at the receiver positions. On defense, they have a tough front four and I like the offseason addition of Lawrence Timmons. Negatives: Miami secondary may be the down fall for this defense, yet again. And you’ll never know which Jay Cutler that you’re going to get. Prediction: 8-8

Buffalo Bills – Buffalo did Rex Ryan wrong and now they seem to be tanking. They traded their best WR and CB for draft picks. The Bills made a smart trade on draft day in April. Buffalo is stockpiling draft picks. It’s good idea but its not going to help them win 2017. I feel bad for LeSean McCoy who is wasting his talents up there. I’m interested in seeing how QB Tyrod Taylor will fair with limited weapons in the passing game. Buffalo has young talent on defense. I really liked Shaq Lawson from the 2016 draft. If he’s healthy, he’ll be impact player. Regardless, I don’t see many wins in Buffalo this year. Prediction: 5-11

New York Jets – The Jets are tanking. I hope it doesn’t cost head coach Todd Bowles who won 10 games in New York just two seasons ago. The Jets literally got rid of every veteran on the team except RB Matt Forte. The QB position is a disaster. What is josh McCown doing to keep finding work in this league? WR core? Garbage. They do have some promising talent on defense. It’s going to be an ugly year for the Jets. Prediction: 2-14

 

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers return with supreme talent on the offense between the QB (Roethlisberger), RB (Bell), and the WR (Brown). That, along with that over achieving offensive line, Pittsburgh should be able to rule the North again. What will stop them in the playoffs? If it isn’t the inability to stay healthy, it will be the lack of big plays from their defense. Losing and not replacing Lawrence Timmons at middle linebacker will prove to be a mistake. Pittsburgh is solid on the defensive line but they lack players in the secondary that can make big plays. But what they are really missing is an impact pass rusher. Can rookie T.J. Watt be that guy? Despite the questions, Pittsburgh should be New England’s main rival for the AFC crown. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC North Champs)

Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore quietly made some improvements this offseason especially on defense. I like the addition of S Tony Jefferson. They have solid veteran leadership in the secondary between him and Eric Weddle. Terrell Suggs returns for what maybe his final season. Look out for rookie Tyus Bowser to become a difference maker off the edge on this defense. Baltimore’s defense will keep the Ravens in a lot of games but they have serious questions on offense. It feels like everyone has been waiting for 2012 Joe Flacco to return and it just hasn’t happened yet. It would help if he could get some consistency from his supporting cast. Maybe WR Jeremy Maclin can help. The success of this season for the Ravens will be up to if the offense can finally figure itself out. Prediction: 8-8

Cincinnati Bengals – Cincinnati again brings a talented roster to the table but their undisciplined nature seems to be their undoing. I like Marvin Lewis but how does he still have a job as he continues to vouch for Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict? On offense, the Bengals need Andy Dalton to stay healthy because he has a great collection of skill players around him, highlighted by WR A.J. Green. The Bengals have a talented defense led by DT Geno Atkins. But I think their immaturity will hold them back. They might push Baltimore for second place in the division. Prediction: 8-8

Cleveland Browns – Same as it ever was for the Browns. QB questions. Young talent on both sides of the ball. Seasoned veterans. Cleveland just can’t seem to put it all together. But this season could set the table for some success down the road. The Browns will see what they have in rookie QB DeShone Kizer right out of the gate. First round pick Myles Garrett will receive tons of playing time as well and he has impressed in the pre-season. I will be interested in seeing how Cleveland does with this current crop of young talent. I’m a believer in Hue Jackson. Prediction: 6-10

 

AFC South

Tennessee Titans – I’m buying into the Titans this season. They impressed a season ago and they may have made the post season if QB Marcus Mariota doesn’t get hurt late in the season. Tennessee has a good mix a RB with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, a great offensive line, and they added weapons in the passing game. Once the defense figures itself out, they could become a contender in the AFC. But for now, I think they’ll be good enough to win the AFC South. Prediction: 10-6 (AFC South Champs)

Houston Texans – Houston has made the playoffs in two straight seasons. I would say this is mainly because of their defense. In 2015, in was all about J.J. Watt. In 2016, while Watt was injured, it was all about Jadeveon Clowney. Who knows what this defense will be capable of with both Watt and Clowney in the line-up. Houston has a legit starter at RB (Lamar Miller) and a legit number one receiver (DeAndre Hopkins). What they don’t have is a legit starting QB. Could it be the returning backup Tom Savage or the rookie who just won a national championship, Deshaun Watson? Either way, I’m expecting more big things from the defense in Houston. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Indianapolis Colts – I feel like the majority is expecting nothing from this Colts team, which makes them kind of underrated. But they still have plenty of issues. Issues number one: the health of Andrew Luck. I expect Luck to start out on the PUP list (6 Games) so they are going to have to roll with Scott Tolzien. Good thing for Tolzien, the best player on the team is a WR (T.Y. Hilton). The defense is full of cast offs from another teams. I think a lot of teams will sleep on Indy and for good reason. But I don’t think they’ll completely stink. Prediction: 7-9

Jacksonville Jaguars – Jacksonville should have been the team that brought in Colin Kaepernick. The jig up for Blake Bortles. The Jaguars actually have promising talent on both sides of the ball. It is clear that the QB position is holding them back. It’s too bad, I guess. I really like what they have on defense. But it wont be enough to make up for the shortcomings offensively. Jacksonville will likely be drafting a new QB early in the draft next April. Prediction: 4-12

 

AFC West

Oakland Raiders – The Raiders had a great 2016 season that was derailed by Derek Carr’s injury before the playoffs. Now, Carr returns to a team that is ready to take the next step and win the AFC West. Oakland is set up pretty well offensively. I think Marshawn Lynch’s return to the NFL wont have as much as an impact as some people may want to but at the least, he’ll serve well as a weapon in the red zone. Outside of their front four, I’m still worried about the defense especially in the secondary. Prediction: 12-4 (AFC West Champs)

Denver Broncos – Denver suffered through a Super Bowl hangover last year but I think they can rebound in 2017. I still like what their defense brings to the table. Von Miller is one of the best players in the league. I’m not sure how far this offense will be able to take them under the command of QB Trevor Siemian. But the Broncos have plenty of weapons at the skills positions on offense. They still have a stacked WR group led by Demaryius Thomas. Also, remember this name from out of the backfield: sixth round pick RB DeAngelo Henderson. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid has won 10+ games in Kansas City 3 out of the 4 seasons as head coach. And in the one season he didn’t, the team still finished over .500. I think that impressive streak will come to an end this season. The Chiefs are in the process of pushing out many veterans on the roster and that turnover will affect their chances to compete in the AFC West. Alex Smith will be feeling the heat all season from the first round QB they selected in April, Patrick Mahomes. The offense will feature TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreke Hill but Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin are both gone. They do have a great defense to lean on but that group is starting to age. This will be a down year for the Chiefs. Prediction: 7-9

Los Angeles Chargers – I absolutely hate the Chargers move to LA. It stinks to the high heavens. It stinks for the NFL. As for the team, they could be a sleeper in the AFC West if they can stay healthy. I feel like you could say that every year about this team though. Phillip Rivers returns for yet another season where he will see his WR core suffer through many injuries. At least he still has an aging TE Antonio Gates to go to. It would be nice if RB Melvin Gordon can continue the success he had a season ago. I think the story from this team this year will be the emergence of DE Joey Bosa as he will become a defensive star in this league. Between Melvin Ingram and Bosa, the Chargers could have the best pass-rushing duo in the division. It would be cool to see this team grab some success while they still have Phillip Rivers but I don’t see it happening. Prediction: 6-10

 

AFC Playoff Picture Prediction

  1. New England Patriots – 15-1 (AFC East)
  2. Oakland Raiders – 12-4 (AFC West)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers – 11-5 (AFC North)
  4. Tennessee Titans – 10-6 (AFC South)
  5. Houston Texans – 9-7 (Wild-card)
  6. Denver Broncos – 9-7 (Wild-card)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s