NFL: AFC Season Preview

It’s time for another season of the wonderful fall pastime of football. This year’s AFC will be even crazier than last, with three-quarters of the conference involved in Football’s version of an arms race. Let’s go over the 16 teams vying for the Lamar Hunt Trophy.


Cleveland Browns

Cleveland’s predicament is the definition of a no-win situation. If they are good, it’s because they are employing a scumbag of a quarterback who gives Wander Franco a run for his money. If they are bad, subtract the bragging rights and bring up the same talking points. They are easily the most hated team in the AFC this year, surpassing the Chiefs and Cowboys, and their division rivals will be jumping for joy if they falter yet again this year.


Pittsburgh Steelers

This team is still rebuilding. In my opinion, they overachieved on their way to a 9-8 campaign last year thanks to their opponents either being incompetent or injured to hell and back in the case of Baltimore. Their defense, while looking shaky at times last year, is formidable, and should give Kenny Pickett and co. the insulation and time to develop into studs. While I expect them to take a slight step back, they’ll still be competitive.


Baltimore Ravens

This team angers me. What I see is untapped potential at every corner. The last two seasons have played out the same way. They get off to a great start, Lamar is all over the highlight reels, the defense plays great, and then everyone gets injured, and they sputter into an embarrassing end to their season. This year’s team leaves more questions than answers. Will Lamar finally live up to his hype? Will the defense stay healthy enough to perform as advertised? Will their young receiving core take that next step to greatness? Time will tell, but this season could be very telling as to this organization’s future.


Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are going to be good this year and I’m going to hate it. They turned a lot of people against them last year with how much they talked before getting stifled at Arrowhead, and far fewer people will be rooting for them this time around. Regardless, they are still a top contender in the AFC. The real question is with Joe Burrow. He injured his calf in training camp and could be out as long as 5 weeks. Their backup is Jake Browning. That’s enough for some Cincy fans to panic. Relax, it’s only a few weeks, you’ll be fine. Unfortunately.


Houston Texans

After gloriously choking away the first overall pick due to their head coach wanting a job next year, last season’s tank of tanks is looking to take a step forward this year. They did end up getting one of the top quarterbacks in the draft in C.J. Stroud and traded up immediately afterward to pick a potentially generational defensive talent in Will Anderson. This will be the true test for the Texans in development. In years past, players of this caliber have either flopped miserably or have been revealed to be total scumbags in the case of Deshaun Watson. Losing their best defensive player from last year to Buffalo doesn’t help, either. It’s going to be a long year.


Indianapolis Colts

To say last year was a trainwreck for Indy would be like calling the eruption of Krakatoa a minor disturbance. This team is going to be awful. In addition to reaching in the draft for a volatile project of a quarterback in Anthony Richardson at 4th overall, they also completely ignored his status as a project and named him the week 1 starter, because everyone knows the key to developing young signal callers is to chuck them to the wolves the minute they enter the league. Even worse, Jonathan Taylor, the only thing that was keeping their offense anywhere near relevant, is angry about his contract situation and the Colts’ treatment of his injury and wants out. 31 other teams were salivating at the chance to trade for him, but Irsay, in typical fashion, demanded way too much for him and all potential deals fell through. The only reason to watch this team will be to see how they compete with the Texans for the basement. Shameful.


Tennessee Titans

After last season’s disastrous collapse that saw them miss the playoffs after starting 7-3, the Titans will be looking to rebound. Ryan Tannehill is back, along with a new threat at wideout in Deandre Hopkins. While he’s past his prime, he can still be a reliable weapon to throw to. Their running game needs no explanation, and their defense is one of the stouter units in the league. Unfortunately, last year showed us that this team is very mortal and prone to collapse, so I don’t see a playoff berth in their future this year, especially in that murderer’s row of an AFC.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Last year was a tremendous step forward for Jacksonville, and they’ll be looking to add to that this year. Trevor Lawrence is a stud, and their defense has quietly rebuilt into one of the best units in the league. While I disagree with the people who think they’ll be the #1 seed, I still think what they have is enough to win that pathetic division they’re in.


New York Jets

This is the most excited the Jets fan base has been for a season in a very long time. Last year showed much promise, in between the offense being unable to function for most of the 2nd half of the year. That defense is stacked, though, and Aaron Rodgers is hopefully the answer at quarterback that they’ve been looking for since Sanchise. Unfortunately, this is the Jets, and they can have no nice things. In typical Jets fashion, they will probably butt-fumble away every opportunity given and miss the playoffs again. Followed by trading Rodgers to Minnesota to complete the Favre arc.


New England Patriots

This might be the weakest Patriots lineup I’ve seen in a very long time. Mac Jones looked highly suspect last season, the defense turned itself into Swiss cheese, and the special teams decided that imitating a Monty Python sketch would be a good idea in a must-win game. Of course, with Belichick under the headset, they’ll be a threat, but how much time does he have left? A washed-up Zeke won’t fix all of their woes on offense, and new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien won’t help matters either. Pats fans, you deserve this failure. You’re one of us now, boys, and you will be for a while to come. Welcome back to the basement. We kept the seat warm for ya.


Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were one of the major players in this off-season’s arms race, and their fans are perhaps the most optimistic they’ve been in 10 years. On paper, this team is stacked. Good quarterbacking plus a stout defense should be competitive in that division. However, the question lies in whether they stay healthy, specifically Tua. I’m of the opinion that if he gets another concussion, he shouldn’t play a down of football again. If he gets hurt, it could completely rank their season. Skylar Thompson does not inspire confidence.


Buffalo Bills

My first instinct, just like every other year with this team, will be to proclaim them Super Bowl champs before a game has even been played. While I’ll undoubtedly be shouting that from the rooftops, this Bills team is one of the more volatile bunches to be assembled up there over the past 6 years. Will Josh Allen live up to the hype? Will the defense stay healthy enough to be dominant? Will Sean McDermott’s old-school style translate to playoff success? They realistically have about 3 more years until their true championship window closes and they’re in cap hell. The grace period was over a long time ago. Strike while the iron is hot, boys. My sanity depends on it.


Denver Broncos

The good news about the Broncos is that with what happened to them last year, there’s almost nowhere to go but up. The bad news is, well, last year. Sean Payton is at the helm there now, and he’s wasted no time tearing apart the previous coaching staff for their flaws. Even with a much-needed culture change, the Broncos can still have no nice things. Their entire wide receiver core is in the infirmary right now, some for the season. It’s gonna be a long year. Just keep it competitive against KC, will ya?


Las Vegas Raiders

After last year’s abysmal failure, the time was right for the Raiders to blow it up and start over. In a feigned attempt at staying competitive, they have brought in Jimmy Garoppolo to throw ducks to opposing defenses and pull some more Orlovskys in the endzone. This team is going to be horrible once again this year, and Mark Davis might actually be able to afford to fire Josh McFraud this time. I can’t wait.


Los Angeles Chargers

The redheaded stepchild of the NFL is coming off their most embarrassing loss in franchise history: blowing a 27-0 lead to a team that had only won 3 playoff games in their last 20 years. Brandon Staley is still around, for reasons I don’t know, to continue to bumble on the sidelines pretending to be an analytical savant. The Chargers will continue to waste Justin Herbert’s career, and they did next to nothing in the offseason to fix their mangled mess of a defense. Poor Herbert. Poor Joey Bosa. They deserve better than this.


Kansas City Chiefs

Hooray, another year where the Chiefs are considered the frontrunners for the AFC, what a shocking turn of events. Let me put on my stunned face. Yay. The Chiefs are returning most of the same faces on offense, but their suspect defense took a massive hit this offseason. Chris Jones, their most talented pass-rusher, is angry with his contract situation and is deep into a contract holdout. At this point, who knows if he ever plays a down for the Chiefs again. Jones will command a good deal on the open market, and it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out for both him and Kansas City. Popcorn season is in session. Bring it on.


Playoff Predictions

In terms of playoffs, much like last year, the divisions are cut and dry. The only real division in contention is the East, which I see going to the Bills. As for the rest, it will be the North to the Bengals, the South to the Jags, and the west to the Chiefs. Wild cards, different story. There are a lot of fine suitors for these three spots, but I see them going to Miami, the Chargers, and the Jets. Yes, the Jets. I know, sacrilege. It’ll be very interesting to see how this conference shakes out this year. Play ball.


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