The Cold Hard Reality For Every AFC Team
In the interest of full disclosure, I am tweaking a segment I saw a few years ago on Colin Cowherd’s radio show for this article. I will be summing up all of the AFC teams in eight words or less as we head into the new season. I like this because it forces brutal honestly.
Patriots- No Brady, no problem
Of the four games Tom Brady will miss, three are at home. You know Brady will be chomping at the bit when he comes back. They will dominate this division yet again.
Jets- Happy to have Fitzpatrick back
With Geno Smith, the Jets season may have gotten ugly fast. With Ryan Fitzpatrick signed, sealed and redelivered, they are a tough, fundamentally sound team that will flirt with the playoffs.
Bills- Stuck in neutral
They are not terrible, but there is not anything special about them either, particularly on defense. They were near the bottom in quarterback sacks last year and the cast of characters remains mostly the same.
Dolphins- Need more offensive playmakers
Much like the Bills, except their main issues are on offense. Questions about quarterback Ryan Tannehill will only get louder if the mediocre results continue.
Bengals- Early schedule is biggest enemy
They are still very good in terms of personnel, but at the Jets, at Pittsburgh, vs. Denver, vs. Miami, at Dallas, and at New England make a 1-5 start very realistic.
Steelers- Can they find enough defense?
Even though they may be without running back Le’Veon Bell for four games, they still have the best offense in football. The issue is the defense, particularly the secondary. The offense will have to put up 24+ points to win.
Ravens- Big rebound year ahead
Everything that could go wrong last year did. Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, and Steve Smith all had season ending injuries. A staggering nine of their 11 loses last year were by one possession. John Harbaugh is still one of the best in the business. He will have his team ready to bounce back. Be very afraid of Baltimore in 2016.
Browns- Constantly rebuilding
By the time the 2016 season opens, they will have nine different head coaches and 25 different starting quarterbacks since reentering the league in 1999. Enough said.
Colts- Luck needs some help
Name another top level player on the Colts apart from Andrew Luck. There isn’t one. Last year, Luck’s body finally broke down from carrying the franchise as he missed most of the year with various injuries. If they can finally find a way to protect their franchise quarterback, they can once again pull away with a bad division. They wisely rebuilt the offensive line this offseason. Only time will tell.
Texans- All in on Osweiler
This is very simple. The roster is not bad, but the shutout loss to Kansas City exposed the pathetic quarterback play that has hindered this franchise for years. If Brock Osweiler performs like the franchise quarterback they are paying him to be, they will be a force. Don’t bet on it.
Jaguars- Boom or bust
This is a tough one. With Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, and a few other sneaky good players on both sides of the ball, many folks think this could be a breakthrough year in Jacksonville. It is more of a hunch than anything, but I do not see a winning season finally returning to Jacksonville. I am just not sure how they will handle the expectations.
Titans- Searching for an identity
Here, you have a franchise that has basically started over in the last year or so. We know Marcus Mariota is the quarterback. That is about all we know. Bringing in running back DeMarco Murray was a nice move. His veteran presence will help in all areas. Again though, we do not know much about them. Are they a run or pass first team? Who are their leaders on defense? This year should be more about process than results in Tennessee.
Broncos- Well prepared for life after Peyton
As much as the rest of the world would love Denver to fall off a cliff, it is not going to happen. Despite legitimate questions at the quarterback position, there is too much talent everywhere else on the roster. It may look a little bit different, but Denver will keep winning. This is their division until someone takes it from them.
Chiefs- Not flashy, but always tough
There is not a team in this league I respect more than Kansas City. They have been the same ever since Andy Reid got there. Run the ball, play good defense, and don’t make mistakes. They are always a threat.
Raiders- Finally, hope at last
I think all the preseason playoff hype is a year early, but they have got tons of young talent. Derek Carr and Kahlil Mack fuel the optimism of Raider Nation.
Chargers- Relocation question hurting entire organization
Every day for the last two years, I hear more about the Chargers possibly moving to Los Angeles than the current players and coaches in San Diego. Thus, the on field product continues to decline.
Be sure to check back later this week when I tackle the NFC.