The first week of the 2019 NFL season kicks off tomorrow. Before the first kickoff, some playoff predictions must be locked in. After yesterday’s NFC postseason projections, here are the playoff predictions for the AFC.
AFC East: Patriots (13-3)
Yes, Tom Brady and the Patriots will win their division for the 11th consecutive season. Is this really a surprise though?
In a division consisting of the Dolphins, Bills and Jets, New England will take hold of the AFC East with ease. Although, the Jets have made key additions to improve their team immensely, Tom Brady will outplay Sam Darnold each time they face off this season.
In addition, the reigning Super Bowl champs look more athletic now then they have in their last three seasons. With former First-Team All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon reinstated, Brady’s void in Rob Gronkowski retiring has been filled. Plus, with the defense’s depth and versatility in the hands of Bill Belichick, it is only a matter of time before they express dominance.
AFC West: Chiefs (14-2)
Last season, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm. After passing for over 5,000 yards along with 50 touchdowns, the QB earned himself the honor of 2019 NFL MVP. In his second year as a starter, Mahomes will lead his team to another division title.
The Chiefs took a blow to their offense last season when Kareem Hunt was released after lying about a situation that occurred at a Cleveland hotel. Due to this, the running back position was a concern for the team heading into the 2019 season. But recently, the Chiefs signed running back LeSean McCoy. Paired with Damien Williams and an abundance of offensive weapons, the Kansas City offense will continue to show out.
Furthermore, the Chiefs front office addressed their defensive issues that were highlighted last season. With the additions of edge rusher Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu, the team looks to be much more complete than last season, which ended with a trip to the AFC championship game.
AFC North: Steelers (11-5)
Over the course of the offseason, the Cleveland Browns have become the favorites to win their division. But, with the best coach and quarterback in the division, the Steelers will be the team to take the AFC North.
Earlier in the offseason, the Steelers lost wide receiver Antonio Brown via trade and running back Le’Veon Bell to free agency. But, even with the absence of these two stars, the Steelers will prosper. James Conner, the running back that filled in for Bell in 2018, rushed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. To add on, the pro-bower caught 55 passes for 497 yards and a touchdown. Behind an elite offensive line, Conner with have another big year.
As for the loss of Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster will fill in as the new WR1. With 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, Juju earned the honor of team MVP in 2018. The wideout will do more of the same in the coming campaign.
With a great coaching staff, well-put-together offense and an up-and-coming defense, the Steelers will reclaim the AFC North.
AFC South: Texans (10-6)
The Colts were originally the favorites to win the AFC South. That was before the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck just last week. Now, the Houston Texans will take the division for the fourth time in five years.
Recently, the Texans traded away Pro-Bowl pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney. But even with the loss of the outside linebacker, the Texans have three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt on the other side.
In addition, the Texans have added left tackle Laremy Tunsil. DeShaun Watson was sacked more times than any other quarterback last season. With the addition of Tunsil, that number should go down, giving Watson more time to get the ball to arguably the best receiver in the NFL DeAndre Hopkins.
In a struggling division, the Texans remain the top team. Houston will once again will the AFC South.
Wildcard 1: Chargers (11-5)
The Los Angeles Chargers may have more depth than any other roster in the NFL. But, with the Chiefs in the division, the Chargers will come up short of taking the AFC West.
With running back Melvin Gordon expected to hold out or be traded, the Chargers running game will be suspect. To make matters worse, safety Derwin James has been placed on injured reserve after having foot surgery.
Still, the Chargers have a talented team and good coaching staff. The team will finish second in the AFC West and clinch a wildcard spot.
Wildcard 2: Browns (10-6)
The Cleveland Browns will finally make the postseason after years of losing time and time again.
Although the Steelers will win the AFC North, the Browns have too much talent to not make the playoffs. Even with a rookie head coach, the team has shown signs of improvement since early last season. After making some great offseason moves, the Browns are now a playoff contender.
With an improving Baker Mayfield and outstanding receiving corps, Cleveland will have a winning season for the first time since 2007 and take the second wildcard spot in the AFC.
Featured Image Credit: Chiefs.com