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AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

We continue our eye test predictions with some of the average to above average AFC teams. Here’s my AFC eye test predictions: 9-5.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

The fact that Andy Dalton does not turn the ball over nearly as much as he used to is obviously a plus, but he’ll never be more than average. If he wasn’t a red head, would we look at him differently? Probably, but he’s only had one season with at least 30 passing touchdowns, and that came with 20 interceptions. It seems like the window has closed for the Red Rocket and this Bengals team after only winning six games last year.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5
Has the window closed for Andy Dalton and the Bengals? (cbssports.com)

Let’s start with some positives. A.J. Green is elite and will continue his big time play. Tyler Eifert has shown that he is a top-tier tight end. The addition of John Ross is cool, even though there is no way he ran a faster 40 time than CJ2K.

As far as the running game, Jeremy Hill isn’t great, and Giovani Bernard, a wannabe Darren Sproles, is coming off a torn ACL. Drafting Joe Mixon is interesting because he could turn into a quality running back.

Hill and Mixon could be a nice 1-2 punch, knocking out defenses and making head coaches lose sleep. Although these backs have potential, they won’t have enough offensive line help. Losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zietler is a devastating blow to the offense.

The Bengals defense could keep this team afloat. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are studs. Vontaze Burfict is really good, but we all know he will find a way to get suspended with an illegal hit. As far as the secondary, if it’s 2017 and Pacman Jones is your best corner, there is a clear problem. Dre Kirkpatrick got paid this offseason, so it is time to deliver.

Cincinnati is travelling the second lowest amount of miles this year, which is a good sign, but this team won’t win more than eight games. In a tough division with an average quarterback, a bad offensive line and a weak secondary, the Bengals will continue to be the Bengals.

8. Baltimore Ravens

Is Joe Flacco elite? Well, he was during that one Super Bowl run, but besides that, he is just a decent quarterback. With Flacco set to be back by week one, the Ravens should be in decent shape, but do they have enough on offense?

Marshall Yanda is one of the best guards this game has seen, but losing starting offensive tackle Ricky Wagner is a shot to the heart. Terrance West told fantasy owners to scoop him, so maybe we should trust him? Danny Woodhead is the king of grit, but recent injuries are obviously concerning.

Jeremy Maclin looks to be the clear number one, and maybe Mike Wallace will continue to produce. But, is Breshad Perriman good? The former first-round pick is dealing with a hamstring injury and has been out of practice for a while. Dennis Pitta’s unfortunate injury and release from the team leaves a question mark at tight end.

Brandon Williams, the NFL’s highest-paid nose tackle, has shown his ability to perform, but besides him, the rest of the defensive line is sketchy. Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley are obviously dope, but the Ravens also lost Elvis Dumervil and Zach Orr.

The brightest spot on this roster is probably the secondary. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are arguably the best safety combo in the league, and the addition of Brandon Carr is massive.

Still, I don’t see this team making a playoff run. There are too many questions on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense lost some crucial names. The Ravens are in talks with bringing back Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah, but even with his addition, the offensive line is not too pretty. There is no way this team wins the division, but eight wins is definitely possible.

7. Miami Dolphins

Jay Cutler is back baby! Ryan Tannehill’s injury is obviously painful for Dolphins fans, but do we understand that he only threw 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and the team still won 10 games? Tannehill is basically just a worse version of Alex Smith. The only reason Miami should be upset is because we probably won’t be seeing Lauren Tannehill on television.

Real quick, just wanted to let everyone know that no one is getting disrespected more in this situation than Matt Moore. Moore is 15-13 as a starter and showed last year that he can win with this team. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins consider rolling with him after a few weeks.

Nonetheless, Miami has decided to go with Cutler. The mainstream media has told everyone hundreds of times that Cutler will be good since he is reuniting with Adam Gase. The problem is, Cutler has never really been that great. No one cares about how good his arm is and how he moves well outside of the pocket, the dude is 34 and has only made the playoffs once.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5
Don’t sleep on Jarvis Landry emerging as a top receiver (billboard.com)

Still, Cutler is joining a really good roster. Jay Ajayi cleared concussion protocol and looks to be ready to go. Ajayi is coming off a huge year, in which he had over 1,200 rushing yards, including three games of at least 200 yards on the ground.

Jarvis Landry is probably the most underrated wide out in the game. Kenny Stills is a great deep target, and DeVante Parker has shown potential of being legit. Julius Thomas’ reunion with Adam Gase could be special.

The loss of Branden Albert hurts the line, but Laremy Tunsil’s move to left tackle could be a good one. Hopefully Mike Pouncey can stay healthy for the entire season as well.

Whether you respect him or not, Ndamukong Suh is a beast. Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes and first-rounder Charles Harris should all be key factors in slowing down the opposition’s running game. Byron Maxwell is a good fit in Miami, and Reshad Jones, who is coming off a major injury, looks to get back to his 2015 Pro-Bowl self. Veterans Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso will also be important in making sure the Dolphin’s don’t end up the 30th ranked defense again.

As you can see, this roster is full of talent. Unfortunately, Cutler and the Dolphins will fall just short. The most games Cutler has ever won is 10, which was done in his age 27 and 29 season. At 34, I can see Cutler helping this talented team to eight or nine wins, but nothing more.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

“GO CHARGERS GO” *Arnold Schwarzenegger voice*. Just like in the 2013-14 NFL season, the AFC West will be sending three teams into the playoffs. Philip Rivers is awesome and is going to be a Hall of Famer. Although he threw a lot of picks last year, River is a savvy vet and has never had back-to-back years with at least 16 interceptions.

After not scoring a single touchdown in his rookie season, Melvin Gordon decided to be good at football again. During his sophomore campaign, Gordon had 12 total touchdowns. Their offensive line isn’t great, but you should still expect Gordon to eclipse his first 1,000 yard rushing season.

The Chargers expect this year’s first-round pick, former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, to be back in October. Williams will join Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin, both guys who can make serious plays. Antonio Gates is somehow still in the league, and his successor, Hunter Henry, played really well last year.

Jason Verrett is back, and Casey Hayward sneaky led the league in interceptions last year. Coming off winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Joey Bosa will man possibly the best defensive line in football. Melvin Ingram’s conversion from linebacker will be electric, and Brandon Mebane is back working with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, which is a huge plus.

Look, the defense is good. Philip Rivers is still a top-tier quarterback, and once Williams is healthy, the offense could be special. Even with a relatively hard schedule and a lot of miles to travel, the Chargers will win nine games and sneak into the playoffs.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

If you don’t love Andy Reid, you probably don’t like football. Since taking over as head coach in 2013, Reid has led the Chiefs to four straight winning seasons, including a 12-win season a year ago. The year before Reid was the coach, the team managed to only win two games. What do you expect when Matt Cassel is your quarterback?

Since Alex Smith took over, the team is 43-21. Alex “The Game Manager” Smith, won’t wow you with his stats, but his ability to keep his team in games by not turning the ball over is good enough to generate wins. The last time Smith had double digit interceptions was seven years ago. He has yet to lead a team to a Super Bowl, but he deserves a bit more credit.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5
The Tyreek Hill magic will continue in KC (kansascity.com)

Although their offensive line is young, they are good enough to help move the chains. Eric Fisher has shown improvements after many people were skeptical about the former number one overall pick.

As far as running the ball, we should see a mix of some solid backs. When Jamaal Charles went down last year, Spencer Ware was able to rush for almost 1,000 yards. Charcandrick West is a nice spark off the bench, and Kareem Hunt could be one of the biggest sleepers this year.

With these three heads, along with Tyreek Hill mixing in a few big runs, expect a productive rushing season for Kansas City.

With Maclin gone, Hill should step into that number one receiver spot. All this kid does is make big time plays. Travis Kelce, although somewhat of a diva, is one of the best tight ends in the game. When the Chiefs won 11 games in 2013, Jamaal Charles was their leading receiver, so don’t worry too much about losing Maclin.

If Justin Houston can stay healthy, this defense will be an absolute force. Veterans Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are getting up there in age, but will still remain productive. Losing Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard hurts, but the emergence of Chris Jones should give this team one of the best front seven units in all of football.

Eric Berry is a legend, both on and off the field, and Marcus Peters is among the top corners in the sport, but after these two stars, there is a slight drop-off. Still, these guys are good enough to keep teams from testing them. The last time the Chiefs weren’t a top 10 defense, in regards to points allowed, was back in 2012, before Reid took over.

The defense is legit, Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the game, and Alex Smith keeps the offense on the field. This is at least a 10-win team.

 

Featured image by arrowheadpride.com

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