2018 AFC Preview

Today marks 4 days until the official start of the NFL season. We have Falcons and Eagles playing Thursday night with the rest of the NFL playing Sunday and Monday. Now that we’ve gone through the full preseason and final roster cuts, it’s time to look at how each team in the AFC will fare in 2018 and who will continue playing into the early months of 2019. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the NFC.

AFC East

I’ll start with the AFC East because it’s the easiest division to pick. Patriots will run away with this division as usual. Even if Brady goes down with a season ending injury, they have this division locked up. However, the Patriots do have a tougher road to the 1 seed this year, having to play the stacked NFC North and the solid AFC South. They also have to play the Steelers late in the season, which as usual, could decide the 1 seed for the AFC. With the rest of the East fighting for second, there isn’t much to talk about. I do think we will see the Jets be better than people expect. I think they will play very safe with Darnold at QB which will get them some wins vs lesser teams (Like the rest of the division). I also think the Dolphins could be halfway decent now that Adam Gase is purging the team of players that don’t fit his system. The Bills however, will be the worst team in the division. If they were in any other division in football, I’d guess that they’d win no games. I think the Josh Allen pick was horrible and it sets them up for mediocrity for the next few years. So, how will the final AFC East standings shake out?

Patriots: 11-5

Jets: 7-9

Dolphins: 6-10

Bills: 2-14

AFC North

We’ll head to the North next because it’s probably the second easiest division to pick. Although the Steelers lost Todd Haley and Leveon Bell has been holding out, they still have a potent offense. Big Ben apparently is in his best shape in years and with Haley gone, there will probably be less drama (Since he and Ben didn’t get along too well). Antonio Brown is still in his prime and Juju Smith-Schuster is primed to be the next big thing. Add in rookie James Washington and this offense will be as explosive as ever. However, this may be the last hurray for this Steelers squad. Ben doesn’t have too many good years left, Antonio Brown is 30, and Leveon Bell will likely be somewhere else next season. As for the rest of the division, I think the battle for second will be close. Each of the teams has some solid strengths and I think each actually has a chance to get a wild card spot. However, because they are so close in talent, I think they will beat up on each other, erasing the chance of any of them making the playoffs. Final standings:

Steelers: 10-6

Bengals: 8-8

Browns: 7-9

Ravens: 6-10

AFC South

The AFC South is a division that has a lot of debate surrounding it. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of articles, and I’ve seen people make legitimate cases for each team winning the division. I even saw someone predict that the Texans will make the Super Bowl. However, I think that this division is more decided than people think. The Jaguars are coming off an incredible season that saw them one quarter away from a Super Bowl appearance. And guess what: they got better. I actually like the Blake Bortles signing. Bortles was incredible for an important stretch of the season and looked good against the Steelers and Patriots in the playoffs. The Jaguars offense at times was predictable last year, which they could afford to do because of their stellar defense. However, Jaguars’ coaches said a lot of the predictability was because of a lack of trust in their young receivers. With more experience and the signing of veteran tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins plus the addition of Andrew Norwell, this offense is ready to be a factor. And of course, that young defense is more mature and experienced. As for the rest of the division, I think the Texans are the only team that has a chance at playoffs. The Titans have a first time head coach and a quarterback that hasn’t quite lived up to his potential. The Colts have their franchise quarterback back, but have plenty of other issues that will prevent them from being a contender. However, in order for the Texans to be a contender, they will need to stay healthy AND Deshaun Watson will need to basically be as good as he was last year, which may be nearly impossible to replicate. Final standings:

Jaguars: 13-3

Texans: 9-7

Colts: 7-9

Titans: 6-10

AFC West

For our final division, we look at the AFC West. Every year I want to pick the Chargers but I always hesitate because something always goes wrong for them. Either their kicker costs them games or they have injuries or they just start slow. And this year, they’ve already lost Hunter Henry and Jason Verrett for the season. However, with arguably the best pass rush in football with Bosa and Ingram and with Rivers, Gordon, and Allen leading the offense, this team may finally make their run. I’m also not sure if any team in that division is ready to challenge them. The Raiders are clearly already in rebuild mode, trading the best defensive player in football for two first round picks. The Broncos may have a more solid option at QB, but they still have plenty of holes that need to be filled. I think they should tear it down and go into rebuild mode as well. The Chiefs are the team that’s most ready to challenge the Chargers, but with Mahomes being young and inexperienced, they may be a year or two away from really competing with the Chargers. The Chargers also have a favorable schedule, putting them in the driver’s seat to snag a first round bye. Final standings:

Chargers: 11-5

Chiefs: 9-7

Broncos: 6-10

Raiders: 4-12

AFC Playoffs

So if you’ve been following along, the AFC final standings are:

  1. Jaguars
  2. Chargers
  3. Patriots
  4. Steelers
  5. Texans
  6. Chiefs

I have the Patriots beating the Steelers in that late season matchup, which gives them the 3 seed. However, I have the Chargers barely edging out the Patriots, giving them the first round bye. In the Wild Card round, the Patriots would host the Chiefs and the Steelers would host the Texans. Both home teams win handily against the inexperienced wild card teams. So, the Patriots head to LA and the Steelers visit the Jaguars. The Jaguars repeat last year and knock out the Steelers in the divisional round. The Patriots go into LA and beat the Chargers, knocking them out. However, the the Patriots quest for a third straight Super Bowl appearance ends there, as they go to Jacksonville and lose to a young Jaguars team hungry for revenge.

AFC Champs: Jacksonville Jaguars

Want to find out who the Jaguars play in the Super Bowl? Then make sure to read tomorrow’s article, where I break down the NFC and crown a Super Bowl champ.

-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)

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