2019 AFC Preview

With the NFL season opening up on Thursday, it’s time to look at my predictions for how the AFC will play out this year. Make sure to look for my NFC preview tomorrow. Without further ado, let’s look at the AFC!

AFC EAST

New England Patriots: 11-5

New York Jets: 8-8

Buffalo Bills: 6-10

Miami Dolphins: 2-14

The Patriots are kings of the east once again, with no one looking to challenge them. Their early season schedule is very favorable, and as long as they take care of business on Sunday night against the Steelers at home, they could be looking at a 7-0 start. After that, they face a rough stretch, facing the Browns, Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, and Texans five games in a row. However, a weak division ensures that the Patriots will still get at least 11 wins, though don’t be surprised if we see them get to 12 or 13. As for the Jets, I expect them to make a huge leap this year. Certainly not division champion leaps, but I expect them to be competitive. I expect Darnold to take a huge step forward, especially with an offensive head coach like Adam Gase. I’ve never been too high on the Bills, and I don’t think they did a ton to improve this offseason. The Dolphins are a complete mess, and giving them two wins might be generous. I like the move to trade for Rosen, but the moves they’ve made in the past week show that they are stockpiling for the future, not trying to win now.

AFC North

Cleveland Browns: 10-6

Baltimore Ravens: 9-7

Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7

Cincinnati Bengals: 2-14

I think this division is one of the most interesting in football because there are so many unknowns: can Juju be a true number 1? Will the pressure of the hype get to the Browns? Can Lamar Jackson take a leap forward as a passer? Ultimately I think this division is a blood bath, with each of the top three teams constantly beating up on each other. However, I think the Browns plethora of talent and stud QB will put the Browns over the top. The Ravens will continue to win with good defense and a strong running game, and could snag a wild card spot. The Steelers will still be a solid offensive team and should be able to get to 9 wins thanks to that offense. The Bengals however are a huge question mark. They started off pretty hot last year before losing Andy Dalton. Hiring Zac Taylor, who’s from the Sean McVay coaching tree, could prove to be a good move. If his offensive prowess is anything like McVay, then the Bengals could be an interesting team. If Taylor works out, then I wouldn’t be surprised if all four teams are around .500 at the end of the season.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers: 13-3

Kansas City Chiefs: 12-4

Denver Broncos: 5-11

Oakland Raiders: 2-14

Last year, the Chargers and Chiefs had the same record and split the head to head matchup, so they were neck in neck. I expect the same thing to happen this year, however, I give the Chargers a slight advantage. Why? Because the Chiefs have to play the Patriots (at Gillette) while the Chargers get to play Miami. I like the Broncos hiring of Vic Fangio and I expect their defense to still be a top 10 or even top 5 unit. However, I don’t think Flacco really makes them any better on offense, which I assume will be their big weakness. As for the Raiders, I don’t think they really have any strengths, and I don’t think much of Gruden at all. I really think their cap this year is 4 or 5 wins.

AFC South

Houston Texans: 10-6

Jacksonville Jaguars: 9-7

Indianapolis Colts: 7-9

Tennessee Titans: 5-11

Possibly the most unpredictable division in football. I’ve seen legitimate reasons as to why each of these teams is poised to win the division. Ultimately though, I give it to the Texans. Even though they mortgaged their entire future on Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, they upgraded a huge weakness: their offensive line. If they can protect Deshaun Watson, then their offense is going to be a lot of fun, with Watson, Duke Johnson, Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee. The Jaguars were still a top 5 defense last year, so with a more competent QB, I expect them to bounce back. However, this offense isn’t nearly as good as the Eagles offense, so don’t expect to see the Philadelphia Nick Foles. As for the Colts, if they still had Luck, then I would’ve picked them to win. However, even with Brissett, I still expect the Colts to be competitive. As for the Titans, I don’t like this team at all. I think they are average to below average at every position, so I don’t expect them to make too much noise.

So if you’re keeping track, the playoff seeding will look like this

  1. Los Angeles Chargers: 13-3
  2. New England Patriots: 11-5
  3. Houston Texans: 10-6
  4. Cleveland Browns: 10-6
  5. Kansas City Chiefs: 12-4
  6. Baltimore Ravens: 9-7

Houston will play Baltimore and the Browns will play the Chiefs. I have Houston and KC each winning. So, the Patriots will play the Chiefs and the Chargers will play the Texans. I think the Chiefs will get revenge on the early season loss to New England and edge them out while the Texans will lose to the Chargers. This gives us an AFC Championship game of Chiefs vs Chargers. However, I give the win to the away team because the Chargers always manage to choke in big games.

AFC Champion: Kansas City Chiefs

Make sure to read tomorrow to see who the Chiefs will face in the Super Bowl, as well as predictions for all major awards!

-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)

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