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NFL Season Outlook: AFC

With the return of the NFL, let's start by breaking down the AFC.

As+the+NFL+returns%2C+Tom+Brady+looks+to+continue+his+dominance+over+the+AFC
As the NFL returns, Tom Brady looks to continue his dominance over the AFC

As the NFL returns, Tom Brady looks to continue his dominance over the AFC

Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL

Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL

As the NFL returns, Tom Brady looks to continue his dominance over the AFC

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Now that free agency madness is over and the preseason is finally underway, football is back! With the return of the NFL, it’s time to look ahead into what awaits football fanatics: the regular season. Let’s take a look at each division and see who could be contending for a playoff spot. First, we’ll start in the AFC, specifically with the defending champions.

 

AFC East:

The AFC East looks like it’s pretty much a lock for the Patriots again as long as Tom Brady can throw a football and Bill Belichick can stand on the sidelines. To make matters worse for the rest of the league, the Patriots added Brandin Cooks, who offers Brady another legitimate wide receiver target on top of Edelman. Meanwhile, their defense should remain more or less the same despite losing Rob Ninkovich. The only real potential challenger to the Pats in the division was the Dolphins, but, with Tannehill out for the season due to a serious knee injury, that faint glimmer of hope for Miami is now gone. Speaking of not having a quarterback, Jets fans will find this season to be rather painful to watch, especially after cutting many veterans and losing their best receiver for the season in Quincy Enunwa. Good luck Matt Forte. As for the Bills, adding Anquan Boldin may help improve on last year’s record, but injuries hold them back. Tyrod Taylor, Lesean McCoy, and Sammy Watkins need to stay on the field for the Bills to push on from last year. Even if they stay healthy, the Bills still don’t pose much of a threat for the Pats.

 

Predictions:

Pats 13-3

Bills 9-7

Dolphins 5-11

Jets 2-14

 

AFC West:

This is probably the best division in football right now, or at least in the AFC. The Chiefs will look to regain their throne here, especially with their formidable defense. However, the problem here is the offense. What holds the Chiefs back right now is their limited surprise ability, but when they play aggressive and unpredictable football on offense, then they can play with the best. Their key there should be Tyreek Hill, who seems to be a likely breakout candidate. One obstacle standing in the way of the Chiefs is the Raiders. This Raiders team just got even better because of Marshawn Lynch. If Beast Mode is the real deal still, Derek Carr continues his upward trend, and Khalil Mack continues to dominate, then this team will cruise in the AFC and give the Pats a real challenge: luckily, for the Raiders, the only real if there is on Beast Mode. For this division to be a three horse race, the Broncos need their quarterback play to step up. Either Trevor Simien or Paxton Lynch needs to be just decent for this team to threaten for the AFC West, especially with that elite defense. Lastly, we have the Chargers, who should be ok, but injuries and defensive issues have held them back. The key for them will be a solid season from Philip Rivers, and an above average defense.

 

Predictions:

Raiders 12-4

Chiefs 10-6

Broncos 8-8

Chargers 6-10

 

AFC North

The Steelers should still own this division with the offense they have. Brown, Bell, and Roethlisberger, it’s just too much for any defense. Not to mention their own defense has been solid. The Ravens will find it difficult to improve on how they did last year, especially since Joe Flacco is already banged up, but their defense might hold them steady. Meanwhile, the Bengals need Andy Dalton to repeat his 2015 season for their offense to play well. If he can stay on the field then their offense can almost rival that of the Steelers. If they can keep their defense healthy too (Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict), they should be fighting for the division. As for the Browns, they need time for their draft picks to develop, and more pieces on both sides of the ball before becoming a contender for a playoff spot.

 

Predictions:

Steelers 11-5

Bengals 8-8

Ravens 6-10

Browns 3-13

 

AFC South

Last, but least, the AFC South. This is the worst division in the AFC. The Titans might be emerging as a solid team, thanks to progression from Mariota, but the rest of the division has big problems. The Texans have arguably the best defense in the league, but unless Deshaun Watson or Tom Savage produce at QB, they won’t be challenging anyone. Now, while the Texans need a QB, the Colts have one of the best in Andrew Luck. Unfortunately, they can‘t keep him upright, and their defense is shaky at best. Lastly, there is the Jaguars, who might be better than last season, but are being held back by Bortles and a below average defense. Unless running back Leonard Fournette turns into Ezekiel Elliott, don’t expect much from the Jags.

 

Predictions:

Titans 9-7

Texans 7-9

Colts 6-10

Jags 4-12

 

Overall, it looks like the AFC belongs to the Pats yet again, what a surprise. Although, the Raiders will try to have a say in who comes out on top of this conference. Either way, it’s fantastic that football is finally back.

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