A lot has happened this offseason that has changed the look of the AFC. The question is have these changes done anything to help some of the teams that were at the bottom of the league last year? Here are the 2019 AFC predictions:
The AFC North has a completely new look now that the Killer B’s: Ben, Bell, and Brown, have been split up in Pittsburgh. After many years of struggling, it looks like the Cleveland Browns are the favorite to rule the North. The Browns added dynamic receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as well as running back Kareem Hunt who will join the team after an eight-game suspension. Don’t let this team distract you. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still Big Ben, and with the help of receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner the Steelers will still plan have plans of making the playoffs. The third team in the North is most likely to be the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens had a breakout season after a quarterback change introduced rookie Lamar Jackson. Now that some film is out on the second year QB it will be interesting to see if he can keep up his magician-like escapes. The last team in the North is the Cincinnati Bengals who have progressively gotten worse ever since their close loss to the Steelers in the wildcard round a couple of years ago.
The AFC North isn’t the only division that looks very different. Although quarterback Tom Brady is still at the helm of the New England Patriots, he is without big man tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired at the end of last season. Still, without Gronk, it looks as though the Pats will continue to dominate the east. With a major change at running back the New York Jets are looking do some damage with former Steeler Leveon Bell. The team also has a young quarterback in Sam Darnold, who has the potential to be a franchise guy for the Jets. The Bills and Dolphins both have very underwhelming rosters. The Dolphins did “solve” their quarterback problem by trading for Josh Rosen, but many other positions still need help.
The AFC South was the one division that looked like it would look relatively like last year, until this past weekend when within an hour of each other the Texans lost their starting running back for the season and the Indianapolis Colts lost their franchise quarterback for good. Running back Lamar Miller tore his ACL this weekend and Colts QB Andrew Luck announced that he would be retiring from the NFL. These two changes have left the South fairly open. The Texans are the most likely to take the number one spot due to their powerful offense and dangerous pass rush. The Colts and Jaguars will be the ones fighting for the second sport as quarterback Jacoby Brissett with be the Colts starter and the Jags added Super Bowl 52 Champion Nick Foles to the roster. As of now, the Marcus Mariota led Titans will probably finish in the bottom spot due to a lackluster defense and a question of faith in Mariota as a starter.
The AFC West has the best chance of being a close division. With the Chargers and Chiefs being high scoring teams last year behind the experienced Phillip Rivers and the young talent Patrick Mahomes. It is the Chargers that have the best chance now that the chiefs have lost their starting running back Kareem Hunt and receiver Tyreke Hill has been in some legal trouble. The Chargers have the superior defense and a potent offense which gives them the edge. The Oakland Raiders have a very interesting team with newly acquired receiver Antonio Brown and a veteran quarterback in Derrick Carr. The Broncos will more than likely ride the caboose this season due to their lack of skilled players, past Phillip Lindsey, on offense.
The AFC will more than likely depend on how well Mahomes does in his second year as a starter, and also on if Brady can continue his miraculous ageless play. The Chargers are always a contender, but if they can’t work out a deal with running back Melvin Gordon than it will be very difficult to make the playoffs. The best bet out of the AFC will be the Houston Texans.