The AFC is considerably less interesting than the NFC, at least as far as the top of each division goes. While it might be tempting to pick Baltimore to rise up and conquer the Steelers or to think the Jets are ready to make the next step and win the AFC East it probably won’t happen. This is a QB league and to go against the likes of Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger is nothing short of foolish. I’m not saying it can’t happen; it’s just not very likely to happen.
So what about the other two divisions? There is a little more drama here with Manning out for an indefinite amount of time and Kansas City coming off a division title in the West. Let’s settle the West first. KC is not winning again. Last year was a product of an improving team meeting the right schedule, specifically the easiest one in the league. This turns the West into another automatic. Philip Rivers is the king of the West and looks to assert his dominance again this season.
So that leaves us with one wild card division: The South. Indy still has a handful of superstars; their pride and surely a huge chip on their shoulder after watching everyone write them off at the drop of a hat this past week. Houston, the perennial pre-season contender has everything they need on offense. But they have been nothing if not soft over these past few years; can they ever turn it around and play kick-ass football? The Titans have a new coach, new QB and same O-Line / RB combo. Is it enough to turn their fortunes? Jacksonville is last with a newly anointed starting QB and a barley improved defensive secondary that got chewed up last year. Let’s see how it all shakes out:
- New England 13-3 – One of the most loaded rosters in the league can seemingly play any style of ball. Will the new D-Line be a force that takes them to the next level?
- New York Jets 12-4 – A solid team that fights for every yard. But they can’t best the Pats of a 16 game schedule without better Quarterback play.
- Miami 5-11 – Tough team returns but is the organization in shambles?
- Buffalo 5-11 – Ryan Fitzpatrick is who they choose to be their QB.
- Pittsburgh 13-3 – One of the easiest schedules in the league for one of the best teams.
- Baltimore10 -6 – With speed issues and O-line problems if any contender slips it could be the Ravens.
- Cleveland 9-7 – Ride easy schedule to dominating start before falling with four of last five games against the Steelers and Ravens. How does that happen?
- Cincy 1-15 – I don’t even think they are that bad, but how do you start a rookie second round pick at QB?
- Houston 12-4 – Count me in as a Wade Phillips believer. For one regular season at least.
- Tennessee 10-6 – Hasselbeck + dominant O-line = Easy Completions
- Jacksonville 4-12 – Tell me how they improved, then explain how they managed to win 8 last season.
- Indy 3-13 – Might be a few weeks of tough play before they realize they can never score more than 17 points. Are we sure Caldwell is an NFL calibre coach?
- San Diego 13-3 – Don’t go against Rivers. Most explosive passing attack in football could be in San Diego.
- Denver 8-8 – I like Fox to come in and give these guys an attitude. Additions of Dumervil (injury) and Von Miller (draft) will make this a ferocious pass rush.
- KC 6-10 – This is about how good they were last year. Count me out as a Haley believer.
- Oakland 4-12 – Any time you change your well liked coach and you are also the Oakland Raiders I am predicting you for 4 wins max the next season.
Wild Card Round: Pittsburgh over Baltimore, Jets over Houston
Divisional Round: Pittsburgh over San Diego, New England over Jets
Conference Championship: New England over Pittsburgh
New England over Atlanta