2019 AFC Preview
Football season is basically here. Let's take a look at the interesting AFC landscape for the 2019 season to see who how each team will fare in their division.
New England Patriots (11-5) - Assuming Tom Brady is the same Tom Brady, the defending world champions have "it" to do it again. This offseason they lost Trey Flowers but replaced him with Michael Bennett. Their receiving crew can be a weakness but they have depth. Josh Gordon was reinstated which is good news. They're going to rely on first-round pick N'Keal Harry, when healthy, along with Super Bowl MVP Julian Edleman and Demaryius Thomas who are both in their 30s.
New York Jets (8-8) - The Jets brought in the two best free agents on both sides of the ball, L'Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley. They have a lot of talent on this team but lack depth all around. Sam Darnold should take a big leap in his second year after a promising rookie campaign. This year Darnold has a revamped offensive line and they added Jamison Crowder to a solid WR corpse that includes Quincy Enunwa and Robbie Anderson. The Jets have nice pieces and a great young QB but a tough early schedule will have them waiting one more year until they become real contenders.
Buffalo Bills (7-9) - Much like the Jets, the Bills have a great young QB in Josh Allen. They made nice moves in the offseason and still are a young team looking to take the next step. With an easy schedule, this is a great opportunity for a young team to get some wins and feel good about themselves. However, finishing the season against the Patriots, Steelers, and Jets will all but diminish any playoff hopes.
Miami Dolphins (4-12) - The recent fire sale shows this team must be in tanking mode, but is the "tank for Tua" mentality still going to be there after trading for QB Josh Rosen? Now with a promising young QB (also like the Jets and Bills), they can start to figure out the pieces around Rosen. However, maybe they should start him week 1 instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick to figure that out. First-year HC Brian Flores is going to realize this isn't New England anymore.
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) - They lost Antonio Brown and Le'veon Bell but could that be addition by subtraction? JuJu Smith-Schuster is ready to take the step as a No. 1 receiver and James Connor had 12 touchdowns last year which was more in a single season than Le'veon ever had. Mike Tomlin and Big Ben will use their experience and lead this team to gritty divisional wins en route to winning the AFC North, the best division in the conference.
Cleveland Browns (10-6) - Do you remember the 2011 "dream team" Philadelphia Eagles? It's very easy to fall into the trap of crowning this talented, young and inexperienced group champions in August. However, the Browns are way more talented than the 2011 Eagles and that's why they'll finish 10-6 and be playoff-bound as opposed to finishing 8-8. This team on paper looks like a 13-3 team. Freddie Kitchens has taken over the coaching realm and Baker Mayfield looks to take a huge jump in his second year at QB. Things are getting exciting in Cleveland for the first time in roughly 20 years.
Baltimore Ravens (8-8) - This is the team that won the AFC North last year at 10-6 even after going 2-4 in the division when it wasn't as good as it should be in 2019. Last year QB Lamar Jackson burst on the scene and ran them (literally) into the playoffs. Is Jackson running the plays (literally again) sustainable or will he take a step back in year two? Not to mention they lost C.J. Mosley, Za'Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle on defense this offseason while adding a 30-year-old Earl Thomas.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-11) - For the first time in 16 years Marvin Lewis is not the head coach of Cincinnati. Sean McVay's understudy Zac Taylor now has that position. This offseason the Bengals brought nobody in to get excited about and lost nobody to get upset over. The only interesting storyline for them this season is seeing if Andy Dalton officially plays his way out of town with a hurt and 31-year-old A.J. Green.
Houston Texans (10-6) - The defending division champs are the best team in this division, with or without Andrew Luck in it. Houston has enough star talent to repeat, even without Jadeveon Clowney. Deshaun Watson has become the type of QB you build a franchise around. The problem is he was sacked a league-high 62 times last year. With an improved line, Watson can feed the ball to Deandre Hopkins and newly acquired Kenny Stills. Lamar Miller tearing his ACL is a huge blow and hard to believe Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde make up for the loss with a still below average o-line, even after the improvements.
Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7) - Nick Foles was paid big time to replace Black Bortles. Foles has never panned out anywhere but Philadelphia but after a super bowl win you have to believe he will be better than he was in Kansas City and St. Louis. They're going to need Leonard Fournette to stay on the field and have a resurgence. Remember, this was a team in the AFC Championship two years ago. They're heading in the right direction by drafting the best edge rusher in the draft, Josh Allen, and the best offensive lineman available, Jawaan Taylor. Not to mention their defense is stacked.
Tennessee Titans (7-9) - A playoff team two years ago and one win away from it last year, the Titans are heading in the wrong direction. Does signing Ryan Tannehill ignite a flame under Marcus Mariota? They can rush the ball with Derrick Henry and will get solid defensive play to have them playing meaningful games in December. That's about it.
Indianapolis Colts (6-10) - Whether or not you believe in QB Jacoby Brissett, the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck will be too much for this team to overcome. Brissett has a much better team around him in 2019 than he did in 2017 when the Colts went 4-12 and Brissett started all 16 games. Brissett has the tools to be a nice starting QB in this league but 2019 will be a growing year, or more like a grieving year, for the Colts.
THIS WAS WRITTEN A FEW DAYS BEFORE ANDREW LUCK'S RETIREMENT- (10-6) - Their season depends on Andrew Luck's health and right now it's up in the air. Expect this team to stumble out the gate against the Chargers, Titans, Chiefs, and Texans. Assuming Luck is healthy he should go off into the playoffs after finding his niche just as he did last year when they became the third team in NFL history to qualify for the playoffs after a 1–5 start. They finished 10-6.
Kanas City Chiefs (13-3) - A team that was an offside call away from the Super Bowl and a young QB who's already an MVP. This team lost Justin Houston (Colts) and Dee Ford (49ers) on the defensive side of the ball, but did trade for Dwight Clark and signed Tyrann Mathieu, who's taking the throne in the backfield from longtime Chief Eric Berry. Let's not forget this team no longer has Kareem Hunt and are trying to recreate him with sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson and Damien Williams. They are still the best team in the conference.
Los Angeles Chargers (11-5) - Can Phillip Rivers still do it at 37-years-old? Will Melvin Gordon play a down for the Chargers this season? If both are a no than the Chargers are going to take a step back. You have to believe that one, if not both of those are true. They are star-studded on both sides of the ball and will be fine. Remember, this team last season could have been in the AFC Championship if they didn't have to travel over 3,000 miles to Foxborough to play a Patriots team with a worse record.
Oakland Raiders (7-9) - Jon Gruden has a plan but whether or not it's the right plan is yet to be seen. Antonio Brown has made more of a distraction than an impact with frozen feet and grievances to the NFL regarding his helmet. Two years ago Derek Carr was a hot preseason MVP pick and now it's not certain he's the Raiders QB of the future. If he can get back to the 2016 level when he led the Raiders to a 12-4 record, Oakland can be in a great position moving forward after having three first-round picks this past draft.
Denver Broncos (4-12) - For a team that four years ago that won the Super Bowl, it's going to be a season for first-year head coach Vic Fangio that will feel like a mile low instead of a mile high. Fangio will keep the defense solid with Von Miller alongside young stud DE Bradley Chubb (Prediction: Chubb will be the 2019 defensive player of the year). However, can QB Joe Flacco dive into the fountain of youth? Probably not, but you never know. Expect this team to be forced to see what they have in second-round pick QB Drew Lock by the second half of the season while they wait 'till next year.
Super Bowl prediction: Chiefs vs. Saints. Is that to cliché? Honestly, name a team in each conference you feel more confident about than these two.