Since I went full on crazy old guy at the bus stop on the NFC I really should try to get some thoughts down on the other side of the NFL too.
It has to be the Patriots to lise really and barring some drastic injuries they should cruise into the playoffs. The rest of the AFC East is going to be fairly interesting though, not least because last year the Dolphins finished second after winning 9 games and they’ve gone through a huge transition period and may well struggle this year. The battle for second between the Bills and the Jets could be fascinating, they both have young QB’s and experienced RB’s but neither have particularly star studded O-line (Ryan Kalil is a classy veteran for the Jets but he may be injured and the Bills have bought in Super Bowl winner LaAdrian Waddle from the Patriots) so consistency may be an issue for both. Adam Gase has become the Jets new Head Coach and that could be where the Bills have an advantage, Sean McDermott may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he seems to have the knack of getting his players to believe and play for him whereas Gase seems to struggle with player management and he’s at his 3rd different team in 5 seasons.
The AFC West could be a one horse race with the Chiefs looking to be clearly better than their opponents, the Chargers are struggling with a Melvin Gordon hold out situation and their best player last season Derwin James has a broken foot at the start of the season and is out “indefinitely”. The Raiders have suffered through Antonio Brown’s erratic behaviour and generally concerning conduct all preseason so nobody is really sure how they’ll perform but it’s unlikely to have a positive impact on the team. The Broncos are a really interesting team, they’ve suffered terrible tragedy with the loss of Pat Bowlen after a long illness but they have a chance to write a new page in the teams history with Vic Fangio taking over as Head Coach. Fangio’s arrival should make the Defence a very tough prospect but how the Offence goes under Rich Scangarello with Joe Flacco at QB is very much an unknown quantity.
The AFC South looked like it was going to be the Colts to lose and then Andrew Luck retired, but they still have enough pieces to make a charge for the top and after some frantic trades the Texans look to be their nearest rivals. Jacksonville are being talked about as a challenger too but Doug Marrone seemed to completely lose control of the locker room last season and despite a few roster moves there’s nothing to suggest he’ll be able to keep a lid on it this season either. Added to that Cam Robinson seems to be persistently bothered by knee injuries which will seriously hinder the Offence even with a different QB. The Titans are this division’s mystery team, they could have a QB controversy early on or they could serenely progress although their tough schedule suggests they’ll struggle to make the playoffs this season.
The AFC North will be box office if you believe the hype, the Browns, Steelers and maybe even the Ravens could be battling it out at the top although I personally believe its the Steelers division to lose. Freddie Kitchens seems to be a bit too highly strung to cope with the sudden rise to Head Coach and there’s a lot of personalities to manage in his locker room. The Ravens look to be running a Colin Kaepernick-esque Offence with Lamar Jackson as Greg Roman takes the reigns but whilst Lamar is a physical stand out he may not be the intellectual power house Kaepernick appears to be and that could become an issue. The Bengals certainly appear to be in a transition phase but they do have some stars especially on Defence.
So I’m expecting the Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, Colts, Bills and Texans to make the playoffs