NFL AFC Conference Previews
The teams will be listed in order of our projected finish in their conference. Here are the AFC previews.
American Football Conference
New England Patriots
Is time a factor for this team? Tom Brady may feel good to go for several more seasons, but will his body hold up through the grind of a football season. He did lead the league in pass attempts and yards at the age of 40. Another problem is there seems to be a rift developing between him and his head coach Bill Belichick. There is no viable quarterback replacement now the Garopolo was traded. However, this team is loaded until they say otherwise.
The Bills made a great decision last year when they hired Sean McDermott as their head coach. He made his first year a success in Buffalo with a 9-7 record and a playoff game. Tyrod Taylor was traded and AJ McCarron was brought in as the quarterback with a two-year contract as the team waits for draftee Josh Allen to prepare for his reign in Buffalo. He has a strong arm and may get a chance this season is McCarron falters.
The season was a disaster for head coach Adam Gase. It likely started when Ryan Tannehill went down with a knee injury for the season. He may not be the answer with a 337-40 lifetime record in Miami. They have 7-year veteran Brock Osweiler than can turn to in case of emergencies. Frank Gore will help this team in the running game but losing Ndamukong Suh on the defense will hurt.
New York Jets
In the previous three seasons, the Jets have gone through five quarterbacks. Now the mantle is passed to Sam Darnold that they selected in the draft out of USC. He will be mentored by 39-yr old Josh McCown which is a perfect situation for the Jets. Matt Forte retired and Isaiah Crowell was signed for $12M three-year contract away from the Browns.
The Steelers lost in the divisional playoff by allowing 45 points to the Jaguars. This caused consternation on the coaching staff so they devoted their offseason to improving the defense. Terrell Edmunds was selected and will be a safety for Pittsburgh. Returning for his 16th season will be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He put up a 300 yard passing season and became the only one in history to do it three times.Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown lead this team.
The Ravens haven’t lived up to their expectations as they have missed the playoffs three years in a row and four of the last five seasons. Quarterback Joe Flacco has a 38-36 record since his Super Bowl season of 2012. Lamar Jackson was their top selection in the draft and he will be sitting close to the coach and be ready to take over the quarterback duties. The rookie out of Louisville was the Heisman winner in 2016.Javorius Allen will be the primary running back and Michael Crabtree the top receiver.
After much drama, Marvin Lewis returns for his 16th season as head coach. this year he started by changing much of his coaching staff. The offense is in the hands of quarterback Andy Dalton. Joe Mixon will be the primary running back on this team but there is no clear top receiver on this squad.
Another season of one win per year is probably not going to happen. The management traded all their quarterbacks and brought in Tyrod Taylor to run the show but they drafted Baker Mayfield to be the quarterback of the future. They also got rid of several young players and brought in a group of veteran players. They claim to want a change of culture in the locker room.
Blake Bortles finally got the opportunity to shut some people up over his on-field play. He was still a tad inconsistent but that may come this season. Donte Moncrief needs to stay healthy on the receiving corps and Leonard Fournette is the big back, a big-play runner that gets the job done close to the end zone. Jacksonville selected receiver DJ Chalk to help the passing game.
Deshaun Watson has been the real deal at quarterback for the Bengals. Before he got hurt, he was on pace to throw 43 touchdowns passes. The Texans are hopeful he returns from ACL surgery to begin the season from the beginning. Another hope for them is getting the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt back to full strength.
The Titans have progressed rapidly from 3-13 just two seasons ago to winning and gaining a wild-card berth. Mike Vrabel came in as head coach and Marcus Mariota was selected and inserted into the starting quarterback position. Derrick Henry will get his chance to be the top running back with DeMarco Murray gone. In the draft, they select Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans to solidify the line.
The whole purpose in Indy is to build a team around quarterback Andrew Luck. General manager Chris Ballard has used all his resources to surround the talented QB. Marlon Mack will get plenty of carries and the short yardage stuff is the forte of Robert Turbin. At this time, there isn’t enough talent to compete.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs sent Alex Smith packing and entered into the era of Patrick Mahomes. Coach Andy Reid wanted the stronger arm of Mahomes. Smith had been really good in KC with a 50-26 record and a 65% completion rate. The ball will be handed to Kareem Hunt to ru as he is the type that could win an MVP this year.
Los Angeles Chargers
Let’s have all the teams play in Los Angeles. Formerly out of San Diego, the LA Chargers haven’t been able to get fan support. The team did win 8 of their last 11 games and Philip Rivers at quarterback just continues to pad his numbers. Melvin Gordon will return to attempt another 1,000 yards rushing seasons. Keenan Allen garnered 1,393 yards from the secondary and was an All-Pro selection.
In 2015, Peyton Manning took the Broncos to the Super Bowl. In the years that followed the team went 9-7 and 5-11. Those are steps backward. Case Keenum has been called upon by General Manager John Elway to be his quarterback with a two-year contract worth $36m. Fullback Andy Janovich will need to step it up to help Denver and Devontae Booker must see an improvement from 3.6 yards per carry.
The return of Jon Gruden has fans on the heads. Derek Carr will be his quarterback and he needs help. The management picked up Jordy Nelson, Matavavis Bryant, and Ryan Switzer for this help to add with Amari Cooper. In the draft, the Raiders selected left tackle, Kolton Miller. Look for a resurgence from tight end Jared Cook with Gruden as his coach.
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