Football is back! America’s new pastime is in full preseason mode. All 32 NFL teams must trim their rosters down to 75 players by August 30th. By September 3rd, each team must finalize their 53 man roster. The next couple weeks will determine the fate of thousands of players. Which team will put together the best roster? The American Football Conference (AFC) is made up of four divisions with four teams in each division.
The AFC East is made up of the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and New York Jets. Last year the Patriots won the division with a 12-4 record. They were led by their quarterback Tom Brady and current NFL Madden cover tight end Rob Gronkowski. But their Super Bowl championship run was deflated (pun intended) by the reigning champs, Denver Broncos. The Bills were 8-8 and the Dolphins were 6-10. The Jets had a great season last year with a record of 10-6 but missed the playoffs by virtue of a tie breaker. Look for the same scenario to play out again this season in the division. Despite the Patriots missing Brady for the first four games of the season due to suspension, their system and schedule won’t allow them to go worse than 2-2 in that stretch. The Jets will compete and play well but their quarterback situation of Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith will not allow them to win the division. Patriots repeat.
The AFC North is made up of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals won last year with a 12-4 record. The Steelers finished 10-6 and made the playoffs. The Ravens were 5-11 and the Browns were 3-13. The Browns have a new quarterback in RG III and a new head coach in Hue Jackson. They will improve about 3 more games but they nor the Ravens have a chance at winning the division. The Steelers will regress a little bit because of not having star running back Le’Veon Bell for the first three games because of a suspension. That only leaves the Bengals to repeat as division winners with a record of about 11-5. Quarterback Andy Dalton is still with the Bengals which will leave the fans wondering if he can lead them to the Super Bowl.
The AFC South is made up of the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans. This was the weakest of all the AFC divisions last year with the Texans winning it with a 9-7 record. They were the only team with a winning record. The Jaguars are the most complete team on paper and are young and talented. That should help them improve from 5-11 to 8-8. The Texans defense is back with JJ Watt leading the way. They added quarterback Brock Osweiler from the Broncos to finally give them the missing piece they needed. The Texans should win the division with a 10-6 record.
The AFC West is made up of the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers. The Broncos won the division last year with a 12-4 record. They went on to win the Super Bowl behind a stout defense and a game managing quarterback in Peyton Manning. The Chiefs started last season 1-5 before winning 10 straight games and making the playoffs. This season, the Broncos and Chiefs will battle for the top spot again. With both having strong defenses look for both teams to have the same 10-6 record. The slight edge in the tie breaker will probably go to the Chiefs because of having a proven quarterback in Alex Smith. I never thought I would say that, but it’s true. The Broncos will likely start a rookie in Paxton Lynch. The Raiders will play spoiler and will improve to a record of probably 8-8 or 9-7.
The AFC will be exciting to watch this year. Patriots, Bengals, Texans, and Chiefs will win their respective divisions. The two Wild Card teams that will make the playoffs will be out of the West in the Broncos and Raiders. The Texans and Bengals have legitimate shots at the AFC crown. However, the Patriots will eventually be the AFC Champions. Anytime they get punished by the NFL they take it out on the rest of the league. Either way, it’s great to have football back.