September 9, 2015

AFC 2015 preview

by Dan Bilicki In: Football

The NFL season kicks off Thursday night with the New England Patriots beginning their title defence after a summer of turmoil thanks to the idiotic Deflategate scandal.

The sad thing is that it’s not even in the past anymore and we’re likely to hear about every week this season. Debates will be had whether Tom Brady had any connection to it or not, but the question should be: Why do people still care? For all intents and purposes, it’s over.

There are some real questions that matter though: Can the Seahawks make it three straight trips to the Super Bowl? Will Roger Goodell finally be fired or resign? Will the Raiders, Rams or Chargers move to Los Angeles? Will Tim Tebow find his way back onto an NFL roster?

So without further ado, let’s breakdown the AFC for the coming season.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Bringing in Rex Ryan to coach should make a good defence even better. The real problem is the offence and it starts in a different place that you think. While Tyrod Taylor is a big question mark, it’s the offensive line that concerns me. If the Bills want to run early and often, that unit will need to open up holes for LeSean McCoy, who is already banged up.

Prediction: 8-8

Miami Dolphins

With Ndamukong Suh on board, this defence has a chance to leap into the top 5 in the league. Ryan Tannehill needs to keep the offence moving and should have a lot more help from an offensive line that has looked terrible for two years now.

Prediction: 9-7, wildcard berth.

New England Patriots

Brady’s playing, Gronk is healthy and Belichick is still coaching. There’s no reason to doubt that the champs will return to the playoffs and should also rap up a bye. The real question will be is if this Pats team will go into FU mode like the last time it was hit with a cheating scandal.

Prediction: 12-4

New York Jets

That defence is going to be the bane of a lot of fantasy teams and that offence is going to be easy to bet against most weeks. This should be Geno Smith’s finally shot and he hasn’t proven that he can handle a NFL offence yet. As Geno goes, so will the Jets and that’s not a great thing.

Prediction: 7-9

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

It looks like more of the same from the Ravens this year. The defence should continue to be stout, the offence will be able to run the ball and Joe Flacco won’t be flashy, but he’ll be effective. Even losing Torrey Smith won’t hurt that much with rookie Breshad Perriman becoming the new deep threat. But will it all be enough in this tough division?

Prediction: 9-7

Cincinnati Bengals

Even with A.J. Green hobbled with a toe injury for a stretch of the season, the Bengals still reeled off 10 wins and a wild-card berth. But it really seems like this is a team treading water and needs to actually win a playoff game to breakthrough. If it doesn’t happen this year, it might be time for a change, either at QB or head coach.

Prediction: 9-7

Cleveland Browns

At least last year there was a reason for hope with the Browns after drafting Johnny Football. Now, it’s just a team with a solid offensive line, decent defence and not much else. There might not be a more boring team out there.

Prediction: 5-11

Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s not usually the Steelers’ offence that stands out, but that will definitely be the case this season. With Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell, Pittsburgh has a chance to be one of the league’s best attacks. If the defence pulls its weight, there’s no doubt that this will be a dangerous team come January.

Prediction: 10-6

AFC South

Houston Texans

We all know how amazing J.J. Watt can be, so it’s a shame that he can’t play QB for the Texans. When your answer at QB is either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett, it’s a usually a question that you don’t want to ask. Arian Foster should miss the first month of the season also and we’re not sure how well he’ll play when he returns either.

Prediction: 8-8

Indianapolis Colts

The additions of Andre Johnson and Frank Gore could push Andrew Luck into the 5,000-yard club this season. In a soft division, the regular season should only serve as a warmup for a playoff run. If the Colts wrap up home-field advantage, it has a real chance of making Super Bowl 50.

Prediction: 13-3

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags are slowly working their way towards respectability, but we just don’t know if it will be this season. The jury’s still out on Blake Bortles, but having a bit better of an offensive line will give him more time to think. The defence should also improve as coach Gus Bradley implements his system.

Prediction: 6-10

Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota could be a franchise saviour, but the rest of this team is pretty “meh.” There are a couple of decent pieces on the defence, but with zero running game and a rookie QB, the Titans should be in a race for the top pick in the draft again.

Prediction: 3-13

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Could this be Peyton Manning’s final season? It really depends on how it all plays out, but he sure looked worn down towards the end of last season. The defence may have given up a bunch of points last season, but overall it’s a very talented unit. The real question is how the team changes with Gary Kubiak in charge and if he’ll start putting Manning under centre more and have him use play action off of his zone-blocking scheme.

Prediction: 11-5

Kansas City Chiefs

Will Jeremy Maclin encourage Alex Smith to actually throw the ball to his receivers, or will he be wasted in K.C.? We see it as settling into a middle ground, with the Chiefs throwing the ball a bit more, but not enough to really make this offence jump to the next level.

Prediction: 9-7

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have a sophomore who could take the leap and become one of the league’s top players at his position. It’s just too bad at it’s not Derek Carr. Khalil Mack is a force and should easily be a Pro Bowl player this season, but it’s the Raiders offence that’s a concern. While many are high on Carr, he needs to take more shots down the field after posting a very low yards per attempt last season.

Prediction: 5-11

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers were on the verge of a playoff berth last season despite having one of the most injury-riddled offensive lines in the league and a very average running game. Well, they address both issues in the off-season and now could challenge the Broncos for the division title. It would be a shame if they finally put things back together and then move the team to L.A.

Prediction: 10-6, wild-card berth.

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