Will the Patriots go undefeated? Will the Jets go 0-16? Will Deshaun Watson be the next great QB? Were the Raiders pretenders? Can the Steelers make another Super Bowl?
Here are my 2017 AFC team predictions:
New England Patriots: 15-1
The reigning Super Bowl champions are poised for an even better season than their 14-2 campaign a year ago. On paper, this year’s roster is even better than last year with major offseason additions like Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore and Rex Burkhead to replace the departing Legarrette Blount, plus the Pats can rely on the return of a healthy Gronkowski. The recent retirement of long time Patriot Rob Ninkovich will weaken their linebacker core but this won’t have much effect on the overall team. If Tom Brady can avoid the Madden Curse the patriots should have no issue reaching their seventh straight AFC Championship game.
Buffalo Bills: 5-11
Unfortunately the Bills fell victim to a brutal schedule, with road games in Carolina and Atlanta and home games against the strong Raiders and Buccaneers, the Bills will take a step backwards in 2017. The offseason loss of Stephon Gilmore weakens their defence, pair this with an offence lead by middle of the line quarterback Tyrod Taylor and it seems they just don’t have enough talent to break through their very difficult schedule. With the recent trade of Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby the Bills seem to be accumulating as many high draft picks as possible to start a rebuild.
Miami Dolphins: 4-12
Things were looking up for the dolphins coming off of an impressive 10-6 season just a year ago, that all changed however with the recent likely season ending injury to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Having to turn to the services recently unretired Jay Cutler the Dolphins will have a disappointing season. Many of their expensive veterans such as Julius Thomas and Cameron Wake will begin to show there age. Miami’s defence, which was ranked 29th in yards allowed last season will struggle with increased field time. With some smart offseason moves the Dolphins can quickly turns thing around for next season.
New York Jets: 1-15
With a roster that rivals that of the 1-15 Cleveland Browns from last season, the Jets will struggle to earn even a single win. The Jets suffered major offseason losses like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as well Darrelle Revis. At this time, it is unclear who the starting quarterback will be week 1 of the regular season, with the options being career 18-42 Josh Mccown or the newly drafted Christian Hackenberg, who they hope is a good enough center piece to start the rebuild around. It will be a few seasons before the Jets are in the playoff picture again.
Oakland Raiders: 12-4
The Oakland Raiders are here to stay, well not stay in Oakland but you understand. They will match their impressive 2016 season with another 12-4 campaign. Led by recently signed star quarterback Derek Carr and his newly acquired backfield partner Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders offence will be potent. In order to make a deep postseason run the Raiders will need to sure up its defence which was ranked 26th in yards against last season, this could be accomplished with a trade at the deadline. With improved defence the Raiders will find themselves to be one of the league’s best teams.
Kansas City Chiefs: 10-6
The Kansas City Chiefs will take a small step back from their strong 12-4 season a year ago. The Chiefs are faced with a brutal schedule with road games against the Patriots, Giants, and Cowboys it also doesn’t help that they’re in one of the most balanced and difficult divisions either. The Chiefs have no shortage of talent on either side of the ball with Pro-Bowler Eric Berry on defence and star tight end Travis Kelce on offence. With competent quarterback Alex Smith returning they will make the playoffs again but won’t make it very far once they get there.
Denver Broncos: 9-7
Denver’s incredible defence will be spending a lot of time on the field this season will their below average quarterbacks and aging offence. A schedule packed with difficult out of division games like New England and at Oakland will result in a 9-7 campaign, matching their effort from the previous season. With an upgrade at quarterback, whether through trade or development of one of their prospects, the Broncos can quickly return to being a perennial contender. With good offseason signings of Ronald Leary and Domata Peko it’s clear Elway and the broncos plan to return to the playoffs next season.
Los Angeles Chargers: 7-9
Los Angeles’s newest team will improve on a shaky 5-11 2016 season, with 7-9 effort in its new home. With the continued improvement of reigning defensive rookie of the year winner Joey Bosa, the Chargers are slowly building a decent defence capable of competing with some of the league’s top teams. But with a rough offseason with very few signings of note the offence lead by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers will continue to struggle. Melvin Gordon will have another strong season despite his lackluster offensive line and Antonio Gates will show his age in his likely to be last season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-5
The Pittsburgh Steelers will continue to dominate there ever worsening division, putting up a 11-5 record that matches their total from the previous season. If key players like Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger remain healthy there record could soar even higher as they have one of the best schedules in the NFL for the upcoming season. With out of conference games against Minnesota and Chicago the Steelers can coast their way back into the second round with a chance to advance even further. The Steelers defence remains a concern, while the offence will get stronger with the return of Bryant.
Cincinnati Bengals: 9-7
The Cincinnati Bengals will once again return to the playoffs and once again will not get a win, making long time head coach Marvin Lewis a career 0-8 in the playoffs. Their strength in the coming season will undoubtedly be their offence with the addition of playmakers Joe Mixon and John Ross, the team will once again have a strong passing game lead by quarterback Andy Dalton who at times may hold them back with his overall ineffectiveness. Personality issues have plagued the Bengals for many years now and the won’t change this season especially with the addition of Mixon.
Baltimore Ravens: 8-8
The Baltimore Ravens will miss the playoffs for the third straight season, an uneventful offseason paired with the retirement of future hall of famer Steve Smith will lead to a woefully underpowered offence in a division stacked with offence. Difficult road games at Oakland and at Green Bay will expose the Ravens aging defence the does have talent but has been getting thinner and thinner with each passing offseason. 2017 will be the start of a long decline of the once thought of elite quarterback Joe Flacco and if they are smart, the Ravens will explore possible trade options soon.
Cleveland Browns: 3-13
Trust the process, the Browns will improve on an abysmal 2016 record of 1-15 with a record of 3-13. The offseason loss of Terrelle Pryor with hamper their offence but an improvement at quarterback from Robert Griffin to Brock Osweiler will help. Where Cleveland’s offence took step back their defence was improved with the resigning of Jamie Collins and drafting of Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers. Cleveland will most likely be looking to select a quarterback at the end of the year in a stacked draft and if they make a good choice this team could be good really soon.
Houston Texans: 9-7
Houston will continue to lead the mediocre AFC South, In a division filled with young quarterbacks, the Texans may have one of the best with draft steal Deshaun Watson. An improvement at quarterback might spark their offence filled with talented players like DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller. It was an uneventful offseason for their defence, one key loss is corner AJ Bouye, but the return of a healthy JJ Watt paired with the quickly improving Jadeveon Clowney will be a nightmare for any Offensive line. If Deshaun Watson pans out this team will be competing at the highest level soon.
Tennessee Titans: 9-7
Marcus Mariota will continue his development with a strong 9-7 season that just barely misses the playoffs. Coming off of his broken leg, Marcus Mariota will be aided by offseason pickup Eric Decker and his defence will be slightly improved with the addition of Corner Logan Ryan. A difficult schedule with home games against the Raiders and Seahawks and a game at Pittsburgh will test the Titans young roster and result in key loses. Overall it will be a season the Titans can learn and improve from and use as a motivation to break through into the playoffs next season.
Indianapolis Colts: 5-11
Coming off of an injury riddled season, quarterback Andrew Luck won’t be impressed with what he returns to. The colts addition of Kamar Aiken will do little to address the slowed production from veteran Frank Gore and T.Y. Hilton and the loss of Dwayne Allen. And with tough home games against the Steelers and Broncos and a game at the Seahawks the Colts will take a step back in 2017 to 5-11 from last years 8-8 record. It really is a shame how poor the team is for Luck to play because he is one of the NFL’s best.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-13
The Jacksonville Jaguars continued the annual tradition of overpaying for free agents will the most recent additions of A.J. Bouye and Barry Church. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, it takes an incredible team to overcome a poor quarterback and their roster isn’t good enough to win with the incompetent Blake Bortles at the helm of the offence. Fournette will help their almost non-existent running game but with a mediocre Offensive line he will struggle to get 1000 yards. With tough games against Seattle at home and away games at Pittsburgh and Arizona will result in a abysmal 3-13 record.
Game by game predictions: