AFC Pre-Season Predictions

Posted: 09/02/2013 by levcohen in Football

Now previewing the AFC.

AFC East:

1. New England Patriots (12-4):
Even without most of their weapons from last year (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead, Aaron Hernandez are gone, and Rob Gronkowski is out for the first few weeks), the Patriots are going to win this division. The important thing is that they still have Tom Brady, and their running game this year is very underrated (I think the team will be top five in rushing yards and touchdowns). Plus, they play in a terrible division. They do play a tough out of division schedule, so I’ll give them four losses.

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8):
I don’t mind the Dolphins. I actually think they’ll be much improved this year, as Ryan Tannhill should be better and they signed Mike Wallace. Plus, Lamar Miller has big play ability and is now the full time back, and the defense is solid. I still don’t think they have the star power to win more than eight or nine games, though.

3. Buffalo Bills (5-11):
When you are starting an undrafted rookie in week one, you know your season probably won’t go very well. CJ Spiller is great, but he has never had a heavy workload and could easily get hurt this year. The defensive line is good, but I’m less sure about the secondary. There are just too many question marks on the team for me to endorse them.

4. New York Jets (4-12):
ESPN talks about the Jets too much, so I won’t talk about them at all.

AFC North:

1. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5):
The Bengals are just a good all around team. Last season, they were a 10 win team, and they added two big offensive weapons, in tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Both of those guys could end up starting this season, and the combination of Andy Dalton and AJ Green should only get better. The offensive and defensive lines are top shelf, and they allowed the eight fewest points and sixth fewest yards. I could see this team going 11-5.

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7):
The Ravens are being underrated by a lot of people. I’m not one of them. I think there defense will be just as good as last season’s, even with a lot of key parts moving out (let’s face it: Ray Lewis just wasn’t that good anymore, anyway). The offense is still suspect, but no more suspect than last year’s 10-6 team that won the Superbowl.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9):
The Steelers are rebuilding. There’s no other way to say it. Ben Roethlisburger is going to have to shoulder more of a load than ever with Mike Wallace gone and Le’Veon Bell already injured (they’ll be going with a very unappealing RB committee). That’s all well and good, until Roethlisburger gets hurt. I see a lot of 13-10 losses in the Steelers future.

4. Cleveland Browns (7-9):
I think the Browns will improve a lot, but they still are a year or two off from truly contending in the AFC North. In Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon, they have two dynamic offensive players. In Joe Haden and De’Qwell Jackson, they have the same defensively. I really like the Browns team, but they won’t win more than eight games, unless the Ravens and Bengals are worse than I expect.

AFC South:

1. Houston Texans (12-4):
Arian Foster’s injury is worrisome, but the Texans have the horses to withstand an injury to their running back (even though Foster has been the franchise cog for the last two or three years). Matt Schaub is an adequate quarterback, and he will be helped by the addition of first round draftee DeAndre Hopkins, who is a deep threat. The defense rivals the Seahawks and 49ers and should be one of the best in the NFL, led by non other than the amazing JJ Watt. Not to be overlooked is the return of star middle linebacker Brian Cushing.

2. Indianapolis Colts (8-8):
The Colts were the feel-good story of last year, with Andrew Luck leading the team to double digit wins and a playoff spot. I think this is an obvious regression candidate, though, because of the lackluster defense and terrible offensive line. The offense should be good, with Ahmad Bradshaw adding another dimension to the team. But I think they’ll regress.

3. Tennessee Titans (6-10):
The Titans really aren’t very intriguing at all, and I don’t see why anyone would watch their games, unless you are a Chris Johnson fantasy owner. To be fair, the offensive line is improved, and Jake Locker might make improvements. But I don’t see them beating last season’s record of 6-10.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11):
The Jaguars are leading an analytics boom in the NFL, and they are also the team that might move across the pond. So they are ahead when it comes to thinking outside of the box, but they are still way behind when it comes to personnel. I see them doubling last season’s win total, but not much more than that.

AFC West:

1. Denver Broncos (11-5):
The Broncos are being predicted by some as a 13-3 team, but I’ll be more conservative and give them 11. Their offense should be terrific, but I don’t see them having much more than an average defense, and I think they’ll need to have a top five or top seven defense for 13 wins to happen.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8):
The Chiefs are being pegged by many as the sleeper team this year. Of course, when a lot of people predict that, they can’t be considered a sleeper team anymore, so I won’t claim that. I do think they’ll be a lot better than the 2-14 they were last season, and should compete for a playoff spot.

3. San Diego Chargers (6-10):
Boring.. What do the Chargers have to get excited about? Phillip Rivers is no longer exciting, and neither is Ryan Mathews. They’ll get two wins against the Raiders, but I don’t see much else.

4. Oakland Raiders (3-13):
I don’t even know how the Raiders will win three games, because Terrelle Pryor is a bad quarterback and Darren McFadden is now a bad running back. Nine of their eleven defensive starters are new, and I don’t think any of them are particularly good. Oakland Raiders, meet Jadaveon Clowney. Jadaveon Clowney, meet the Bay Area.

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