With the NFC division previews done, I turn my attention to the AFC. Life has got in the way of me doing a division by division break down, so I am going to take a look at the entire AFC, starting with the AFC East.
|Tom Brady (Photo from wbur.org)|
|EJ Manuel (Photo from thescore.com)|
The Buffalo Bills made the big splash in the 2013 draft, trading back to pick 16 to select quarterback EJ Manuel to be the guy to lead them into the future. I think the pick was fantastic. He has a little bit of Cam Newton/Ben Rothlisberger in him and should be a solid quarterback in the long run. Losing guard Andy Levitre to the Titans was a big blow and the young Buffalo line might struggle this year. Running back CJ Spiller is a big time option at running back. This man should have defences losing sleep the night before they play the Bills. Selecting Robert Woods from USC in the draft should help give Manuel options in the pass game. The Bills are moving to a 3-4 under new coach Doug Marrone and the front 7 should be solid with Mario Williams moving back to line backer and Manny Lawson being brought in to rush the passer. Buffalo's secondary is one of the better ones in the league with safety Jarius Byrd back to anchor it. Look for Buffalo to be a legitimate threat to push for a wildcard spot but to fall short. (Editor's note: Jeff Tuel)
|Mike Wallace (Photo from miamiherald.com)|
What a mess taking place in New York, as the men in green are going to be very bad this year. Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez will struggle this season with no weapons in the passing game or the ground game to help them. Second year wide out Stephen Hill is the biggest weapon for this team, and he has been very inconsistent at the very best, and the running back situation is dire since all of their running backs going for the starting job should be back-ups. The defence - after losing Revis in the offseason - drafted his replacement in Dee Milliner. He may be a good replacement in time, but the drop off from Revis to Milliner will be quite noticeable. The defence should be the bread winners of the team and the only unit that will keep this team in games. Expect Jadeveon Clowney in the gang green next year, they could be the first overall pick. (Editor's note: Please don't let the Jets get Clowney)
In the AFC North I expect the Cincinnati Bengals to reign supreme over the division, largely coming back in tact from last years squad, but with some noticeable improvements on offence. With the drafting of tight end Tyler Eifert and the selection of running back Giovani Bernard on offence, it gives the Bengals plenty of options for the Red Rocket Andy Dalton to have at his disposal to go along with all world wide out AJ Green. The front 4 of the defensive line is probably the best in football, lead by stud Geno Atkins. Expect them to wreak havoc week in and week out. The line backing core is sound and lead by thumpers Vontaze Burfict and import from Pittsburgh James Harrison. The secondary is a solid unit as well. Keep an eye out for Leon Hall - vastly underrated and deserves more recognition than he currently gets.
|Trent Richardson (Photo from thefantasyprofessor.com)|
The Pittsburgh Steelers are only going to go as far as their defence can carry them. On offence, they will be solid but unspectacular. They really need rookie Le'veon Bell to show up and really give them something out of the backfield for the black and yellow. Big Ben Roethlisberger doesn't have Mike Wallace or Heath Miller to throw to this season, so Matt Spaeth and the wide receivers will really have to step up. Look for recent draftee Markus Wheaton to be a big part off this offence from the slot position. Jarvis Jones will be a huge boost to this defence, giving them a lot out of the linebacking spot. Expect him to take incumbents Jason Worilds' spot away by Week 4. The secondary will absolutely need a healthy Troy Polamalu to step up and be the game changer that he can be. Ike Taylor is one of the better cornerbacks in this league.
|Joe Flacco at Super Bowl XLVII (Photo from baltimoresun.com)|
the AFC West, this division is the Denver Broncos to lose. With Peyton Manning at the head of the team, expect a deep playoff run - possibly even a Super Bowl birth in the card for the Broncos. The
offence for the Broncos is a Top-3 offence in this league, with
Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker as all of the weapons
on the outside for Peyton for which to throw. The offensive line is solid
and the recent drafting of Monte Ball at running back gives even more
weapons to an offence that is not lacking at all. The defence
is going to sorely miss Elvis Dumervil, and losing Von Miller to
suspension for the first 6 games of the season will absolutely hurt,
but the offence should be good enough to cover up for 6 weeks until
he gets back. As long as the secondary doesn't give up a 60 yard pass
play in the playoffs again to lose at the last minute, the Broncos
should be the team to beat here.
|Peyton Manning (Photo from nydailynews.com)|
|Jamaal Charles (Photo from thenewstribe.com)|
New coach Mike McCoy is in town in San Diego, but can he turn Phillip Rivers back into the quarterback he was 3 years ago? The offence for the Chargers has so many questions. Can Antonio Gates come back healthy? Will the offensive line stop letting Rivers get hit constantly? Can Ryan Mathews finally break out and become the running back the Chargers expected him to be.? My answers are: yes, Gates will be healthy and effective this year; no, the line will not protect Rivers; and Mathews will be out of a job next season after not showing anything again this year. Poor Rivers; he deserves better. The wide outs for him are just average at best as well. The defence shouldn't be too bad this year with the additions of Dwight Freeney at line backer and Manti Te'o. Eric Weddle is one of the best safeties in the league that very few credit with such, and Corey Liuget is a solid all around linemen for the Super Chargers. Expect another higher end draft pick for the Chargers.
The Oakland Raiders are rebuilding plain and simple. The offence has very few weapons outside of Denarius Moore and the always injured Darren McFadden. The quarterback position is a mess with neither Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor impressing anyone. I expect Pryor will start most of the year just so the Raiders can see what they have in him. Expect Teddy Bridgewater to Oakland in the draft. The defence does have some talent especially in the back end with Charles Woodson making his return to the black and silver. First round pick DJ Hayden will be a stud.
|Arian Foster (Photo from fatbeardsports.com)|
|Andrew Luck (Photo from helmet2helmet.com)|
The Tennessee Titans are still building up for a run at a playoff spot next year. They are a couple of big weapons away from being a legit playoff threat. The big thing for the Titans is the growth of Jake Locker. He is going to need to step up and stop turning the ball over and even just be a game manager because of the running game they have. Chris Johnson is always a threat to top 2000 yards, especially with the offensive line being upgraded at the guard position with the addition of Andy Levitre from Buffalo and Chance Warmack in the draft. Kenny Britt will have to stay healthy this year for Jake Locker to make any strides in his career. The loss of Jared Cook Jr to St. Louis will hurt. The Titans have a really solid underrated defence. Middle line backer Colin McCarthy is a tackling machine, and the corners are solid and underrated.
|Blaine Gabbert (Photo from nfl.si.com)|
So that is it with my brief look at the AFC. Stay tuned for the Sports By Schmucks NFL Season Preview Podcast with our predictions for MVP, Rookies of the Year, Conference Winners, and the Super Bowl champion.