Previewing the AFC ahead of the kickoff of the 2022 season


A little bit take a look at how I see the AFC taking part in out within the 2022 season. The anticipated data are based mostly on every staff’s particular person schedule.

AFC East

Buffalo Payments: 12-5

The Payments are the oddsmaker’s favourite to win not simply the East division however all the convention. It’s simple to see why, too. Buffalo has a legit MVP candidate in QB Josh Allen and several other strong weapons for him to work with. The strains are each strong and the younger secondary has promise. The Payments aren’t with out their flaws and it’s going to be very attention-grabbing to see how Allen performs with out sensei Mind Daboll, who’s now teaching the Giants. However the top-end expertise is in place to win a number of postseason video games this yr.

Miami Dolphins: 9-8

New head coach Mike McDaniel is a part of the shift to a extra dynamic and persistently efficient offense. A lot relies upon upon Tua Tagovailoa’s progress at QB, however including Tyreek Hill at WR to go together with Jaylen Waddle and beefing up the RB room certain makes life simpler for Tua. The road might want to carry out higher. If the kids on protection (EDGE Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, CB Noah Igbinoghene) can all take a step ahead, the Miami protection ought to have some actual tooth. I like the general transfer to get quicker on each side of the ball.

New York Jets: 6-11

The second yr for head coach Robert Saleh will probably be keyed by a better-than-advertised protection. There’s loads driving on first-round rookies Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson. They’ll each should be prepared immediately to cowl some holes within the secondary. Total depth improved on each side of the ball. QB Zack Wilson shedding helpful improvement time this offseason hurts, as does shedding 2020 first-rounder Mekhi Becton. The New York arrow is pointing up for certain, however these Jets are in all probability a yr away from significantly flying up the convention standings.

New England Patriots 6-11

If you happen to merely take a look at this roster from 1-53, it’s no higher than twenty ninth within the league. The protection is sluggish, the WR corps is a glorified follow squad, the experiment of Matt Patricia teaching the offense seems to be disastrous and the all-around depth seems to be extra like an enlargement staff than a contender. However the Patriots have some excellent items in place in key spots–QB Mac Jones, LT Trent Brown, EDGE Matt Judon, however none greater than head coach Invoice Belichick. On paper this is–at most–a 5-12 roster, however I believe I’m in all probability lowballing New England at 6-11.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts: 11-6

Dumping enigmatic Carson Wentz at QB and changing him with a motivated, rejuvenated Matt Ryan looks as if a grasp stroke. Ryan’s reliability makes the receivers higher, and it’s not like RB Jonathan Taylor wants any assist in being nice. The defensive entrance has affect gamers in DT DeForest Buckner and LB Shaquille Leonard, plus a number of promising kids. They’re susceptible to groups that may block them and assault down the sphere, and protecting the beginning 11 on offense wholesome is extra crucial for this Colts staff than every other AFC contender. Frank Reich has a robust staff that needs to be extra resilient than in previous years.

Tennessee Titans: 8-9

There’s nonetheless some good expertise on this roster, however shedding WR A.J. Brown (commerce) and EDGE Harold Landry (harm) actually lowers the ground for Mike Vrabel’s staff. Getting a full season of RB Derrick Henry behind a succesful line all the time retains Tennessee harmful, and Ryan Tannehill is a strong, confirmed QB. A younger secondary can step up and the defensive entrance seems to be powerful even with out Landry, however the margin for error has gone away in Nashville. They even have huge questions on particular groups. Too good to be unhealthy however not adequate to duplicate final yr’s 12-5.

Jacksonville Jaguars: 6-11

Merely eradicating City Meyer is worthy of two extra wins in Duval, however the Jaguars are additionally cobbling collectively a stronger roster. Trevor Lawrence needs to be higher in Yr 2, and he’s bought weapons in Marvin Jones, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and RBs Travis Etienne and James Robinson. Swiping OG Brandon Scherff was a superb transfer. The 2 first-rounders on protection, Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd, can solely assist shore up the middle-of-field protection, which additionally added NFL tackling champ Foyesade Oluokun at LB. The DL and secondary stay troublesome and there’s no impactful veteran difference-maker on both facet of the ball.

Houston Texans: 5-12

Lovie Smith is constructing his Texans staff round a speed-based defensive philosophy. There’s a plethora of “oh, in order that’s the place that man is now” gamers on the protection, however Houston does have some promise. The rookies within the secondary, CB Derek Stingley Jr. and S Jalen Pitre, seem like stars within the making. Davis Mills flashed some expertise at QB final yr and may develop extra. There are nonetheless numerous questions and determined lack of difference-makers outdoors of ageless WR Brandin Cooks, however these Texans are able to ruining the day for groups that overlook them. Bonus win for introducing the Battle Pink helmet, immediately one of the best within the league.

AFC North

That is probably the most troublesome division within the league to foretell. I can current sturdy arguments for all 4 groups to each win the division and in addition are available in final.

Baltimore Ravens: 10-7

So many accidents a yr in the past saved John Harbaugh’s squad from maximizing potential. The fear isn’t as a lot that it’s going to occur once more, however will all of the strolling wounded be what we anticipated of them earlier than final yr? TE Mark Andrews because the lead weapon for QB Lamar Jackson presents distinctive challenges. This staff sorely wants WR Rashod Bateman and RB J.Okay. Dobbins to emerge as gamers who scare defenses and relieve stress on Jackson and Andrews to do every part. Including first-rounder Kyle Hamilton and prime free agent Marcus Williams at security might be good. Justin Tucker stays the NFL’s greatest-ever kicker, and the Ravens particular groups are a pleasant insurance coverage coverage.

Cincinnati Bengals: 10-7

The reigning AFC champs aren’t going to sneak up on anybody now, however they’ve the celebrities in place to put on the bullseye effectively. QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon and WR JaMarr Chase are pretty much as good of a set of offensive triplets as there are, and there’s various expertise round them too. The OL can’t be any worse than it was in 2021. I fear about their capacity defensively to deal with WRs with measurement and RBs behind OLs that may transfer. The expectations are an enormous variable for such a younger staff. Trey Hendrickson and Jesse Bates have to be the top-shelf gamers they have been a yr in the past.

Cleveland Browns: 9-8

The main focus is on the actually wild QB state of affairs, and the Browns dealing with of Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett–the new major starter in 2022–definitely raises eyebrows. It obscures what is likely to be the NFL’s greatest protection, led by MVP candidate Myles Garrett and that includes the deepest set of CBs within the league in addition to speedy standout LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The offense can run on anybody with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson. The OL has one of the best guard tandem in Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller. Amari Cooper provides the Browns the WR1 they’ve lacked whereas squabbling with OBJ. However the QB state of affairs and drama are a possible anchor that may scuttle it all–or produce one other thrilling playoff run like 2020.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-10

The Steelers have a unbelievable defensive entrance keyed by T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. It’s an awesome place to have a major id. The secondary could make some performs behind them too. Proper now the LBs are higher in idea than follow however have potential as effectively. It’s the offense that has the largest questions. Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett at QB? Can the OL block higher than final yr, after they have been someplace between inept and terrifying? Who steps up as a prime receiver? Is there even one offensive reserve participant who makes one other NFL roster? Too many inquiries to belief. Nonetheless, if even certainly one of them seems affirmatively, you’ll be able to wager Mike Tomlin’s Steelers are going to be gamers within the playoff race.

AFC West

May a division end with each staff having a profitable document? This yr’s AFC West might be our greatest probability to search out out.

Los Angeles Chargers: 11-6

I’ve picked the Chargers to win this division loads through the years, often to my utter dismay come December. However I can’t resist biting the apple as soon as once more. Justin Herbert is an MVP candidate rising into his QB prime. He’s bought appreciable receiving expertise in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and RB Austin Ekeler, and is protected by one of the best younger OT within the sport in RaShawn Slater. And but the Chargers protection might be their higher unit. Between reinforcing the road and getting the secondary wholesome and revamped, this aggressive protection can dominate. These Chargers seem like a staff that may signify the AFC within the Tremendous Bowl. That’s after all been true just a few different instances and the Bolts didn’t come shut, so trepidation is deserved.

Kansas Metropolis Chiefs: 11-6

Any staff with Patrick Mahomes working Andy Reid’s offense goes to be enjoyable to observe. The Chiefs had a internet loss in receiving expertise this offseason, however newcomers Skyy Moore, Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are nonetheless a harmful group. Creed Humphrey is a budding star at heart, anchoring a robust (albeit paper-thin) line. The defensive entrance can affect each the run and the move. Two newcomers within the secondary are key: first-round CB Trent McDuffie and free agent S Justin Reid. In the event that they’re as much as the problem, this might be an actual sturdy protection. Particular groups look nice. Don’t write them off merely since you’re bored of them profitable the division yearly.

Las Vegas Raiders: 9-8

Reuniting WR Davante Adams with QB Derek Carr might be the increase the Raiders must advance past the Wild Card spherical for the primary time in 20 years. Adams is arguably the NFL’s greatest receiver and provides Carr a legit gamebreaker. Paired with a strong floor sport and harmful TE Darren Waller, these Raiders ought to be capable of overcome a shaky OL and submit some factors. The protection might want to have its disparate elements come collectively rapidly. There’s younger expertise in gamers like CB Nate Hobbs and S Trevon Moehrig. Maxx Crosby will get assist up entrance with Chandler Jones. It’s all the time a priority when there’s a brand new coach taking on a playoff staff, particularly one which has set the final three years of prime draft picks on fireplace. Las Vegas is precariously harmful to everybody it performs but in addition to itself. In the end, the Raiders have an excessive amount of high-end expertise to be as unhealthy because the haters need them to be.

Denver Broncos: 8-9

Generally there are groups I simply can’t get a really feel for. These Broncos are a kind of groups. I believe the transfer to amass Russell Wilson was a worthy gamble, however I don’t but have a learn on rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett or a forged of largely unknown assistants. The receivers might be nice, or they might all be damage once more. The road has expertise however an excessive amount of of it makes too many boneheaded errors. There are nonetheless helpful items on protection however critical questions in any respect three ranges. Russ can nonetheless prepare dinner however he’s bought to feed a unusually compiled unit going through a brutal schedule with only a few gamers who’re of their NFL primes. Bizarre staff. May very well be fairly dang good, however the backside is the bottom of any within the division too.

Playoff decide: Ravens over Payments to advance to the Tremendous Bowl

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