Well, we finally made it. Only one day away from the 2018 NFL season, as tomorrow night the defending Super Bowl Champion, Philadelphia Eagles host the 2017 NFC Champion, Atlanta Falcons. So it’s time I make my divisional predictions, starting with the AFC.
I might as well get this one out of the way, because it’s not that hard. The New England Patriots will run away with the East once again, and it likely won’t be close, they’ve won the division in 14 of the last 15 years. The Bills barely squeaked into the Playoffs with point differential, and added some nice pieces on the defensive side of the ball, but their Quarterback play is going to hold them back this year. The Jets went out and got their franchise Quarterback of the future, but the growing pains will be there, and overall their roster just isn’t strong enough to compete. The Dolphin’s made headlines this off-season for all the wrong reasons, but this should be the year we find out what the future holds for Ryan Tannehill. Has there ever been an easier path to Division titles, than the Patriots have had in the last decade?
The North could be a little tougher. The Steelers are without a doubt the pre-season favorites, but I’m not sleeping on the Baltimore Ravens. The team upgraded at the receiver position adding Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead in free agency, and drafted Tight End Hayden Hurst(who is currently out with injury) which will surely help a motivated Joe Flacco. The Bengals should be competitive one again, with a great duo in Dalton/Green, and a mean defense. The biggest improvement in the league will likely come from Cleveland, even if it is only 5 wins.
The South is the most competitive division in the AFC this year. The Jags are the favorite now with their outstanding defense and ability to run the ball, but the concern will always be Blake Bortles. If he can manage the game they should be able to win the division, but if the team is relying on him to win them multiple games, they could be in trouble. The Texans are a team on the rise, IF they can stay healthy. Deshaun Watson won’t sneak up on anyone this year, but with players like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller around him he should put up some points. The defense is loaded with playmakers along the line, headlined by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, but health remains a concern. The Titans are a team that intrigue me, Marcus Mariota needs to take that leap for the team to contend but he has the ability. He will have a nice “Thunder & Lightning” combination with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis in the backfield, and Corey Davis should be a legitimate threat on the outside. Colts fans should be thrilled that Andrew Luck is returning to the lineup, but that might be about it. It will be a long year for the Colts.
I could make an argument for any team to win, or struggle in this division. The Chiefs have dominated the west lately, but lost some key players on defense, and traded away Alex Smith. Patrick Mahomes will make plays that win Chiefs games, but he will make plays that lose them games as well. The Denver Broncos still have a great defense. Von Miller is probably the best Defensive player in the league, and they added a stud in the draft in Bradley Chubb, but that won’t consistently score them points. This team will go as far as Case Keenum takes them. The Chargers have the best Quarterback in the division, a solid receiving core, two elite pass-rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but can they stay healthy? The Oakland Raiders made noise by trading away Khalil Mack, which won’t help them in 2018 in any way. They still have some nice pieces on offense, but it likely won’t be enough to carry the team.
*Wild card team