It may well be the offseason for NFL , but this is the time when fans of the downtrodden can start be believing that this wil be their season. I am a fan of a franchise who have been stuck in a rut for years ( Chicago Bears ). For the teams that finished bottom of their respected divisions , its now time for those AFC North, South, West & East teams to dream. When I look at the AFC the question I always ask myself every season is who can actually challenge Patriots , so lets look at who can actually go from worst to first .
AFC North: Cleveland Browns 0-16
Pittsburgh Steelers walked away with this last year 13-3 , admittedly they seem to do this every year. For those poor Cleveland Browns fans actually do have something to look forward too this season. Browns finished bottom with a record of 0-16 , not since the Detroit Lions 2008 season have we seen a 0-16 season. The Browns having a really solid free agency and an interesting draft, I feel this season will be an exciting time for the Browns.
Can the browns go from worst to first though……?. As much as I do see the Browns improving I think they are maybe 1/2 seasons away from challenging. They have some really exciting young talent. I believe a QB for the future in Baker Mayfield , also a defence that I believe could last half a decade together.
Prediction: Browns 7-9 , but watch out Bengals and Ravens I think they will finish 2nd in the division.
Player to watch out for: QB Baker Mayfield , don’t buy what the coaches say, he will be starting by week 6.
AFC South: Houston Texans 4-12
Jacksonville Jaguars scrapped their way through to the playoffs with a 10-6 record to win the division over Titans who finished on 9-7. Jacksonville Jaguars did exactly what my article stated, they went from worst to first last season, and boy did their defence step up and get them there. Arguably Jacksonville has the worst QB in the division , but their defence is next level and did themselves proud in the playoffs , getting all the way to Conference championship and narrowly lost to the Patriots.
This year is a new year for the team that finished bottom last season Houston Texans 4-12. The Texans looked to be on their way to clinching the division again , until a season ending injury to star rookie QB Deshaun Watson after 7 games.
Each week Watson got better and better and was not only muted for rookie of the year but MVP discussions were taking place. Houston has added real talent in hybrid safety Tyrann Matheiu on a 1 year prove it deal, Matheiu has so much natural ability and adds to a defence that already is arguably in the top 5 in the NFL. With Watson coming back and the exciting option of a full season with Watson and Hopkins together, this team on paper could go far in 2018.
Prediction: Texans 10-6 Win the division , sorry Jags fans but you didn’t fix the QB position , and you were lucky the Texans didn’t have a good back up last year.
Player to watch: QB Deshaun Watson, this kid can play and is extremely exciting to watch, don’t be surprised if you start hearing MVP noise if they get to post season.
AFC West: Denver Broncos 5-11
Oh what to say about the AFC West, well………. this has the making of a really interesting division. John Gruden’s back at the Raiders and on a $100 million 10 year deal ( no prove it deal for Mr Gruden). Chiefs have Andy Reid as their head coach, arguably one of the most consistently high preforming coaches in the NFL.
You then have sports writers and neutrals favourite the LA Chargers, who if they stayed healthly should go to the conference game. last but not least Superbowl champs of 2016 the Denver Broncos, yes just 2 years ago they won the big show and then finished bottom last year.
The reason they finished bottom was mainly down to the lack of QB at the franchise. If you read John Elway’s comment about free agency signing Case Keenum , he was talking like he is the next Peyton Manning. Case Keenum had a surprisingly great season last year for the Vikings, taking them to the post season and performed above and beyond.
Case Keenum had really great talent around him last year along with excellent coaches, he wont have this luxury this year. John Elway’s decide to not draft a QB in he draft and their free agency is questionable. I fear this will be another year wasted for Von Miller , a player who carries this team.
Prediction: Broncos 4- 12 , but stay positive Broncos fans , I predict that the raiders will finish bottom this year.
Player to watch out for: QB Case Keenum, this season will rest on him, if he plays like he did last year then this team could be .500 team.
AFC East: New York Jets 5-11
The AFC East, also known as the division that the Patriots always win. Interesting fact the Patriots have won this division 9 straight years and in the last 15 years have won the division 14 times. These stats are unbelievable and shows the dominance New England have had over this division for the last 2 decades.
The questions that always come up about this division is how many more years will Tom Brady play? , Are the Patriots regressing? , Can any of the other teams actually challenge them?. Well unfortunately for the Jets, Dolphins and Bills I don’t see it happening this year. Brady has stated he will play this year, Gronk will be back for this year, yes the Patriots lost a few players , but when don’t they lose a few players.
So what about the worst team last year the New York Jets , I sigh as I write this as I want the Jets to be good. The Jets play in New York, have a great fan base and are steeped in history. The issue with the Jets is they’ve been rebuilding , now they tried the win now approach a few years ago. This approach didn’t get them anywhere, so now they are building through the draft. This is a sensible approach and one which has led them to rookie QB Sam Darnold.
Sam Darnold on paper looks like a QB who will be a franchise QB for the next decade. Darnold went to a good college , played well ( albeit not last year in college) , but has pedigree. The biggest issue for the Jets they simply do not have enough talent around him to help him and nor do they have coaches that will develop him. I’m sorry to say Jets fans but this could be another year where your at the bottom.
Prediction: 5-12 , They will look better and there will be more hope for the future. I just don’t see the results being there. The good news for Jets fans is that the Bills are in a very similar position just with a better defence.
Player to watch: QB Sam Darnold , like with the Browns don’t believe what coaches say about him being rested this season. I expect Darnold to start by week 4.