NFL season preview: AFC teams
With the NFL season kicking off on Friday, we look at the hopes of all 32 teams heading into the 2016 season. Here’s our preview of the 16 teams in the AFC Championship:
It’s hard to separate the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers have possibly the best offense in the league with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and they possess a young and improving defense.
The Bengals went 10-2 last year before quarterback Andy Dalton got injured. Cincinnati has many playmakers on the defensive side of the ball which could be crucial in tight matches. Their reliance on Dalton might be too much to finish above the Steelers.
Expect the Baltimore Ravens to be middle of the road and the Cleveland Browns to struggle again.
Players to watch: Le’Veon Bell (Steelers), AJ Green (Bengals), Robert Griffin III (Browns) and Joe Flacco (Ravens)
A hard division to pick but you’d have to think the Houston Texans will prevail. After seeing the damage the Broncos pass-rushers did at the back-end of last year, there’s no reason why the Texans can’t replicate that with J.J. Watt and former no.1 pick Jadeveon Clowney rushing the passer. The Texans have also brought in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller to improve the offense.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are an improving team and could push the Texans, while the Indianapolis Colts don’t have enough support for quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Tennessee Titans will keep improving with young quarterback Marcus Mariota at the helm.
Players to watch: J.J. Watt (Texans), Andrew Luck (Colts), Marcus Mariota (Titans) and Allen Robinson (Jaguars)
Three words – New England Patriots. The Pats have won 12 of the last 13 AFC East titles including the last seven. Superstar quarterback Tom Brady will miss the opening month due to suspension but that won’t derail the Patriots. Arguably the best coached team in the NFL – expect them to go deep into the playoffs once again.
The New York Jets will be a handful for many teams with such a dominant defensive line and could make a run at a wildcard spot. The Buffalo Bills have suffered defensively with injuries and suspensions so expect another middle of the road season, while the Miami Dolphins will most likely occupy last place in the division once again.
Players to watch: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots), Marcell Dareus (Bills), Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets) and Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins)
The obvious answer here is the Denver Broncos, the reigning Super Bowl champions, however the Broncos have lost Payton Manning to retirement and Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in free agency. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will be key defensive studs again and the offense will rely on untried quarterback Trevor Siemian.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the team most likely to win this division. The Chiefs possess talent right across the park and are well led by the Alex Smith under centre and the experienced Andy Reid on the sidelines. They will find a way into the playoffs, however progressing deep into the playoffs is another thing.
The smoky here is the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have assembled a young team topped up with experienced hands. In quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and pass-rushing linebacker Khalil Mack, the Raiders have enough talent to top the division.
Rounding out an otherwise competitive division is the San Diego Chargers who look set to struggle again in 2016.
Players to watch: Von Miller (Broncos), Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs), Khalil Mack (Raiders) and Joey Bosa (Chargers)