Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2017 NFL Preview, part 2: The rest of the AFC

Last week, we took a look at what is probably the easiest division to figure in the NFL, that being, of course, the AFC East. Today, we're finishing the AFC, as we'll do the NFC over the next two weeks.

AFC North:

No matter what Cleveland does, they're perhaps cursed to remain in last place until the end of time. Johnny Manziel crashed & burned in just 2 seasons, and last year, well, Robert Griffin III wasn't the answer.

That's why this division is a 3-team race every year. Oh, sure, the Browns will make a little noise, but they usually get muted by Halloween.

In Pittsburgh, it seems they're already preparing for the post-LeVeon Bell era, as Fitzgerald Toussaint scored the game winner in Friday's preseason opener at MetLife Stadium against the Giants. Bell is unsigned, but the Steelers would be wise to get him in camp ASAP, preferably yesterday. DeAngelo Williams wasn't retained, either, and he tried his hand at wrestling last month, appearing at a Global Force Wrestling PPV alongside former Falcon Quinn Ojinnaka, aka Moose. Pittsburgh will be there at the end if they can stabilize the offense around Ben Roethlisberger. If not, even a Wild Card would be a longshot.

For Cincinnati, it's back to the playoffs, or it's the end of the line, methinks, for Marvin Lewis, bottom line. Baltimore has to weather the loss via retirement of receiver Steve Smith, Sr., and reload. It's anyone's game, really.

Projected order of finish:

1. Cincinnati.
2. Baltimore.
3. Pittsburgh.
4. Cleveland.
AFC South:

Houston, after the Brock Osweiler debacle last year, drafted DeShaun Watson (Clemson), and he'll battle Tom Savage for the starting QB job. On defense, Vince Wilfork returned to New England, then retired, which means plenty of double-teams on Jadaveon Clowney. All Indianapolis needs is for Andrew Luck to be healthy for the entire season. Hm, seems that applies to some of their other skill position players, too. Tennessee picked up receiver Eric Decker (Jets), who reunites with Jace Amaro, who came over last year. Marcus Mariota has enough weapons at his disposal. It's just a matter of scoring enough to make a run at the playoffs.

Jacksonville? Who cares at this point?

Projected order of finish:

1. Tennessee.
2. Indianapolis.
2 (tie). Houston.
4. Jacksonville.
AFC West:

I still don't see the logic behind the Chargers moving to Los Angeles from San Diego. Relocating back to LA didn't do anything for the Rams last year, so....! On that same note, I don't like the idea of Oakland losing their beloved Raiders again, this time to Las Vegas. Like, how long did the Raiders last in LA themselves before moving back to Oakland?

Digression over. The two California teams will likely fight for Wild Card spots, although the Raiders are a legit division contender as long as Derek Carr is healthy. Kansas City may have their future QB in Patrick Mahomes II, son of a former baseball pitcher whose resume included stops in Minnesota and with the Mets. Andy Reid also got some offensive help in running back C. J. Spiller (New Orleans) and receiver Gavin Escobar (Dallas). If Alex Smith gets hurt, Mahomes should step in. From what I saw of him in college, he is the real deal.

In Denver, year 2 of the Paxton Lynch era should be an improvement. However, the bloom is off the rose for the Broncos.

Projected order of finish:

1. Kansas City.
2. Oakland.
3. Denver.
3 (tie). Los Angeles.

Wild cards: Oakland, Baltimore.

Of course, I could be wrong.

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