Time for a completely subjective power rankings of the AFC. As always, leave your complaints in the comment section and over on Twitter. If you are annoyed about the New York Jets spot, remember talent does not always equal record.
1 – New England Patriots – The defending Super Bowl champs with the best quarterback and the best coach who had the best offseason in the NFL. Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Andrew Hawkins and Dwayne Allen will make a dominant, versatile offense that much better. David Harris (yay!), Kony Ealy and Stephon Gilmore add to a deep, productive defense. Look at this way, if New England does anything but win the Super Bowl, they CHOKED. LOSERS!
2 – Oakland Raiders – A young, talented team with Derek Carr now back under center should be the favorite in the AFC West. Jared Cook will help from day one, Marshawn Lynch could be a deadly late season weapon as he gets his legs under him and Cordarelle Patterson will add juice in the return game. May we never have to watch Connor Cook play another game again.
3 – Houston Texans – Actually were competitive against New England in the playoffs last year and could have stole the game if they didn’t have a flaming bag of toxic waste under center. The Texans have the best defense in the conference and made the savvy decision to move on from the flaming bag of toxic waste and replace him with Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Deshaun Watson. OK, Watson still needs to beat out Tommy Savage and Bill O’Brien has done odd things at quarterback before but if the Texans let Watson play, they should be frontrunners in the AFC South.
4 – Pittsburgh Steelers – As long as they have Ben, Brown and Bell they will be right here. Pittsburgh is never going to beat New England in a meaningful game but if they could somehow avoid them in the playoffs, they may be able to sneak into one last Super Bowl before Ben retires.
5 – Kanas City Chiefs – Despite all of the Alex Smith limitations and an eventual handover to rookie Patrick Mahomes (do it sooner, rather than later!), the Chiefs are a well coached, deeply talented team on both sides of the football. It should not surprise anybody if they repeat as AFC West Champions with either Smith or Mahomes under center. Andy Reid can’t manage a clock but he can win regular season football games with the best of them.
6 – Tennessee Titans – A young, ascending team who did an excellent job stockpiling talent around Marcus Mariota this offseason by adding Corey Davis, Eric Decker and Taywan Taylor. Adoree Jackson was also a nice value add to an already talented defense. The AFC South has quickly went from a joke, to what should be a highly competitive division this year between three teams who could be over .500.
7 – Miami Dolphins – Adam Gase was impressive in year one and the Dolphins have an intriguing collection of talent, particularly in their defensive front seven. Ryan Tannehill is the definition of average but if leans on his supporting cast, the Dolphins should be able to take advantage of having the Bills and Jets in their division. I don’t think they are headed back to the playoffs but they should be right around .500, if not slightly over.
8 – Indianapolis Colts – Chris Ballard has his work cut out for him cleaning up Ryan Grigson’s mess but if Andrew Luck is healthy, the Colts will compete for the AFC South title. Defensively, the Colts had a strong offseason adding Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson. They need to keep building upfront to protect Luck but Ballard should be more up to the task than Grigson.
9 – Denver Broncos – A good defense with a vicious pass rush but no proven answer at quarterback, which drowned them last offseason. Trevor Siemian is capable of putting up competent box scores but Denver’s offense was dreadful last year despite being loaded at wide receiver. This team has the worst quarterback situation in their division.
10 – Cincinnati Bengals – The talent around Andy Dalton has only improved with the addition of John Ross and Joe Mixon, although the Bengals lost some of their dominance upfront on both sides of the ball in recent years. This ranking may be a bit low as I wouldn’t be surprised if they were back in the mix for the AFC North title in 2017.
11 – Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco and the Ravens have kind of stunk since their Super Bowl run a few years back. This is not a better roster than Cincinnati or Pittsburgh and it is fair to say they currently have the worst quarterback of all three teams. Jeremy Maclin was a nice addition but I don’t see them getting over the 7-9 or 8-8 hump.
12 – San Diego Chargers – The Chargers have built quite a collection of skill position players: Hunter Henry, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams and Melvin Gordon to go around an aging Philip Rivers. They also have a fearsome Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram duo coming after the passer. Rivers showed some alarming signs last season, if he begins to rapidly decline, none of the things listed above will matter.
13 – Buffalo Bills – A team closer to rebuilding than contending, although I liked the hiring of Sean McDermott. They were foolish to let Mike Gillislee walk and if Sammy Watkins can’t stay healthy (which he never can), their skill positions could get ugly fast around Tyrod Taylor.
14 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles and all the overpaid free agents should start showing signs of improvement with Tom Coughlin around but they are miles behind the other three AFC South teams. SAVE THEM IDZIK!
15 – New York Jets – If you want wins, the Jets do play numbers 16, 14, 13 (twice) and 12 on this list. It is fair to argue the Jets have the worst quarterbacks, tight ends, cornerbacks and linebackers in the conference which is never an ideal situation. PATIENCE.
16 – Cleveland Browns – Year Two of the Hinkie Process yielded Myles Garrett, David Njoku and Jabril Peppers in round one. They also had a solid offseason of building up their offensive line to block for DeBrock OsKesslerBerg or whoever ends up playing quarterback.
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