With the NFL season just a week away, we decided to break down every team in the AFC and brainstorm some best and worst case scenarios for each of them. Will your favorite team have a chance at the Super Bowl? Will expectations be set on simply contending for a spot in the playoffs? Or is your team in rebuilding mode and fighting for a chance at having the #1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft? Check out all of our analysis and our AFC ‘Best Bets’ below!
You can find all our betting tips for the NFC on our NFC Conference Predictions and Betting Tips.
New England Patriots
The reigning Super Bowl champs are heading into this season with the same expectations as usual: bring another Super Bowl trophy back to Foxborough. The offense will once again be anchored by 42-year old QB Tom Brady, but we expect the Pats to lean a lot more on the run this year to counter any possible regression from Brady. The retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski is a huge loss, but the reinstatement of WR Josh Gordon gives Brady a redzone threat to make up for the loss. The defense has to step up after losing their best pass rusher Trey Flowers in free agency.
Best Case: The Pats continue their dominance of the AFC and Brady does enough to keep the offense moving efficiently while Belechick schemes a successful defense that can keep them in games and stop the run effectively. If the offensive line can lead the running game and keep Brady on his feet, the Pats can grab their second straight Super Bowl title.
Worst Case: There is a substantial production drop-off from Brady after losing Gronk and the defense can’t generate a stable pass rush without Flowers. In our worst case the Patriots still win the division because of the lack of competition from other AFC East sides, but we could see a first round exit especially if they go up against some prolific pass defenses.
New York Jets
The Jets have made a lot of noise this offseason with the signing of RB Le’Veon Bell but now its time to meet expectations. QB Sam Darnold played well in the second half of last season but this is a big second year for him to see if he can continue to develop without having any major setbacks. Hopefully the offensive line can step up and protect him more this year, but regardless Darnold needs to improve his decision making and deep throw accuracy. The defense has a ton of talent but was underwhelming last year.
Best Case: Darnold takes a major step and enjoys the additions of Le’Veon Bell and WR Jamison Crowder. The defense, led by safety Jamal Adams, is able to create enough turnovers to put their offense in short-field situations. The Jets could then contend for a Wild Card spot in what is a pretty open AFC playoff picture.
Worst Case: The ‘sophomore slump’ hits Darnold and the offensive line’s ineffectiveness limits Le’Veon Bell’s success. The defense continues to be held back by their lack of a pass rush and it leaves the Jets fighting to finish above .500.
The Bills can turn some heads this year and have potential to make noise in the AFC playoff picture if QB Josh Allen takes a healthy step up in the passing game. Buffalo’s defense is incredible as they finished 2nd in total defensive efficiency last year. The good news is they should only get better with the addition of Ed Oliver through the draft. There was a slight upgrade at wide receiver but it all comes down to Allen’s accuracy. If he can limit his turnovers and manage the game properly, then Buffalo can make noise and possibly make a run at a Wild Card spot if other teams under-perform.
Best Case: Allen makes major strides in the passing game and the defense gets even better with Oliver at the head. Buffalo fights for a Wild Card spot but needs other major teams to fall short. Buffalo does have an advantage in having one of the easier schedules in the league.
Worst Case: The turnovers continue for Allen and the defense can’t perform at a high enough level to keep games close. The wide receiver corps continues to struggle to create space and Allen is left trying to do everything himself.
Full scale rebuild. The Dolphins are going to be working on their roster for the next couple of years and won’t be in contention. The offensive line is a disaster and will haunt whoever starts under center, whether its QB Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick. The offense does have some good skill players, but there isn’t enough depth to help if people get injured. On the defensive side of the ball, there is some young talent but the Dolphins can’t stop the run and give up way too many big plays due to their horrible tackling.
Best Case: The Dolphins end up with the #1 pick and see potential from QB Josh Rosen and some of their defensive playmakers.
Worst Case: Rosen and Fitzpatrick both play poorly but the Dolphins win a couple games and push themselves out of the #1 pick.
AFC East Betting Tips and Predictions:
The Ravens might be the most slept on team in the AFC. After being a playoff team last season, HC John Harbaugh added to an already solid roster to bolster the offense. QB Lamar Jackson still has a long way to go as a passer, but he’s incredibly gifted as a runner and will work with RB Mark Ingram this year to take some of the load off. The defense will again be one of the best in the league and kicker Justin Tucker leads a great special teams unit.
Best Case: Jackson stays healthy and makes strides in the passing game, which allows the Ravens to contend for a playoff birth.
Worst Case: Jackson either gets hurt or becomes strictly a running quarterback and limits the potential of the offensive unit. Baltimore misses out on the playoffs.
The Bengals got some bad news to start the year, as it seems star WR AJ Green is set to miss the first couple of games with a foot injury. Otherwise, this offensive group should improve but its up to QB Andy Dalton to limit turnovers and stay within himself. Dalton has a good group of skill players in running back Joe Mixon and WRs Green and Tyler Boyd, but the offensive line is still a disaster and the defense has no star power.
Best Case: The Bengals simply outscore other teams but miss out on any playoff potential because of their defensive weaknesses.
Worst Case: The offensive line is worse than expected, Dalton struggles more than expected because of it, and to make matters worse the defense can’t stop anyone. The Bengals are then in contention for the #1 pick and a couple years of rebuilding under a new quarterback.
Wow. What an offseason for the Cleveland Browns. Just a year ago we were projecting only a couple of wins and now they are being discussed as possible Super Bowl contenders. The offense gets a huge boost from running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The defense also has a ton of young talent, but was very inconsistent last year especially on the road. The biggest concern is that the offensive line won’t be able to make up the loss of Kevin Zeitler and that will leave QB Baker Mayfield scrambling constantly.
Best Case: The hype turns into success as one of the most talented offenses in football shows off their potential and the defense continues to force turnovers. Cleveland rejoices as the Browns not only make the playoffs but contend for the AFC crown.
Worst Case: Mayfield regresses slightly and the offensive chemistry takes a while to come to fruition. The defense continues to struggle against the run and it leaves the Browns fighting for a playoff spot and possibly missing out.
The ‘Killer Bs’ are now all split up, as both running back Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio both left their former QB Ben Roethlisberger. That leaves giant voids in the offense that RB James Conner and WR Juju Smith-Schuster are going to try and fill. The defense is solid with a good front seven but lacks a playmaker in the secondary. The Steelers have also had special teams problems recently so it will be interesting to see if they can pull out victories in close games.
Best Case: Roethlisberger is able to stay healthy and Conner and Smith-Schuster provide enough production to keep the offense running smoothly. The front seven continues to dominate the line of scrimmage and it creates opportunity for the Steelers to win the division.
Worst Case: The production drop-off from Bell and Brown to Conner and Smith-Schuster proves to be too steep and the Steelers find themselves struggling to move the ball consistently. The problems in the secondary get worse and Pittsburgh finds themselves in an unfamiliar situation: out of the playoffs.
AFC North Betting Tips and Predictions:
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What a turn of events for the Colts. Star QB Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired this week due to concerns over his long-term health, leaving Jacoby Brissett to take over under center. It’s tough to see Luck retire so early in his career with the Colts on the rise, but there’s still reason to be optimistic in Indy. Brissett is a capable starter and will play behind one of the best offensive lines in football with a great set of skill players around him, including running back Marlon Mack and wideout T.Y. Hilton. The defense is on the uptrend and has a great young core to build around.
Best Case: The Colts lost their most important player, but overall there’s still a great football team in Indianapolis. If Brissett can fill in an be a great game manager, there’s still potential for the Colts to make a run at the postseason.
Worst Case: It takes a while for Brissett to build chemistry with the rest of the offense and the Colts defense isn’t able to generate takeaways to help the offense. The Colts defense is a bend-not-break unit, so if the offense has trouble then there won’t be much the defense can do to make up the difference.
The Texans have some high expectations this year after a great season last year. QB DeShaun Watson showed great flashes last season and WR DeAndre Hopkins reminded everyone how good he truly is. The offense did just lose starting RB Lamar Miller to an ACL tear, so the rest of the backfield is going to need to step up their production. Houston’s defense should be a great unit again this year, but they do need to have their new safeties perform well after losing Tyrann Mathieu in free agency. The biggest question remains the offensive line and if they can keep Watson on his feet for the entire season.
Best Case: The offensive line does enough to protect Watson and allow him to find all of his talented wideouts. The front seven carries the defense and allows the Texans to contest for the AFC title.
Worst Case: Watson gets injured or struggles in the pocket due to his offensive line. The defense isn’t able to create pressure with their front seven which leaves the secondary exposed. The Texans in their worst case would find themselves fighting for a Wild Card spot.
There’s been a change under center for the Jaguars this offseason. Jacksonville released quarterback Blake Bortles and signed former Eagles QB Nick Foles to be their starter for this season. Foles enters a decent situation in Jacksonville, but he’s definitely going to be working with less talent across the offense than he had in Philly. Even with the addition of Foles, the heart of this team is still the defense. Jacksonville has tremendous talent at all three levels and this unit should be enough to help Jacksonville fight for a playoff spot.
Best Case: Foles adds enough stability to the offense to spread out defenses and prevent them from stacking the box against running Leonard Fournette. Since the offense will be more stable, it will increase their time of possession and give more rest to a defense that was burned out last year.
Worst Case: Foles has issues adapting to his new system and Fournette’s injury history continues to haunt him. The defense is forced to be on the field for much longer than expected and the Jaguars have another season that ends without playoff football.
The departure of offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur has gone under the radar in terms of how it will effect the Titans’ success this season. LaFleur worked well with QB Marcus Mariota and his departure is going to have more of an effect than people think. The Titans are going to have to lean on their running game this year and hope that Mariota can stay healthy for most of the season. On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans have a ton of talent and will lean on their strengths in the secondary to keep them in games.
Best Case: Mariota stays healthy and takes care of the football while the defense slows down most of the passing attacks in the AFC. At best the Titans could make a push for the postseason but their lack of offense stability limits their upside.
Worst Case: Mariota can’t stay healthy and continues to struggle while the defense is unable to stop the run. The Titans could possibly finish at the bottom of their division.
AFC South Betting Tips and Predictions:
The Broncos are setting up for another year of rebuilding and the hope is they see some true potential in their draft pick QB Drew Lock. Denver also acquired former Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco to serve as a bridge quarterback and to mentor Lock through his rookie season. It will be interesting to see when the switch is made from the veteran to the youngster. The offense still needs some help in terms of firepower, but the defense should be far improved this year if they can remain healthy.
Best Case: Lock ends up starting and shows great flashes of potential while still losing games. So the Broncos get the benefit of a high draft pick and also get to see Lock grow and develop.
Worst Case: Flacco starts for most of the season and leads the Broncos to a good enough record to kick them out of contention for a top 5 draft pick.
So much noise has been made by the Raiders this offseason. HC Jon Gruden is a headline grabber and added to it by acquiring WR Antonio Brown from the Steelers for a couple of later round draft picks. Even with the addition of Brown, the Raiders still have glaring offensive issues with their offensive line and the health of QB Derek Carr is always a concern. The defense did have some good signings but does’t have enough firepower to slow down the AFC’s most prolific offenses.
Best Case: Carr and Brown become of the best QB-WR duos in the league, allowing for the Raiders to contend for a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case: Brown’s arrival adds more drama than production and the defense still underperforms. This leaves Oakland in a prime spot for a Top 5 draft pick.
Kansas City Chiefs
There are high hopes in Kansas City this year and rightfully so. Even with the release of RB Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs still have one of the most explosive offenses in football. The defense made some improvements but did swap out their leading pass rusher Dee Ford for former Seahawk Frank Clark. Expectations are for a Super Bowl appearance by Kansas City this season.
Best Case: Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense continue to dominate the league and an extra year of experience helps the defense limit big plays from the other AFC powerhouses. The Chiefs could very well lift the Lombardi trophy this year.
Worst Case: Defenses adjust and figure out Mahomes and the Chiefs’ scheme, making it difficult to escape a sophomore slump. The defense continues to get gashed by opposing running backs and big plays through the air. The Chiefs still find themselves in the playoffs, but the trip is short-lived.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are in an interesting situation. It seems like RB Melvin Gordon might not suit up this year because of a contract dispute. So it might be up to backup RB Austin Ekeler to carry the load for Los Angeles, which is something he is capable of doing. The loss of Derwin James on the defensive side of the ball is massive, but their elite pass rushers and great cover corners should be enough to get the Chargers into the postseason.
Best Case: The offensive line holds up, Rivers stays healthy, the dropoff to Ekeler is negligible, and the defense dominates the trenches. The Chargers find themselves fighting for the AFC crown.
Worst Case: Ekeler cannot match the missing Gordon’s production and it puts too much pressure on QB Philip Rivers. The lack of a stable cover-and-run-stopping linebacker hurts the Chargers and magnifies the loss of Derwin James. The Chargers find themselves around .500 and without a playoff birth.
AFC West Betting Recommendation:
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