The NFL offseason is slowing down, hardcore free agency is over, the draft is over, blockbuster trades have all happened and mini-camps have begun. Here are my thoughts on the status of every team in the AFC.
New England Patriots:
The Super Bowl 53 champions are being underrated because Rob Gronkowski retired, but the team has had Gronk injured before and done well. In 2016 Gronk got injured, but Edelman and Bennet were great on their road to Super Bowl 51. Yeah they lost Gronk, Hogan and Patterson. But they still have Edelman and Gordon, Phillip Dorsett is poised for a breakout, they signed Thomas, Watson and Jenkins, and drafted Harry. Brady has been capable enough with receiving cores like these. Also, the pats O-Line performance has been identical to the teams success if you look at the numbers over the past couple of years. Belichick and McDaniels have been changing gears to supporting their running game with Michel, White and Burkhead. The defense will be different with the Defensive Coordinator situation and losing Trey Flowers. However they are still practically a family, and Michael Bennet is a reasonable replacement for Flowers for at least one season. Hightower, Van Noy and Gilmore are super talented. Devin McCourtey and Patrick Chung, the two veteran safeties have been there forever. They have Jason McCourtey there. Everything should all still work. I say they go 12-4.
New York Jets:
The Jets had a lot of cap room and spent it wisely. Sam Darnold has help now. They gave him arguable still the best Running Back in football, Le’Veon Bell. Also, he got and underrated Ty Montgomery at that position as an upgrade from Isaiah Crowell. Bilal Powell returning from injury, is also highly underrated. He now has protection thanks to trading their 5th round pick for Kelechi Osemele of the Oakland Raiders. They signed Jamison Crowder as another weapon to play alongside Robbie Anderson. The Defense has improved by signing CJ Mosley to play LineBacker along with Avery Williamson. The defensive line with Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson has improved by drafting Quinnen Williams 3rd overall, the secondary is led by pro bowl Safety Jamal Adams, and another good Safety in Marcus Maye. The Cornerback core has lost Morris Claiborne, but still have Trumaine Johnson and added Brian Poole. The one questionable part is the coaching. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was fired, then hired by the Jets over Mike McCarthey. Then, after this masterpiece of an offseason they fire their GM Mike Maccagnan. Gase is now the interim GM. Gase’s first move was trading disappointing 2016 1st round pick LB Darron Lee to the Chiefs for a 2020 6th round pick. It was a failure that they couldn’t trade him for a 2019 pick on draft day. This team still seems like a 9-7 team though.
Sean McDermott has built one hell of a defense, and they added Ed Oliver as he fell to them at 9 in the NFL Draft. However the offense still has problems. They spent too much time trying to sign Bell and trade for Brown, and failed both. After this all the good offensive linemen were signed, good receivers were signed, now they are stuck in a bidding war for Jay Ajayi. They barely improved the Offense around Allen. The division they’re in doesn’t help either. They will probably end up 7-9.
The nasty rebuild has begun the Miami. Firing gase and hiring Pats D-Coordinator Brian Flores was to start a complete rebuild. They made a wise decision trading Ryan Tannehil for a 6th round pick, and letting Brock Osweiler go to the Free Agency. They released Cameron Wake as well. They signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he was never meant to be the starter. Everybody excpected the Dolphins to trade up and select Haskins in the draft, but they stayed at 13 and even though he fell to them, they picked Christian Wilkins. Flores did have a very good draft for his defense, and they trade for Cardinals QB Josh Rosen which was also a good move. Now Rosen has a better Offense around him unlike on Arizona. They look like a 5-11 team.
The Ravens are an interesting squad. Their Offense led by LaMar Jackson is young and improving. But the defense has a big mental gap now. They lost some locker room leaders. Long time Ravens Linebacker Terrell Suggs is now gone. Veteran Safety Eric Weddle is now gone. Young improving middle linebacker CJ Mosley was the center stone of this defense that he fit so well. Now he’s gone as well. They signed Elite Safety Earl Thomas, but it will take a lot of getting used to for this defense to play without Suggs, Weddle and Mosley. They didn’t even sign Anthony Barr to replace Mosley, who is staying with Minnesota. They will probably get off to a 3-5 or 4-4 start, but heat up at the end. My final prediction isn’t in yet, I’d say that it ranges from 7-9 to 12-4.
Highly Overrated. Trading for Beckham and signing Hunt sounds good on paper. But people are still way to high on them. The Zeitler-Vernon trade was one of the worst all offseason. They finally have a decent O-Line and traded a big piece for a player at an already stacked and deep position. Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr. are going to have problems behind this Zeitler-less O-Line. Vernon is barely gonna make a difference to the D-Line that already has Myles Garrett and newly signed Sheldon Richardson. Plus once again, it’s deep. They have no real good linebackers and failed to trade for Darron Lee. They lost their 1st and 3rd round picks in the Beckham trade. The secondary has changed as well, Safety Jabrill Peppers was traded as part of that Beckham trade. But they still have stud Cornerback Denzel Ward and have signed Morris Claiborne, and drafted Greedy Williams. Williams was a top 20 talent and the Browns were lucky to get him in the middle of the 2nd round of the draft. It will be different with a new coach as well. Players like Freddie Kitchens, but it will still only be his first season he’s ever been head coach before. I suspect that they will be from 8-8 to 11-5.
People are underrating the Steelers because they lost arguable the best receiver and running back in the game, Brown and Bell. But, they still have a very good defense, elite offensive line, pretty good receiver (JuJu) good running back (Connor) and decent Tight End (McDonald). Plus don’t forget 2X Super Bowl Champion Ben Roethlisberger is still there. Bell skipped 2018 and Brown caused locker room problems, it won’t be much different without them other than the locker room which should be better. It will be interesting, but I suspect that they will be somewhere from 8-8 to 10-6.
If there is any team people are sleeping on, it’s the Bengals. I have been considering them the worst team in football since the beginning of the offseason. But not anymore. My original 4-12 prediction is out the window. They still have AJ Green and Tyler Eifert in their prime. Joe Mixon is a good running back. The O-Line is decent. Imagine if Andy Dalton and Gio Bernard find their old form. The defense still has Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, William Jackson and Dre Kirpatrick. If they are all excellent in 2019, they can carry the team. If the team goes to the stellar, they must trade Atkins, Dunlap and Green immediately. My predictions for now, ranges from 4-12 to 7-9.
I am super high on the Colts. Andrew Luck deserved the 2018 Comeback Player of the year award. If there was an Offensive Linemen Rookie of the year award, that would’ve unanimously went to Quenton Nelson. He single-handedly turned the Offensive Line from one of the worst to one of the best in one year. TY Hilton is still a capable receiver, they signed Devin Funchess, they have a decent tight end core. They are most likely to sign Running Back Jay Ajayi out of all the teams bidding for him. The defense has a perfect leader. Their 2018 2nd round pick, turned into the UNANIMOUS defensive rookie in the year. Why? Because he had the most tackles in the ENTIRE LEAGUE in 2018. That’s incredible for a 2nd round pick. They’re in a tough division, but should still succeed to 12-4.
DeAndre Hopkins is arguably the best receiver in football, DeShaun Watson is a star Quarterback and LaMar Miller is a dangerous Running Back when healthy. However, the Offensive line is dreadful and those 3 guys are injury prone. The defense led by JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Jonathon Joseph. However with all the uncertainty, they look in position to finish last in a gruesome AFC South. Which sucks since they ended 1st in 2018. I don’t have an exact prediction, but I think they will range from 6-10 to 10-6.
This team was haunted by injuries in 2018. The Offense will be recovering now. It was insanely unfortunate what happened to their offensive players, they also made a wise move to replace Blake Bortles with Nick Foles. The secondary will be back to normal now the Jalen Ramsey is healthy. The Jaguars passed up on Tight End TJ Hockenson to draft LB Josh Allen. The reason is because Telvin Smith is sitting out 2019, and “Sacksonville” should be back, the defensive line is deep again since everyone is returning from injury. If everything goes to plan, 10-6 is the likely record for their 2019 season.
They will have a problem with this tough division, but should still be quite good. They have added more talent to their team. Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry have more fire power around them, and the defense keeps getting big pieces. They will probably range from 8-8 to 10-6 in 2019.
Kansas City Chiefs:
This is a team that had a dominant offense yet so cheap because of how unexpected it was. They were supposed to be able to retain their elite front seven, and add to their bad secondary. Didn’t go as planned. Two of their best offensive players, Hunt and Hill were arrested within a year and are gone. They still have an elite offense led by superstar Patrick Mahomes II. They lost Justin Houston and traded Dee Ford for a 2020 2nd rounder to destroy their front seven. They though trading for Frank Clark would be good, but it wasn’t. He always has drama. They overpayed to his contract. Traded a 2019 first round pick, 2020 2nd rounder and moved back in the 2019 3rd round. They also traded a 2020 6th round pick for underperforming Darron Lee. So they lost Justin Houston and Dee Ford to overpay Frank Clark and Darron Lee, disappointing. The secondary is barely different, they did sign Tyrann Mathieu and got rid of Eric Berry at Safety, but technically Mathieu is just a slightly better, younger and healthier version of Berry. They still have a dominant offense in a crazy stadium and the defense is still good enough. Expect them to finish 12-4 again.
Los Angeles Chargers:
I have mixed emotions about the Chargers. I like them but I feel like they are the same team as in 2018, and I think that Phillip Rivers is losing confidence. If there is a team to disappoint, I think it will be them. I’m sadly calling a 10-6 finish for the Chargers.
John Elway decided not to focus on his offense, and it remains pretty bad. Joe Flacco is not the Quarterback of the future we know that, 2nd round pick Drew Lock isn’t too high in peoples minds. The defense has gotten younger and improved, but 6-10 or lower is probably still their landing spot in 2019.
Jon Gruden was considered crazy when he trade Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper in 2018, but maybe not as much anymore. Amari Cooper is 24 yes, but trading for 31 year old Antonio Brown is probably an upgrade. They only had to trade a 3rd and 5th round pick. At Running Back they got rid of Marshawn Lynch and added Isaiah Crowell, kind of a downgrade, and they traded Osemele for a 5th round pick downgrading the Offensive Line. But the draft pulled all of this back up. They had 3 1st round picks. Pick 24 was used on RB Josh Jacobs. Pick 27 was for Safety Jonathan Abram who can play along with newly signed Safety LaMarcus Joyner (who might have been a little bit overpayed). The 4th overall pick was the real question though. The Raiders wanted DE Clelin Ferrell, but failed to find a landing spot in trading back. So they reached for him at 4. Things can either go really well or really bad. If Derek Carr finds his 2016 form, Brown and Cook continue to play at elite levels, Josh Jacobs does well, the offensive line improves, the Ferrell improves the front seven and the Joyner/Abram Safety duo carry the seconday, they can end around 9-7. If everything Gruden’s experiment failed, then they can end 3-13. Right now I have them right in the middle, at 6-10. But we will see.
Thats my review for the AFC teams in the NFL as of this month. Next week I’ll right about the NFC teams.