2019 NFL Predictions Part Two: AFC

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KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 20: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots eludes pressure from the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

With the 2019 NFL season on the horizon, predictions are common across the internet. Looking back at my predictions from last year made me want to try again. This year should be another exciting one with a number of teams looking to contend. There’s always some surprises every season and it will be interesting to see who becomes this year’s Chicago Bears.

Here are my predictions for the upcoming season, continuing with the AFC.

2019 NFL Predictions Part Two: AFC

AFC East: Yes, There Are Other Teams In This Division

  1. New England Patriots (13-3)

2. Buffalo Bills (8-8)

3. New York Jets (6-10)

4. Miami Dolphins (4-12)

For the past 20 seasons, no one has dominated a division as the Patriots have. Despite Tom Brady turning 42, he continues to perform among the league’s best. Losing Rob Gronkowski would hurt any other team much worse. Belichick will figure out how to fill the void. For the other teams in the division, it’s an uphill battle for a wildcard berth.

The Bills showed promise last season despite a 6-10 record. Josh Allen didn’t put up incredible numbers. However, his ability outside the pocket gave fans hope. The defense has a lot of talent. Tremaine Edmunds and Tre’Davious White are two of the best young stars.

New York only won three games last season and added Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley in the offseason. It’s going to be hard to do worse with Quinnen Williams and Jamal Adams leading the young defense. Sam Darnold has had a year to learn and develop, so he should be better in 2019, according to these NFL predictions.

The Dolphins are a trainwreck and lost a lot on both sides of the ball. It seems they are in rebuild mode which is smart, but it also means this will not be a winning squad. Josh Rosen looks to be the future starter, but he doesn’t have much around him yet.

AFC West: Second Year Slumber

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (11-5)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

3. Denver Broncos (7-9)

4. Oakland Raiders (6-10)

Patrick Mahomes had an amazing season, however, he’s only played one full year. I can’t trust that he is a franchise quarterback for at least another two years. The Chiefs have the talent needed to contend, but I think both Mahomes and Kansas City take a step back.

Los Angeles however, has the pieces on both sides to contend. If Melvin Gordon holds out, Austin Ekeler should be good enough to step in. Derwin James and Joey Bosa lead this defense that could finish among the best in football.

Denver needs a quarterback and Joe Flacco doesn’t appear to be the answer. Drew Lock is their future, but the present looks bleak on offense. Von Miller is still a top ten player, but there isn’t much around him like in 2015.

Derek Carr has only had one good season so it’s hard to trust he’s the answer. Antonio Brown, and more importantly his helmet, need to be committed to this team immediately. This is not a talented team right now, so prove me wrong Raiders.

AFC North: Are The Browns Back?

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

3. Cleveland Browns (8-8)

4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-13)

To answer the headline, not yet. Cleveland looks significantly better on paper than before but on paper doesn’t mean guaranteed success. If they start to lose, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham better not lose their emotions. Baker Mayfield could finally be the answer at quarterback, and Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett lead a young talented defense.

The Steelers may have lost Antonio Brown, but JuJu Smith-Schuster looks like a number one receiver. James Conner replaces Le’Veon Bell nicely, and the offensive and defensive lines should remain solid. This will be a bounce-back year for Pittsburgh. The Steelers are known for their defense, and if Devin Bush is legit they have the talent to compete with anyone.

Baltimore won the division, however, Lamar Jackson has to be a quarterback first. The offense reportedly is all around him now, so he needs to take a step forward in order to prove himself as the franchise quarterback the Ravens are betting on. Adding Earl Thomas to the secondary helps their defense, which should continue to live up to expectations.

Cincinnati doesn’t have much especially on defense, which is crucial in their division. Andy Dalton needs to prove himself or it’s time to move on. Geno Atkins and A.J. Green can’t do it on their own.

AFC South: Need More Than Some Luck

  1. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

2. Houston Texans (10-6)

3. Tennessee Titans (7-9)

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)

This assumes Andrew Luck is healthy. As of writing this, he’s dealing with calf and ankle injuries. If he can play this is a super bowl contender. If he misses a significant amount of time they immediately become a mediocre team. Defensively, Darius Leonard could become the steal of 2018 if he continues to produce.

Houston wins this division if Luck misses most of the season by default. Deshaun Watson threw for 4,100 yards and 26 touchdowns last year. So, if he can get 30 scores this could be a special team. Deandre Hopkins is arguably the best receiver in football, and if Will Fuller can stay healthy this could be a deadly duo.

For Jacksonville, it all depends on Nick Foles. If he can bring some of his 2017 magic they certainly have the defense to compete. Right now their receivers such as Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook are good but not great, so it’s key to see them step up in 2019.

The Titans lack weapons on offense besides Derrick Henry and Corey Davis. Marcus Mariota needs to prove he’s a franchise quarterback, he hasn’t played 16 games in a season and only had one good season. They didn’t add much around him this offseason, so this could be a down year in Nashville if Mariota doesn’t step up.

Fourth And Goal

It’s safe for NFL predictions to say the Patriots will win the AFC. If they don’t win it, I could see the Colts or Chargers winning this conference. It’s going to be hard to challenge New England, but they have fallen in the past. This conference should be fun to watch with some young talent waiting to break out on every team.

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