Earlier today, Sean power ranked the top five teams in the NFC. Now it is time to power rank the top five AFC teams to kick off the start of football season.
The AFC is not quite as deep as the NFC this season, yet there are still formidable juggernauts that will compete for a spot in the Super Bowl this year. Here are my picks for the top five teams in the AFC heading into training camp.
1. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have established a winning culture with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Every year Brady gets older I think to myself, he has to drop off at least a little bit. But it seems as though he will be amazing until he decides to hang it up. I’m putting New England as number one because you can never doubt number 12. Not to mention that they also have Gronk, Edelman, and a solid stable of backs around the GOAT.
The only concerns with the Patriots are staying healthy, their defense, and off the field turmoil. Tom Brady has only had one major injury in his career (knock on wood) and as long as he stays healthy the team will be in the position to reach the Superbowl again.
When looking at the Patriots defense there are no big names that really stand out. But this has been the case many times during Belichick’s tenure. He’s such a good coach that it never seems to matter who is playing on defense. Especially when your offense can put up so many points a game.
It’s not looking like any of these issues will materialize to stop the Patriots dominance, as they haven’t in the past.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are the best wide-receiver running-back combination in the NFL. Game planning against the Steelers offense is almost impossible because their skill position players are so versatile and deep.
Similar to the defensive concerns of the New England Patriots, the Steelers’ secondary has proven to be a shaky unit. If the opposing pass game gets going against the “steel curtain” a lot of pressure is put on the Steelers offense. Few teams boast skill position players like the Steelers, but the only way the Steelers are going to win is if their defense can just do enough to make sure the offense doesn’t need to score every possession. The Steelers will be almost unbeatable if Big Ben, AB, and Bell stay healthy and the defense is competitive enough not to make every game a shootout.
The Steelers dominance may be coming to an end with Bell’s contract issues and an aging QB. They will have a solid chance to win a chip this year before it’s too late.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
For the first time I can remember, the Jacksonville Jaguars actually had a solid season last year. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette was a monster and is a perfect example of how great rookie running backs can be. The Jags’ defense was also a very solid unit with Jalen Ramsey and Calais Campbell leading the way.
The main concern with the Jaguars is their quarterback, Blake Bortles. Bortles had a good enough season last year to take the Jaguars deep into the playoffs, and while he played well against Brady and the Patriots, you have to wonder if they would have won if they had a different man running the show. The guy has 64 interceptions in four years… nuff said.
The Jags have a lot of talent on both ends of the ball. If Blake Bortles learns how to manage a game better than he did last year, the Jaguars are primed for postseason success. I’m hoping the best for this franchise as they have been bad forever.
4. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans looked like a legit super bowl contender when Deshaun Watson was healthy. Unfortunately, the Texans are an injury-prone team. That narrative could change if JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson stay healthy. And if they do, the league better watch out.
The Texans have arguably the best defensive line in the NFL, boasting JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, two absolute freaks of nature. The defense stems from these two, and if they are playing well, the rest of the defense follows suit as the pressure put on the opposing quarterback forces them into making quick decisions against a smart secondary.
The offense is primed for a great season with the core of Lamar Miller, Deshaun Watson, and DeAndre Hopkins. If the defense stays healthy, the offense will surely be able to do enough to win the Texans 10 games this year.
Side note: Will Fuller V breakout year? I think so.
5. San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers low-key had a decent year last season. Yes, they only went 9 – 7, but their future looks bright. Philip Rivers is a solid quarterback and has been doing his thing for years at a high clip, and now the Chargers have surrounded him with the most talent he has seen in recent years. Melvin Gordon is a red zone threat; Keenan Allen, when healthy, is a monster. Not to mention Mike Williams, coming off an injury-shortened 2017, could turn into a huge part of this high-powered offense.
Looking at the defensive side of things, Joey Bosa and an underrated defensive line will be tough against the run game. Combine the run defense with ball hawk Derwin James, who was drafted in the first round this year, and the Chargers D is young and talented.
On paper, the Chargers look to have a solid roster, then again, it is the Chargers and they may definitely mess this season up.
The wildcard race will certainly be one to watch for in the AFC this year, with the Bills, Titans, Chiefs, and Raiders likely to be competing for two spots in the postseason. There is always a surprise team that sneaks into the playoffs. What team will that be in the AFC this year?