2014 NFL Preview: AFC

September 7, 2014

As usual, I’m waiting until the last possible hour to start one of my previews. The games will probably be underway by the time this is finished, but that hardly affects what I’m writing.

Here is my preview of the American Football Conference.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots (10-6)

2. Miami Dolphins (7-9)

3. Buffalo Bills (5-11)

4. New York Jets (4-12)

Why They’ll Win

Every year that Tom Brady gets older, the Patriots will have a more difficult time within their own division. But luckily for New England, the rest of the AFC East hasn’t exactly stepped up its game in the wake of Brady’s aging. The Patriots are still the class of the division and will win games with or without Rob Gronkowski. Granted, if Gronk can stay healthy then 10 wins may be underestimating how many this team can win, but I’m skeptical.

The Patriots aren’t the favorite to win it all this year, but in my book they’re still a good bet to make it to the playoffs.

Keep an Eye On


The Dolphins have gotten some good pieces and not so good pieces in recent drafts, but for the most part the decisions by the front office have paid off. Unfortunately, the verdict is still out on the most important one: is Ryan Tannehill a solid starting quarterback? Consistency has been an issue for the third-year signal caller out of Texas A&M, and without it the Dolphins have no chance to catch New England in the division. But if Tannehill finally puts all the pieces together for 16 games, this team has enough talent to challenge the bullies of the AFC East.

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

2. Cincinnati Benagls (9-7)

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)

4. Cleveland Browns (5-11)

Why They’ll Win

This isn’t exactly the sexy pick, as many people are expecting either the Steelers to make a comeback or the Bengals to continue to make strides under a now handsomely paid Andy Dalton. But the Ravens will continue to do what has worked for them for six years with Joe Flacco as quarterback, and it will continue to pay off in dividends. Baltimore is not glamorous, not flashy and dare I say it…kind of boring to watch. But the team gets the job done on both sides of the ball and that translates into victories.

It may not be a two game lead at the end of the season like I’ve predicted, but I think that the Ravens will be atop the AFC North when Week 17 has concluded. I want to have faith in the teams that I put at the top of the division, and during the Joe Flacco Era the Ravens have instilled lots of it in neutral fans like me.

Keep an Eye On


Depending on which side you take in the Andy Dalton debate, the six-year, $115 million deal that he signed is either insane or extremely smart. An article at CBSSports.com would suggest that it is the latter, because Dalton is actually being paid like the player that he is: a second-tier quarterback. But if it makes him happy and he plays in the regular (and post) season like he has in the preseason, then Cincinnati fans will be pleased with the investment made in him.

Dalton appears to be the only thing holding back this Bengals squad from making the leap to the AFC title game. If he begins to figure things out, Cincinnati is a dangerous team capable of seizing the division for a long time.

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

2. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

3. Houston Texans (8-8)

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

Why They’ll Win

Indianapolis is on the cusp of becoming a perennial AFC title contender, provided that the few weaknesses the team has can be fixed in the next couple of years. Andrew Luck is quickly becoming one of the young signal callers ready to take the place of the elites once they begin to lose their step, and most of the offense is rock solid. The two areas where there is concern is the running game and the defensive line.

However, despite the weaknesses the Colts should still have enough firepower to run away with this division. If Trent Richardson can finally have the type of season most thought he would be capable of when he was drafted fourth overall in 2012, he is just another weapon that Indianapolis would have in the playoffs. The defense will continue to be an issue all season, but if you can score 50 points every game, you only need to hold the opposition to 49.

Keep an Eye On


The Titans are the chic pick to upset the balance in the AFC, and most of this is based on the fact that Ken Whisenhunt is something of an offensive genius. Whisenhunt will have to transform Jake Locker into a productive quarterback in order for that to happen. Locker has completed less than 60 percent of his passes during his career, and without an accurate quarterback the Titans don’t stand much of a chance in this offensively dominated division.

Whisenhunt has worked magic before, so don’t be surprised if the Titans are in the thick of the playoff race in 2014. But it is a bit of a long shot and not one that I would bet heavily on happening.

AFC West

1. Denver Broncos (13-3)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)

3. San Diego Chargers (7-9)

4. Oakland Raiders (5-11)

Why They’ll Win

Forget the Wes Welker saga; that will only be an issue for Denver at the beginning of the year. This team isn’t worried about how many wins it has during the regular season, only that it gets back to the playoffs where it can redeem itself. The humiliating loss in Super Bowl XLVIII only adds fuel to the fire for a team that is still the most talented in the AFC. No one feels sorry for you in the NFL, so getting back to the big game won’t be easy for the Broncos. But they have the personnel and now the drive to do it, and it’ll be hard for anyone in the AFC West to prevent that from happening.

Keep an Eye On

San Diego Chargers

The resurgence of Philip Rivers last season hid the fact that when the Chargers had a good chance to score, it did only about half the time. San Diego was tied for 26th in the league in redzone efficiency last season and without an improvement in that area the team will have a difficult time vying for a playoff spot.

But if the redzone issues can be resolved even mildly, then this team has enough balance on offense to make things interesting in the West. Keep in mind that 9-7 was good enough for a playoff spot last year, and the Chargers are definitely good enough to get there again in 2014.


Wild Card

Cincinnati (Wild Card) vs. New England

Winner: New England

Tennessee (Wild Card) vs. Baltimore

Winner: Baltimore


New England vs. Denver

Winner: Denver

Baltimore vs. Indianapolis

Winner: Baltimore

Conference Championship

Baltimore vs. Denver

Winner: Denver

If you’ve read both this and my NFC preview, then you know that my Super Bowl XLIX prediction is Green Bay vs. Denver. After Green Bay’s thumping at the hands of Seattle on Thursday, most of you probably wouldn’t agree with me at this point.

It’s a long season, folks.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on my predictions as well as your own. Leave a comment on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, or tweet me @KBecks_ATC. You could even send me an email if you have any ideas of how I can incorporate more NFL coverage into the blog this season.

But finally, here is my pick for Super Bowl XLIX.

Super Bowl XLIX

Green Bay Packers (NFC Champion) vs. Denver Broncos (AFC Champion)

Winner: Denver Broncos

– K. Becks

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