2014 NFL Preview and Predictions: AFC

To come up with these predictions I simply predicted the winner of every game on the 2014 NFL schedule. These are not rankings of how good I think teams are. We all know the schedule plays a huge part with what teams make the playoffs.

Please note: I did these predictions before the pre season started. Injuries and struggles were not taken into factor.


AFC East

1. New England Patriots, 12-4
2. New York Jets, 8-8
3. Miami Dolphins, 7-9
4. Buffalo Bills, 3-13

Expect this division to play out the way it has for the past 15 years. New England on top and the other three teams struggling to finish at .500. There is talent in this division. The Jets have one of the best young defenses in football. Buffalo has play makers on both sides of the ball. Miami has one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL, and a new, aggressive play calling scheme. Those three teams just do not have the all around roster to compete with New England. The Patriots will hope a year of development from all their young play makers and the addition of guys like Darrelle Revis, Tommy Kelly and Brandon Browner on defense can help them return to the Super Bowl. The Jets are a popular pick to be the worst team in football, but I love their young defense. Geno Smith should be a year better and the running game should be solid, and I don't mean because of the addition of Chris Johnson, who is finished. The Dolphins canned Mike Sherman and his terrible offense, and will go with a wide open, field spreading attack. That is good news for Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace. The Bills have pieces on both sides of the ball, but I have serious doubts EJ Manuel will ever be a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. The offense will struggle again.

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens, 10-6
2. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-8
3. Cincinnati Bengals, 8-8
4. Cleveland Browns, 7-9

The Bengals are on a great run for being the Bengals, but I think that comes to an end this year. I do like their young talent on offense, especially AJ Green and Giovani Bernard. Andy Dalton is good enough to get the Bengals through the regular season, but he will never deliver playoff victories. The defense suffered a few free agent losses, and could struggle to stop the passing game. I think the Browns will be better than people think, but it might not show up in the standings. The offense will really miss Josh Gordon, and it will take a while for Johnny Manziel to adjust to the NFL. The defense and running game is solid, however, and will keep the Browns in games. Baltimore added Steve Smith and Eugene Monroe will have a full off season to adjust to his new team, but they will mostly rely on youngsters to take the next step, especially on defense. Pittsburgh has the makings of an explosive offense. The offensive line has improved and LaVeon Bell has given the Steelers a back they have not had since Willie Parker's hey day. The defense is not what it used to be, meaning the Steelers will have to get used to winning some shootouts.

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts, 9-7
2. Tennessee Titans, 6-10
3. Houston Texans, 6-10
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-12

The Colts owned this division, with the other three teams all picking in the top 11 of the 2014 NFL Draft. I do not expect much difference this year. The Texans and Jaguars are clearly rebuilding, and Tennessee should be doing the same relatively soon. Houston has talent on both sides of the ball, but the offense will really struggle to score points. Arian Foster has gone from undrafted free agent to stud to aging injury prone with a lot of mileage on his tires. There are more question marks than ever at quarterback, where Ryan Fitzpatrick has looked like, well, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The defense has lost a lot of it's luster, but still has great playmakers like JJ Watt, Brian Cushing and JaDeveon Clowney. The Jaguars decided to retool their offense, adding Blake Bortles, Toby Gerhart, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Wins will still be very hard to come by, but Jacksonville is rebuilding the right way. As far as the Colts, I do not think they are a great team, but should have no problem winning their division. Andrew Luck is well on his way to being a great quarterback, and hopefully the coaches can open up the playbook a little more for him. You aren't going to win games with Trent Richardson plodding for 2 yards a carry.

AFC West

1. Denver Broncos, 13-3
2. San Diego Chargers, 7-9
3. Kansas City Chiefs, 6-10
4. Oakland Raiders, 4-12

Denver has gone all in for the 2014 season, bringing in DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, TJ Ward and Emmanuel Sanders. Denver ownership and management knows Peyton Manning has lost arm strength and might only have a year or two left; but they also know the AFC is still theirs for the taking. This is a very talented team that will have to bounce back from the Super Bowl beating. The other three teams have way too many questions to seriously contend with Denver. Philip Rivers had his best season in years in 2013. Keenan Allen proved a draft steal. Rivers will have to continue to carry the Chargers, because the defense is in transition. The Raiders decided to use their cap space on aging veterans, bringing in has beens like Justin Tuck, Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Schaub. Oakland will still be very, very bad. The Chiefs might be more talented than 6-10, but I just do not believe Alex Smith is a good quarterback. The Chiefs predictably faded down the stretch and went out with a whimper in the playoffs. With a much tougher schedule, a 10 win season would be a major accomplishment.


Playoff Predictions

The Broncos and Patriots are the clear favorites in the AFC, but I think a team could get hot and march through both. That team in this scenario is the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger has brought his team to a few Super Bowls, and would not be scared to travel to Boston and Denver and knock out two teams who have had playoff struggles in recent seasons.


1. Denver Broncos
2. New England Patriots
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. New York Jets
6. Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC Wild Card

Pittsburgh over Baltimore
New York over Indianapolis

AFC Divisional

Pittsburgh over Denver
New England over New York

AFC Championship

Pittsburgh over New England


Jonathan Carrano

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