21 August 2007

NFL Preview Pt. 4: AFC Predictions

The AFC playoff picture is considerably more settled than the NFC's; there is a clear favorite in each division, and I see no legitimate reason to go against chalk.

The real intrigue should come in the battle for the AFC wild card spots; I see the Jets and the Broncos taking those spots, but neither will make it past the first round of the playoffs.

In the East, the Patriots are serious Super Bowl contenders. Tom Brady finally has weapons, and the addition of Adalius Thomas should improve the already-good defense. The Jets are a good young team, but they're still a year away; Buffalo will be spending this year to season J.P. Losman and Marshawn Lynch. Miami is a mediocre team struggling to repair their self-image in the wake of the Nick Saban fiasco.

In the North, Baltimore, armed with a still-excellent defense despite the defection of Adalius Thomas, should repeat as division champs. Pittsburgh, following the departure of Bill Cowher, will struggle to remain near the top of the second tier, while Cincinnati has to rely on offense - a strategy that annually results in inconsistency. Brady Quinn is in Cleveland, as is Jamal Lewis... but the team still sucks.

In the West, San Diego will attempt to survive the departure of Marty Schottenheimer. Let me rephrase that... San Diego should improve on last year's already-impressive campaign. Denver should have a top-3 rushing attack, but I don't trust Jay Cutler. Kansas City is an old team with a young quarterback, while Oakland is terrible and could very well be looking at another 1st-overall draft choice.

In the South... it's Indianapolis. Are you surprised? I thought not. They will take a hit on defense, but Dungy will hold it together, and that offense will keep humming along. Jacksonville can win 8 or 9 games, while Tennessee's secondary will struggle to deal with Pacman's ghost, and Houston will continue their endless struggle to emerge from the league cellar.

I have San Diego as my AFC champions. They quite simply have the most complete team of any in the NFL. Their offense, featuring LDT and Antonio Gates, is explosive; their defense, featuring Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo, has the potential to be frighteningly good. The Colts, meanwhile, have a defense with some serious issues, while the Patriots are faced with the challenge of integrating their many offseason additions. The Ravens are, to me, the second-best team in the league, but their WR corps worries me too much for me to pick them. Chargers to the Super Bowl - and Chargers to win the Super Bowl.

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