Re-setting the AFC

tims4wins

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Thought this would be worthy of its own topic...

Yeah they may have overreacted to the AFCCG (and the loss in NE). Yes their run D was horrible and overall their D was really bad but like you said the one thing they could do was rush the passer (but not in the AFCCG). Now they might not even be as good at that and the secondary could be worse.

Which AFC contenders have improved this offseason?
Cleveland.
Jaguars - Foles may not be the answer, but he's better than Bortles.
Debatable whether they're a contender but I think the Ravens are a better team than last year.
I don't know if they improved, but the Colts are definitely poised to improve in the very near future.

As to the Chiefs, I had read a comment on PFT that got me thinking. I can't easily verify that this is true but it kind of makes sense. The idea is that they let Houston and Ford go to free up money to sign Hill long term, but then Hill's latest incident came out and they were screwed. So the trade for Clark while it certainly appears to be an overpay can make sense if you match DEs and WRs as similarly valued. For example, if you squint, the Clark trade and the Clark contract are both kind of in line with both the Browns trade for OBJ and OBJ's contract.
Hard to classify Cleveland or Jacksonville as contenders. I agree on the Colts I think.
Good question. I'd definitely agree that the Colts have improved. The Texans and Chargers essentially treaded water in free agency (minor losses or net downgrades when all moves are considered), which is a good situation when you're already a pretty good team and still have a draft class to add.

I think the Steelers clearly got significantly worse and both the Chiefs and Patriots also got worse but with the extent of that decline highly dependent on what happens with Tyreek Hill and whether Gronk returns.

I'm not sure either Baltimore or Cleveland are true contenders but the former got a bit worse and the latter obviously got a lot better.
The Colts have a good-to-great QB, some talented playmakers, and a solid o-line, and lots of cap space. I can see that they might be trying to build slowly now to put themselves in position to take advantage of a post-Brady/post-Belichick AFC in a couple of years. What I would be worried about is that extra cap space and how it will be impacted when the CBA runs out. As I understand it teams have to use a specific percentage of the cap space over a four year period. Unused cap-space on an annual basis rolls over into the next year, but it needs to be used within that four year period or there's a penalty. So, it seems like the Colts will have to spend money next year, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I don't consider an ideal position to be in. They might end up having to spend more $$ on lesser talent just to increase their four-year spending. Again, not a bad thing, more just kind-of getting put into a position where they have to spend money.
I agree with Jacksonville. I probably putting too much into their 2017, but I have no idea how you can not classify Cleveland as a Contender. Finished 7-8-1 last season with a rookie QB and went 5-2 in their last 7 games. They may be the third best team in the AFC.
Playoff team? Sure. Contender? Meh
Well in that case the only two AFC contenders are KC and New England and both got worse this offseason, so kind of a silly question then.
I disagree, I think Houston and Indy are contenders. San Diego as well.
Agreed ... and there's likely to be one team (like the Colts last season) who will emerge as well
 

Seels

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I don't think KC is the favorite to win their own division if Hill's future is uncertain.

KC hit on all strides last year. Expecting them to be the best team in the league is expecting Mahomes to have another 5k yard 50 touchdown year. Seems unlikely.
 

RedOctober3829

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I don't think KC is the favorite to win their own division if Hill's future is uncertain.

KC hit on all strides last year. Expecting them to be the best team in the league is expecting Mahomes to have another 5k yard 50 touchdown year. Seems unlikely.
By all measures, their defense should be better with the additions they made this offseason. So I don't think they have to have the same offense they had a year ago to be near the top of the AFC.
 

BaseballJones

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Tier 1 - The Favorites: NE (1), KC (2)
Tier 2 - The Contenders: LA (3), Hou (4), Ind (5), Pit (6), Bal (7)
Tier 3 - The Up and Comers: Cle (8), Jax (9), NYJ (10)
Tier 4 - Long Way to Go: Ten (11), Den (12), Cin (13)
Tier 5 - Dumpster Fire: Buf (14), Mia, (15), Oak (16)
 

tims4wins

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Tier 1 - The Favorites: NE (1), KC (2)
Tier 2 - The Contenders: LA (3), Hou (4), Ind (5), Pit (6), Bal (7)
Tier 3 - The Up and Comers: Cle (8), Jax (9), NYJ (10)
Tier 4 - Long Way to Go: Ten (11), Den (12), Cin (13)
Tier 5 - Dumpster Fire: Buf (14), Mia, (15), Oak (16)
Tennessee has won 9 games each of the last two years. They may regress but on paper I think they have to be ranked higher than the Jets and Jags at this point.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Tier 1 - The Favorites: NE (1), KC (2)
Tier 2 - The Contenders: LA (3), Hou (4), Ind (5), Pit (6), Bal (7)
Tier 3 - The Up and Comers: Cle (8), Jax (9), NYJ (10)
Tier 4 - Long Way to Go: Ten (11), Den (12), Cin (13)
Tier 5 - Dumpster Fire: Buf (14), Mia, (15), Oak (16)
I think these are good rankings. I might put Indy and Tennessee a little higher and Pittsburgh a little lower.

If I knew that either Hill was suspended for the year or that Gronk was definitely not coming back, in either case I'd probably argue that there's no gap between the favorite in question and the best of tier two.
 

mwonow

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I'm with Tims, I think Tennessee is low and the Jets are high in those tiers. Are the Jets really a coin flip (a game or so) out of a wild card spot? And is Tennessee really as close as that to Buffalo? If you flop them, though, I think that's a pretty good take
 

Was (Not Wasdin)

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Tier 1 - The Favorites: NE (1), KC (2)
Tier 2 - The Contenders: LA (3), Hou (4), Ind (5), Pit (6), Bal (7)
Tier 3 - The Up and Comers: Cle (8), Jax (9), NYJ (10)
Tier 4 - Long Way to Go: Ten (11), Den (12), Cin (13)
Tier 5 - Dumpster Fire: Buf (14), Mia, (15), Oak (16)
I think this is a pretty good breakout. I agree Jets are high, Tenn is low. Titans have the same problem as the Jags-a good to very good defense, but a putrid offense. If either of them gets their offense figured out they could jump into the "Contenders" bracket pretty quickly.
 

Ralphwiggum

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I don't know that the Pats are the clear favorites, or even in a tier by themselves with KC and/or LA. They got hot at the right time last year, but over the long haul of the season I don't think they were markedly better than a handful of other AFC teams. They also were remarkably healthy last year, and they lost Gronk. I would put KC, NE, LAC, Indy, Houston, Pitt and Baltimore in the same group.
 

Ale Xander

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Tier 1
The Patriots
Tier 2
LAC, HOU, KC, IND
Black and Blue Tier (3)
BAL, PIT, CLE, TEN
Tier 4 (potential to surprise)
DEN, OAK, NYJ, JAX, MIA
Tier 5 (perennial losers)
CIN, BUF
 

Bergs

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I don't know that the Pats are the clear favorites, or even in a tier by themselves with KC and/or LA. They got hot at the right time last year, but over the long haul of the season I don't think they were markedly better than a handful of other AFC teams. They also were remarkably healthy last year, and they lost Gronk. I would put KC, NE, LAC, Indy, Houston, Pitt and Baltimore in the same group.
Have you been paying attention the last 2 decades?
 

BaseballJones

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Have you been paying attention the last 2 decades?
If not for a ridiculous, once-in-a-generation fluke play by Miami, the Patriots would have gone 5-1 over their last 6, and 11-2 over their last 13. That's not just "getting hot at the right time". That's doing what they usually do: muddle through their first few games, figure it out, and kick ass the rest of the season. They beat more first-place teams last year than anyone else.
 

Ralphwiggum

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Yeah, I just think last year’s team is the weakest Pats team to win it all since 2001, clearly not as good as several Pats teams over the last decade that did not win, was the beneficiary of really good injury luck, and did not get better on paper in the offseason (admittedly with the draft still to come). I still enjoyed the hell out of it and I’m not taking anything away from them, I just don’t think they are the clear cut favorites or a tier above a bunch of other teams going into this year.
 

Captaincoop

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Yeah, I just think last year’s team is the weakest Pats team to win it all since 2001, clearly not as good as several Pats teams over the last decade that did not win, was the beneficiary of really good injury luck, and did not get better on paper in the offseason (admittedly with the draft still to come). I still enjoyed the hell out of it and I’m not taking anything away from them, I just don’t think they are the clear cut favorites or a tier above a bunch of other teams going into this year.
I'd counter that they've just kind of earned being placed in that category every year until further notice, because even when they look vulnerable, they've still ended up at or near the top every January since 2004.
 

Ralphwiggum

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I'd counter that they've just kind of earned being placed in that category every year until further notice, because even when they look vulnerable, they've still ended up at or near the top every January since 2004.
I agree with this. I’d put them in a group as one of the favorites. I just don’t think they stand out from a handful of other teams in the same category.
 

maufman

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Here’s the AFC teams, listed in order of last season’s point differential — which seems like a better starting point than W-L record or playoff results.

1. Chiefs

2. Pats
3. Ravens
4. Chargers
5. Colts
6. Texans
7. Steelers

8. Titans
9. Broncos
10. Browns

11. Jaguars
12. Bengals
13. Bills
14. Jets
15. Dolphins

16. Raiders

There were big gaps between #1 and #2, #7 and #8, #10 and #11 , and #15 and #16 — the Pats were closer to the Steelers than they were to the Chiefs, the Steelers were closer to the Pats than they were to the Titans, and the Dolphins were closer to the Jaguars than they were to the Raiders.

The Pats and Steelers both lost star players. So did the Chiefs — even if Hill plays, those eye-popping numbers were mostly compiled with Kareem Hunt playing. And while the Ravens didn’t lose anyone so high-profile, I’d argue they’ll miss C.J. Mosley as much as any of those teams will miss their stars. Meanwhile, pretty much everyone in the bottom half made significant changes and figures to be better than they were last year (though the Raiders didn’t do nearly enough, and will still suck). So I think the AFC is a lot harder to handicap than it has been in years past.

A few other random thoughts/predictions:

—The Pats should run away with the AFC East yet again.

— The AFC South will be the toughest division in the league.

— The Browns are the most obviously improved team in the AFC, and the Ravens got worse, but the gap between the two was vast. I’d rate those teams as co-favorites in the AFC North. You have to like the Steelers to finish 3rd, but it wouldn’t shock me if the Bengals are significantly improved in the post-Lewis era, leaving Pittsburgh in the cellar. Would that push Roethlisberger into retirement?

— If history is a guide, at least one of those bottom six teams will make the playoffs. Statistically, you’d have to pick the Jaguars or the Bengals, but they are both in tough divisions — my gut says next year’s surprise team is either the Bills or Jets, depending on which 2nd-year QB makes the leap. The Jets made more improvements, but I like Allen better than Darnold; Allen was extremely raw and was never supposed to see the field as a rookie, but when you watched him play you could clearly see what the Bills saw when they reached for him.

— I dislike cherry-picking a portion of the season’s stats, but with the new coach and Andrew Luck returning from injury, there’s an argument you should throw out the Colts’ 1-5 start. If you do that, their point differential was 2nd to the Chiefs, and they’re bringing back just about everyone (I think). I’m not saying they should be favored to win the AFC, but I like the Colts at 17-2 a lot more than I like the Pats at 7-2 or the Chiefs at 4-1.
 

Dernells Casket n Flagon

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Tier 1
Patriots, Chiefs

Tier 2
Browns, Chargers, Colts, Texans

Tier 3
Steelers, Ravens, Titans

Tier 4
Broncos, Jaguars, Bengals

Tier 5
Dolphins, Bills, Jets, Raiders
 

ConigliarosPotential

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— The Browns are the most obviously improved team in the AFC, and the Ravens got worse, but the gap between the two was vast. I’d rate those teams as co-favorites in the AFC North.
The gap between the Browns and Ravens last year wasn't nearly so vast if you ignore the games Hue Jackson was coaching. It's hard to ignore how much of a train wreck he was, and as such I think most of you guys are under-selling how good the Browns are going to be this year: they were a very decent team in the second half last year, and they might have had the best offseason so far out of any team in the league. I think the Browns are definite AFC North favorites, and I think they have at least a puncher's chance to reach the Super Bowl. (If they weren't called the Browns, they'd probably have more than a puncher's chance.)
 

Super Nomario

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The gap between the Browns and Ravens last year wasn't nearly so vast if you ignore the games Hue Jackson was coaching. It's hard to ignore how much of a train wreck he was, and as such I think most of you guys are under-selling how good the Browns are going to be this year: they were a very decent team in the second half last year, and they might have had the best offseason so far out of any team in the league. I think the Browns are definite AFC North favorites, and I think they have at least a puncher's chance to reach the Super Bowl. (If they weren't called the Browns, they'd probably have more than a puncher's chance.)
They played better down the stretch, but their wins were over Atlanta, the Bengals twice (once when Dalton got hurt, the other with Dalton out), the Panthers, and the Broncos, all of whom finished with losing records. (They beat the Ravens earlier in the year with Flacco, and the hapless Jets.) They made splash moves for OBJ and Vernon, but they lost some guys, too. The OL is a question mark, and I'm not sold on the D.

In general people a) tend to overrate the impact of star talent b) tend to assume ascending teams improve linearly. I'm going to have to see it.
 

Dehere

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I would view Cleveland’s schedule pretty favorably. Their own division is average, they could go 3-1 against the AFC East and their tough NFC games are at home (SEA, LAR) with easier ones on the road (AZ, SF).

The pitfall I guess is that the first third of their schedule is the toughest part, and expectations are so high that if they start 1-3 “the Browns are a bust” will be the biggest story in the league.

I think they’ll win ten.
 

bootymfg

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They played better down the stretch, but their wins were over Atlanta, the Bengals twice (once when Dalton got hurt, the other with Dalton out), the Panthers, and the Broncos, all of whom finished with losing records. (They beat the Ravens earlier in the year with Flacco, and the hapless Jets.) They made splash moves for OBJ and Vernon, but they lost some guys, too. The OL is a question mark, and I'm not sold on the D.

In general people a) tend to overrate the impact of star talent b) tend to assume ascending teams improve linearly. I'm going to have to see it.
Totally agree with the last part, but wanted to add that the Browns had many close non-wins too. Tied PIT, lost by 3 in NO, lost by a FG in OT at OAK, and lost by a FG in OT at TB. Not claiming this is predictive, and it is no doubt swamped by the other factors SN listed. Just saying there were other signs besides their record of their up-and-coming-ness. It'll be interesting to see how they do.
 

Super Nomario

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Totally agree with the last part, but wanted to add that the Browns had many close non-wins too. Tied PIT, lost by 3 in NO, lost by a FG in OT at OAK, and lost by a FG in OT at TB. Not claiming this is predictive, and it is no doubt swamped by the other factors SN listed. Just saying there were other signs besides their record of their up-and-coming-ness. It'll be interesting to see how they do.
Pythag had them at 7.2 wins, they won 7 and tied once.