Belief and Skepticism: AFC divisions
Predicting the teams that won't break your expectations: Seaside Joe 1647
Rather than make predictions, I’m going to choose one team in each division that I most believe in and one that I am most skeptical about. Let me know in the comments section which teams you would pick for each category.
I choose to believe in: The Buffalo Bills
The Bills didn’t win any division titles between 1996 and 2019. Since Josh Allen started to figure out football, they’ve won the last three. I’m still skeptical of a few elements in Buffalo, including whether or not head coach Sean McDermott will develop a “bad playoff coach” reputation like Mike McCarthy. But even McCarthy won a Super Bowl.
For me, a person shouldn’t overthink picking a Super Bowl team because it’s going to be a random choice between a few contenders. The Bills are clearly one of those few contenders in the AFC and they are my pick to reach the Super Bowl out of that conference. It could be someone else, I’m just choosing the Bills and moving on with my life. Who are you choosing?
I am most skeptical of: The Miami Dolphins
You could easily go with one of the other two teams, but a) I don’t think the Patriots have high expectations anyway and b) the Jets already have a lot of skeptics of whether the Aaron Rodgers trade will work and if they can protect him. I don’t know if the Jets are going to make the playoffs, but at least I know that the quarterback has been there many times. I don’t think it’s fair to put Tua Tagovailoa, or the Dolphins offensive line, or the running backs, or the defense on that same pedastal and yet I see a lot of people picking Miami for the playoffs.
I choose to believe in: The Baltimore Ravens
Let’s say we laid out all the quarterbacks in the AFC North, it would be very close between Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson. If we laid out the defenses, it would be close between the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals. If we laid out the head coaches, it would be close between Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh, with Zac Taylor closing the gap. Which team shows up in all three categories?
The Baltimore Ravens. In 15 years, John Harbaugh has two losing seasons and one of those was 8-9. The other teams are good, the Bengals could be great, I just had to choose one out of the best division in football so I’m going with the Ravens.
I am most skeptical of: The Cleveland Browns
In any team sport, whenever there’s a franchise that is absolutely unwatchable for as long as you’ve been alive, there’s going to be that part of you that hopes they finally start to do well. The Browns look so good on paper…so what? They’re the Cleveland Browns. In the 15 years that Harbaugh has been a head coach, the Browns have posted 14 losing seasons and 11 with double-digit losses.
I choose to believe in: The Jacksonville Jaguars
Everything I just said about the Browns could be applied to the Jaguars, I admit. But Jacksonville doesn’t have to play in the AFC North. Looking at their schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the division at 9-8 or 8-9. I’m NOT a BIG believer in the Jaguars, but I don’t have to be in this case.
I am most skeptical of: The Indianapolis Colts
Quarterback Anthony Richardson wasn’t good enough to start for the University of Florida two years ago when he was a sophomore, but the Colts say he’s good enough to start for them right now. Which is sort of what they have to do, so I don’t fault them and of course I’m more interested in watching him play football this year than any other rookie quarterback…at least, in the beginning.
People say that even if he struggles that the Colts will be “fun to watch”…That’s what they said about the Bears last season. Was Chicago actually “fun to watch” though? The team that ranked 32nd in pass attempts, 32nd in passing yards, 32nd in yards per pass attempts, trailing all the time, they were fun to watch? The Bears were 32nd in defense though so maybe they were fun to watch if you wanted to see the other team put up points.
I’ve seen some suggestions that Richardson might have the best rookie season because the offense is “tailored for him”. Oh okay, so the key to avoid having a bad season is just to tailor the offense to the quarterback. Why hasn’t any other team thought of this?!?!
I’m skeptical of a lot of things in Indianapolis, but if I had to choose one: I’m skeptical that Richardson will complete 50% of his passes.
Pop Quiz Hot Shot: Who was the last QB to attempt at least 300 passes in a season but complete 50% or fewer? I’ll give you a hint, only one QB in the 2000s has completed 50% of his passes and it wasn’t recent.
I choose to believe in: The Kansas City Chiefs
Before Andy Reid took over, the Chiefs had won the AFC West two times in the previous 15 years. Kansas City has won the last seven division titles and only the five more recent are with Patrick Mahomes. Yes, Mahomes has a lot to do with that, but even with Alex Smith, Reid had three second place finishes and two first place finishes. This is a dynasty right now, there’s nothing else to call it: Five straight AFC Championship games, three Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl wins. I’ll believe in that, with or without Chris Jones.
I am most skeptical of: The Los Angeles Chargers
You could pick the Broncos because people are probably hyping them up too much with Sean Payton. But I think a lot of people are skeptical too. Not many people expect the Raiders to do anything.
I’m a huge believer in Justin Herbert. When the Chargers drafted him in 2020, I said that he would win an MVP and reach the Super Bowl within five years. There are two more years to do that, but I think Herbert is much closer to the MVP than head coach Brandon Staley is to taking them to the Super Bowl. Until they give me reason to think otherwise, the Chargers will always be “the team that blows it”.
Answer: Ryan Leaf completed 50% of his passes with the Chargers in the year 2000. The last QB to complete fewer than 50% of his passes on at least 300 attempts was Craig Whelihan, also on the Chargers, on 1998.