2019 NFL Preview: American Football Conference

Football Close Up on FieldThe AFC brings it’s own unique history to the NFL’s 100th season as it has always been the rebellious child of the league.

The AFC first formed when a host of owners tired of being left out of the picture formed their own league the AFL.

That league brought with it new ideas and a lot of money as they began signing some of the biggest college players.

It was a league created specifically as an alternative to the NFL and for the first and only time in the history of professional football it worked.

The AFL was beginning to look like the new league and it brought new viewers who were sick of seeing the same old story in the NFL.

They were the rebellious league and they made a real big dent in the NFL with potent offences TV deal and plenty of characters.

Eventually, the NFL had to accept that the AFL was here to stay and they could fight against them or fight with them.

They decided to join forces and after two years where champions of both teams faced off in the Super Bowl, the NFL and AFL merged to form two conferences.

The start of this relationship was a rocky one as it was very much an us versus them relationship with the old guard never wanted to relent.

Now it is just a part of the same league and for the last few years the AFC has been the conference sitting on top of the league.

Unfortunately for a lot of teams in the AFC that dominance on the biggest stage has come at the hands of one team.

The New England Patriots have perfected winning and four of the last five Super Bowls have featured the Patriots as the representative for the AFC.

That is a problem for the league as people, aside from those in New England, are getting tired of seeing the same thing every year.

That is the challenge ahead for the entire AFC as there is one target to follow in the conference and it is a tough target to follow.

The Patriots have been the best team not only in the AFC but the NFL and to beat them will take an effort.

It is not impossible though and with some strong teams as well as plenty of player movement teams are coming for that crown.

AFC East

This division has been the division where the Patriots have made their way to the top of the league every year and the rest are just trying to keep up. That is the challenge every year as the Patriots have been consistently good for the better part of the last decade and there have been few teams to actually challenge them for the East crown. That is a concern for every other team as they head into any season as everyone is just playing catch up with the Patriots. New England will be led once again by the most successful coach-QB tandem in professional football. Together Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have afceast-predwon six Super Bowls and have been in nine championship games. The strategy has always been simple for the Pats as they simply build a successful system and plug players as they come. They may have lost some key contributors from a year ago but that has never really mattered as the Patriots system works as long as Belichick is coaching and Brady is under centre. In an attempt to unseat the Pats the New York Jets decided to make a splash this year. They were the last team with a real chance at ending the run but failed to sustain success. They may have finally found their long-term QB in Sam Darnold who looked better as the season went on. With that key position seemingly figured out, they went on a spending spree with their key signing, Le’Veon Bell bringing some excitement to what the offence can do this year. In Buffalo, the Bills are hoping that their rebuild can take the next step as they have the defence to compete, especially with Ed Oliver now on the line. The biggest question will be whether or not Josh Allen can take the reigns with some new weapons to work with on offence. For Miami, things are little more up in the air as they seem very much like a team tanking to get better in a few years. The offseason saw a lot of players leaving Florida with trades that resulted in a few interesting additions but left the Dolphins with far less talent. Josh Rosen could be the future but Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the way with a team that is not ready to compete this season. The Jets and Bills will fight it out for second while they continue to chase the Patriots.

AFC North

It might be the most-watched and talked about division in football this year but the reason will be a team that nobody has wanted to watch or talk about for years. It is hard to be a football fan and not want to see the Cleveland Browns find some success. The rebuild has been long and painful for the Browns but things might have been figured out and it all starts with Baker Mayfield. After years of trying to find a franchise QB the Browns drafted Mayfield and he lit a fire for this franchise last season. It wasn’t good enough for the playoffs but the tone was set and in the offseason, the team got busy afcnorth-predtaking advantage of the spark. Odell Beckham Jr. gives Mayfield two legitimate threats in the passing game along with Beckham’s old LSU teammate, Jarvis Landry, while Nick Chubb continues to develop into a threat in the backfield. They will have to get through some very tough competition though as the Baltimore Ravens are a team on the rise as well. They rely heavily on a great defence with possibly the best secondary in the game that now includes Earl Thomas while Lamar Jackson continues to develop and takes the reigns as QB1 for the first time in the NFL. The Steelers still have Ben Roethlisberger, the most established QB in the division, but the losses of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown mean his offence that has defined the last few years of Steeler football is far less explosive even with Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster. The Bengals will likely suffer the consequences of the growth of other teams as they begin a long process. Marvin Lewis is out and 36-year-old Zac Taylor is in on the sidelines but with his top receiver hurt again and Andy Dalton looking more like a dud than a stud he has a lot of work to do. That rebuild is going to take time and aside from some very surprising performances they won’t compete. The Browns have their best chance to compete this year and they need to take advantage as the ravens are getting better and the Steelers could be hurting this year. If the Browns don’t pull a typical Browns season they could be in the playoffs and giving the Browns fans something to cheer about for the first time in more than a decade.

AFC South

The South has very quickly taken the what used to be the definition of AFC North football land made it their own with potent defences translating to wins. The problem for a lot of those teams it takes more than a great defence to win the NFL. Although you don’t need the most explosive offence to win Super Bowls you do need a good offence and for every team in the South that has been hard to come by. The Texans have been trying to find an offence for years but no QB has been able to take full control and make them at least good enough to allow the defence to win games. Houston hopes that Deshaun Watson is afcsouth-predthat guy and he did show flashes of it a year ago but without a line to protect him he doesn’t get the opportunity. If they can protect him they can let J.J. Watt and the rest of the defence lead this team to the top of the division. The Jaguars are becoming more familiar with that problem as their defence has made them tough to beat but with no offence, they can’t move further than the playoffs. The Blake Bortles era is over and Nick Foles takes over hoping to show that his time in Philadelphia was no fluke. The Tennessee Titans are also getting familiar with their own offensive woes. The Titans have always led from the back with a secondary that is tough to throw against but with the addition of Cameron Wake up front they could lead to even more turnovers than a year ago. On offence, the coaching carousel has left Marcus Mariota with a new coordinator every year of his five-year career. Learning that new system is certain to give him fits leading to problems on offence for another year. In Indianapolis, the only established QB decided to leave the game as Andrew Luck retired just before the season leaving Jacoby Brissett to lead the offence. It is going to be an adjustment and Brissett hasn’t proven a lot yet so the offence might need to rely on the scoring of the defence who were good enough to be top ten in scoring defence last year. The defences define the South but this season will be decided by the offence that can put up enough points to compete with high powered squads that are going to breakthrough.

AFC West

The west almost reflects the old wild west of years before with personalities throughout the division and creative coaches looking to get wins any way they can. That creativity has led to the Kansas City Chiefs to the top of the division along with the spectacular play of their young QB. There are teams coming for the crown though and that could lead to an interesting battle between two teams who seem to do things their own way. The Chiefs have been good for a number of years but their passing game always lacked that little bit of finish they need to take the next step. With Patrick Mahomes under centre, afcwest-predthe finish is there as he threw for 50 touchdowns a year ago. It made them a force last year but everyone is now watching and waiting to see if he can do it again. He will get some extra help as LeSean McCoy joins the team and even as an ageing player he rejoins Andy Reid who he played within Philadelphia and had his best year with. If the Chiefs can figure out their defence with a new coordinator they could make a run even if Mahomes takes a slight step back. Their biggest competition will come from the raiders who are entering their second year under Jon Gruden. In his first year it was about getting the attitude right and so he made some questionable decisions. This seems more like a Gruden team though and they could take some big leaps this year especially with if Antonio Brown can avoid the distractions and provide Derek Carr with the same type of weapon that made the Steelers offence one of the most potent in the league. There is always the Chargers though as they still have the talent to compete as Philip Rivers continues to put up quiet but great years. Without that running game though the offence could suffer as Melvin Gordon seems to be on his way out leaving Rivers to handle the offence without that extra support. In Denver the Broncos are hoping that Joe Flacco is the solution to their QB question but Flacco has consistently been the most debated QB in the NFL. If he can step up and show he is more than a game manager they can be good with a solid defence but without him they sink to the bottom again. The South is interesting this year as things could go very bad for a few teams changing everything but the battle at the top should make it a division to watch.

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