With the regular season two weeks away, the national media has been boasting all sorts of opinions about the AFC title contenders. Though most agree the title of AFC Champion will go through Kansas City, it sounds like many feel the Chiefs won’t be the team to beat in January. But should they really be that confident?
In Kansas City, there is a singular goal, win the Super Bowl at all costs! In towns like Buffalo, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Jacksonville, New York, and a plethora of other AFC participants, their focus is on dethroning the Chiefs.
It’s easy to assume the combination of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes will lead the Chiefs to their sixth straight AFC title in Kansas City. Even though the Chris Jones saga is likely to play well into the regular season, the fact Mahomes is relying on a group of seven wide receivers, that have yet to play together for a full season, some doubt the Chiefs ability to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
Yet, even though they have their own question marks, there are those in the national media who feel other AFC contenders can beat the Chiefs with certain scenarios in hand. In other words, a series of events must play out for their prognostications to come true. Despite some Twitter clicks, I wonder how logical they are in viewing the teams chasing Kansas City for AFC supremacy.
The Buffalo Bills have always been the media darling, and they’ve earned that status with their All-Pro Quarterback, Josh Allen. In the offseason, this team had enough drama to put them in the non-contender status. They fired popular defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, and made him the scapegoat over their head coach, Sean McDermott, who continues to struggle in the postseason. Stefon Diggs and Allen carried their feud into training camp, that began on the sidelines in their AFC playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Now some are saying if they get Indianapolis Colts running back, Jonathan Taylor that makes them the Super Bowl Champion.
The Cincinnati Bengals remain the top pick to dethrone the Chiefs for the AFC title. To be fair, in my view, they are the third-best team in football behind Kansas City and Philadelphia. After that trio of teams, the drop-off is real. Still, the Bengals with Joe Burrow, who might not be ready for the season opener, appear to be back on track after their most recent roster shakeup. To fix their departures, they did what good teams do, they lost some key players, added some bargain free agents, and made a big splash by signing former Chiefs Left Tackle, Orlando Brown. This offense should be great with receivers, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, but I just don’t think their defense is as good as last year’s group, nor is their offensive line good enough to compensate for Browns pass protection woes.
The Miami Dolphins are the enigma of the AFC. They have a great defense, and playmakers on offense, that if given space, can beat any defense they face. Yet, they have a young quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa who is one more concussion away from being unreliable. Still, I look at this team, that put a lot of eggs in bringing in defender, Jalen Ramsey, who won’t be available until December thanks to an early camp injury, as a middle-of-the-pack AFC team. The Dolphins must rely on Tua, who despite the fact he has both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the team. To date, he has not displayed the type of arm prowess you need to be successful at the NFL level
The Baltimore Ravens clearly have the best defense in the NFL. The Eagles are loaded too but this team has playmakers running up and down the field that can hang with any AFC offense. However, the key to their future rests in quarterback, Lamar Jackson. In his career, he’s won a single playoff game, been injury-prone, and has never displayed the quarterback tree you need to be a legit Super Bowl contender. He’s always been a run first pass second player. It worked in his MVP year, but it hasn’t since. The Ravens have a solid receiving group led by Odell Beckham, Jr. and rookie, Zay Flowers. Yet, I’m not sure the arm of Jackson, and his leadership skills when things go south, put the Ravens in a position to climb ahead of the Chiefs, Bengals, or Bills.
The New York Jets are the sexy pick right now. After all, they have Aaron Rogers at quarterback, they have a super-talented running back tandem in recently signed, Delvin Cook, and Breece Hall, who is coming off an injury. Add all that with the second-best defense in the AFC behind the Ravens, then I can see why some feel they can be AFC East champions. However, for all the additions, the Rogers factor, their offense line is horrific. It’s not as bad as the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, but I can’t find an argument that it’s that much better. The Jets offense goes as far as Roger’s health can take them, and if he’s under extreme pressure game in and game out, they’ll be lucky to be a wild-card team.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, in my view, are the greatest threat to the Chiefs. Quarterback, Trevor Lawrence has all the makings of a Superstar. In my mind, he’s a notch above Allen and just below Burrow in the AFC. The progression he made in year one under Head Coach, Doug Pederson, was mighty impressive. They have an extremely talented defense, but their offense is loaded. Calvin Ridley is coming off a suspension and Christian Kirk is one of my favorite receivers on the AFC side. Add that with running back, Travis Etienne, who the Chiefs saw twice last year. This team will easily win the AFC South and likely will play one of the AFC powers from the East or North at home. In week two, the Chiefs travel to Jacksonville so we’re going to really find out if they can defeat Kansas City in January.