Winner: New England Patriots
The AFC East is the easiest of the divisions to predict as the Patriots will win their 9th straight AFC East Division Title. The Patriots are the best team on paper, especially after winning the Super Bowl last season. A team led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will always be competitive, but this Patriots team has the chance to be special. The team has weapons on both offense and defense such as Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman. On defense, Patriots have a solid mixture of both experience and youth like Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, David Harris, Donta Hightower, and Malcolm Brown, In addition to the Patriots dominance, the rest of the division is incredibly weak. The Jets may have the least amount of talent in the NFL, the Bills just traded their best wide receiver, and the Dolphins lost their starting quarterback and are relying on the mercurial Jay Cutler.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are looking to be the first consecutive division winner since 2011-2012 when the Baltimore Ravens were able to claim the division title two years in a row. The Steelers are one of the most explosive teams in the entire NFL. On offense, the team is led by their killer B’s, Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavious Bryant. Le’Veon Bell is the most electric running back in the NFL because of his ability to run effective, but also catch the ball out of the backfield. Antonio Brown is the most consistent receiver in the NFL as he has a knack for finding an opening in the defense, runs incredible routes and possesses great hands. The offensive success of the team will rely on the trios ability to remain healthy and out of legal issues. On defense, the team is slowly improving as they continue to add talent through the draft, especially with their early selections. The Steelers should possess a solid pass rush with James Harrison, TJ Watt, Bud Dupree, and Ryan Shazier. However, the defense cannot succeed without improvement in the secondary. If the secondary can improve, this team should dominate the division and potentially rival the Patriots in the Conference. Outside of the Steelers, the Ravens and Bengals should be able to compete with the Steelers, but they will need to have big years from Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton, respectively.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
Although the Titans have been mired in mediocrity for years, there are a group of people that believe they can win the division and return to the playoffs. The combination of a rising young quarterback and a weak division gives the Titans a chance to win the AFC South Division Title. Tennessee reminds me of Oakland last season as they have a number of weapons and a quarterback that is ready to become a star. The Titans’ quarterback, Marcus Mariota, has the stars around him, DeMarco Murray, Rishad Matthews, Delanie Walker, and rookie wide receiver Corey Davis. Mariota should be able to succeed because of the explosive talent from the skilled position and the skill on the offensive line. On defense, the Titans are hoping to take a step forward with young talent. Outside of the Titans, the AFC South of solid teams, but no great team. The Colts have Andrew Luck, but the rest of the team is terrible and Luck is already injured. The Texans have across the board, but the quarterback position is a serious question mark, which keeps them from being more than a 10 win team every year. The Jags are destined to stay in the cellar for another year. The race should be a three horse race, but fans should be exciting in November and December.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders were one of the hottest teams in the NFL until starting quarterback Derek Carr became injured and the team needed to rely on backup Connor Cook. Last season, Derek Carr took a major step forward and became one of the elite throwers in the league. Along with Carr, the Oakland offense is incredibly successful because of their array of weapons, whether it be Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Marshawn Lynch. The offense will be happily assisted by their defense, which has stars at every level. The defense is led by star defensive end Khalil Mack, who has become one of the best defensive stars in the league. Besides Mack the team has impactful veterans such as David Amerson, Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, Sean Smith, and Bruce Irvin. The biggest rival to the Raiders is the defending AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are a deep, talented, and well-coached team that will win at least 11 games. Even though they do not have the dynamic ability like the Raiders, they are a solid football team led by Alex Smith and a great defense.