AFC Team by Team Breakdowns

NFL Futures: AFC Team by Team Breakdowns

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

In this article, we take a look at the AFC and give team-by-team mini-breakdowns, while predicting if these teams will surpass their projected season wins totals or make the playoffs. Now is the time to get good betting value wagering on teams to either surpass or not live up to expectations. By the time the situation actually materializes, the value disappears. And all these predictions, particularly if a team will make the playoffs, are made in the context of betting value. We’re not just making a straight-up pick, but one that relates to the price. So while we might think a team makes the playoffs overall if just being asked, it might not be worth it at the price being offered. Let’s break it down team-by-team, starting with the AFC East.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: There is cause for hope with a lot of teams, but I think Buffalo has some genuine cause for optimism this upcoming season and especially beyond. Second-year QB Josh Allen should be better in his second season, adding some juice to the run-game. John Brown and Cole Beasley give Allen a few good targets with which to work, while guys like top-pick Ed Oliver should help on the other side of the ball. A coaching staff that is more dug in should help find some better answers. This season should determine if they’re on the right track or not.
Regular Season Wins: 6.5 (Over)
Make Playoffs: +525 (No)

Miami Dolphins: Some new pieces in place offer hope, namely a new coach in Brian Flores and two QBs in Josh Rosen and erstwhile vet Ryan Fitzpatrick. Flores should get the most of a defense that has a lot of holes, but some legit playmakers. They added a lot in the draft, namely DT Christian Wilkins, who could deliver right away. Offense appears to lack a viable collection of real weapons, but with such youth team-wide, they could be a surprise. Problem is they play in a division with the Pats and two rising squads in the Jets and Bills. Still, they’re a longshot with some appeal.
Regular Season Wins: 4.5 (Over)
Make Playoffs: +1100 (No)

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New England Patriots: Some turnover on the coaching staff and other personnel losses could have the Patriots compromised, but since when has taking that viewpoint ever worked? Sure, a 42-year old QB like Brady could get injured or some other bad fate could befall them, but that seems like wishful thinking for those doubting the defending Super Bowl champions. No surprise should register if the Pats once against find themselves right in the thick of things this season.
Regular Season Wins: 11 (Over)
Make Playoffs: -900 (Yes)

New York Jets: Another team coming off some rough seasons that could see the beginnings of some better things. A new head coach in Adam Gase offers hope, as does the acquisition of guys like Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, and LB CJ Mosley. Other young X-factors could develop and help second-year QB Sam Darnold, who could also see improvement in 2019. The aerial-package is pretty stocked, along with a difference-maker in Bell. Signs are there for both sides of the ball to be better and if they are, this could be a sleeper. But a lot of issues remain in a tough division.
Regular Season Wins: 7.5 (Under)
Make Playoffs: +325 (No)

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: With additions like Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram, perhaps they can bridge the gap left by some departed firepower, particularly on defense. I still think the defense is in good shape and it was really good late in the season. Their run-game could be the best in the conference with so many different threats now, including QB Lamar Jackson. If Jackson can add more of an aerial flair to his game and help the offense blossom, the Ravens could be super-solid. There are different ways this recipe-for-success could fall flat, but with some people overlooking Baltimore, the value could be there to exploit.
Regular Season Wins: 8.5 (Over)
Make Playoffs: +180 (Yes)

Cincinnati Bengals: There isn’t a ton to like here on paper, other than the possibilities that new leadership can bring with first-year head coach Zac Taylor. There are some youngsters who could develop ahead of schedule, as well, with an O-line and receiving corps that could be better. As of now, they appear to have holes in a lot of areas and not all of them are going to work themselves out. On top of all that, they are in a tough division and look to have a difficult schedule for a team coming off a six-win season. Still, there’s something about them that makes one hesitant to write them off completely.
Regular Season Wins: 5 (Over)
Make Playoffs: +700 (No)

Cleveland Browns: The promise is abundant, but has it gone too far? They’ve already shaken off the ultra-loser role, but now they’re supposed to crack .500, make the playoffs, and thrive against the best in the league? I don’t question whether they’re on the rise, but I think they still fall short of world championship material. The additions on both sides of the ball will help, as will the growth of the abundant pieces they have already accumulated, but I’m not sure it’s all going to come off without a hitch. I see this formula taking some time to percolate before they’re a true force.
Regular Season Wins: 9 (Under)
Make Playoffs: -130 (No)

Pittsburgh Steelers: They lost Antonio Brown, but still have Big Ben, a fierce offensive line, weapons with which Roetlisberger can use, and a defense that could be pretty good. The rest of the division is tough and their schedule won’t be easy. And losing guys like Bell and Brown off the roster will probably cost them. But if the all the key guys stay healthy, they still could be strong. They’re just not the automatic choice in this division anymore and will have to fight to stay afloat after not making the playoffs last season.
Regular Season Wins: 9 (Under)
Make Playoffs: +105 (No)

AFC South

Houston Texans: There are a lot of pieces in which to like. They won 11 games last season and got on a huge roll, showing they can win games in bunches. Deshaun Watson enters his third season and could hit another gear. Their receiving crew is very strong, though they lack a really effective run-game. And they need to find answers on that O-line. They added to their secondary and the defense could be tough. With some breaks on the injury front, look for the Texans to once again surpass what they have on paper.
Regular Season Wins: 8.5 (Over)
Make Playoffs: +155 (Yes)

Indianapolis Colts: Getting Andrew Luck back in the swing of things paid off well for Indy last season, as they upgraded their stock dramatically. Other rising elements on the team like the defense, running game, and offensive line offer even further promise for a push this season. They even added some pieces to their “D” and receiving corps. It’s just that the value has been sucked out of backing the Colts in these season-long props and any number of things could go wrong, namely another injury setback to Luck. I anticipate a good season, but my optimism doesn’t quite match the numbers being offered.
Regular Season Wins: 9.5 (Under)
Make Playoffs: -230 (No)

Jacksonville Jaguars: The addition of Nick Foles and guys like monster first-round pick LB Josh Allen set up well for the Jags to claw their back to their 2017 form. Their defense, however, lacked spark last season, which was a thunderous letdown considering the difference-making unit from the previous year. The offense doesn’t have a ton of difference-makers on it, either. I would be inclined to hold out some hope, but in a tough division with some awfully-difficult patches in their schedule, this could be an uphill battle.
Regular Season Wins: 8 (Under)
Make Playoffs: +300 (No)

Tennessee Titans: I think a case can be made that the Titans are being overlooked. After going 9-7 with a lot of things going wrong, a surge this season seems highly doable and there is definite value in taking that stance. Hroniss Grasu and Rodger Saffold should boost the O-line and therefore, a growing run-game led by Derrick Henry. The addition of Adam Humphries and some growing youth at receiver should help Mariota. First-round pick Jeffrey Simmons and newly-signed Cameron Wake will help the D-line. Contrary to some popular belief, I see the Titans actually having a good season in 2019.
Regular Season Wins: 8 (Over)
Make Playoffs: +330 (Yes)

AFC West

Denver Broncos: First-year head coach Vic Fangio takes over for a Denver team that has fallen flat in the last few seasons. Perhaps he can help bring their defense back up to speed. On that side of the ball, there are pieces in place with which to work. The offense will have a new look with either Drew Lock or Joe Flacco at the helm and two rising backs in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Still, the offense has a lot of question marks elsewhere. A lot is going to have to go right for the Broncos to orchestrate a huge turnaround this quickly.
Regular Season Wins: 7 (Under)
Make Playoffs: +450 (No)

Kansas City Chiefs: The offense may have lost some pieces due to behavioral issues, which could create less offensive production, but an awful lot of good things are still in place. And they added a lot the defense, which will have a new look in ’19. They return defending MVP Patrick Mahomes, who should put up huge numbers once again. Adding Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, and others will help bring the “D” around and make it less of a liability. Look for some guys to step up on offense and for the Chiefs to once again be a major factor in this conference. And with some people souring on those prospects, the value on this team isn’t as bad as some might have anticipated.
Regular Season Wins: 10.5 (Over)
Make Playoffs: -440 (Yes)

Los Angeles Chargers: A team with one of the widest possible ranges in 2019. If things don’t go their way and they catch some bad breaks, there could be slippage. If most of the plans go according to script, however, this team is downright scary. It’s the most-stacked Chargers’ roster seen in years and that goes for both sides of the ball. While the O-line needs to stay healthy, they are strong on both lines of scrimmage for the first time in many years. If youth continues to come around and they can get help from some of their lower-key draft picks, the Chargers could conceivably be in contention for some big-time things in 2019.
Regular Season Wins: 9.5 (Over)
Make Playoffs: -230 (Yes)

Oakland Raiders: It turned out they were farther from being good than we may have thought. Can they blossom ahead of schedule? On paper, the additions of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, Isaiah Crowell, Mike Glennon, in addition to three first-round picks could solve a lot of issues. While the prospects of improving measurably are certainly on the table, whether they thrive in this division remains a dicey proposition. There was a lot to fix and while some areas should be better, it takes more than one offseason to address it all.
Regular Season Wins: 6 (Under)
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