After doing my NFC preview, I’m ready to put out some predictions about the AFC before the season starts Thursday. Although it’s so painfully cliche’, the question is blatantly necessary to ask: who can take down the Patriots? I’m going to break it down in a couple of tiers, then I will offer my over/under picks and division winners.
Tier 1: Steelers
Although Bill Belichick owns real estate in Mike Tomlin and the Steelers’ head, they are the only ones who are stacked enough to compete with the Patriots. With Bell, Brown and now Bryant all on the field with Big Ben, plus the Steelers’ elite offensive line, this team may very well end up with home-field advantage come January. That’d be huge, because it’s hard to imagine them beating the Patriots at Foxboro. It will of course take a big performance from their defense as well to get this done, but I think the Steelers are the only realistic team that can beat the Patriots pending major injuries in New England.
Tier 2: Raiders, Titans, Chargers
These three teams are the only AFC squads, other than Pitt, that have legitimate offenses to stack up against the Patriots. But there are questions surrounding each of them; the Raiders and Titans have questionable defenses, and they are still really young. While I think both teams are on the rise and will be good again this season, I’d be shocked to see them beating the Patriots in the playoffs.
The Chargers are a surprise/sleeper team, but I think they have the most complete, balanced team outside of NE and Pitt. Their defense could be scary with the Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram duo, plus they have a ball-hawking duo at CB. They of course have to stay healthy, but I think it’s time the ball starts bouncing in the Chargers’ favor this season.
Tier 3: Chiefs, Broncos, Ravens
These teams just don’t have the offenses to beat the Patriots, but their defenses have potential to. The Chiefs have failed to beat them in recent seasons; the Broncos and Ravens have done it before and poise scary defenses that have bothered Brady before. I don’t see either of these team even making the playoffs this year, but they deserve mention because of their defenses and experience against the Pats.
Chargers OVER 7.5 wins
Chiefs UNDER 9
AFC East: Patriots
AFC West: Chargers
AFC South: Titans
AFC North: Steelers