With teams finally being able to practice together, it’s time to ask who is the best team in the AFC?
Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) started this week, and for most teams, this is the time when the rookies and vets get to mingle for the first time. It also means there are a lot of Power Rankings going around, so we ask, who is the best team in the AFC?
Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals emerged last year as a surprise, is there a chance another team can make a huge splash? With new personnel throughout the AFC and tons of teams trying to reach the playoffs or the Super Bowl, here are my current rankings of the AFC.
16. Houston Texans
The Texans are now in a full rebuild after they traded DeShaun Watson to the Browns, and no one should expect much out of them. They are building a team around second-year quarterback David Mills and a lot of analysts compare him to Andrew Luck. On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest steal from the Texans’ draft was former Alabama linebacker Christian Harris, the Texans traded up with the Denver Broncos and took the 6-1, 232-pound linebacker. The Texans are not going to contend with this upcoming season, but they are trying to build a foundation and culture.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
After the catastrophe of hiring Urban Meyer, it couldn’t get much worse than how it went last season. The Jaguars hired former Super Bowl champion coach Doug Pederson and he seems like a perfect fit to help fix the offense, which led the league in turnovers in 2021. Trevor Lawrence seems to be a generational talent and Jacksonville invested in trying to fix the offense, and they spent the first overall pick on more defensive talent. Jacksonville should be better and look out for them to upset some teams as the Jaguars have a lot of young talent who should be hungry to compete.
14. New York Jets
The Jets have often been the punchline of jokes, but now they had a huge influx of talent in this draft along. They drafted three players in the first round, cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson, and defensive end Jermaine Johnson. All three of these players were either seen as the best at their position or as a great value for their position. The Jets seemed to be poised to make some noise this season but faced a crowded AFC East. Expect them to split a series with the Patriots and/or Dolphins and possibly make a run at the Wild Card.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ding Dong, Big Ben is gone!
The Steelers finally moved on from their 17-year veteran quarterback after he retired earlier this year. The Steelers brought in free agent veteran quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round to compete for the starting job. The Steelers had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year and spent most of their free-agent money to rebuild the line. The Steelers have always been a consistent team, they have a solid defense and a hall of fame head coach. But the turnover on the team should be interesting as they should finish outside of the Wild Card.
12. Cleveland Browns
The Browns are probably the biggest shoulder shrug of a team in the AFC. They have a lot of talent, but they have a lot of questions about what the team will look like in the first week of the season. Of course, no one knows what DeShaun Watson will look like or if he’ll even play this season, he has a possible long-term suspension looming and the Browns didn’t sign any big-name offensively for him to throw to. If the Browns have Watson for most of this season, they should be okay, but it seems like he might miss significant time.
11. New England Patriots
The Patriots are not your daddy’s Patriots anymore, and they might be outside of the playoffs yet again. The Patriots lost offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Raiders where he was hired as their new head coach. The Patriots seem to be making smart moves like usual, but without a solid offense in a tough division is going to be hard to be a contender for New England.
10. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have a lot of hype with the new additions of Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead to help make the offense more complete. They also hired an “offensive guru” by hiring Michael McDaniel, the former offensive coordinator of the 49ers. The Dolphins should be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season due to the new offensive schemes and players.
9. Tennessee Titans
The Titans should be a top contender in the AFC South, they have Derrick Henry and kept almost all of their starters from last year’s team. But the elephant in the room is the AJ Brown trade, the Titans did get a possible replacement by drafting Treylon Burks. But there seems to be a bigger issue internally with the Titans also drafting one of the lauded quarterback prospects, Malik Willis. After the Titans drafted Willis, Tannehill didn’t want to mentor the talented quarterback out of Liberty. So it should be interesting to see if they actually are the best team in the South with all of this turnover and internal questions.
8. Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr’s extension with Las Vegas shows the franchise trusts Carr to be consistent and one of the better quarterbacks in the league. The Raiders also got into the AFC West arms race by acquiring Davonte Adams and Chandler Jones. The Raiders should be a team to watch, but they have a long way to go to prove they are a serious contender.
7. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are still one of the better teams in the AFC, they have the ultimate weapon at quarterback and an elite defense. The Ravens should be better this season just because they won’t have the same amount of injuries (hopefully). The Ravens may not have the weapons of other teams, but they have been consistently good and it’s a contract year for Lamar Jackson, so expect him to try to make the Ravens a playoff contender.
6. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have one of the better rosters in the NFL, they have a great offensive line and the highest-ranked defense last season. The Colts were not consistent on the offensive side of the ball outside of their star running back Jonathan Taylor. They traded Carson Wentz and then traded for Matt Ryan, the former MVP, and Falcons legend. If Matt Ryan can play consistently for the Colts, they should be one of the best teams in the league.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were the favorite to get to the Super Bowl four weeks into the 2021 season, but then their defense and spotty play-calling cost them games. The Chargers needed to be better and they decided to go all-in this season. Los Angeles brought in Khalil Mack and JC Jackson to fix the defense. The Chargers have a golden opportunity to go get their first championship and don’t be too surprised if they win the AFC West this season.
4. Denver Broncos
Denver is prime to be the breakout team of the AFC, they only got better this offseason by trading for Russell Wilson and keeping most of their core together. The defense was one of the better units in the NFL last season and they needed to get an offense to match. Wilson is a winner, he only has one losing season as a starting quarterback in the league and the losing season was because he was injured for most of it. Wilson needed to leave Seattle to try to get to another Super Bowl and the Broncos already have unproven weapons and a solid running game. Look for the Broncos to make a splash this season.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs didn’t have the biggest offseason like the rest of the AFC West, they stayed calm and let the offseason come to them. The Chiefs’ biggest move was trading Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins for five draft picks, and they used their draft picks to rebuild the defense and get solid depth at the wide receiver position. The Chiefs addressed the defensive line and defensive backfield in the first round by selecting Trent McDuffie and George Karlfaftis. They also added Skyy Moore a wide receiver from Central Michigan to try to replace Tyreek’s production. Also made some sneaky good signings to help get the receiving core back to prominance, Kansas City signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Montez Valdez-Scantling to help make the offense better. The Chiefs should be one of the best teams in the league yet again, and plus they have the best quarterback in the league.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
The reigning AFC Champion should be number one on most lists, but not here. The Bengals play in the second-best division in the AFC, they play the Browns, Ravens, and Steelers and they are all going to be physical games. They could be the best team in the AFC or the third-best team in the AFC North depending on how good the other three teams are in the division. But the Bengals got better this offseason, they grabbed offensive tackle La’el Collins and drafted a lot of needs in the draft. The Bengals have the new Joe Cool with Joe Burrow under center and they should be considered one of the best teams in the league for years to come.
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills could have, and probably should have, beaten the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Game last season. The Bills were going to easily win the game as they left 13 seconds on the clock, and then Patrick Mahomes crushed their hopes and dreams. Now the Bills are going to try to go for broke this season, they grabbed Von Miller and Jameson Crowder in free agency to help get over the hump. They also extended Stefon Diggs to make sure Allen has his best weapon for the foreseeable future. The Bills also drafted running back James Cook, who is the brother of Dalvin Cook. Expect the Bills to be the best team in the AFC and maybe the best team in the NFL.