17 Aug AFC Division Winners in 2017
Projected AFC Division Winners in 2017
Written by James Passemato
Now that we’ve seen what teams were able to do in the draft and most of the offseason trades have been complete, we can start to predict what the playoff field may look like in 2017. Of course, the NFL is a volatile sport and there’s always teams that over perform and underperform, but we’re going to try our best to select the winners of each AFC division (and wild card winners) for 2017. Some of these may be straightforward, while others may come as a shock to some:
2017 AFC East Winner: New England Patriots
This was by far the easiest one to predict, and I’d be absolutely stunned if this doesn’t hold true by season’s end. New England has completely dominated this division, winning it every year since 2008 (when Brady was out all season) and only giving up the title once since 2003. The only team who may be half decent to challenge them would be Miami, but who knows how Jay Cutler will fit in to the mix. New York and Buffalo have basically just thrown in the towel in hopes that they can compete in a couple years if Brady ever retires. Let’s also not forget that New England won that dramatic Super Bowl last season and arguably got better in the offseason. Watch out, this is going to be a scary team for opponents to face in 2017.
2017 AFC North Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh will once again be loaded on the offensive side of the ball, with Big Ben, Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown being the most fearsome trio in the game. They will also be getting Martavius Bryant back which should give them some more firepower. The defense has been the question mark here in recent years, but as long as the offense is producing they’ll just have to be adequate to get in the playoffs. Baltimore is probably the only team that could contest them for the division title as they’ve made improvements on D and Flacco has two great options to throw to in Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace. Their Achilles heel may be their O-line however, and that’s why Pittsburgh will have the edge. Cincinnati has lost a few pieces of their core and will just be an average team at best, and Cleveland landed some big playmakers in the draft but it will take a few years for a revival, especially with no set QB.
2017 AFC West Winner: Oakland Raiders
This division is a little harder to predict because each time has significant question marks. Oakland should be the favorite, given their strong 2016 campaign and the addition of Marshawn Lynch to the running game. I think the big question will be whether Derek Carr can maintain the same performance he had last season after his leg injury. If the answer is yes, they should be able to win the division. All of the other teams are a potential threat however. Kansas City still has a strong defense, but can their offense muster enough points behind Alex Smith? Denver still has an elite caliber defense, but they’re not even sure who their starting QB will be and whether either Siemian or Lynch can carry that unit. The “Los Angeles” Chargers always seem to have a promising outlook and could once again be a threat, but can they stay healthy?
2017 AFC South Winner: Tennessee Titans
This is another division where it seems like any one of the 4 teams could win. Tennessee has been building up their squad for a couple years now, and they finally look ready to take a shot at the division title, especially considering how weak the overall division is (no team has had better than a 9-7 record the last 2 seasons). Marcus Mariota enters his 3rd season with some new weapons around him, including 1st round pick (5th overall) Corey Davis and Eric Decker at WR to compliment Rishard Mathews, Delanie Walker at TE and DeMarco Murray at RB. The defense also added Logan Ryan from New England in the offseason, which should improve that side of the ball. Houston has won the division the last 2 seasons, but doesn’t even know who their starting QB is at this point. Indianapolis has its own QB issues with the mysterious Andrew Luck injury with no timetable, and Jacksonville has made some additions but still has Blake Bortles, who has the most turnovers of anyone over the past 3 years, leading the charge. Given the parity in this division, the winner may not be clear until the last couple of weeks.
2017 AFC Wild Card Winners: Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens
There are a few other teams that could sneak in like Miami, Denver, or Los Angeles, but I see Kansas City and Baltimore as the likely candidates. Miami will have a shot since they can also beat up on Buffalo and New York and could potentially get to 10 wins, but I see them falling just short. Kansas City may win the AFC West outright, but if they don’t they should have a strong enough team to also reach 10 wins again (had 12 last season). Baltimore will have trouble with Pittsburgh in their division, but they have a strong overall team and should be able to succeed given that they have the 9th easiest strength of schedule.
Who do you think will win the divisions this year? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to have a discussion with you!