Yesterday, we gave you the Way Too Early NFC Playoff Predictions. Today, we showcase the AFC. In my opinion, the AFC picture is a little bit clearer than the NFC. Then again, it’s June and what do I know?
Based on the following teams, I’ve already picked Denver, New England, and Houston to make the Playoffs. Which three teams capture the final two spots?
The Bengals, like the Steelers and Ravens, are lucky to draw the AFC East on the schedule in 2013. The three games against the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills will be a huge advantage for AFC North teams when fighting for a playoff position. Cincinnati adds James Harrison to the defense and has an incredible two Tight End package with Gresham and first round pick Tyler Eifert. Add the two TE set with the play-making ability of A.J Green, and that’s an offense to be reckoned with a division known for good defense. The Bengals grab the final Wild Card spot and make the post-season for the third straight season.
San Diego Chargers
I’m a little higher on the Chargers than most. Philip Rivers had two sub-par seasons in 2011 and 2012, but I think he comes back strong with the addition of WR Keenan Allen out of Cal. However, the Chargers are in a transition year with management and coaching. That transition will either make or break the Chargers this year, and ultimately determine the fate of the Philip Rivers era in San Diego. The offensive line really worries me, and I think that will be the scapegoat for why this team misses the post-season. The Chargers hang in at the end with a 9-7 record, but the one loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 keeps the Chargers on the outside looking in as the Bengals take that final Wild Card position.
Losing Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians will be tough to handle, but the Colts improved on defense this offseason adding pro-bowler LaRon Landry and drafting Bjoern Werner in the first round. The Colts are just one of the well-run organizations and will continue to thrive off the positive energy and emotion from head coach Chuck Pagano. Also, this is just the beginning for Andrew Luck.
Ryan Tannehill is too inexperienced and he lost a huge component to his offense with Reggie Bush bolting to Motown. It’ll be nice to play the Jets and Bills for four of the 16 games of 2013, but it won’t be enough to compete with the big boys in the AFC.
The last Super Bowl Champion to miss the playoffs the following season were the 08-09 Steelers. In 2013, I think the same happens to their AFC North division rival. The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin, lost Ray Lewis to retirement and Ed Reed to free agency (Texans). They added Elvis Dummervil, which is a big addition, and picked up a few defenders in the draft that will need time to grow in the Ravens defensive system. Jim Harbaugh’s defense will still play hard and show up, but the inexperience will be a big factor. Also, losing Vonta Leach could potentially leave a hole in the offensive game plan. If opponents take away the run game for the Ravens, their offense will most certainly be stalled.
If you can keep Big Ben and the Steelers out of the postseason one year, watch out the following year. Ever since Roethlisberger took over at QB, the Steelers haven’t missed the post-season two years in a row. In fact, Big Ben is currently on a streak where he’ll lead the team to two playoff appearances and then miss the playoffs only to run that pattern again…three different times. Based on that pattern, the Steelers are in line for the playoffs in 2013. They are now without James Harrison, but they have plenty of play-makers and always find a way to fill in the holes on defense. This is a tough-minded team with a tough-minded coach. Additionally, Roethlisberger is coming back from an injury and once again has something to prove. Steelers take the AFC North in a gritty battle with both the Bengals and Ravens.
Tennessee makes progress this year, but minimal progress and not enough to battle with the AFC’s elite. Jake Locker will be better, but as he continues to develop, the Titans are not an AFC playoff team just yet.
AFC Team To Make Surprise Playoff Push: Oakland Raiders
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