Now, I am never the type to pay much attention to preseason games and make a big deal about them. But you don’t throw four picks in less than one half of a game and still call yourself a good backup quarterback (Hello Landry Jones)… And neither do you get torched by a rookie quarterback for 4 touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 (see the Dak Prescott vs. Miami NFL Week 2 preseason show) and try to convince us that you’ll be all formidable when the new season kicks off in less than a month. Now, again, maybe this is just an overreaction on my part–and I really do hope that I am wrong, for the sake of my friends in Miami–but as things stand, I’d advice some caution when it comes to having high hopes on such underperforming teams in the preseason. That being said, let’s take a look at our updated NFL divisional winning picks of 2016.
A Closer Look At The Picking Of Which Team Will Win Each AFC Division
AFC East: New England Patriots
This division is always New England Patriots to lose and it doesn’t look like it will be any different in 2016. Buffalo is all defense and with an average offense, and that won’t cut it. Miami’s defense is too pathetic to be trusted. For New York, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a hell of a career year in 2015, the Jets’ defense punched heavily above its weight and New York even stole a late-season victory over the Pats, yet all that amounted to nothing as the Jets not only missed the playoffs, but they also couldn’t challenge New England for the AFC East crown. So do you really think Fitz and gang will be having such a year once again? And even if they do, will it be enough for the AFC East crown now that it barely mattered last season? I don’t think so, in my humble opinion. Jimmy Garoppolo will probably struggle, but things should be fine when Tom Brady returns, allowing the Pats and winning their eighth straight AFC East title.
AFC West: Denver Broncos
This one will be in alphabetical order, I believe, meaning Denver first, followed by Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego, respectively. I mean, it’s hard to be that high on Oakland as a potential AFC West crown sleeper when Alex Smith and the Chiefs are extremely balanced on both sides of the ball, while Denver’s defense is still as good as ever and the trio of Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch has shown in the preseason that it can muster enough offense to keep Denver efficient. So, yeah, this title will most likely be down to the experienced duo of Denver and Kansas City, with the Broncos (in my opinion) having the slight upper hand because of their stellar coaching and the team’s ability to adjust to different needs, as was showcased in their unprecedented Super Bowl 50 title run. For the Chargers, remind me to talk about them when they patch up their leaky defense in the 2017 offseason.
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals
There’s just so much one team can take, and even those let’s-bury-our-heads-in-the-sand Ostrich-like Steeler fans know it, even if they won’t admit it loudly. First, Landry Jones is a poor backup quarterback. Second, starting RB Le’Veon Bell will be suspended for the first four games. Third, star WR Martavis Bryant is suspended for the whole year. Fourth, the Steelers schedule is no piece of cake. Fifth, Pittsburgh’s defense still has question marks in a number of key positions. And as a current bonus, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison is set to meet the NFL in a PED-related issue, negative attention that the Steelers don’t need right now, however innocent this guy is. So, even with Ben Roethlisberger being a star QB and WR Antonio Brown capable of carrying the Black and Gold on his big arms, this shambled-up Steelers team will struggle and most likely fall short of the AFC North title. Baltimore will be competitive because of Joe Flacco’s experience at QB, but with the O and D lines in the team having certain glaring holes; the Ravens will be hard-done in their title ambitions. The Browns.., too much drama and holes for them to figure in the title race! That leaves us with the Bengals as the most viable option. Cincy is not perfect in any way, but the Andy Dalton-led offense is healthy and without the suspension drama in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Cincy returns the majority of key contributors from last season’s mean ball-hawking defense. Compared to the rest of the AFC North teams, the Bengals—winners of the 2013 and 2015 AFC North titles—look to offer the best divisional winning value for a third time in the last four years.
AFC South: Houston Texans
Jacksonville and Tennessee have loaded up their rosters with good game-changers on both sides of the ball, but these two teams still don’t have the experience and sufficient balance to stick it outduel the duo of Houston and Indy in the title race. Indy’s offense should be okay now that Andrew Luck is back in the fold, but like Tennessee and Jacksonville, Indy’s defense is in rebuilding mode, so the team will most likely go as far as Luck takes them–and that’s something we can’t trust after the starting QB missed half of last season due to injury. Houston, imperfect as it is, therefore remains as the logical pick here. Brock Osweiler can’t be full trusted but he’s definitely an upgrade in talent at QB while the Houston defense will be the best in the division. That means the Texans enter 2016 with fewer baggage and more acceptable risks than the remaining AFC South teams, giving them a good chance to outdo the Colts along with the beloved sleepers in Jacksonville.