Hey! Football season is back: AFC

While I prepare myself for another year of hopeless optimism, one where the Kansas City Chiefs look like the best team in the NFL for the first three months only to have the New England Patriots wake up sometime in December to inevitably win another Super Bowl, it’s important to note that this is the best time of the year. September is upon us, meaning football is starting up, basketball is on the way, and Christmas is right around the corner. So let’s do this… again.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times: I don’t know a goddamn thing about football. Most of the plays I know — like simple dive plays, screen passes, and play action — or defensive formations I’m familiar with — like nickel, dime, and cover two — come from a healthy dose of playing Madden NFL on PlayStation 2. I know little about the sport’s economics, and I can’t with a naked eye differentiate what makes Player X_ who runs a 4.40 forty-yard dash so much better than Player Y_ who runs a 4.40 forty-yard dash. Mainly I just watch the games, have feelings about certain players and teams, and do my best to make semi-educated guesses from there.

So while I admit that I don’t truly know very much about the NFL, I do think I know a lot about the NFL. I will roll with my perceptions over common, ordinary fans more often than not. And as a result, I will come on here and write thousands of words about why I think I’m right, and explain why you are smarter for taking my word for it over mundane jackoffs who you’ll find out in the wild.

So here’s what’s going to happen during the 2019-’20 season:

AFC East

We’ll start with the most boring division, because this happens to be the division the Patriots are a part of and no one else really matters. Tom Brady is 42 years old, so one of these years the clock is going to strike midnight and the Patriots’ dynasty as we know it will finally collapse to make the world a better place. While we all know this is coming, I still don’t have the stones to predict it will happen this year, specifically, since we’re only eight months removed from New England winning an overtime game in Kansas City, thus vaulting the Pats to an exceptionally drab 13-3 Super Bowl win against the Rams.

The rest of the division isn’t very interesting, given that the Miami Dolphins are expected by sports books to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, and the two New York teams — the Jets and Bills — are predicted to win about 8 games apiece. The Jets have the shine of a former USC quarterback, Sam Darnold, along with the acquisition of former holdout and star running back Le’Veon Bell, but at the same time they are still the Jets. Since they play in such a major media market, places like ESPN have a hard time not talking about them. But they are coming off a 4-12 season, and this year I picture something closer to 6-10 or 7-9 rather than the reciprocal. I would take the under on their projected 8.5 wins.

The Bills are more exciting to me, since they have a quarterback (Josh Allen) who can run and make shit happen from time to time. Their blueprint for success is and always will be a reflection of the city of Buffalo itself — a blue-collar approach, with a strong running game and solid defense — so if Josh Allen can scrape out a few wins then I could see them going over 7.5 wins, and even challenging for one of the two AFC Wild Card spots.

AFC North

The Cleveland Browns are favored to win this division. That’s fucking hilarious. Baker Mayfield is their quarterback, they traded for Odell Beckham Jr., they have Jarvis Landry on the flank and second-year stud running back Nick Chubb. Their evolution from being the Cleveland Browns to an exciting divisional favorite sounds appealing, but only until you think really hard for like two goddamn seconds and remember this is a horribly run organization and it’s all going to crash and burn at some point.

The Steelers, having shed superstars with complicated personalities — like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown — have somehow turned into a slight underdog to win the North. However, unlike the Browns this is a franchise that actually is well-run, and actually does have a history of winning football games. I don’t know if they are going to go 10-6 or 12-4, but I am confident that they will win this division.

The Ravens are the third team with a conceivable chance here, but I’ll be the low man on their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, for the simple reason that he’s a running QB, and quarterbacks that like to run absorb a lot more contact that typical pocket guys. I think they will have a strong defense and a good running game, meaning they will be competitive late in games more often than not. But I worry about Jackson’s ability to stay on the field and be productive, since his throwing arm isn’t proven and he’s bound to take a few cringe-worthy shots that make Ravens fans hold their breath. I would take the under on their 8.5-win projection.

The Cincinnati Bengals will be one of the worst teams in the NFL. They are the new Cleveland Browns.

AFC South

Andrew Luck’s surprising retirement created an opening for a different division champ in the AFC South. I mean, just because the Colts were favored to win their division this year didn’t make it automatic. That isn’t how the NFL works. However, Luck was the preseason favorite to win MVP, and if you put two and two together it didn’t take much of a stretch to envision an 11-5 campaign where Luck led Indianapolis to something on the fringes of a first round bye in the AFC playoffs.

Now that he’s done — at least for this year — there’s a wide open field of three (or four, if you count the Colts) mediocre-to-good teams in the South. Most people are on the Houston Texans, who behind DeShaun Watson figure to be the most secure bet to win 9 or 10 games. Despite losing their starting running back, Lamar Miller, to a torn ACL, there is every reason to expect Duke Johnson to pick up most of the slack, and for stud receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, to give Houston a top 5-10 offense.

Without anything beyond basic (and typically inaccurate) intuition, I happen to like the Jaguars in the South. My theory for this is simple, and it goes like this: Jacksonville had a horrible year in 2018 and Blake Bortles was their quarterback. Blake Bortles is fucking awful. I’m under the impression that the team had a mutiny last year, for no other reason that they had a leader they didn’t believe in. This year is going to be different for nothing else than the fact that Nick Foles — who somehow won a Super Bowl — is their new quarterback. This team has a killer fucking defense and a good running back in Leonard Fournette. Should Foles only be a competent game manager, I picture Jacksonville winning 10 games and representing the AFC South in the postseason.

The Titans and Colts are both total question marks. Without Andrew Luck I don’t see any reason why Indy will win more than 6 games, but not totally because I don’t like Jacoby Brissett (their new QB). It’s more to do with how the media has been all over their nuts about having an “improved” roster, a “good” draft, and all that noise. Some things the media says — like Patrick Mahomes being great — are undeniable. But in general I go against the typical media narratives. Because so often the media doesn’t know shit.

I don’t know a lot about the Titans, other than they have a really good defense. That is generally a helluva start, but I get the idea that they are in a transition at quarterback. They have Marcus Marriota, who when healthy is pretty good. But he usually isn’t healthy. I think this division is going to be jammed up, perhaps to the point where the winner has 9 or 10 wins and the 4th-place team is 6-10 or 7-9.

AFC West

The Chiefs are my favorite team, so naturally I’m going to be biased. But I’m a charitable guy, and I believe the Chargers and Broncos will be competitive.

Patrick Mahomes is my only hope for the future of this sport. If he hadn’t come along last year, it’s an open question whether or not I would even follow the NFL. I mean, with all the domestic abuse, concussions, gruesome injuries, owners exploiting the labor, and referees botching critical calls, what isn’t to love about this game? I ask you, dear reader.

But since Mahomes is here, I’m going to hold out hope that the Chiefs will win a Super Bowl before I die. And as far as this year is concerned, I think Kansas City is going to win 11 or 12 games, get a first round bye, and end up losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship for a second year in a row. I’m such a homer, aren’t I? The Chiefs are just the best!

Meanwhile, the Chargers and Broncos are going to win 10 and 9 games, respectively, and the Raiders who don’t know their ass from their fucking elbows will manage 5 wins and be the bottom dwellers of the West for the 16th year in a row. I look forward to that scenario very much, because it means the Chiefs will be the best team of all-time… again.

Anyway, below are the seedings and projections of the AFC:

  1. Patriots
  2. Chiefs
  3. Steelers
  4. Jaguars
  5. Chargers
  6. Bills

Wild Card Round

Chargers 27, @Jaguars 21

@Steelers 30, Bills 14

Divisional Round

@Patriots 33, Chargers 21

@Chiefs 37, Steelers 35

Championship Round

@Patriots 29, Chiefs 28