The 2015 FOH AFC Preview

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by Ryan Meehan

On Tuesday we covered all bases with regards to the NFC, so today as promised we are going to switch gears and discuss the other half of the NFL. I have to be honest, this piece was much more difficult for me to complete than the other one. There are a lot of teams in the AFC that aren’t exactly what I would consider to be quality entertainment. When the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl a few years back, I never really felt like I was blown away by what I was seeing in front of me. That coupled with the fact that their quarterback has one of the most uninspiring personalities in recent memory – as well as the Broncos getting butthoused in SB XLVIII the very next year – just sort of reinforced my theory that the AFC will always sort of be the early sixties AFL of today.

But regardless of my preference to lean towards the NFC for quality entertainment a majority of the time, there are some interesting story lines in the AFC heading into 2015…How many more years can Brady and Manning play? Does Andrew Luck finally have the roster to get him to the promised land, and if it does, can he win it all? Who is going to run away with the AFC North this year? Does Rex Ryan realize Buffalo doesn’t really have a media for him to bark at? Are the Jacksonville Jaguars still a professional football team? All of these are fantastic questions, and will all be addressed in the 2015 FOH AFC Preview.  We’ll start off with the defending champions, and work our way down the line…

AFC East

New England Patriots

2014 record:  12-4

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When Tom Brady returns to the field, you’re going to see a man that is hell bent on revenge unleash his power on the rest of the league. Just like the rest of us, he’s about had it with the Deflategate bullshit, and who can blame him? Between the courtroom sketch artist’s awful rendering of a guy that has Calvin Klein model-like looks and being accused of something just about every other fucking quarterback has done at one point or another in his career, he can’t wait until somebody is talking about something other than that poorly concocted “scandal”. The loss of Darrelle Revis probably could have been avoided, but a thirty year old cornerback is getting up there even though he probably does have a couple of good years left. If I were them I’d be more worried about losing Brandon Browner than anything, even though he’s one more failed drug test away from being in the next echelon of suspension brackets. The Patriots are the benchmark for success in the National Football League, but in the NFL sometimes your surroundings can be one of the reasons for that success. In New England’s case, they happen to be in a division where Buffalo and Miami will likely be at a far enough distance away where they can comfortably win the division without being challenged for a few more seasons. And picking them to not win the AFC East is simply too much to risk looking like a fool, so I’m going to double bag this one and say they win the division but acquire five losses in the process.

Projected Finish:  11-5

Miami Dolphins

2014 record:  8-8

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One of Jay Mohr’s producers made a hilarious joke on his radio show that Ryan Tannehill should change his middle name to 8-8. I have to admit, I’m much more impressed by Tannehill than I thought I would be by now. That said, he’s still been sacked 139 times in three years and with Matt Moore and Josh Freeman waiting in the wings if he gets popped something fierce they have got to make protecting him their main priority. You could argue that they haven’t really done that, so they’ll have to work on getting quick dropbacks on short snap counts in order to get the ball to newly acquired receivers DeVante Parker, Greg Jennings, and Kenny Stills. The addition of Ndamokung Suh isn’t going to gel well until he’s had time to work in that defensive scheme, so don’t be shocked if he has a very average year as he’s going to get double-teamed harder than Jayden James at the AVN Awards. But somehow I can’t help but think that all of the information I’ve just provided you with is for naught, because after three straight seasons without a winning record I’ve never really felt like Joe Philbin has been in total control of that team. It’s not like he’s had a a crazy pool of talent to work with from the get-go, but at the same time that’s not an excuse for lack of success in today’s NFL landscape. He’ll be gone after this year if they don’t finish above .500, so if my calculations are accurate he’ll be looking for an offensive coordinator position elsewhere by the time January rolls around.

Projected Finish:  8-8

Buffalo Bills

2014 record:  9-7

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At first glance, things in Buffalo seem to be looking up…at least on paper. They won’t have to play in Toronto anymore, as they finally wised up and cancelled that Bills/Toronto series which was about stupid from day one. Ditching C.J. Spiller for LeSean McCoy is a definite upgrade, and I can’t imagine Kyle Orton’s departure is going to put them any further in the hole with EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel now vying for the starting QB job. Their offensive line had a lot of issues last season, and it’s unlikely that new-but-still-experienced coach Rex Ryan and the addition of noted N-word bomb enthusiast Richie Incognito will end up being able to fix that problem. There seems to be a lot of hype being spread around the media about how the Bills are expected to get at least a wild card berth, but why? They can’t rely on McCoy to do everything, and he sure as hell isn’t going to take it upon himself to do so. And neither Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin are every down wideouts, so where is the rest of this offense going to magically come from? Not from special teams, as Buffalo was ranked 24th last year in punt and kickoff return yardage. I’ve always thought Rex Ryan was a bit of a tool, so I hope I’m right when I say that they will actually be a couple games worse for the wear than they were last year. Sorry Stu.

Projected Finish:  7-9

New York Jets 

2014 record:  4-12

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Jets training camp got live earlier this month when former outside linebacker IK Enemkpali sucker-punched sort-of-but-not-really quarterback Geno Smith, knocking him out of the starting lineup he now won’t be able to return to and keeping me laughing for well over forty-eight hours straight. As we all know Ryanasaurus Rex is now in Buffalo, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was put to death by firing squad after week seventeen for that sorry excuse for a point scoring plan he trodded onto the field week after week in 2014. Their biggest offseason signing was of course Brandon Marshall, whom the Jets hope will develop a healthy friendship with new starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Darrelle Revis is back in town to perfect his skills of being an irritating loudmouth who probably shouldn’t have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated a month ago, and Antonio Cromartie and his super sperm have returned so that it will be easier for him to make daycare arrangements for any of the twelve children he’s fathered with eight different women. New head coach Todd Bowles is in for a huge surprise if he thinks that Zac Stacy is going to be the next Bronco Nagurski, which is almost as funny as the notion that Woody Johnson should own an NFL football team in the biggest market in the country. Really everything about the Jets is nothing short of hilarious, and this comedy of errors likely won’t even win a quarter of the games they play this year.

Projected Finish:  3-13

AFC West

San Diego Chargers

2014 record:  9-7

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At this point, you’re probably thinking “Why in the hell would you list the Chargers first in the AFC west segment of the article?” This is a fair question that considering they finished third in the standings last year, but they did finish over .500. The Chargers are the one team in the league that can legitimately remove themselves from the distraction that is the possibility of that team being uprooted, which I’ll discuss further in an upcoming collaboration with Dubsism. From a statistical standpoint, they are hardly the sexy pick as every journalist in print media will continue to blow the Broncos from every rooftop in America. And after a 5-1 start last year in which they beat the Seahawks at home, they didn’t finish strong at all. But for some reason I have to go against all of that and trust my gut here. San Diego has to have had enough of being “just over .500” by now. A first round win against Andy Dalton and the Bengals is not their ultimate goal, and Philip Rivers is due for a late-season playoff run now more than ever. They didn’t really lose any marquee position players, and they went out and got Jacoby Jones and Stevie Johnson to give Rivers a fresh start and more viable targets. With Mike McCoy’s rookie year of head coaching out of the way they can finally focus on that offensive line getting their shit together, which I believe they will. Most importantly, with this division up for grabs if Denver tanks – I’ll get to that in a minute – they are in prime shape to take over the AFC West.  

Projected Finish: 11-5 

Denver Broncos

2014 record:  12-4

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It’s not hard to get sell free agents on the concept of heading west to become eventual targets for Peyton Manning, as was the case with tight end Owen Daniels. But I am very, very suspicious of the other players who jumped ship after 2014 and the potential decline they might have foreseen in Manning’s production. Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Jacob Tamme are all gone heading into this season, and it seems very odd that three players of that caliber would all be willing to leave a situation where they could be adding receptions to their career totals while the possibility of winning a Super Bowl is much greater than being a part of the other 31 teams in the league. Gary Kubiak is back into the Broncos fold decades after the nine years he spent holding John Elway’s jock, but he’s not the same type of passive coach that John Fox was during his tenure in Denver. Although Manning usually does whatever the hell his coaching staff tells him to, these two are definitely going to butt heads at some point. At least that’s what I’m hoping, because to be honest with you this division bores me to tears if the Broncos keep winning it. They still make the postseason, but I’d like to see them finish second during the regular season for once. Why? No particular reason, I’m just an asshole. But you know good and well that unless you’re a fan of the team, you’re probably right there with me. 

Projected Finish: 10-6

Kansas City Chiefs

2014 record:  9-7

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The Kansas City Chiefs are in possession of the feel-good story in the NFL heading into 2015:  Safety Eric Berry was diagnosed with lymphoma last season and missed the final five games, but he is expected to be in the starting lineup when they open up against the Texans. But as much as I desperately want to believe in the Chiefs, their lack of offensive production is astounding. By now you’ve probably heard the stat about how they didn’t have a single receiver or tight end catch a touchdown all year, so even with the addition of Jeremy Maclin Alex Smith is going to have his hands full. With the exception of a few games last year, the Chiefs seemed to be doomed to put up right around 17 points in just about every contest. Linebacker Justin Houston clearly has the franchise by the balls:  He skipped the team’s offseason workout program, then promptly signed a six deal deal worth a hundred and one million dollars. Talk about the inmates running the asylum, that guy’s agent will be buying an awful lot of Christmas presents for his family this year. Things won’t be so plentiful for the Chiefs come December, as they could be headed for another sure late season slide. They’ll miss the playoffs this time around again, but this time it will more of a balanced pattern of inconsistency that will be the root cause.

Projected Finish:  7-9

Oakland Raiders

2014 record:  3-13

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After an 0-10 start last year, the Oakland Raiders finished the season averaging less than 16 points per game. Their rushing attack was abysmal, putting up less than 78 yards a contest. The Matt Schaub experiment went South quickly, but now he’s Baltimore’s problem. Jack Del Rio takes over as head coach, which is probably the best hire that the Raiders could have made considering the circumstances. It’s likely we’ll see Derek Carr more than Christian Ponder in the 2015 season, but let’s be honest…nobody cares. While Oakland can make all of the personnel changes they want, the sad reality of their situation is that they didn’t win a fucking single road game last year. And even though in the San Diego contest they were just one possession away from having a .500 record at home, they really don’t have the home field advantage that they used to. Even if they did, the Bay area feels like a vacation to any team in autumn weather. It’s not like it’s Lambeau Field and a domed stadium team is going to wander in, only to be blown away by the elements. Darren McFadden left for Dallas, and Maurice Jones-Drew was so tired of this shit that he up and retired. Trent Richardson is hardly an improvement, and the rest of the Raiders playbook is going to be pure comedy…if they can convert on third down, which they can’t. Expect to see their defense on the field a lot, and even though they are going to get dominated when it comes to time of possession there are four games on that schedule I could see them winning.

Projected Finish:  4-12

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

2014 record:  11-5

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Had Indianapolis made the AFC Championship the least bit competitive, the divisional playoff game where they went into their former quarterback’s new house and shit all over his couch could have been the turning point in what we all eventually knew was coming in the American Football Conference. Manning will likely retire before Brady, so Andrew Luck is well aware that he is in prime position to own this conference if he can get some help. That help is going to have to begin with Frank Gore becoming the power back he was when he was straight jacking fools in San Francisco, but he has to do more than just stay healthy for Indy to get to the next level. He has to be a superstar back that gives his quarterback the confidence to believe that they can be a complete team. Last year their defense struggled at times, but looked very good in that aforementioned Denver postseason contest. Then a week later in New England, it appeared that nothing was working. Teams that are at the next step which the Colts are trying to get to don’t really have outings like that, especially not in conference championship games. They should be in good shape to get there barring injury under center, but Luck is built to take hits so as long as he doesn’t blow out his ankle he should be fine. Plus, if he does get injured it’s not like it’ll be hard for him to score some opiates. All he’s got to do is go see the boss.

Projected Finish: 11-5

Houston Texans

2014 record:  9-7

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Houston gave up less than 20 points a game last season, and we are all well aware their defense is their strong suit. This year their offensive fate is in the hands of Brian Hoyer, who I’m guessing is going to be looking a lot towards DeAndre Hopkins now that Andre Johnson is in Indianapolis. Any more than fifteen interceptions isn’t going to cut it, and I believe Hoyer has a breakout year in 2015. If Foster stays healthy and tears it up, he could be a legitimate MVP candidate come December. Everybody has to bring it, and by bringing it I don’t mean simply putting on a good show that the producers of “Hard Knocks” can edit into a single episode. This one is a bold pick for me, but I believe in the Texans because defense is important. If you have a questionable offense but a killer defense, you can mask that problem for a while and continue to win. (Look how long Arizona did it last year)  They’re not going to win the Super Bowl, but I like them to get back to the playoffs and shake the expansion feel off of them for good.

Projected Finish:  10-6

Tennessee Titans

2014 record:  2-14

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Fuck me in a diaper. We’ve officially reached the “No one cares” segment of the preview, so go on and put some funny guinea pig videos on for your pet while you go grab some popcorn. While I do think that Marcus Mariota will have a better pro career than Jamies Winston, that’s kind of like saying “At least I got Hepatitis B, it’s easier to treat than the other two types…”.  Tennessee was the laughing stock of the league last year, beating Kansas City in week one and then living a squatter’s life every week thereafter. They’re ranked last in every power ranking in the world, and they had nothing to offer on the offensive side of the ball. To give you an idea of where their head was this offseason, their backfield will now be springloaded by David Cobb instead of Shonn Greene. These are the kinds of decisions you make when you know you’re not going to finish higher than third in this division for at least a decade. When the only team that makes you look good is the Jaguars – and that’s only the case because your names are next to each other in the standings – you’re gonna wish you could play them four times a year instead of two. Hey, look who’s next up…

Projected Finish:  Doesn’t matter

Jacksonville Jaguars

2014 record:  3-13

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All of us would like to think that we’d do a great job at the helm of an NFL franchise. That said, I don’t envy what’s in front of head coach Gus Bradley. With a nothing roster that’s headed up by Blake Bortles under center, he has to go out and try to convince the world that we should care about Jacksonville. This of course takes place in a division where they have no shot whatsoever at winning, what could be worse than that? Oh, right…You’re in the most garbage market in professional sports, and your owner is a lunatic who was born just minutes from where they eventually found Osama Bin Laden. Sure they signed Julius Thomas, but unless they can find a way to throw him the ball from the sidelines he’s never going to go back to the Pro Bowl as long as he’s in a turquoise uniform. He’ll certainly be able to get a ticket, because the odds of Jacksonville still being in the thick of things the week before the Super Bowl when there’s only two teams left are pretty much zero. I feel bad for Miami and Tampa because they are trying to represent the good football that the state of Florida should stand for, and this franchise is effectively holding them down and shitting into their mouths.

Projected Finish:  If I didn’t predict a final record for the Titans, what makes you think I’d do so for Jacksonville?  

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

2014 record:  10-6

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Since everybody won’t stop blowing the Steelers like the end of the world is coming and the only antidote for vanishing of the face of this planet is contained in Big Ben’s seed, I’m picking the Ravens to win this division just to make all of those people hate me. Picking the Ravens to do anything good is a good way to start the hate flowing, given that the casual football fan thinks everybody on that roster beats the living hell out of their significant other all day long. I picked up an Ed Reed jersey at a Goodwill for four dollars about a month ago, and now everyone clears the aisles when I reach for a bowl of cereal at the grocery store. Joe Flacco very nearly beat the Patriots in the postseason, and I could make the argument that right now he’s in Brady’s head more than Manning is. The only thing that I can think of which might hold Baltimore back would be the addition of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, but then again perhaps in a supporting role as offensive coordinator he’ll be able to shirk leaderships responsibilities that won’t be his problem. And that’s really where the Ravens strength comes from – head coach Jim Harbaugh. It all goes back to him. He’s the guy who outsmarted his own brother when the Super Bowl was on the line, and he’s one of the big reasons Flacco is as effective as he has been over the past few years. The Ravens’ coaching staff is critical to their success, and I have no reason to believe that success won’t lead them to winning this division.  

Projected Finish:  11-5

Pittsburgh Steelers

2014 record:  11-5

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I’m not falling for this. The Steelers weren’t nearly as good as their record would indicate last year, and that’s precisely why Baltimore kicked the shit out of them wild card weekend even though they were seeded three bumps lower than Pittsburgh. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is gone, and that’s probably the biggest sideline adjustment any team in the league has to make. Without Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, that’s not going to be an easy transition by any stretch of the imagination. Roethlisberger just signed a deal that ensures his career will pretty much end in Pittsburgh, and the combination of having that money and knowing he’s already won two Super Bowls could end up making him complacent. When he’s off the field, I just get the feeling that Ben doesn’t really care if he ever wins again. Sure he wants to, but he’s got enough money socked away that he doesn’t have to and those fans are always going to love him no matter what he does the next few years. Their only decent addition was running back DeAngelo Williams, but I have to sincerely wonder what Carolina saw in his future that made them so cool with just letting him go that easily. They remain strong at the wideout position, but the defense is what worries me. Roethlisberger is not a 39 for 51 guy every weekend, and he’s going to need to put up at least 33 points a contest to keep pace with their defensive shortcomings. Spoiler alert:  It’s not fucking happening.

Projected Finish:  8-8

Cincinnati Bengals

2014 record:  10-5-1

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Not buying this one either.  Cincinnati was invincible at home just a few short years ago, but I believe they are about to eat a heaping plate of dick this season. After four straight first round playoff losses, I don’t even think that Cincinnati gets a chance to prove themselves in the postseason this time around. They’re stuck with The Red Rifle for good now, and he’s chewing up so much of their cap space they really don’t have any other options to surround him with the talent he needs to make it look like he’s not really Andy Dalton. They made virtually no offseason moves at all, showing further arrogance as it conveys they idea they believe this is a team that is fine the way it is. Well, it’s not.  Middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict is coming off of double knee surgery, so it’s pretty safe to say his career is one low hit from being over. I just don’t feel good about the Bengals. I feel like as football fans who don’t have a dog in the fight that is the AFC North, we’ve been kind of tricked into believing this is a team who belongs in the playoffs every year – even though the results speak for themselves and they keep losing. Never again. Give everybody at the crack house off of fifteenth in Norwood my love, but it’s over.

Projected Finish:  5-11

Cleveland Browns

2014 record:  7-9

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According to ESPN’s latest power rankings, the only teams weaker than the Browns are Oakland, Jacksonville, the Titans, and Tampa. It kind of bothers me a little bit that a 7-9 team would be so for down the chart, but they did lose Brian Hoyer to Houston, and Josh McCown is not an NFL starter in 2015. If the Browns realize this their next plan of action would be to hand the reigns over to Johnny Manziel, whose blood-alcohol level is the only stat of his that’s been making news over the past twelve months. They added Dwayne Bowe, but in the process lost Josh Gordon, Miles Austin, Jordan Cameron, and Jabaal Sheard. Let’s face it, Cleveland didn’t have a good offseason. They didn’t draft well, and they had twelve picks to work with before blowing it all. Perhaps having Kevin Costner and Denis Leary call those shots wasn’t the best idea, but I have a real hard time separating fantasy from reality. The Browns take a huge step back here, but this wasn’t going to be a ten win season for them anyway. Not with that fucking roster.

Projected Finish:  4-12

Next week we’ll do some postseason picks, and I tell you who I’ve got winning it all. Until then, don’t get any on you…

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.

Meehan

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