West :Los Angeles Chargers
2018 prediction: 10-6
2017 record: 9-7 |second in AFC West|
"We are trying to win a Super Bowl." - Melvin Ingram.
Had the Chargers won one more game last season, they could have possibly represented AFC West in the playoffs. That loss came by the expense of the Kansas City Chiefs. 2018 could be their year.
In the offseason, the Chargers took care of their in house free agents, signing cornerback Casey Hayward, wide receiver Tyrell Williams among others to team friendly deals.
The offensive line was given a boost with the free agent signing of center Mike Pouncey and selecting Scott Quessenberry in the draft. Whoever lines up at center will benefit with guards Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp next to him. Melvin Gordon should continue to be one of the dominant running backs in the league. with that line in front of him.
Lets not forget veteran quarterback Philip Rivers delivering the ball to Keenan Allen, Travis Williams and Tyrell Williams. With Hunter Henry out with a torn ACL, it is not known who will be playing tight end for the Bolts.
The Chargers defense was quietly one of the best in the AFC, maybe in considered one of the more underrated defense in the NFL. Jason Verrett and Hayward can take away the opposing teams top receivers while Ingram and Joey Bosa can get to the quarterback.
With a team-friendly schedule, the only thing that would stop the Charger from taking the crown is themselves.
South: Jacksonville Jaguars
2018 prediction: 11-5
2017 record:10-6 |AFC South Division Champion|
Repeating success in the NFL is very hard to do. After a successful year opponents on the schedule get a little more challenging while key players may leave in free agency in pursuit for money. That is not the case in Jacksonville.
The possess the scariest defensive line in the NFL. Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler Jr., Marcell Dareus and rookie Taven Bryan make up the depth. The Sackonvile moniker will be alive and well in 2018.
AJ Bouye, Jalen Ramsey, and newcomer Barry Church will be hard to throw on in the secondary. Add run stoppers Myles Jack and Telvin Smith along with box safety Tashaun Gipson to the mix and you have one of the best defenses ever assembled.
Quarterback Blake Bortles still has Marquise Lee and Dede Westbrook to throw to with Leonard Fournette and TJ Yeldon to carry the football. Newcomers Donte Moncrief and rookie DJ Chark will add another dimension to the offense as well.
The Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans will give it their best shot, but the division title will likely remain in Jacksonville for another year.
East: New England Patriots
2018 prediction: 12-4
2017 record: 13-3 |AFC East and AFC Conference Champions|
The Patriots have been division champions for nine straight years now. The have won the division 16 times since 1997. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets will try to dethrone phenoms of the AFC East but the strong hold will continue in 2018.
In the offseason, the Patriots addressed most of their needs. Adrian Claybron, Jeremy Hill and Troy Niklas addressed the team needs at defensive end, running back and tight end. Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michael and Duke Dawson added depth to other positions on the depth chart.
Tom Brady should have a healthy Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan to get the ball to. The Patriots added tall receivers Jordan Matthews and Cordarralle Patterson to round out the rest of the receiving group. Rob Gronkowski is a scoring machine in the red zone as well.
With the Patriots stacked on defense as usual, opponents scoring on them will be very difficult to do. The Patriots could be in line for another run at the Super Bowl.
North: Pittsburgh Steelers
2018 prediction: 12-4
2017 record: 13-3 |AFC North Champions/ Lost in AFC Division Round|
The Steelers have won the AFC North six out of the last 11 seasons. In that span the Steelers have appeared in the Super Bowl three times, winning two.
Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown have been the mainstays of the offense during that span. If the offensive line can remain healthy, they will allow the Killer B's (Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown) do their job to the fullest.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was a great surprise for the Steelers a year ago. Smith-Schuster lead all rookies in receiving yards and touchdowns to conclude his rookie campaign. Smith-Schuster recorded 917 yards and seven touchdowns in his first year. The Steelers are hoping the same could happen to 2018 rookie receiver James Washington.
The Steelers also added Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen to add depth to the safety position. Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton and Coty Sensabaugh could have another strong year going up against opposing offenses at the corner position.
The biggest thing that the Steelers will have to do is replace linebacker Ryan Shazier. There is no telling when he will be able to return to the lineup, probably is going to miss out on the 2018 season as a whole.
Yes, the Cleveland Browns improved. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens also improved. But the Steelers will find a way to do the thing that they do best. That is win.