There was certainly some fun games in the AFC last season. However, ultimately the season was always going to boil down to a contest between the Patriots and Chiefs. As we enter 2019 the landscape may be starting to shift slightly. Both of those teams enter the season with major questions marks hanging over their head. Meanwhile, other teams in the conference have been quietly making key moves to strengthen their rosters and mount a challenge for a trip to the Super Bowl.
- New England Patriots +350
- Kansas City Chiefs +500
As I said in the introduction both of these teams have major questions marks hanging over their head. The Patriots are contemplating entering a campaign without Rob Gronkowski and with Brady another year older. However, they are the Patriots and playing in the AFC Championship game is what they do. There has not been an AFC conference decider without the Patriots present since 2010. The trouble is the odds here completely reflect that, and with the risk that their offense cannot click, they are a team I would look to stay away from.
The Chiefs have their own issues with the unknown surrounding Tyreek Hill. They also need their moves on the defense to pan out and provide some much-needed improvement. Saying that, they still have Patrick Mahomes under center and some good weapons for him to target. With or without Hill the odds are that Mahomes will regress from his amazing numbers last year. However, this offense was so far and above much of the rest of the league, that the Chiefs make for an interesting bet at this value.
- Indianapolis Colts +700
- Cleveland Browns +700
- Los Angeles Chargers +850
This is a fun little group of contenders, but only two of them really deserve consideration as an actual play. The odd team out is the Cleveland Browns, who are massively overpriced given that they are the Browns, who have not finished above .500 since 2007. This is absolutely the most talented group they have had in that time, but there are question marks. Can a rookie head coach in Freddie Kitchens get the best out of the team? If things start to go wrong do they start to turn on one another? It is all enough to mean that at this price I am going to stay away.
I could make a case for either of the Colts or Chargers. Both teams have a top-tier quarterback, good offensive weapons, solid defensive players, and adequate to great offensive line play. The Colts are perhaps the more complete team offensively, but the Chargers arguably have the better players on defense. If this was the AFC Championship game I would not be surprised in the slightest. Who you choose to bet on here comes down to personal preference, but given the slightly better odds, I will take the Chargers to take Philip Rivers to the Super Bowl for the first time.
- Pittsburgh Steelers +1200
- Baltimore Ravens +1500
Compared to the NFC where there are really seven competitive teams, the AFC drops off pretty significantly after five. However, both the Steelers and Ravens deserve respect because of their pedigree in the conference. The trouble is both teams have major question marks. Can the Steelers be the same explosive offense without both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown? Can their defense pull it together with the new additions?
As for the Ravens, the majority of the question marks will revolve around Lamar Jackson and his ability to throw the ball. However, the Ravens lost a lot of defensive pieces this offseason, so how that defense gels will also be interesting to watch. Overall, there is not quite enough value in either of these teams for me to be willing to back them. If I had to choose, I would go for a Steelers team led by Big Ben with a chip on his shoulder, but I do not feel strongly enough to lay my money down.
Need Some Help
- Houston Texans +1800
- Jacksonville Jaguars +2200
It is perhaps unfair to include the Texans in this category because they are significantly better than the Jaguars. However, the question marks around their offensive line means that they are likely going to need someone to trip up at a key moment to make the Super Bowl. Saying that, they have one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, arguably the best receiver, and a defensive line that terrifies most. They need a big improvement in that offensive line for it to happen but at this price, there is a lot of value in the Texans to make the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars should be better than last year, but they still have a severe lack of offensive talent in key positions. Their pass catchers simply do not excite you, and their run game is quite slow and plodding. Their defense will always give them a chance if they play up to their talent, but these odds are not quite long enough where I am willing to back them.
Forget About It
- Denver Broncos +2500
- New York Jets +3000
- Oakland Raiders +3000
- Tennessee Titans +3500
- Buffalo Bills +6000
- Cincinnati Bengals +6000
- Miami Dolphins +10000
This line is pretty laughable for the Broncos as far as I am concerned. They have not really upgraded anything this past offseason. Joe Flacco is a place holder and not a great improvement on Case Keenum. Their rushing and receiving talent is not that great, and there are some question marks in the secondary. Their pass rush is incredible, but is that enough? I am not sure I would back this team even if it was +3000 or higher.
In fact, there are a lot of strange lines here. The Raiders and Jets really have no right being more favored than the Titans, who nearly made the playoffs last season. However, the Titans do not present value because their quarterback situation is pretty messy. My fun bet is the Bills at +6000, simply because Josh Allen is enjoyable to watch. It is not a sensible bet but who does not like a bit of fun?