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2019 Playoff Predictions: AFC

It is time, once again, for totally accurate and detailed predictions of the 2019 postseason. Who will face the Rams in Super Bowl LIII?

AFC North: Browns, Bengals, Steelers, Ravens

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Every fan of the other AFC North teams simultaneously releases a sigh of exasperation. The Steelers had a record of 13-3 in 2017, one of the best in the league.  As to their roster, the only “major” loss would be Martavis Bryant, but JuJu Smith-Schuster seems more than ready to take on a starting position at receiver. Ben Roethlisberger is still able to play at a high level, Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL, and Le’Veon Bell is still Le’Veon Bell. Their defense is in dire need of a middle linebacker after the injury of Ryan Shazier, but the rest of the defense is as sound as always.

The Steelers offseason could have been better. They didn’t sign any big-name free agents to solidify their team. This may be a result of Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation. Their draft was also lackluster. They didn’t draft a single day-one starter, even though they are clearly in a “win-now” situation.

The darkhorse in the AFC North is the Browns. Will they be good, or will they continue to be the same Browns they have been for the past decade? On their offense, they finally have some stability in their quarterback room for the first time since 1999. They have a good trio of halfbacks, and a great receiving core. Joe Thomas’ retirement leaves an obvious hole to fill, but not one that has to be taken care of immediately. Their defense is solid, but not great. Myles Garret is obviously a star, and the rest of the line is developing well.

AFC South: Colts, Jaguars, Texans, Titans

Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville had, undoubtedly, the best secondary in the league last year. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are the greatest tandem since Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Their defense has so many stars that it is hard to name them all, led by the veteran Calais Campbell.

Their offense, on the other hand, was not nearly as consistent. People often like to make fun of Blake Bortles and his lack of consistent arm talent. While that may be true, he was good enough to get them to the conference championship, and he can do it again.

Leonard Fournette is obviously a star, and he was the main reason for their offensive success with 1,040 yards rushing and 302 yards receiving in his rookie season. If this young group can keep developing, they will be a tremendously threatening team for years to come.

— Despite what was just said about the Jags, the road to the playoffs will not be easy. This is going to be a highly competitive division. Before his injury last year, Deshaun Watson looked like one of the best rookie quarterbacks in the history of football. This year he’s coming back healthy, which could easily put the Texans into the Super Bowl conversation. The same goes for Andrew Luck and the Colts, who will be playing with their starting quarterback for the first time since week 17 of 2016. The Titans made the playoffs last year, and now they have added Dion Lewis to form a two-headed running attack with Derrick Henry. They also added Rashaan Evans, the star linebacker out of Alabama. The AFC South might be the most competitive division in 2019.

AFC East: Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Bills

Winner: New England Patriots

This should be a no-brainer. The Patriots have won the division nine years in a row and have only been sent to the wildcard round once in the past 15 years. Gronkowski, Michel, Hightower, Shelton, Wynn. Let us not forget the five-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. There is not much else to say about the Patriots.

This is where I would talk about the competition, but…there really is none. The Jets would be in the best position for a wildcard spot. Leonard Williams is phenomenal, and Josh McCown is coming off one of the best years in his lengthy career. The Bills just lost the quarterback that led them to their first playoff appearance since 1999 in favor of a rookie with known accuracy issues, and LeSean McCoy is not going to defy Father Time for much longer. The Dolphins, quite frankly, are the favorites to receive the number one overall pick in the 2019 draft. The question is not “will the Patriots win the division?” – that is a fact as long as Tom Brady stays healthy – the question is if any of its division rivals will be able to pose any challenge whatsoever.

AFC West: Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Chiefs

Winner: Los Angeles Chargers

If the Chargers are going to win a Super Bowl with Phillip Rivers at the reigns, it will be in 2019. Their roster is extremely talented on both sides, and only require some good coaching to become top dog this year. Keenan Allen has flown under the radar for most of his young career despite being one of the most consistent young receivers in the league, and Melvin Gordon has been getting better every year since his rookie season.

Phillip Rivers only needs to win a Super Bowl to secure his legacy and maybe even a gold jacket. Their defense is constantly in the top 10, which will no doubt be the case for 2019. They need to pick up where they left off last year and they will be in a great spot.

The AFC West is the division with the most questions surrounding it. How will Patrick Mahomes perform in his first year as a full-time starter? What will Jon Gruden be able to do with the Raiders this year? Was Case Keenum a one-year wonder or will he dominate again with the Broncos? Only one thing is for sure… This will be a fun division to watch next year.

Conference Champions – Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles wants to prove all of his critics wrong, and he will do so this coming season. For only the second time in his career, he will reach 30 passing touchdowns. Their defense will defend their name – “Sacksonville” – and will also continue to lead the league in interceptions returned for touchdowns. In the end, they will once again meet Tom Brady and the Patriots.

The game will lean heavily in favor of the Jags in the first half, and will no doubt be a defensive game. Leonard Fournette will lead the charge and score twice in the first half. Tom Brady will struggle in the beginning and only acquire a single field goal in the first 30 minutes. The Jaguars will score a field goal in the third before Brady begins to make another one of his patented 4th quarter comebacks. This will be held short though as an early interception will allow Jacksonville to run out the clock and leave Brady without enough time to reclaim the lead despite his best efforts.

Jaguars win 20-17

Author: Addison Willmon

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