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2006 AFC Preview


AFC Season Outlook


By: Jordan Adams




Loaded with perhaps two Super Bowl contenders in each division, the American Football Conference should again be a dogfight throughout the rigorous 17-week schedule. The weakest division in the AFC is still the division that holds the latest football dynasty and the newest postseason threat. The East division, despite the misery that is the Jets and Bills, has the Patriots and Dolphins and could possibly see both through to the postseason. The AFC North is the home of the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. As well, the Bengals and Ravens will be playoff contenders. The Browns are still not close to the playoffs, but Cleveland has made significant strides under Romeo Crennel going into his second year as head coach. The AFC South is a division with two exceptionally talented teams. The Colts have and will continue to be a fixture in the playoffs despite the loss of Edgerrin James. The Jaguars are young, but deadly. Jack Del Rio’s bunch continue to improve behind its gunslinger and warrior general Byron Leftwich. The Texans and Titans both had top five picks in this past spring’s draft and will be in transition years, but expect them to be very testy against better competition in ’06. Finally, the AFC West has a tri-threat of formidable teams. The Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers could all win the division no less home field advantage, while the Raiders will have to be careful not to fall behind San Fran as the biggest laughing stock on the west coast.

Another title for the Patriots this year would mean four in six years and would tie them for the best mark ever with the Steelers of the 70s. Expect Bill Belichick to come back this year better than 10-6. They will be the favorites to win the division but Nick Saban’s Miami team is ready for the playoffs. After bringing in both Daunte Culpepper and Joy Harrington, 2006 will most likely be the end of a lackluster quarterback keeping them down. The defense is steady and young Ronnie Brown will carry the load. Expect a lot of losing from Buffalo and New York.

Three teams are capable of winning the AFC North. Pittsburgh will be the favorite despite finishing second to Cincy last year. The Ravens brought in Steve McNair and finally called it quits with the struggling Kyle Boller. The former Titan should pay off immediately with a reenergized Jamal Lewis and newly acquired Mike Anderson from Denver. Cincinnati’s success will rely on quarterback Carson Palmer returning to top form and not showing any negative effects from his multiple knee ligament surgery this past January. Chad Johnson is one of the best receivers in the game while tailback Rudi Johnson continues his rise after Corey Dillon left. And especially with the question marks to Pittsburgh because of the motorcycle injury to Big Ben, the division could wind up being a coin flip.

The Indianapolis Colts should not have too much trouble clinching the AFC South but the same cannot be said for the Jaguars trying to repeat as a wildcard entry into the postseason. Indy can makeup for the loss of Edge if the defense is as dominant as it was in ’05, but if it lacks the same punch, the Colts could be in for a much bigger struggle than they anticipate. Outside of these two teams, no one else is coming close to a playoff birth. Both the Texans and Titans could be in for top ten picks in next year’s draft. They hope, though, that these respective picks are numbers closer to ten than one.

The Broncos are coming off a 13-3 record in ’05 but with have to fight tooth and nail to finish with a similar record and result. Despite adding Javon Walker to the mix on offense, disgruntled whiner Ashley Lelie lacks a desire to be involved with the team if he isn’t the number one wide out. The Denver defense will again be outstanding, but expecting the same kind of numbers from Jake Plummer might be a reach. The Chiefs have one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL. New head coach Herman Edwards will fix holes in the defense and make this unit a non-issue for blame, while back Larry Johnson could be the best pure runner in the entire league. Trent Green is efficient as any signal caller around and has weapons in Dante Hall and Tony Gonzalez. The San Diego Chargers begin year one with Philip Rivers as its starter. Without Brees, he will need to succeed right away or they have no shot at the postseason. He does has a guy by the name of Ladainian Tomlinson to lean on if things getting messy. LT is the best overall back capable of rushing, receiving, and blocking very effectively. San Diego has plenty of weapons for Rivers in tight end Antonio Gates and wide out Keenan McCardell. The Charger secondary is the biggest issue that needs to be fixed to cure defensive worries.

 

AFC ODDS

2007 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP -WINNER


 BALTIMORE RAVENS +1500
 BUFFALO BILLS +4000
 CINCINNATI BENGALS +1100
 CLEVELAND BROWNS +3000
 DENVER BRONCOS +550
 HOUSTON TEXANS +6000
 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS +300
 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS +1400
 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS +900
 MIAMI DOLPHINS +950
 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS +315
 NEW YORK JETS +4500
 OAKLAND RAIDERS +3800
48 PITTSBURGH STEELERS +670
49 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +1800
50 TENNESSEE TITANS +5500



AFC EAST DIVISION-WINNER

              NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -160
 MIAMI DOLPHINS +180
 BUFFALO BILLS +1000
 NEW YORK JETS +1000

AFC SOUTH DIVISION WINNER


  INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -385
          JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS +330
 TENNESSEE TITANS +2100
 HOUSTON TEXANS +1650

AFC WEST DIVISION-WINNER

 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS +160
 DENVER BRONCOS +125
 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +365
 OAKLAND RAIDERS +1100

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