After two straight Tremendous Bowl wins by NFC groups, the AFC is primed to strike again in 2022. The West is stacked with harmful gunslingers on each group, the North boasts the defending convention champ, the South could possibly be due for some higher luck, and the East options our preseason favourite to take dwelling the Lombardi Trophy. Learn on to see how your favourite AFC group fared in our Elo forecast’s first batch of fifty,000 season simulations:
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The reigning AFC East champion Buffalo Payments went 11-6 in 2021 — exactly what our mannequin predicted going into the season. We’re forecasting one other 11-win season for Buffalo in 2022, with virtually precisely the identical odds of constructing the playoffs and profitable the East. Actually, Elo initiatives the whole division to run again their 2021 data, with solely minor tweaks to every group’s playoff possibilities.
A complete repeat of 2021 might be not what Buffalo is hoping for, although. The Payments ended final season simply 13 seconds from internet hosting the AFC championship recreation, dropping a wild quarterback duel in extra time to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in what was arguably one of many best playoff video games of all time. This time round, something lower than a Tremendous Bowl journey will probably be seen as a disappointment.
Fortunately, Allen’s play all through the common season and into the playoffs largely put to relaxation any questions on his standing as an elite QB. Buffalo’s offense completed seventh in anticipated factors added, and in opposition to the New England Patriots within the wild card spherical, Allen and the Payments scored a landing each single time they touched the soccer — an NFL first. The Payments’ protection was additionally very spectacular, rating first in EPA, yards allowed and factors allowed. That each one-around excellence made the Payments league leaders in level differential.
One potential supply for fear in Buffalo is that protection within the NFL is unreliable year-over-year, and the Payments will start the season with out their greatest beginning cornerback Tre’Davious White (although they did add edge rusher Von Miller). However Bufflalo doesn’t have to totally recapture its defensive magic from 2021 if Allen and the offense proceed the place they left off within the playoffs. The Payments should be the preseason favourite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
After opening final season with a 1-point win over New England, the Miami Dolphins stumbled their option to seven straight losses, bookended by two blowout defeats to Buffalo. However then Miami did one thing no different group in NFL historical past had completed after dropping seven straight: They strung collectively seven straight wins, ending 9-8 and practically making the playoffs.
Our mannequin thinks one other nine-win season is the Fins’ most probably end result in 2022. Final 12 months, Miami made life as simple as potential on former first-round quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, calling play motion on the highest charge within the league — a pattern that appears more likely to proceed below new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who used the tactic often whereas coordinating the 49ers’ offense in 2021. However what could change is the group’s unwillingness to flood the sphere with receivers. Final 12 months’s Dolphins ranked lifeless final within the NFL in share of performs with all 5 eligible receivers operating routes; the Niners below McDaniel had been ninth.
Doubtlessly standing in the best way of a Miami ascent are the New England Patriots, the AFC East’s longtime bullies. After lacking the playoffs for the primary time since 2008 in 2020, head coach Invoice Belichick and the entrance workplace spent a document $163 million in assured cash heading into 2021. The deluge of money appeared to assist: The Patriots completed 10-7 and made it again to the playoffs.
This season, New England has to compensate for the lack of longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who left to teach the Las Vegas Raiders. The Pats will start the season with no clear alternative for McDaniels as play-caller, with Belichick selecting as a substitute to assemble a Frankenstein approximation out of former head coaches Joe Decide and Matt Patricia. McDaniels helped information rookie quarterback Mac Jones and the Pats offense to the NFL’s Twelfth-best unit by whole EPA in 2021. For Jones to proceed progressing in his sophomore 12 months, the teaching employees will in all probability want to seek out its footing rapidly. Absent that, the 9 wins projected by the mannequin appear optimistic.
For the reason that New York Jets are probably with out the providers of former first-round quarterback Zach Wilson to begin the season, they could as a substitute should depend on 37-year-old Joe Flacco to guide an offense that ranked twenty seventh in EPA final 12 months right into a Week 1 recreation in opposition to his former group, the Baltimore Ravens. That’s unhealthy sufficient, however the bigger drawback is that head coach Robert Saleh’s protection ranked final in EPA a season in the past. That must change for the Jets to be aggressive this season. We projected a six-win season for the Jets final 12 months, they usually ended up profitable 4. Maybe that is the season they start the climb again to relevance within the AFC East.
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There’s little or no separating the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens in our Elo rankings, regardless of the Bengals making it to the Tremendous Bowl and the Ravens ending final within the North for the primary time since 2007. Every group has a 57 % likelihood to make the playoffs, and each have a couple of 1-in-24 shot to win the Tremendous Bowl. The parity projected by the mannequin could be partially defined by a powerful and well-balanced AFC North in 2021, and partially by a string of accidents that dismantled the Ravens final season. Baltimore completed with 20 gamers on injured reserve, not together with QB Lamar Jackson (who missed the ultimate 4 video games of the season however was by no means positioned on IR).
Under Cincinnati and Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers start their life after Ben Roethlisberger with veteran Mitchell Trubisky beginning at quarterback over 2022 first-round decide Kenny Pickett. However though head coach Mike Tomlin saved the choice near his vest and didn’t announce his QB1 till mere days earlier than the season, it probably wouldn’t have mattered both means. There’s an odd symmetry to the truth that, within the first season of Pittsburgh’s post-Roethlisberger period, the mannequin initiatives that the Steelers will end with a document beneath .500 for the primary time since 2003, the 12 months earlier than the six-time Professional Bowler was drafted.
Lastly, the Cleveland Browns’ postseason hopes took a big hit when quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for 11 video games after accusations of sexual misconduct by greater than two dozen girls. Elo charges Cleveland because the worst group within the North with out Watson. Regardless of holding barely larger Tremendous Bowl odds than Pittsburgh, the Browns are in all probability already enjoying for subsequent season.
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For the reason that abrupt retirement of Andrew Luck in 2019, the Indianapolis Colts below normal supervisor Chris Ballard have been nothing if not constant. Most years, Indy appears to discipline a group that’s wonderful on paper at virtually each place besides quarterback. Final 12 months, the Colts trotted out six All-Execs at numerous non-QB positions, solely to get eradicated from playoff rivalry after dropping to the lowly 3-14 Jaguars within the closing week of the common season.
After buying and selling Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders in Could, this 12 months’s Colts will characteristic 37-year-old Matt Ryan behind heart. Indy seems to be hoping that the previous All-Professional can recapture a number of the magic that then-39-year-old Philip Rivers dropped at the group in 2020, his solely 12 months as a Colt. They completed 11-5 that season, dropping within the wild-card spherical — after which Rivers promptly retired. If Ryan can keep away from errors and play the hero each now and again on third down, the Colts ought to stay as much as expectations as a group solidly within the second tier of AFC playoff contenders.
It’s simple to neglect that the Tennessee Titans had been the No. 1 seed in final 12 months’s AFC playoffs. However after a daily season during which their all-world operating again Derrick Henry was injured and quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossed extra interceptions than he had within the earlier two years mixed, a playoffs that noticed their second straight one-and-out and a draft-day commerce that despatched their star vast receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles, the mannequin is understandably bearish on Tennessee in 2022. We undertaking a 9-8 end for the Titans, and whereas NFL betting markets have their win whole barely larger (at 9.5), this group can’t exceed its anticipated win-loss document endlessly.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans every gained the Tremendous Bowl in lower than 1 % of our 50,000 simulated seasons. When it comes to dysfunction final season, it might be onerous to choose between the 2 — one employed City Meyer for a part of the season as head ball coach, the opposite paid Watson to not play all season — however most would agree that Jacksonville has the next on-field ceiling heading into the 12 months. Owing to the presence of former No. 1 general decide Trevor Lawrence and a contemporary begin at head coach after giving Meyer the boot in favor of Doug Pederson, Elo provides the Jags an edge over the Davis Mills-led Texans.
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The AFC West will be the most stacked division in all of soccer. Every group has a powerful QB and a strong supporting forged or coach, and it’s believable that any of the 4 groups wins the division.
Nonetheless, our mannequin likes the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs to win the AFC West for the seventh straight time and provides Kansas Metropolis 1-in-4 odds to make its fifth consecutive AFC Championship Sport. The Chiefs have one of the best head coach within the division in Andy Reid, who final 12 months turned the primary coach in NFL historical past to win 100 video games with two completely different groups. And whereas quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a down 12 months by his requirements, and playmaking vast receiver Tyreek Hill was traded to Miami, Mahomes’s greatness stays plain. So long as Reid and Mahomes proceed to be a dynamic pair, it is sensible that no group moreover Buffalo has the next likelihood to win the Tremendous Bowl than Kansas Metropolis.
The Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos are each extraordinarily good groups, additionally belonging within the AFC’s second tier. L.A. has one of many league’s most enjoyable younger coach/quarterback pairs in Brandon Staley and Justin Herbert. Staley has gained a fame as an aggressive play-caller unafraid to routinely go for it on fourth down — even in high-leverage moments of essential video games. And for his half, Herbert has not-so-quietly had a terrific begin to his professional profession. After all, it hasn’t but translated to wins and playoff appearances: L.A. completed 2021 at 9-8, lacking the playoffs for the third straight season. This needs to be the 12 months the Bolts lastly break by means of.
In the meantime, the mannequin could also be underestimating the advantages of including of Russell Wilson (together with new coach Nathaniel Hackett) to an already stacked Broncos lineup. Wilson wasn’t elite final season in Seattle, ending tenth in Complete QBR, however the Broncos’ offense (twenty third in scoring) lagged to date behind its protection (third in factors allowed) that any improve at QB might pay enormous dividends. The betting markets have the Broncos’ win whole at 10.5, which looks like a extra cheap projection than our nine-win name.
After which there are the Raiders, whose playoff win drought stands at 19 years. After head coach Jon Gruden resigned 5 video games into the 2021 season over a sequence of racist, homophobic and misogynstic emails, interim coach Wealthy Bisaccia overcame the chaos and adversity to guide Las Vegas to a playoff berth. (His reward? Being changed by McDaniels.) With the mannequin giving Vegas only a 13 % likelihood of profitable the West and 34 % likelihood of constructing the playoffs, the Raiders and their Nineteenth-ranked 2021 offense (by EPA) determine to be on the skin trying in come January. However then once more, Las Vegas saved stunning us all season — possibly they’ve extra of that in retailer for 2022.
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