NFL nut Kyle Robins (@AhhYeahKyleYeah) shares his expert opinion on the ante-post AFC Division ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
NFL 2020/21: AFC Season Preview
The AFC East, for the past 10 years or so, has been one of, it not the most predictable in the NFL, having been completely dominated by the New England Patriots. The Boston-led outfit have won 17 of the last 19 division titles, with the Miami Dolphins the last team to dethrone the juggernaut way back in 2008.
All changed this off-season however, with the departure of the iconic Tom Brady, and the era of dominance has well and truly seemingly come to an end.
The Pats moved on from the future Hall of Fame star after 19 years, replacing him with former NFL MVP Cam Newton, but with him, brings plenty of doubters. That however, is just one of a number of problems New England faced this off-season.
The Pats had a record eight players opt out of the season restart, including two key defensive players in Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower. It’s safe to say their depth chart Is looking on the thin side, especially up front on the defensive end.
Yet somehow, after all that’s transpired these past few months, the Patriots still sit as favourites for the division at 11/8.
I’m certainly much more in favouring of wagering my money on the Buffalo Bills for the division title at 29/20 with 888 and I’ll explain just why it’s worthy of your cash too.
Buffalo made some solid acquisitions this off-season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, adding to what was already one of the better rearguards in the league. But for me, the addition of Stefon Diggs at wide receiver adds another dimension to the offence and a different option for Josh Allen.
The Bills finished 10-6 last year, just two games behind a Patriots team that started the season 8-0. Given how Buffalo has, in my opinion, taking leaps forward this summer to improve the team, New England has taken more than a few backwards after falling out of the play-offs to Tennessee at home.
Another nice little prop bet for the division I like is the New York Jets to finish 4th at 11/8 with SkyBet. Outside of the Jaguars, they have what is possibly one of the worst rosters in the entire NFL, and that was before they traded All Pro safety Jamal Adams and leading linebacker C.J. Mosley opted out.
NYJ should without a doubt regress this season, after finishing 7-9 last year, and considering Miami has improved in terms of additions this off-season, bolstering their defence with much more talent, I’m much higher on the Dolphins than I am the Jets, and even more so after comparing the two teams’ schedules with a lot of predictions having them go 4-12.
The AFC North has been far more competitive than the East over recent years, but we still see ourselves with a clear favourite in the betting markets.
The Baltimore Ravens are currently best priced 1/2 with SkyBet to take home another divisional title, after claiming back-to-back golds in 2019 and 2020. Led by Lamar Jackson, the Ravens completely blew away their division, en-route to a 14-2 record, six games ahead of the second-placed Steelers.
For me, however, the price is just wayyyyyy too short on the Ravens to take home a third successive AFC North title.
Historically, since 2000, 12 teams have won 14+ games like the Ravens did in 2019, and on average those 12 teams then preceded to win 10.4 games the following season. So there is bound to be a slight regression, despite their easy-ish schedule.
Although Baltimore face the Giants, Jaguars, Washington and Bengals (x2), which in theory, should already be down as five wins, they also have a few tough games against the reigning champs Kansas City as well as trips to Houston, Philly and Indianapolis.
It’s the two games against Pittsburgh that will be crucial however. The Steelers somehow managed to scrape their way to an 8-8 finish last season, despite losing starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in week one, and having a Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges pick up the pieces for the rest of the year. Neither of whom are elite enough to be considered starting quarterbacks.
With Big Ben returning for this season, Pittsburgh should be able to take massive steps forward on that 8-8 record, especially given their elite defensive play last year.
Now I still do slightly fancy the Ravens for the division, but if you give me the Ravens and Steelers as Top 2 In Any Order with SkyBet at 4/5, I much prefer the value in that, especially given the new regimes and players in both Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Cleveland, despite all their talent, have a lot of question marks surrounding Baker Mayfield, as well as having their third head coach in two years.
And as for the Bengals. Well they may have number one pick Joe Burrow under the gun now, and despite his clear talents, he’ll be heading into a regular season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, having a limited training camp and no preseason. It’s fair to say he may not hit the ground running.
The stability and team chemistry of both the Ravens and Steelers should bode well for them heading into this NFL season, so taking the 4/5 looks extremely valuable.
For me, the AFC South is probably one of the toughest divisional markets to attack in the NFL this year. The only real thing I can say with any certainty, is that Jacksonville will finish bottom. I’m as close to 100% as you can be on that.
The Jaguars completely dismantled their team over the past year, and are in what appears to be a complete rebuild. With an extremely young and inexperienced defence, and an offense that just released Leonard Fournette, the 4/11 with SkyBet on them to Finish 4th, in such a competitive division looks to be printing money.
We’re not here for the short odds bankers however, I’m looking for some real value.
The Houston Texans took home the division last year, finishing with a 10-6 record, and now find themselves as third favourites for the title at 7/2 with William HIll.
Now whilst I originally favoured the Colts in the market, and if this had been written a month or so ago, I would still be on their bandwagon. The price on the Texans is just too appealing for me to turn down, and even more so knowing they’ve averaged 10.5 wins over the last two seasons.
Despite Rivers joining the Colts and Ryan Tannehill averaging 30.4 points for Tennessee once taking over the starting job, Deshaun Watson is still without a doubt the most talented quarterback in the division.
Of course, they bizarrely traded away Deandre Hopkins to Arizona this past offseason, but they’re still one of the more high powered offenses in the league, and they finally might have a running back in David Johnson who can propel them even further, given he stays healthy.
Their defence is always pretty susceptible to giving up a lot of points, and that is one of the things that scares me ever so slightly, and although they do have an extremely testing first four games, the back side of their schedule is extremely friendly.
With Watson under the gun, Houston will be competitive in most of if not all of their games, so take the 7/2 (SkyBet) and don’t be to disheartened if they start the season 1-3 – the easier fixtures come later.
The AFC West – home of the SuperBowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. For obvious reasons they’re clear favourites for another divisional title after going the distance last year, but there isn’t much value and upside in taking the jollies at 1/4 for another divisional title.
Whilst they probably will lead the division again, the only real way for me to attack that bet is to throw it in a multiple.
Outside of the Chiefs, the market has the other three teams dead-even in terms of wins. The Denver Broncos, LA Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders all have their over/under regular season wins set at 7.5, so who out of those three most catches my eye?
To my surprise, when doing a little research and reading myself, a fair few predictions out there seem to really like the Raiders chances this year. And for me personally, I just don’t see where all the hype is coming from at all.
The Raiders finished 7-9 last year, winning just two games on the road, and with the move from Oakland to Vegas this past summer hampered by the pandemic, they haven’t really had much of a chance to get settled in their new home.
Add that to the fact that LVR face the fourth-toughest schedule in the NFL, had the sixth-worst point differential last season, with a defence that allowed the ninth-most points per-game on average and forced the least amount of takeaways, there isn’t much there that’s fills me with confidence.
On the offensive side of the ball, question marks still remain around Derek Carr and his franchise quarterback capability, and although they do have a few decent weapons in Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller, their wide receiver core is a little inexperienced.
The Chargers, despite having a lot of defensive talent, don’t fill me with too much confidence, and they always seemingly let you down when it matters. They moved on from Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon this past summer, and bought in rookie Justin Herbert to compete with veteran Tyrod Taylor for the starting job.
Now similar to with the Bengals, it may take whoever wins the starting job some time to build up chemistry, and by then, the play-offs may be well out of reach for the Chargers. The fact star safety Derwin James has been ruled out for the year, certainly impacts them on the defensive side of the ball now too.
So that just leaves the Denver Broncos, a team I actually have rather high expectations for this year. At least more so than the Raiders and Chargers.
Denver went 7-9 last year, but that only really tells half the story. They had Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen start a combined 11 games to go 3-8, and only once Drew Lock was thrown in to the starting job, did they start to look much more competitive. The rookie really hit the ground running, finishing the season on a 4-1 run, including a win at Houston, over Deshaun Watson.
Now they are dealing with a lot of new additions this off-season, but unlike with the Bengals and the Chargers, they’re not dealing with a change at quarterback. They added a bunch of new weapons in Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, to go along with Cortland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay. This offense could be very explosive if Drew Lock can play well.
The Broncos also only play six games against play-off teams, and also hold one of the best home field advantages in the NFL with Mile High Stadium’s elevated climate.
It seems most experts out there are extremely split on the Broncos, so this pick is pretty much the marmite of the NFL betting world. I for one am much more in favour of them over the Raiders and Chargers, so take the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in the Top 2 In Any Order at 7/4 with SkyBet and thank me later.
NFL 2020/21 – Buffalo Bills to win the AFC East (29/20 888)
NFL 2020/21 – New York Jets to finish 4th in the AFC East (11/8 SkyBet)
NFL 2020/21 – Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers to finish in the AFC North Top-Two (4/5 SkyBet)
NFL 2020/21 – Houston Texans to win the AFC South (7/2 SkyBet)
NFL 2020/21 – Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs to finish in the AFC West Top-Two (7/4 SkyBet)