AFC CONFERENCE PREVIEW

Football is back! Before the Champion Buccaneers kick off the NFL season at home to the Cowboys, we wanted to give you a bitesize look at the AFC & NFC Conferences and give you our best season-long bet per division.

AFC EAST PREDICTION

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Miami Dolphins 
  3. New England Patriots
  4. New York Jets 

The Buffalo Bills made light work of the AFC East in 2020, and I’m projecting them to be equally strong in 2021 and at best priced 2/3 with SkyBet to win the East that’s a bet I’m making. The battle for second place and a potential Playoff spot looks to be between Bill Belichick’s Patriots and Brian Flores’ Dolphins. New England spent big in FA and drafted a QB in the first round for the first time under Belichick. Mac Jones has beaten out the now released Cam Newton for the starting job as the Patriots start a new era. Miami are expecting more consistent performances from second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa and if they get it they should have enough to see off the new look Patriots for 2nd place. The Jets are once again starting afresh and although I like their hire of Robert Saleh and the draft selection of Zach Wilson as the team’s new QB, I think year 1 is too early to expect the Jets to be a winning football team. 

DIVISION BEST BET: BUFFALO BILLS TO FINISH 1ST @ 2/3 WITH SKYBET.

AFC NORTH PREDICTION

  1. Cleveland Browns
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Cincinnati Bengals

And suddenly the Cleveland Browns are legit Super Bowl contenders! With perpetual Division bullies, Baltimore & Pittsburgh having question marks around them due to depth, injury and in one case an ageing QB, it’s no longer a bold take to project the Browns as potential (even favourites?!) to win the North. Cleveland finally has stability and after proving themselves in the post-season they should have the belief that they can not only hang with but beat their perennial divisional big brothers. Baltimore have suffered the loss of JK Dobbins for the season as well as losing 2021 first-round selection Rashad Bateman to groin surgery, leaving more question marks around their receiving options to start the year. Pittsburgh on the other hand boast one of the best pass-catching trios in the NFL but serious questions are surrounding their Offensive-Line and ageing Quarterback. Both the Ravens and Steelers can one-up the Browns on Defense with both teams ranking top-6 in Total Defense in 2021 and for that reason, I’m not prepared to make Cleveland one of my best bets to win the AFC North for the first time in their history but I am going to make the ugly duckling of the division to finish bottom a best bet. Cincinnati hasn’t done much to improve the protection around 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow after he had to have his knee surgically repaired due to the Bengals not being able to protect him… The reports coming out of training camp are that Burrow doesn’t quite look like the same player we saw at LSU and at the beginning of last season, which is worrying news. Also worrying news is that 2021 first-round selection Ja’Marr Chase can’t seem to catch anything and his drops have been one of the talking points of the off-season. So, with a still underwhelming Offensive-Line, a jittery sophomore QB, star receiver who cannot catch, a Defense which isn’t an elite unit and a Head Coach who’s yet to prove he can win in the NFL, I’ll be extremely surprised if the Bengals aren’t propping up the AFC North once again. 

DIVISION BEST BET: BENGALS TO FINISH 4TH @ 1/2 WITH SKYBET.

AFC SOUTH PREDICTION

  1. Tennessee Titans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Houston Texans

This is the division I feel best about predicting for 2021. The Titans are a genuine Super Bowl contender. They have arguably the best 1-2 WR combo in the NFL after trading for Julio Jones to pair with AJ Brown whilst also boasting the most devastating RB in the NFL in Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill has had a career resurgence in Nashville and another season like 2020 and we’ll have to seriously consider him a top 10 passer in Football. The question marks are on the Defense but not enough for me to move them off the top of the South. Indy should be a Playoff contender again in 2021. It’s hard to say they’ve upgraded on Philip Rivers with Carson Wentz until we see him in a Colts jersey, but he was awful for the Eagles last year and his injury history is always a concern. Keith Paye looks a great addition to their Defense but I don’t see them having quite enough to overthrow the Titans just yet. Jacksonville should be fun this year with Trevor Lawrence under centre and Urben Mayer calling the shots. They have a sneaky good Offense on paper but it’s a shame Travis Etienne has been lost for the year to a Lidfranc injury that requires surgery. The arrow is pointing upwards in Duval but 2021 is a little early to be expecting a playoff push. The less said about the Texans the better. The team is in dysfunction, their best player doesn’t know if he even has a career in the NFL anymore and they’ve just hired a first time NFL Head Coach who was the passing game coordinator for the worst passing attack in Football in 2020. Colour me shocked if they win more than two games. 

DIVISION BEST BET: 1. TITANS, 2. COLTS, 3. JAGUARS, 4. TEXANS EXACT FINISHING ORDER @ 3/1 WITH SKYBET.

AFC WEST PREDICTION

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Los Angeles Chargers
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Las Vegas Raiders

The Chiefs remain kind of this division and in fact the conference until someone proves otherwise, but I don’t think they’ll have it all their own way even within their division. No one seemingly plays the Chiefs harder than their AFC West division mates with both of KC’s losses last year coming to teams in the division as well as three division wins coming by less than 7 points, including one that went into OT. The Chargers stole Brandon Staley from their LA neighbour Rams in the off-season and the former Defensive Coordinator replaces Anthony Lynn as head honcho for the powder blue side of LA LA LAND. The return to health of Derwin James Jr and the draft selection of the impressive Asante Samuel Jr in the 2nd round give Staley an improved secondary to work with, but it’s the talent on the Offense that should give the Chargers the biggest chance for success. Reigning OROY Justin Herbert is looking to take his form as a rookie into his Sophomore season and with Austin Ekeler healthy after missing a big chunk of the season last year and route running demon Keenan Allen to give Corners sleepless nights I expect the Chargers to push the Chiefs closer than most think in 2021. Denver are a strange one, they have a roster good enough to challenge and coaching that I trust but the question mark remains the Quarterback position. Teddy Bridgewater has been named starter, which isn’t a surprise as he’ll look after the ball better than Drew Lock and plays for a Defensive HC but you wonder just how potent this Offense can be with a QB like Teddy throwing the Football, but the talent around him is enough for me to believe they’ll be good enough for 3rd place in the West. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden were blasted by a large part of the fan base after a somewhat underwhelming draft in which they appeared to reach on multiple players. This is also a team that has struggled to play good Defense since Gruden’s arrival, adding Yannick Ngakoue and Solomon Thomas in FA should help the Defensive-Line get pressure on the passer but the head scratching decision to breakup a talented and cohesive Offensive-Line in the off-season and turn a strength into a potential weakness does make me question where the Raiders are going and what the decision makers are doing. I don’t think there’s a bad team in this division but someone has to finish last and I think I trust the talent on the Broncos more than I do the talent on the Raiders. 

DIVISION BEST BET: TOP 2 IN ANY ORDER – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS & LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ 6/5 WITH SKYBET. 

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