AFC predictions: How each team will finish in its division this season

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs before a  preseason football game.
Receiver Tyreek Hill has switched team colors from the Kansas City Chiefs’ red to the Miami Dolphins’ aqua.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

There was a lot of hand-wringing a few years ago over the quality of quarterbacks and who in the next generation would take the baton from Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees.

The AFC provided a resounding response with a wealth of young quarterbacks, rising superstars in Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. There’s also Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, who has the most rushing yards by a quarterback in his first four seasons.

There are young AFC quarterbacks who have shown flickers of promise — sometimes more — and no doubt will have their share of prove-it moments this season, among them Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa, New England’s Mac Jones and the New York Jets’ Zach Wilson.

Yes, the AFC is the conference dominated by great young quarterbacks.

Just don’t tell that to Denver’s Russell Wilson.


A division-by-division look at AFC teams in their predicted order of finish:


AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws during warmups before a preseason game.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will need to find a new deep threat now that Tyreek Hill has moved to Miami.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

1. Kansas City Chiefs: Losing speedy receiver Tyreek Hill is impactful, but Mahomes still has plenty of targets. In a division filled with great quarterbacks, can the Chiefs generate enough pass-rush pressure?

2. CHARGERS: If they stay healthy and realize their potential, they’ll be in the Super Bowl mix. With Herbert on one side and Khalil Mack added to that defense, that’s an outstanding roster.

3. Las Vegas Raiders: Josh McDaniels gets another chance as a coach and has a strong quarterback in Derek Carr to build around, but also an offensive line that still needs work. Chandler Jones bolsters an already potent pass rush.

4. Denver Broncos: If Wilson can capture some of that Manning magic, the Broncos could finish much stronger than this. The AFC West is so solid across the board.

Ask the L.A. Times’ football team your questions about Los Angeles’ local teams and we will try to answer them.

Aug. 14, 2022



AFC East

Buffalo Bills' Von Miller reacts as he leaves the field after a preseason Ngame against the Denver Broncos.
Von Miller has moved to Buffalo with hopes of winning the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons.
(Jeffrey T. Barnes / Associated Press)

1. Buffalo Bills: It’s very conceivable that the Bills could have reached the Super Bowl last season. This year’s team has better depth, and Von Miller to beef up the pass rush.

2. New England Patriots: Receiver DeVante Parker will help second-year quarterback Jones, who had a great rookie season. The offense figures to miss the play calling of McDaniels.

3. Miami Dolphins: The addition of blistering-fast Tyreek Hill could be huge, but is Tagovailoa the quarterback to cash in on that? The defense was really good at the end of last season.

4. New York Jets: Joe Flacco steps in at quarterback after Wilson suffered a knee injury that doesn’t appear to be as bad as originally feared. The Jets have more talent than last year.


AFC North

Quarterback Joe Burrow watches the Cincinnati Bengals preseason game against the Rams.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has missed a lot of practice this summer after suffering a ruptured appendix.
(Jeff Dean / Associated Press)

1. Cincinnati Bengals: The defending AFC champions have given a lot of attention to their offensive line, which should help keep Burrow upright and open holes for Joe Mixon.

2. Baltimore Ravens: We could see a resurgence of the Ravens after injuries crushed them last year. Jackson could return to most-valuable-player form but needs a reliable left tackle.


3. Pittsburgh Steelers: For the first time in two decades, the Steelers won’t have Roethlisberger to lead them. Is Mitch Trubisky the guy, or will rookie Kenny Pickett make good on the promise he showed in the preseason?

4. Cleveland Browns: The Browns won’t have banned quarterback Deshaun Watson for the first 11 games, so Jacoby Brissett steps into that familiar role as space holder. The defensive front is strong.


AFC South

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) yells out the play during a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After spending all of his career with the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan switches to the AFC this season and replaces Carson Wentz as the Indianapolis Colts’ starting quarterback.
(Zach Bolinger / Associated Press)

1. Indianapolis Colts: Quarterback Matt Ryan looks for a fresh start with the Colts, and he has a phenomenal running back in Jonathan Taylor to balance the offense. The offensive line is among the NFL’s best.

2. Tennessee Titans: The Titans have won back-to-back AFC South titles. Keeping quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright has been a problem. Trading away receiver A.J. Brown is major because he can shift the balance of a game.


3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Once again, the Jaguars are groping for answers, now landing on Doug Pederson as coach. They have spent a ton of money and could have as many as 13 new starters.

4. Houston Texans: Coach Lovie Smith’s rebuild starts with the defense and a unit that was 31st against the run last season. Quarterback Davis Mills enters his second season as the starter.

A team-by-team look at how the division races in the NFC could play out during the 2022 NFL season.

Sept. 5, 2022