The Pittsburgh Steelers
will be the team that everyone will be gunning for in the AFC Conference. The Super Bowl
Champions will have a huge mountain to climb if they want to return. Behind the Pittsburgh
Steelers are power house teams such as the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, and the New England Patriots.
Every Year, the AFC conference seems to be the strongest conference in the NFL. From the regular season to the Super Bowl, the AFC games are more competitive and as a result, an AFC team usually comes out on top in the Super Bowl. This off-season, some of the biggest stars have departed for the NFC conference. It will be interesting to see the top teams in the AFC compete and fight for the number one conference spot.
Here are my Rankings for the top six teams of the AFC Conference.
1.) It looks like the Denver Broncos will have most of there key players returning for the beginning of the 2006 season. The loss of Trevor Price and Mike Anderson are huge, but the addition of Wide Receiver Javon Walker will be a big plus for quarterback Jake Plummer and the Denver Broncos.
2.) The losses of Jerome Bettis and Antwaan Randle-El will hurt, but the Pittsburgh Steelers will be just as good as last year. Every year Ben Roethlisberger gains more experience and maturity at the quarterback position. Hines Ward is one of the most complete receivers in the NFL. The Defense is so dominant with linebacker Joey Harrington and Safety Troy Palamalu.
3.) The Indianapolis Colts will continue to have a dark cloud around their heads until they can get past the AFC playoffs and onto the Super Bowl. No player on the Colts team is feeling the pressure like Peyton Manning. With the loss of Edgerrin James, teams will scheme against the passing game of Peyton Manning and the Colts. Time will tell if the Colts can get past their own shadow.
4.) If Carson Palmer is healthy for the beginning of the season, the Cincinnati Bengals may have a good shot of being the champions of the AFC. I ranked the Bengals at the forth spot because Palmer’s health is uncertain.
5.) As long as Tom Brady is the quarterback, the New England Patriots have to be included in the playoff mix. Losing Willie McGinest is going to tough on the Defense.
6.) The Jacksonville Jaguars were the unknown AFC team of the 2005 season. In the 2006 season, they will make their presence known. If Byron Leftwich stays healthy, the Jaguars can make it back to the playoffs and may go further than the first round.
Here are the rest of my rankings for the AFC Conference:
7.) Miami Dolphins – Ricky is gone again, but Ronnie Brown will be a good running back. Dante Culpepper needs to stay healthy for the Dolphins to have a shot at the AFC playoffs.
8.) San Diego Chargers – Many of the media experts rank the Chargers very high, but I don’t see why. Drew Brees is a New Orleans Saint, and Phillip Rivers hasn’t thrown one pass in the NFL yet. However, LaDainian Tomlinson is a future Hall of Famer in my book.
9.) Kansas City Chiefs – Herm Edwards will get the Chiefs into shape. The defense should be better. Larry Johnson will have a breakout year.
10.) Cleveland Browns – Lots of question marks such as the health status of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. Willie McGinest will be a great help to the defense.
11.) Baltimore Ravens – Ray Lewis is returning. The defense should be better with his leadership.
12.) Oakland Raiders– Same story as last year: loaded offense with no reliable quarterback.
13.) Houston Texans – If the overall first round pick Mario Williams does not make 15 sacks and a pro bowl appearance, Reliant Stadium may burn to the ground in retaliation of the Texans not picking Reggie Bush.
14.) New York Jets – New head coach Eric Mangini will have his hands full trying to rebuild this team. Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin will have to bounce back from bad 2005 campaigns for the Jets to be competitive.
15.) Tennessee Titans – The Titans need to resign quarterback Steve McNair. Rookie Vince Young wont be ready to lead this young team anywhere.
16.) Buffalo Bills – I have to be very honest. The only player I know on this team is running back Willis McGahee.