Justin’s Four Division Winners

Justin Ballou, Reporter

AFC Teams

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

The Patriots are “still here,” as the team likes to say. With 42-year-old QB Tom Brady still at the helm, the Pats are poised for yet another AFC East Title and Super Bowl run. A division crown for New England would be their 10th consecutive and their 17th in 19 seasons. Though TE Rob Gronkowski is now retired, WRs N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman and the recently reinstated, Josh Gordon, provide Brady with more big-time targets. Throw in RB Sony Michel and it’s easy to see why New England will be right back in the playoffs this year. The Patriots are already the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen: nine Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl Titles since 2001, tying their rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, for the most Super Bowl wins. Tom Brady is, and has been for a while, known as the “GOAT.” Rob Gronkowski’s “Gronk Spike” has been one of the signature images of the Pats’ dynasty. The Tom Brady-Bill Belichick duo will pick up right where they left off last season, as they defend their sixth Super Bowl Title.


2. Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are back, folks. After being the laughing stock of the NFL for the last 20+ seasons, there is finally a reason for hope in Cleveland. Following the 0-16 miserable 2017 season, GM John Dorsey traded for WR Jarvis Landry and FS Damarious Randall and drafted QB Baker Mayfield and CB Denzel Ward. Then everything changed. Mayfield took over in week three and the Browns began to light it up. They ended up winning seven games last season, a drastic improvement over zero wins the previous year. This offseason, Dorsey started by trading for DE Olivier Vernon to pair up with superstar edge-rusher, Myles Garrett. DT Sheldon Richardson was also brought in, giving the Browns arguably the scariest defensive line in the league. The world knows what happened next. Odell Beckham Jr. and all of his one-handed catches are coming to Cleveland. Beckham is not only a top-five WR in the league, but he also brings a swagger that the Browns were looking for. Mayfield, who broke the rookie passing TD record a season ago, will now be throwing passes to OBJ, Landry, Higgins and Njoku and Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (once he serves his suspension) running the ball. It’s easy to see why the Browns will be in the Super Bowl conversation this season and for years to come. 


3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

Led by reigning MVP QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs are looking to go one step further than last year, where they ultimately fell in overtime to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. The biggest priority for Chiefs GM Brett Veach this offseason was revamping and improving the defense as a whole as Kansas City’s defense was at or near the bottom in almost every defensive statistical category a season ago. Veach answered the call by signing DE Frank Clark, SS Tyrann Mathieu and CB Bashaud Breeland. The Chiefs also parted ways with LBs Justin Houston and Dee Ford as well as SS Eric Berry, a series of moves that raised some eyebrows around the league. The AFC West will be very competitive this season, as both the Raiders and Broncos should be much improved from a season ago. The division will still likely come down to the Chiefs and Chargers, however, as both teams are considered Super Bowl contenders by many experts. Their week 17 matchup in Kansas City could very well decide the division title. TE Travis Kelce, WR Tyreek Hill and rookie WR Mecole Hardman will be some of the weapons that Mahomes has in his arsenal. The loss of RB Kareem Hunt hurt the Chiefs last year, but Damien Williams will provide Mahomes with a reliable weapon out of the backfield. Ultimately, I believe the Chiefs will win the AFC West and will be the three seed in the playoffs. 


4. Houston Texans (9-7)

After the news broke that Colts QB Andrew Luck retired, the Texans are now the favorites to win their sixth AFC South title. The one flaw in Houston last season was the offensive line, specifically in pass protection. Texans QB Deshaun Watson was pressured and sacked more than any other QB in the NFL last season. The Texans addressed that problem by drafting OL Tytus Howard from Alabama State in the first round. Provided the O-Line holds up, the Watson-Hopkins duo can be as deadly as ever for opposing teams. Texans RB Lamar Miller will miss the entire 2019 season with a torn ACL, opening up an opportunity for Duke Johnson to start, who was recently acquired from the Browns earlier this offseason. WRs Keke Coutee and Will Fuller V will be back on the field after suffering injuries last season. On the defensive side of the ball, DE Jadeveon Clowney was recently traded to the Seahawks. DE JJ Watt is the face of Houston’s franchise, but will now be playing without his Pro-Bowl counterpart Clowney. Regardless, a division that seemed promising in terms of balance is now heavily favored Houston’s way. I expect the Texans to ultimately come out on top of the AFC South division once again.