The New England Patriots reign supreme. As the defending Super Bowl champions, Tom Brady and the boys are +190 favourites to win the AFC this season. Those odds are for good reason; the Pats are healthier with the return of star TE Rob Gronkowski, and more dynamic in the receiving corps with the additions of WR Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints and TE Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts. Regardless of those improvements, as long as Bill Belichick is calling plays and Brady is under centre, the New England Patriots stand to win many games in the regular season and make yet another push for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Patriots, and Then the Rest
After the Patriots, things get tougher to predict in the AFC. Both the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers are +700 to win the Conference. Oakland’s David Carr will look to re-establish himself as a premier quarterback in the league after going down with a broken fibula at the end of the 2016-17 regular season. Meanwhile, the Steelers will return with much of the same roster as 2016-17, which saw them win 11 games and go to the Conference Championship game. QB Ben Roethlisberger is another year older at 35 and has struggled with injuries in each of the past two seasons. If Big Ben goes down or if RB Le’Veon Bell doesn’t produce like he did in 2016-17, the Steelers will be hard-pressed to repeat last season’s success.
In the next tier of AFC favourites, we have the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans at +900. Both teams are heavily stacked on the defensive side of the ball, with no experience at quarterback. Houston drafted QB Deshaun Watson out of Clemson, who may end up being the Texans’ starter come Week 1. The QB position is also undecided in Denver, as Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will likely battle it out for the starter’s role in the preseason. With no proven QB on either squad, it’s hard to predict how the season will go for Denver and Houston.
After a look at the AFC favourites, it’s obvious why there’s such a gap between the Patriots and the rest of the teams. That being said, Oakland looked like they could be a contender at times last season, and with the addition of Marshawn Lynch to their lineup, that could help push them over the hump. The Raiders may be the AFC’s best shot at toppling the Pats.
*Odds as of June 7, 2017