The balance of power is shifting in the AFC. A few teams have seen salary caps from early on in the offseason lead to downsizing in the form of lost veteran players.
Namely, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
The New York Jets were perennial playoff favorites just a few years ago, as they seemed to have a reserved Wild Card spot behind the AFC East champion Patriots.
With a bit of a debacle at the quarterback position, and following their trade of Darrelle Revis, the Jets are facing a near complete player overhaul. By focusing on strengths on the line and, specifically, the pass rush, New York is trying to stay good at what is does best, while taking pressure off of the new face of their franchise in Geno Smith.
After trading for Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs will finally have the offensive catalyst that has eluded them so well: A solid pocket-passing quarterback. They probably won’t provide a significant challenge to Denver so soon, but a Wild Card spot should be within reach soon. Possibly this year, if they can take jump out of the gate and take advantage of a relatively undemanding schedule.
The Cincinnati Bengals have playmakers at almost every position. Now it all falls on the shoulders of the man under center, Andy Dalton. With young talent in every receiver spot on the roster, and a new elusive running back behind him, Dalton should be able to march Cincinnati right into a 2013 division crown. Mike Zimmer and the defense will keep the Bengals competitive in every game, and those outside the Queen City are slowly realizing the potential powerhouse that Cincinnati is building.
Another team seems to slip the minds of fans outside the Sunshine State as a playoff contender. The Miami Dolphins have created a game-plan centered around a line that doesn’t give up much ground in the trenches, a pass-rush spear-headed by Cameron Wake. With time in the pocket, and having added Mike Wallace to a talented group of receivers, the Dolphins are hoping Ryan Tannehill can become a household name around Miami.
The New England Patriots already have their name trademarked as division champions for as long as Brady remains in his prime, but Miami will certainly look to create some movement underneath them in the AFC East. With the Bills trapped with EJ Manuel at quarterback, and the Jets being…the Jets, a 9-7 , and even a 10-6 record will likely be in reach this year.