The New England Patriots have been the measuring stick in the AFC for years now. Each year the discussion is “who will challenge the Patriots to come out of the AFC?” This coming season will be no different. Last season showed that teams can come out of nowhere. The Tennessee Titans made the playoffs and the Jacksonville Jaguars faced the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Then, there are teams people know will be there like the Pittsburgh Steelers for example. Here we look at five potential teams to knock off the Pats.
Coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans are going to be an intriguing team next season. We can only wonder how they would have been last season had all of their key guys not gotten hurt. Deshaun Watson appeared to be running away with the Rookie of the Year award before an ACL injury ended his year. JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, the two leaders of the defense, also missed last season and are coming back this season. For years, people have wondered how good the Texans would be if they obtained a quarterback. Now, that they have that position filled it’s time to put it all together and see if they can join the ranks of the elite teams.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers ended last season strong and many believed they could have made a run had they got into the playoffs. The Chargers typically have a history of starting the season slow and always playing catch up, which does not help them in this argument. But with a new year comes new goals. After retaining Pro Bowl defensive back Casey Hayward and the emergence of running back Melvin Gordon, it seems the Chargers are ready to take the next step and become a team to be reckoned with.
The Titans made the playoffs despite Marcus Mariota not living up to what many thought he would accomplish last season. With a new head coach in Mike Vrabel, the additions of Dion Lewis, to pair with Derrick Henry, and Malcolm Butler back with his old mate, Logan Ryan, in the secondary, the Titans could become a team worth respecting. It would help even more if Mariota can bounce back and become what many believed he would be at this point in his career, a Pro Bowl quarterback.
The Steelers are coming off an unusual year. They were pegged as the team to face off against the Patriots all year in the AFC Championship Game. All year they did not look like a powerhouse. Every opponent they came across was, for the most part, in the game until the end. But with “The Killer Bs”, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and, as of right now, Le’Veon Bell all coming back that is just too much fire power to not give them consideration.
The Jaguars were a team that surprised everyone last year. It should be interesting to see how they respond to not being overlooked anymore. The Jaguars went toe-to-toe with the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. If it weren’t for a few calls going the way of the Patriots, it might have been the Jaguars in the Super Bowl. If they take on the challenge and rise above the pack the way they did last season, they would definitely pose a threat to New England.
The betting odds will be in favor of the Patriots to come out of the AFC again. We all know anything can happen on any given Sunday. We’ve seen teams get hot and seem unbeatable. With a long season comes injuries and unforeseeable issues, so let’s not pencil the Patriots in the Super Bowl just yet.