AFC preview: Super Bowl hangover for Ravens

    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning drops back to pass during a game against the Cleveland Browns last season. Photo credit: MCT
    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning drops back to pass during a game against the Cleveland Browns last season. Photo credit: MCT
    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning drops back to pass during a game against the Cleveland Browns last season. Photo credit: MCT

    AFC West – The Denver Broncos are the understandable favorites coming out of the AFC West, thanks in large part  to John Elway’s lucrative offer last year that brought Peyton Manning to the mile-high city. In his first season with Denver, Manning set various records including most game-winning fourth quarter or overtime drives, and a franchise record for yards, completions and touchdowns, putting all neck related questions to rest. With the acquisition of Wes Welker, the Bronco’s already potent receiving corps is poised to scorch the secondary of any opponent they face. Expect them to win 12 games or more and contend for a title.

    Neither California teams are worth mentioning as postseason contenders, leaving the Kansas City Chiefs as the sleepers in this division. Last year, Alex Smith recorded a season best 70 percent completion percentage  before losing his job to Colin Kaepernick. With Jamaal Charles in the backfield and Dwayne Bowe threatening the secondary, Kansas City can have a balanced attack and a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.

    AFC East – No other team in recent memory has dominated the gridiron like the New England Patriots, so they are better equipped than any other team to deal with adversity. No other team had a more tumultuous off-season than the Patriots, with Welker’s exit, Rob Gronkowski’s injury, and Aaron Hernandez’s arrest. This depleted receiving corps would spell disaster for any other team except the Pats because they have Tom Brady, who could make head coach Bill Belichick look like a top notch receiver if forced to. Second year runningback Stevan Ridley provides a balanced running game, finishing seventh among backs last year with 1,263 yards.

    The Bills and Jets round out the irrelevant picks in the division. Buffalo hasn’t done anything since their last playoff appearance in 1999, and New York’s deflating defense and stagnant offense epitomize disaster. The addition of Mike Wallace strengthens the Dolphins receiving corps, but don’t expect the Fins to derail the Pats fifth run at a division title.

    AFC North – A Ravens team without nine starters. A Steelers team missing James Harrison and Mike Wallace. A team in Cincinnati lacking an identity and the Cleveland Browns. What do they have in common? None of them are viable contenders for the AFC title. Sorry Ravens fans, expect a huge Super Bowl hangover.

    AFC South – Utilizing an elite running game, a top-5 receiver, and a smothering defense, the Houston Texans have one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. Earning their second consecutive division title, they have high expectations coming in to the 2013 season and all eyes will be on quarterback Matt Schaub. The return of middle linebacker Brian Cushing should improve their stingy defense, which finished seventh in total defense last year.

    Coming off an impressive 10-win season, the 2013 season looks promising for the Colts, holding the third easiest schedule in the league. The Titans can expect more hardships, so long as Jake Locker is playing quarterback, and Jaguars fans can get ready to put those paper bags back on their heads. Without a doubt, the Texans will get their three-peat.

    Broncos will finish the season first in the AFC, followed by the Patriots in second and the Texans in third.