Each season there are teams that seemingly come out of nowhere to claim division titles or take a seat at the postseason table. Let's identify AFC sleepers before they awake & cash in our NFL picks.
AFC East – Buffalo Bills
Thanks God Rex Ryan stayed in the AFC East so he can continue his obsession with the great white whale that is the New England Patriots. Though he has yet to thoroughly harpoon the Evil Genius and his band of Patriots he will get a fresh start in Buffalo after leaving the J-E-T-S Jets!
The most notable addition to the Bills’ roster is running back LeSean McCoy. But which Shady will show up in Buffalo? If he can recapture his 2013 form then all is well and this team is poised to do some big things this season. However, if he repeats his disappointing 2014 season then the Bills have over $26 million worth of guaranteed reasons why this acquisition could go south in a hurry. But let’s assume McCoy is much better than last season and a bit below his ’13 campaign. That’s still gives Buffalo a big boost in the backfield coupled with bringing a head coach in who knows a thing or two about defense. Ryan already has the tools in place to stymie even the best offenses which means we could have a real live one here.
If you believe as many do that the Patriots will stumble after Deflate-gate and all the drama this offseason coupled with their substantial losses in their secondary then the Buffalo Bills could be a terrific addition to your NFL picks. Wagerweb is offering NFL odds of +500 to win the AFC East and over 8 ½ (-115) at GTBets could be a lock-line winner.
AFC North – Cincinnati Bengals
Let’s face facts. The only true longshot here is Cleveland and I won’t even posture that the Brownies have even the faintest chance of coming out at the top of the heap in this brutal division. The AFC North is a three-horse race and though the Steelers have the inside track it wouldn’t shock me if the Bengals outlasted their rivals and claimed the division crown.
The Bengals offense is like that gleaming Testarossa, it looks great in the garage but you need someone to take it out on the road, harness all that power and make it purr. Andy Dalton, for better or worse, has the keys to the car and getting the ball to A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Tyler Eifert is totally on him. He also has the luxury of second-year man Jeremy Hill and third-down back Giovani Bernard coming out of the backfield. There are plenty of weapons at his disposal and when you factor in the new entries to the defense, particularly AJ Hawk and Michael Johnson, then why not the Bengals?
AFC South – Houston Texans
You didn’t think I was going to advocate for the Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars did you? This division is strictly a two-horse race and some would already be putting the laurel wreath around the collective heads of the Indianapolis Colts. However, we feel there is some betting value when considering the Houston Texans.
The Texans rebounded from a woeful 2013 with a 9-7 season last year and have added even more firepower to an already impressive defense. Obviously JJ Watt is the straw that stirs the drink but consider that number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney will be suited up after sustaining an injury early last season that derailed his rookie campaign. Add in defensive stalwart Vince Wilfork to anchor the line while upgrading at cornerback with Kevin Johnson and the Texans will be ferocious defensively. Although the Texans will boast an embarrassment of riches on one side of the ball they will have a curious situation at quarterback. However if Ryan Mallet or Brian Hoyer can get it done offensively then look out!
AFC West – San Diego Chargers
I don’t believe anyone would be shocked if Peyton Manning turned into a middle-aged man this season. After all, he did look like he’d be more comfortable in an announcer’s booth than on the field at times last season. I do believe the Broncos’ four year reign as AFC West champs could draw to a close this season and the San Diego Chargers are just the team to steal the throne.
Speaking of stealing the Chargers did just that when they wooed offensive tackle Orlando Franklin away from Denver and into sunny San Diego. They also added former 49’ers Stevie Johnson at wideout. The Bolts could very easily become the team to beat in the West.
Over 8 (-125) looks like a particularly tasty total and you can get that at Bovada while GTBets will return +500 to win the West.