Mark Craig's AFC power rankings
- September 8, 2012 - 8:59 PM
AFC POWER RANKINGS
What the heck. If they can win a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback, this defensively strong team can win the AFC with Peyton Manning set to prove why he's a four-time MVP.
Bill Belichick won the AFC last year with the 31st-ranked defense and no deep receiving threat. Then he signed some receivers and spent his top five draft picks on defense. Look out.
Losing league defensive MVP Terrell Suggs for the season is a blow. But the offense will get better and the defense will be good enough to win the best division in football.
The evolution of quarterback Andy Dalton and a solid draft will help the Bengals avoid their typical slump following a playoff season.
Defensive end Mario Williams is gone, but quarterback Matt Schaub is back and looking as good as ever after missing the final six games and the playoffs last year.
Pittsburgh finally could slide some as an aging defense and problems on the offensive line mount. Of course, no one drafts better than the Steelers, who used their top two picks on O-linemen.
The streak ends now. After 12 years out of the playoffs, the Bills will grab a wild-card spot after offseason spending spree on defense. (This one could be painful upon further review next summer.)
The chaos of Tebowmania should pretty much finish off Mark Sanchez's confidence and the Jets' chances of attaining substance over bluster.
Preseason injuries to Ryan Mathews and Vincent Brown won't help Norv Turner's job security nor a team that often experiences a season-crushing slump at some point.
Matt Cassel is back from a broken hand that cost him the final seven games a year ago. That would be very good news if he hadn't stunk up the first nine games.
Tennessee came out of last year's lockout and went 9-7 with a new coach in Mike Munchak. If you believe in Jake Locker, feel free to move this team up this list. We'll wait awhile.
Carson Palmer should be much better than last year when he arrived after the sixth game and was thrust into the starting lineup. But can Oakland stabilize itself in Year 1 under first-year NFL head coach Dennis Allen?
If the Dolphins had any chance of being good, Manning would have signed with them in about 30.3 seconds. Expect some lumps for the Philbin-Tannehill ticket.
A massive overhaul of the front office, coaching staff and roster could put Indy in position for consecutive No. 1 overall picks. But this year's No. 1 pick, Andrew Luck, will prevent that.
Brandon Weeden will be the Browns' 10th different opening-day starting quarterback in the past 14 years. Any other questions?
It's hard to imagine Blaine Gabbert being any worse than his rookie season (league-low 65.4 passer rating). But it gets easier considering the lengthy holdout of reigning NFL rushing champion Maurice Jones-Drew.
© 2014 Star Tribune