Football

NFL preview 2016: AFC Team-by-team breakdown

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start the first four games of the season while Tom Brady serves his suspension.
New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start the first four games of the season while Tom Brady serves his suspension. AP

AFC EAST

BUFFALO BILLS

2015: 8-8 (third in AFC East).

Coach: Rex Ryan (second season).

Additions: RB Reggie Bush; TE Jim Dray; CB Sterling Moore; DE Shaq Lawson; LB Reggie Ragland.

Subtractions: DL Mario Williams (Dolphins); WR Chris Hogan; TE MarQueis Gray.

Outlook: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and receiver Sammy Watkins really found a nice groove in the second half of last season and give the Bills hope they’re going to have enough offense to compete with the Patriots. With a solid defense headed by Rex’s brother Rob, Buffalo should be in the mix for a playoff spot when December rolls around.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

2015: 6-10 (fourth in AFC East).

Coach: Adam Gase (first season).

Additions: DL Mario Williams; OL Laremy Tunsil; OL Jermon Bushrod; CB Byron Maxwell; LB Kiko Alonso.

Subtractions: WR Greg Jennings; CB Brent Grimes; OL Jason Fox; DL Derrick Shelby; DL Olivier Vernon; RB Lamar Miller; WR Rishard Matthews; S Louis Delmas.

Outlook: After consecutive 8-8 seasons, there was genuine optimism around the Dolphins heading into the 50th season in 2015. It didn’t last long. Miami parted ways with coach Joe Philbin after a 1-3 start and ended up with six wins. The Dolphins appear to be a team in transition and, although the addition of new coach Adam Gase should help the offense, Miami’s defense doesn’t look good enough to prevent another losing season.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

2015: 12-4 (first in AFC East); lost to Denver 20-18 in AFC Championship Game.

Coach: Bill Belichick (17th season).

Additions: DE Chris Long; RB Donald Brown; TE Martellus Bennett; OL Jonathan Cooper; LB Shea McClellin; WR Chris Hogan.

Subtractions: QB Tom Brady (four-game suspension); DL Akiem Hicks; DL Dominique Easley; TE Scott Chandler; WR Brandon Gibson.

Outlook: The Patriots will be without the services of Brady for the first four games (Jimmy Garoppolo gets the call), but a potentially slow start shouldn’t slow down the New England machine. The Patriots were active in the offseason and plugged some holes. Look for New England to continue its dominance of the AFC East and walk into the playoffs. Again.

NEW YORK JETS

2015: 10-6 (second in AFC East).

Coach: Todd Bowles (second season).

Additions: RB Matt Forte; DL Steve McLendon; OL Ryan Clady; DL Jarvis Jenkins; LB Bruce Carter.

Subtractions: DL Damon Harrison; RB Chris Ivory; OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson; S Antonio Allen; LB Demario Davis.

Outlook: The Jets turned things around in Bowles’ first season thanks in great part to the performance of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in when Geno Smith broke his jaw during a preseason locker room fight. After an offseason holdout, Fitzpatrick is back — as is favorite target Brandon Marshall — and the Jets look like a team that could compete for a wild-card spot.

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS

2015: 5-11 (third in AFC North).

Coach: John Harbaugh (ninth season).

Additions: WR Mike Wallace; OL Ronnie Stanley; LB Kamalei Correa; S Eric Weddle; TE Ben Watson; CB Jerraud Powers.

Subtractions: S Will Hill; OL Kelechi Osemele; DL Chris Canty; QB Matt Schaub; QB Jimmy Clausen.

Outlook: Baltimore has finished third in the division the past two seasons, although last season marked a five-game drop from 2014 because of a rash of key injuries. The Ravens look to have another strong defense based around young players such as Za’Darius Smith and Kamalei Correa — as well as graybeards such as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Will it be enough to get the Ravens back into the postseason? Probably not.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2015: 12-4 (first in AFC North); lost to Pittsburgh 18-16 in wild-card game.

Coach: Marvin Lewis (14th season).

Additions: LB Karlos Dansby; WR Brandon LaFell; S Taylor Mays; CB William Jackson III.

Subtractions: WR Marvin Jones; WR Mohamed Sanu; LB A.J. Hawk; CB Leon Hall; OL Andre Smith Jr.

Outlook: The Bengals are one of four teams (New England, Green Bay and Denver) to make it to the playoffs in each of the past five seasons yet are the only ones not to do anything once in the postseason. Cincinnati got hit this offseason with the loss of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to the Browns, as well as the departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Still, Cincinnati should be in the mix with the Steelers for another AFC playoff invite from the north.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2015: 3-13 (fourth in AFC North).

Coach: Hue Jackson (first season).

Additions: QB Robert Griffin III; S Rahim Moore; LB Justin Tuggle; LB Demario Davis; WR Corey Coleman; DL Emmanuel Ogbah.

Subtractions: WR Travis Benjamin; OL Mitchell Schwartz; C Alex Mack; S Donte Whitner; DL Randy Starks; LB Karlos Dansby; WR Dwayne Bowe; QB Johnny Manziel.

Outlook: If it’s a new year, that must mean another new quarterback — and coach — off the shores of Lake Erie. Jackson takes over after Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine lasted a total of three combined seasons on the Cleveland sideline. Griffin is expected to be the 25th different starting quarterback since the expansion Browns came back in 1999. Playoffs? There have been longer shots but not many.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

2015: 10-6 (second in AFC North); lost to Denver 23-16 in divisional playoff game.

Coach: Mike Tomlin (10th season).

Additions: TE Ladarius Green; OL Ryan Harris; LB Steven Johnson; CB Artie Burns.

Subtractions: WR Martavis Bryant (suspended for entire season); RB Le’Veon Bell (three-game suspension); OL Kelvin Beachum; DL Steve McLendon.

Outlook: Although the Steelers will be without Le’Veon Bell for the first few games, will miss the suspended Martavis Bryant and there were some losses on the offensive line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will come out slinging with an offense that should do some serious damage. Pittsburgh is dominant on the offensive side and strong enough on the defensive side to make the Steelers serious Super Bowl contenders.

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS

2015: 9-7 (first in AFC South); lost to Kansas City 30-0 in wild-card game.

Coach: Bill O’Brien (third season).

Additions: RB Lamar Miller (Dolphins); QB Brock Osweiler; WR Braxton Miller; WR Will Fuller; OL Jeff Allen.

Subtractions: RB Arian Foster (Dolphins); C Ben Jones; S Rahim Moore; QB Brian Hoyer; OL Brandon Brooks.

Outlook: After winning just two games in 2014, the Texans have had consecutive nine-win seasons and advanced to the playoffs last season. Houston hopes fixing its sluggish offense brings more success — and excitement — in a division that all of a sudden seems much better than it has been. Whether all the changes on offense do the trick will determine the Texans’ postseason fate.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

2015: 8-8 (second in AFC South).

Coach: Chuck Pagano (fifth season).

Additions: CB Patrick Robinson; C Ryan Kelly.

Subtractions: WR Andre Johnson; LB Jerrell Freeman; TE Coby Fleener; CB Greg Toler; S Colt Anderson.

Outlook: The Colts came crashing down after an 11-win season in 2014 as Indy’s high-octane offense couldn’t do much with quarterback Andrew Luck on the sideline. Pagano is back after apparently coming close to being fired and has a new offensive coordinator in Rob Chudzinski. After a subpar year, the Colts are ready to jump back atop their division.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

2015: 5-11 (second in AFC South).

Coach: Gus Bradley (fourth season).

Additions: RB Chris Ivory; CB Prince Amukamara; DL Malik Jackson; S Tashaun Gipson; LB Bjoern Werner; DB Jalen Ramsey; LB Myles Jack.

Subtractions: C Stefen Wisniewski; OL Zane Beatles; DL Chris Clemons.

Outlook: The Jaguars have slowly improved the past few years and won five games last season after winning a total of nine in the previous three. The pressure is building a bit in Jacksonville as the Jags believe it’s time to take the training wheels off and make a run in the division. Jacksonville has made some nice draft picks and made some smart moves on the market. The Jags could be for real.

TENNESSEE TITANS

2015: 3-13 (fourth in AFC South).

Coach: Mike Mularkey (first season, was interim after Ken Whisenhunt was fired).

Additions: WR Rishard Matthews (Dolphins); RB DeMarco Murray; S Rashad Johnson; C Ben Jones; QB Matt Cassel; CB Brice McCain (Dolphins); LB Sean Spence.

Subtractions: LB Zach Brown; QB Zach Mettenberger; CB Coty Sensabaugh; S Michael Griffin.

Outlook: Even though the Titans only improved by one win over 2014, Tennessee appears to have found its quarterback in Marcus Mariota and is now working to surround him with some talent. Murray should give Tennessee a different look, and although the Titans aren’t expected to compete in the division this year, they seem closer to being a playoff contender.

AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS

2015: 12-4 (first in AFC West); Super Bowl 50 champions, beat Carolina 24-10.

Coach: Gary Kubiak (second season).

Additions: OL Donald Stephenson; QB Mark Sanchez; QB Paxton Lynch; DL Adam Gotsis.

Subtractions: QB Peyton Manning; QB Brock Osweiler; DT Malik Jackson; LB Danny Trevathan; OL Evan Mathis.

Outlook: After consecutive 12-win regular seasons and a Super Bowl championship, the Broncos lost a bunch including behind center where Manning retired and Osweiler left for Houston — with seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian perhaps starting on opening night. The division is only getting tougher with Kansas City and Oakland continuing to improve.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

2015: 11-5 (second AFC West); lost to New England 27-20 in divisional playoff.

Coach: Andy Reid (fourth season).

Additions: OL Mitchell Schwartz; WR Rod Streater; DL Chris Jones.

Subtractions: OL Jeff Allen; OL Ben Grubbs; CB Sean Smith; DB Husain Abdullah; S Tyvon Branch.

Outlook: With Reid and Alex Smith, the Chiefs continue to get better as they have won 31 games over the past three seasons. With a team on the rise, Kansas City didn’t change much of its roster during the offseason, believing this team is good enough to win the West and make a deep run in the playoffs. That gut feeling might just be correct.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

2015: 7-9 (third in AFC West).

Coach: Jack Del Rio (second season).

Additions: LB Bruce Irvin; CB Sean Smith; S Reggie Nelson; OL Kelechi Osemele; LB Darren Bates; S Karl Joseph.

Subtractions: S Charles Woodson; DL Justin Tuck; S Taylor Mays; WR Rod Streater; OL J’Marcus Webb.

Outlook: After winning just 11 games over the previous three seasons, the Raiders made a nice jump last year as Del Rio’s bunch won seven games. Now it’s time for the next step. Oakland (for now) did a nice job of filling some gaps during the offseason and now boasts a strong offensive line and Raider-type defense. That could just be enough to challenge Kansas City — and hold off Denver and San Diego for a playoff spot.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

2015: 4-12 (fourth in AFC West).

Coach: Mike McCoy (fourth season).

Additions: DE Joey Bosa; WR Travis Benjamin; C Matt Slauson; DB Dwight Lowery; DB Casey Hayward.

Subtractions: DL Damion Square (four-game suspension); DL Kendall Reyes; LB Donald Butler; S Eric Weddle; TE Ladarius Green; CB Patrick Robinson.

Outlook: The Chargers will have more on their minds than just football as the rumors of a possible move north to Los Angeles will likely hound them all season. On the field, the Chargers fell to 4-12 last season and might not be that far behind the improving Chiefs and Raiders. San Diego finally signed first-round draft pick Joey Bosa from St. Thomas Aquinas; he could help their defensive woes considerably.

— GEORGE RICHARDS

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