With Tom Brady out of the AFC, it looked like the stage was set for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to rule the AFC. But with how Super Bowl LV played out, every AFC team now has the blueprint for how to take down the Chiefs.
The trick, of course, is having the personnel to do it. While there are not too many teams that do, with the right offseason moves, a few could.
Kansas City Chiefs Are Still The Best In The AFC–For Now
To be the best, you must beat the best. For the last two years, the Kansas City Chiefs have been the best team in the AFC. Despite how Super Bowl LV played out, they are still the logical choice to be favored to win the AFC again next year.
Offensively, they are the most dynamic team in the NFL. They led the league in total yards, were the only team to average over 300 yards passing a game during the regular season, and if they had their starting tackles in the Super Bowl– well, it certainly would have been a better contest.
As far as their defense goes, you can be described best as ‘good.’ Most of the time, they were good enough to get the job done. Of course, it helped to have a high-powered offense making life easier and less demanding. But when faced with an opponent that had a well-balanced offense, they were in trouble.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the worst running teams in the league during the regular season and one of six to average less than 100 yards rushing a game. Yet, they managed to gain 145 yards on the ground against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
While the Chiefs may have had the No. 1 passing offense in the league, the Buccaneers were No. 2. Factor in a defense capable of making life difficult for Mahomes, and you get what fans saw in Super Bowl LV—a dominant win over the mighty Kansas City Chiefs.
But Tampa Bay is in the NFC. Are there any teams in the AFC that can execute the blueprint the Buccaneers were nice enough to provide?
AFC Championship Winner Odds
|Kansas City Chiefs||+250||+250||+225|
|New England Patriots||+1300||+2000||+2000|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+1400||+1300||+1400|
|Las Vegas Raiders||+2500||+3100||+3300|
|New York Jets||+4000||+4400||+5000|
2021-22 AFC Championship Contenders
Any team can win on any given Sunday (or Monday or Thursday), which explains how the Chiefs lost to a Las Vegas Raiders team that ended up going 8-8. But the trick is not winning on any Sunday. No, the trick is winning when it matters most–like in the AFC Championship game.
Playing your best when it matters most and against the toughest competition in the league is what separates the great teams from the good teams. So—who can do that and take down the Chiefs in the AFC title game next year?
Many will say the Buffalo Bills or Baltimore Ravens, and while they are in the conversation, the team that may need to do the least in the off-season is the Cleveland Browns. Baker Mayfield gives them a respectable passing game that should be even better next year with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. on the field.
But the strength of the offense is the run game. With the duo of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb running behind the No. 1 offensive line in the league (according to PFF), they averaged 148.4 yards a game. With Mayfield’s ability to throw, defenses cannot stack the box to stop the run.
While the Browns defense gave them a shot to beat the Chiefs in the playoffs, they need to get better if they are going to take the Chiefs down next time. Yes, they have one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL in Myles Garrett. But he needs some help.
Olivier Vernon is okay, but there is not much to speak off otherwise. While the pass rush still grade-out as the 11th best (according to PFF), it will need to be even better if the secondary does not get better. It ranked 22nd in yards allowed (247.6/game) but was ranked 26th by PFF.
But Who Should You Bet On?
Buffalo, of course, has a shot. Their performance in the AFC title game made one thing evident—they need more than Josh Allen if they are going to beat the big dogs. Defensively, they are not a bad team, but the secondary and pass rush need to better if they are going to beat the Chiefs next year.
As for Baltimore, the defense is there and so is the run game, but the passing game is not. Sure, Lamar Jackson can put up some stats when teams are focused on stopping the run. But if the Ravens have to count on him to throw, he has yet to prove he is up to the task.
Indianapolis has most of the right tools in place, but whether they can do it will depend on who their quarterback is next year and replacing Anthony Castonzo.
Lots of things can change once the offseason gets underway. But for now, the Cleveland Browns have the most value from a betting standpoint, followed closely by the Indianapolis Colts.