NFL 2019 Season Preview Part 2: Ceilings and Floors for Last Year’s Non-playoff Teams in the AFC

Last week I got my NFC side of this story out. Now it’s time to examine the ten AFC teams that missed out on the postseason in 2018 and what they can do to make it into January this year.

Here’s my thoughts in Part 2 of the multi-part season preview piece.

Buufalo Bills

One thing I’m certain of with the Bills is that the defense will be nasty. I’m really high on rookie Ed Oliver and his ability to make an immediate in Sean McDermott’s defense. In order to take this team to the next level however, second year quarterback Josh Allen will need to improve his accuracy. Sub-60 is not going to do it.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

New York Jets

Say what you will about new head coach Adam Gase’s strange behavior over the past few months, from his opening, “eye-popping” press conference to his inhalation of smelling salts on the sideline of the first preseason game, the guy gets the most out of his quarterbacks. In 2008 in Detroit, Gase guided Jon Kitna to career highs in both yards per attempt and completion percentage. Then in San Francisco, Gase got surprising production from the likes of J.T. O’Sullivan and Shaun Hill. In 2011, Tim Tebow struggled statistically in Denver, but under Gase’s tutelage Tebow still led the Broncos to an AFC West crown and playoff win. Even Peyton Manning enjoyed some of his best seasons under Gase in Denver, leading the league in completion percentage, net adjusted yards, and QBR. Manning had only led the NFL in those categories once before — in 2003. The list goes on: Jay Cutler had the best passer rating of his career with Gase in Chicago, and in Miami, Gase’s teams still managed to be competitive despite poor play at quarterback. All that to say that we should expect Gase to have a very positive impact on second year QB Sam Darnold — and if this marriage works, the Jets could surprise people.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Miami Dolphins

I can’t give you anything tangible here. Everything on that Dolphins roster screams 2 wins — and that’s entirely possible. But call me crazy — I believe in first year head coach Brian Flores. He’s a defensive-minded coach, who learned under Bill Belichick, and he values character guys and leadership. I think the Fins will play hard, and if they buy-in to Flores and what his vision is, the Dolphins could steal a few Ws this year.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

Pittsburgh Steelers

Addition by subtraction is what I keep hearing. But I still need to see how Big Ben responds this year and if Mike Tomlin’s voice still resonates with this team. If the locker room is behind these two, the Steelers might not be dead quite yet.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland’s roster is chalk full of talented playmakers. There is no question that the talent is there. I’m interested in how first year head coach Freddie Kitchens keeps the egos in check while still making sure everyone is happy. One thing is for sure — Baker Mayfield is the right QB to lead this team.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were already a team under fire before the injury bug hit them. Losses on the offensive line plus a foot injury to A.J. Green could solidify Cincy as a team in the running for the number 1 pick in the 2020 draft. If two things happen, maybe the Bengals avoid the NFL cellar this season: (1) Zach Taylor’s offense takes Andy Dalton to a whole new level; and (2) John Ross steps up big as a very good and reliable number 2 option while Green is sidelined.

Ceiling: 5 wins

Floor: 1 win

Tennessee Titans

You might have heard my thoughts on the Titans if you listened to Episode 206 of the Sports Talk Center podcast. This defense is very good, but the quarterback play must take a giant leap forward this year for Tennessee to compete for the playoffs. Sign me up as someone who has his doubts, though. Neither Ryan Tannehill nor Marcus Mariota fills me with a tremendous amount of confidence — not to mention the weapons in Tennessee aren’t striking fear into very many defenses.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 3 wins

Jacksonville Jaguars

With Andrew Luck’s retirement, the Jags may have become the team with the most to gain. This is still an awesome defense and now they upgrade the QB position with Nick Foles. My question — can Leonard Fournette stay on the field in 2019? If he can, he helps Foles, he helps ball control, he helps that defense.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 6 wins

Denver Broncos

Hiring Vic Fangio as head coach when the rest of the NFL was searching for their version of Sean McVay showed savviness on the part of John Elway. I want this to work. The problem could be that the quarterback problem might not be totally fixed. For the Broncos to be good, Joe Flacco has to take his game to a level it hasn’t been at since that remarkable playoff run that culminated in a Super Bowl title and MVP in 2012. If he plays the role of Trent Dilfer and allows the defense to be the star of the show in Fangio’s system, Denver could be the surprise team in the AFC.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Oakland Raiders

Everything in Oakland hinges on Derek Carr. And if we’re going to boil it down to one thing, it has to be whether Antonio Brown’s presence on the field can help to elevate Carr’s overall game. Yes, the offensive line needs to hold up and yes the defense needs to be better, but AB might just hold the key to unlocking his quarterback’s potential.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 206 (“Andrew Luck’s Abrupt Retirement Plus Breaking Down the AFC and NFC South”) right here:


Author: Brian Goodwin

An educator for 15 years. I have a passion for sports and a passion for writing about sports. I'm very excited to run this blog and have conversations with people about relevant topics, mostly pertaining to sports but also in all aspects of life.

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