AFC Playoff Preview
With the Raiders pulling off a stunning overtime victory over the Chargers, the playoff picture is set.
The Titans captured the top seed in the AFC with a 12-5 record with the tiebreaker over the Chiefs. The Titans were able to do this without their biggest rusher Derrick Henry, who will be back for the playoffs.
Mike Vrabel’s offense continued to keep up the pace though as Ryan Tannehill and D’Onta Foreman stepped up to fill the absence of Henry.
The defense is almost completely drafted and developed as nine of the eleven starters started out with the Titans. The only two who didn’t are edge rusher Bud Dupree and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
The Titans have a first-round bye.
Kansas City Chiefs
The NFC West Champs have gone 9-1 since losing to the Titans on Oct. 24.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs got the offense back on track as they became less reckless after a rough start to the season.
Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has been rock solid all year long as Chris Jones has turned into a monster this season with nine sacks while rookie Nick Bolton has become a stalwart at linebacker.
The Chiefs will host the Steelers in the first round.
The Bills won the AFC East for the second year in a row with many question marks surrounding the team during the season.
Josh Allen has turned it on recently and the offense has shown for it as second-year player Gabriel Davis surpassed Emmanuel Sanders on the depth chart and has provided a huge boost.
Devin Singletary has become the feature back that this team desperately needed.
The defense is led by a strong linebacker core of Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds with veteran safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde in the defensive backfield.
The Bills will host the Patriots in the first round.
The Bengals went from 4-11-1 to NFC North champions in a year.
The offense came alive with a healthy Joe Burrow and start receiver Ja’Marr Chase being complemented by Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd with Joe Mixon also posing a threat out of the backfield.
The Bengals defense is built around the dynamic duo of edge rushers Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson. Cincinnati also has one of the top safeties in the NFL in Jessie Bates III.
The Bengals will host the Raiders in the first round.
Las Vegas Raiders
To say the Raiders overcame adversity this season is an understatement. Rich Bisaccia deserves all the credit he is getting as he led this team to the playoffs.
Derek Carr has had an electric connection with Hunter Renfrow while Josh Jacobs has been great on the ground to open up the passing game.
The Raiders have a mismatch of players on defense, but they do have Pro Bowl edge rusher Maxx Crosby, Pro Bowler Denzel Perryman and underrated cornerback Casey Heyward.
They are also starting three rookies in linebacker Divine Deablo, safety Trevon Moehring and nickelback Nate Hobbs.
The Raiders will play at the Bengals in the first round.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick is back in the playoffs and since Week 6 the Patriots are 8-3 but could be 10-1 if they didn’t hold themselves back.
Mac Jones has got the offense going again and he has had a lot of help with Hunter Henry becoming a top endzone target and a trio of receivers in Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne.
The offensive line is stellar and running backs Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden have taken full advantage of that.
The defense has been great this season as Matt Judon has stepped up and JC Jackson has emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
The Patriots will play at the Bills in the first round.
The Steelers squeaked into the playoffs and Ben Roethlisberger gets one last shot in the postseason.
Rookies Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth have been vital to the offense so far with fellow rookie Kendrick Green providing support on the offensive line.
The defense is led by projected Defensive Player of the Year TJ Wattwith the veteran leader Cameron Heyward continuing to produce.
The Steelers will play at the Chiefs in the first round for the first time since they lost 36-10 there less than a month ago.
James Morrison is a second-year majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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