Jibber Jabber – AFC 2017 preview

Opinion

Chad T. Jones, Public Affairs Officer

To paraphrase The Rock, “Finally, the NFL returns to — my —television.”

And in the 37 years since I started watching football, it’s fair to say I’ve watched the NFL on a lot of TVs in a lot of places.

I’ve watched games in living rooms from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii to Mattawan, Mich., barracks rooms in Fort Polk, La., and Camp Doha, Kuwait, and even on a miniature 3-inch by 5-inch black-and-white TV that was connected to a boom box.

The picture was garbage, but it was the best I could pull while lying on a concrete slab in the ruins of an old cow barn in Bangor, Mich. My foster mom at the time didn’t want me in the house.

However, for the first time in my life, I’ll be watching the NFL in a full-fledged mancave — my mancave — equipped with HDTV, a six-speaker surround sound system built into the ceiling, a fully functional bathroom, two of the most comfortable couches ever, a place to put my snacks, and the ability for total darkness.

The only thing it’s missing is a mini-fridge, but that will be rectified soon enough. #1stworldproblems

Enough bragging … On to the AFC.

North

Best Offensive Player: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh

Could have gone with Brown’s teammate RB Le’Veon Bell as well, but Brown is a better dancer and likely to play the full season.

We also need to give a shoutout to Cleveland’s Joe Thomas for being so good in such an awful place.

Best Defensive Player: Myles Garrett, DL, Cleveland

Maybe I’m drinking some of Lake Erie’s polluted water, but I’m guessing the rookie from Texas A&M is going to wreak havoc on the pass-happy North. Big Ben, Joey Flacco and Andy Dalton, beware.

Best unit: Pittsburgh Steelers Offense

We already mentioned Brown and Bell and alluded to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the stacked Steelers also have receivers Martavis Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey, plus a tight end named Jesse James and All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey and All-Pro right guard David DeCastro.

Worst Unit: Cleveland Browns Offense

Cleveland couldn’t move the ball last year. Now their offense is even worse after losing wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and named rookie DeShone Kizer its quarterback.

Biggest Addition: Baltimore

Maclin is coming back from injury, but before that he had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons with Alex Smith as his QB. He should be able to do that again with Joe Flacco, who has been looking for a quality, reliable wideout.

Final Standings: Cincinnati 11-5; Pittsburgh 11-5 (Wildcard); Baltimore 10-6 (Wildcard); Browns 6-10

South

Best Offensive Player: Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee

People may want to go with Mariota’s teammate RB DeMarco Murray, or possibly Indy’s Andrew Luck, but I think this will be Mariota’s breakout season as the best player in the South.

Best Defensive Player: JJ Watt, DL, Houston

$12M for Houston, plus this video.  JJ is the best.

Best unit: Houston Texans, Defensive Front seven

This is a repeat from last year, but the fact remains that if Jadeveon Clowney and Watt stay healthy, Houston will have the best defense in the league.

Worst Unit: Indianapolis Colts Defense

Still can’t name a player on Indy’s defense? Me neither.

Biggest Addition(s): A.J. Bouye, CB; Calais Campbell, DE/DT — Jacksonville

For the second year in a row, the Jags spent big on their defense as Bouye and Campbell will join last year’s free agent D-lineman Malik Jackson. Throw in second-year linebacker Myles Jack and you’ve got the makings of strong defense.

Final Standings: Tennessee 11-5; Houston 9-7; Indianapolis 4-12; Jacksonville 3-13

East

Best Offensive Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England

The GOAT needs no explanation.

Best unit: New England Patriots Offense

Please see above. Throw in Gronk and two decades of domination.

Worst Unit: Buffalo Bills Offense, Shady McCoy and …

Biggest Addition: Morris Claiborne DB, NY Jets

Just because I wanted to mention the Dallas Cowboys, and the Jets really need something good this year.

Final Standings: New England 14-2; Buffalo 5-11; Miami 4-12; New York Jets 2-14

West

Best Offensive Player: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland

Before his injury, Carr proved he was an elite QB. Having receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper certainly helps.

Best Defensive Player: Von Miller LB, Denver

His commercials are great.

His defense isn’t too shabby, either.

Best unit: Oakland Raiders Offense

See Carr’s write-up, throw in the best offensive line west of Dallas and the return of “Beast Mode” and it’s clear that Oakland is a monster.

Worst Unit: San Diego Chargers Offense

This group isn’t bad, but the fact that they have to play AFC West defenses six times a year means they will be the group that struggles the most.

Biggest Addition: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland

He won’t be as good as he was in Seattle, but make no misktake, there will be plenty of “Beastquakes” in Oakland.

Final Standings: Oakland 12-4; Kansas City 10-6; San Diego 8-8; Denver 6-10

AFC Championship Game: Oakland Vs. New England

Oakland was poised to beat New England last year before Carr’s injury. They will rectify that this year before losing their last game in franchise history to America’s Team.

Dallas wins its sixth Super Bowl and all is right in the world.

If you disagree, hit me up on Twitter @ctjibber.

And, of course, if you want to talk to me about this or anything to do with sports, contact me at chad.t.jones.civ@mail.mil.

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