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Green Zone League Articles

2020 League Prediction Time: AFC
By Nic St. Marie
Special to gzl-football.com

As a writer, I've done a lot of different things in the RZL and here. More in the RZL, of course I started this more than 10 years ago.

I've been looking back at my writing, and I'm not as good at doing global analysis. I prefer to make statements based on deep dives, thoughtful analysis, and present what I've found.

Here I'll do the opposite. Predictions of the entire league based on just my gut/opinion, and a small amount of knowledge. Small amount of knowledge = only look at key offensive player changes. That will be pretty tough for me actually.

In the end, the only extra analysis I added was to check the schedules for each division, and based mostly on last year's records did some strength of schedule adjustments...randomly and based on my biases, as any lead writer in NFL football would do.

Enjoy, and by all means attack me and my methods.

AFC North
Browns - 12-4 (11-5 in '19)
Ravens 9-7 (8-8 in '19)
Bengals - 8-8 (10-6 in '19)
Steelers 5-11 (7-9 in '19)

The Browns have upgraded nearly every weapon around Boston Mallett. Additions include Le'Veon Bell, Ulysses Moore, & Demaryius Thomas, and will result in one of the best offenses in the league. Add that to the defensive improvements a year ago, the Browns will lead this division.

The Bengals return pretty much the exact same offense. They managed to beat the Browns twice and make it to the SB, where they nearly won. That said, the Browns have taken several steps forward, while the Bengals are the same. Freeman vs Mallett will be good this year, but the weapons are better with the Browns. Unlike last year.

Baltimore's offense struggled last season, with the combo of Baldwin and Calvin Johnson never working as well as hoped. Having replaced Lacy with Levonte Bell (Both Lev Bells in the same division?) and CJ with Percy Harvin looks like a better mix for a more explosive offense.

The Steelers have talent, but the least polished of the QBs. Good weapons on the outside, but really struggled to run the ball. Drafting a rookie FB and a rookie C will pay off in the long term, but won't help much this season. Plus in this strong division, I think the Steelers will not be any worse, but the record will slip as if they are.

AFC East
Bills - 11-5 (9-7 in '19)
Patriots - 8-8 (9-7 in '19)
Dolphins 6-10 (8-8 in '19)
Jets 5-11 (3-13 in '19)

The Bills had an elite QB in Andrew Luck. They switched him out and will start an almost identical player in Matthew Stafford. The upgrades at WR say this will be an improvement year, but with the move from Dez to Cordarelle being pretty lateral and Treadwell being a rookie having immediate explosive success might be a little farfetched.

The Patriots have the same QB and weapons, with the one notable change being a possible HB switch from LaMichael James to Gio Bernard. Bernard has far better HB skills, while James is the explosive athlete. This switch could add the consistency this team is lacking at the position, and switch the offense into elite status. I say no though. With that front 7, wait, never mind. Rule violation, no defense in this one.

In White's second season, we should see an increase in ability. But if he's taking those snaps from Lockette, he won't really boost the offense this year. At HB, I expect the Fins will not run the ball as well this year moving to the rookie Murray or the vet Ball.

The Jets have probably made a step forward with their running game. That has to count for something right? Otherwise, their second leading reciever a year ago was their 6th round rookie TE, not a special player. Their 3rd leading reciever is now too old, but no one here is better. Aaron Drogan is going to have to do it by himself again, unless Elliot makes that big of a difference.

AFC South
Titans - 11-5 (11-5 in '19)
Texans - 8-8 (6-10 in '19)
Jaguars - 5-11 (7-9 in '19)
Colts - 4-12 (3-13 in '19)

Wow, the Titans really look like an all-star team. Henderson throwing to Floyd and Hunter is practically unfair. I see no reason to expect any down-turn, and in this division I see them running the table. But they have a tough out of conference schedule, with 8 games against the NFC West and AFC North.

Bray is getting there, and Funchess is on his second year. But the loss of Fuller doesn't help, and this offense should still be another year away from winning more games. Especially since there is not a lot of talent in the running game.

The Texans added Mike Williams, who adds good skills to the top 3 WR rotation. Otherwise they are the same offense with another year of growth from Dudley and one of the running back stars of the league. But I don't expect any big movements from this team outside of a shift back towards .500.

Terrelle Pryor has moved onto New York, and in his place steps Teddy Bridgewater, top-10 draft pick. Lateral move for the most part, don't expect this to make a huge difference in the passing game in year one. But long term, Bridgewater will have a longer and higher peak. Teddy does have the addition of Edmond Gates for a year, which may boost them a good amount if he starts. Carlos Hyde is still here, and should benefit from the addition of a deep threat. But the Colts will have another building year, maybe 2 before they can return.

AFC West
Raiders - 11-5 (12-4 in '19)
Chargers - 10-6(10-6 in '19)
Broncos - 6-10 (8-8 in '19)
Chiefs -6-10 (4-12 in '19)

The Raiders have a formula. Pound the ball behind an athletic OL, TE, and brick wall FB. PA to some of the fastest WRs in the league. Repeat. So far the Raiders have had one losing season and made the playoffs every year of this league except 2012. DHB might have slowed down, but with Amari Cooper and Ryan Broyles it's not a problem. Mark Ingram might not start this year (he could) but the HB position is stocked with Yeldon as the likely HB1, Jordan backing him up, and Snell taking change of pace back. The tough division will be balanced out by playing the AFC East (they're decent) and NFC East (not as decent).

In DeVante Parker's third season I expect to see a jump in efficiency for this pass offense. Quite explosive, the Chargers might actually chase down the Raiders for the division lead this year. I expect to see Stacy or Michael get traded to get Ya'ell more snaps.

Tannenhill is ready to be the guy, but he's still a step down at QB from a year ago. Adding Gerard Campbell might be a gain over Payne, and at WR the Broncos are still as good as ever. Overall, this team probably takes a hit as they finish Tannenhill's development in this tough division.

The Chiefs step forward with Clausen, backwards at WR losing Thomas, and in my opinion will do better with Randle starting and carrying the workload than Chase Sullivan from a year ago. Overall I have them at a net gain, and that they'll look competitive in a very tough division.
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