Following the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, there is a significant dropoff in the AFC. For any team to realistically compete with these two would need substantial improvements and answers to multiple questions.
Since taking over as the general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Brandon Beane has done an excellent job of building not only a roster but a culture in Buffalo. He put together another stellar offseason this year, headlined by the trade for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Finally, having an elite wide receiver on the outside to go along with John Brown and slot receiver Cole Beasley, the Bills have a well-rounded receiving core. Beane added more to the wideout room with day three picks Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins.
On defense, the Bills brought in veterans like Mario Addison to help rush the passer opposite of rookie second-round pick A.J. Epenesa. While Addison is on the wrong side of thirty, he still has plenty left in the tank to be a key piece in the front seven. Finding Epenesa in the second round might be one of the steals in this draft class. On the back end of the defense, the Bills made a low-risk signing with Josh Norman to add depth to the group.
Buffalo made the playoffs in 2019, but the offense sputtered in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans. The defense was already a top three-unit, but the offense held as an anchor to what they could accomplish last season. Giving quarterback Josh Allen an elite receiver like Stefon Diggs and adding to the running game with Zack Moss should help them over the hump.
The keys are in Allen’s hands at this point, but the Bills have done an excellent job of building around him. Add in the fact that the New England Patriots look to be entering a rebuild. Buffalo seems to be the clear favorite in the AFC East.
The cards were stacked against the Indianapolis Colts in 2019. Entering the preseason with high expectations after a loss to the Chiefs in the playoffs the year prior, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It all started with their star quarterback, Andrew Luck, retiring just before the start to the regular season. That kind of situation would more than cripple most franchises. Add in the injuries that piled up throughout the year, and it’s clear the coaching staff and front office deserved credit for finding a way to 7-9.
Jacoby Brissett is not the answer at quarterback after his decline down the stretch in 2019. While injuries to offensive playmakers and himself didn’t help, it was clear that Brissett was holding the team back to some extent. After rumors and speculation on the quarterback position for several months among the media, the Colts elected to sign former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year deal.
Many believe that Rivers is a washed-up quarterback that needs to hang up the cleats. His 2019 season is one that many want to forget about, but pairing him in Indianapolis is the best opportunity he could have asked for in 2020. After taking snaps behind an offensive line that was among the league’s worst for a decade, Rivers will finally have the protection he needs with the Colts.
Adding playmakers to the offense with second-round picks Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor to pair with T.Y. Hilton should give him everything he needs to succeed. He’s also working with head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni who he spent time with while playing for the Chargers. His arm might not be able to make all of the deep passes it used to, but their West Coast style of offense will cater to that.
On defense, the Colts added some much-needed help along the interior defensive line by trading their first-round pick for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Having a guy like Buckner along the interior should give the Colts the edge they need rushing the passer. He will join a group that consists of Justin Houston, Denico Autry, and Kemoko Turay, who flashed greatness before suffering a season-ending injury in 2019. The front seven will have to carry most of the load on defense with question marks in the secondary remaining.
If Rivers can produce in Indianapolis, the Colts are heavy favorites to win the AFC South. Relying on his intelligence instead of a strong arm should benefit Rivers if he is capable of making a comeback. Injuries will play a significant role, but this could be a team to make a deep playoff push in 2020.