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AFC capsules

The Philadelphia Inquirer

A look at each AFC team for the 2015 season.


AFC EAST


New England Patriots

Last season: 12-4 (won the Super Bowl)

Coach: Bill Belichick (175-65 in 16th season at New England; 211-109 overall in 20 seasons).

Cornering the market: While "Deflategate" and QB Tom Brady have drawn most of the attention, replacing corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner will be a major challenge. Super Bowl hero Malcom Butler is now one of the main corners.

Outlook: The Patriots have won 10 or more games in 12 consecutive years and despite all the offseason turmoil, they should keep that streak intact, while winning a seventh straight AFC East title.


Buffalo Bills

Last season: 9-7.

Coach: Rex Ryan (1st season with Bills; 46-50 overall in six seasons).

Shady times: Running back LeSean McCoy took some shots at his old coach Chip Kelly upon leaving the Eagles, and then he took one himself, hurting his hamstring in the preseason. He is expected to be ready for the opener, and he will be needed to make up for a woeful quarterback situation where Tyrod Taylor has been named the starter.

Defensive touch: Known as a defensive guru, Rex Ryan inherits a unit that was fourth in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 18.3 points per game, first in sacks (54) and could be improved. The question is whether the offense can score enough points. This appears to be a playoff contender but one that likely will fall short.


Miami Dolphins

Last season: 8-8.

Coach: Joe Philbin (23-25, 4th season).

The next step: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill made solid progress in his third season, throwing 27 TDs and 12 interceptions. Now armed with a new contract, Tannehill must take the next step if Miami is able to do the same.

Outlook: Pricy free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will boost the defense and Miami should contend for a playoff spot. The last time the Dolphins won more than eight games and made the playoffs was 2008 and there is a chance that both of those streaks can end.


New York Jets

Last season: 4-12.

Coach: Todd Bowles (1st season with Jets; 2-1 overall in final three games of 2011 with Miami).

QB quandary: Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter after Geno Smith suffered a broken jaw when he was leveled by former teammate IK Enemkpali. Fitzpatrick did finish ninth in the NFL last season in passer rating (95.3), one spot ahead of Seattle's Russell Wilson.

Outlook: With the addition of corners Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromarite, a defense that allowed 25.1 points per game should be improved under Temple product Bowles. The offense, with or without Smith, is the major question, which is why making the playoffs could be too big of a jump from last year.


AFC NORTH


Pittsburgh Steelers

Last season: 11-5 (lost to Baltimore in a wild-card game).

Coach: Mike Tomlin (82-46, 9th season).

Aging well: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 33, seems to be getting better with age. Last season he had his second-best passer rating (103.3), tied a career high with 32 TD passes (against nine interceptions) and threw for a career-best 4,952 yards.

Outlook: The Steelers are both a division and Super Bowl contender. Last year, Pittsburgh was just 18th in scoring defense (23.0 ppg.) and must improve against the pass, but the offense is capable of outscoring teams.


Cincinnati Bengals

Last season: 10-5-1 (lost to Indianapolis in a wild-card game).

Coach: Marvin Lewis (100-90-2, 13th season).

Playoff funk: Quarterback Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs four straight years, but he is 0-4 in the postseason with six interceptions, one touchdown pass and a paltry 57.8 passer rating.

Outlook: The Bengals are division contenders but so much is pinned on Dalton, who didn't have a great regular season (19 TDs, 17 interceptions). In addition, Cincinnati must be better against the pass, after finishing 20th in the NFL in receiving yards allowed (243 per game).


Baltimore Ravens

Last season: 10-6 (lost to New England in a divisional game).

Coach: John Harbaugh (72-42, 8th season).

Durable Winner: Joe Flacco has never missed an NFL game. He has started 112 in the regular season and 15 in the postseason. Flacco is 72-40 in the regular season and 10-5 in the postseason.

Outlook: The Ravens will be Super Bowl contenders, but losing wide receiver Torrey Smith to San Francisco in free agency will hurt.


Cleveland Browns

Last season: 7-9.

Coach: Mike Pettine (7-9, 2nd season).

Iron Man: Eight-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas has never missed a snap in his career, playing all 7,917 of them.

Outlook: Under Pettine, the Central Bucks West product, the Browns were ninth in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 21.1 points per game. It is the offense that is the question. The Browns were 27th in scoring (18.7 ppg.) and that will likely keep them from being a postseason contender.


AFC SOUTH


Indianapolis Colts

Last season: 11-5 (lost to New England in the AFC championship).

Coach: Chuck Pagano (33-15, 4th season).

Pure Luck: In his three seasons Andrew Luck has led his team to 11-5 record each year. Luck must cut down on his interceptions after throwing 16 last year, although he also threw an NFL-best 40 TD passes.

Outlook: A below-average offensive line and defense are major concerns for this Super Bowl contender. The offensive line must improve and it appears the Colts will have to win some high-scoring games this season.


Houston Texans

Last season: 9-7.

Coach: Bill O'Brien (9-7, 2nd season).

Looking for a QB: Last year O'Brien's first starting QB was Ryan Fitzpatrick and this year he has named Brian Hoyer the starter. It's hard to win consistently with journeymen quarterbacks.

Outlook: J.J. Watt (57 sacks the last three years) is the best defensive player in the NFL, but the offense, especially with the uncertain status of running back Arian Foster due to a groin injury, doesn't appear to be playoff caliber.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season: 3-13.

Coach: Gus Bradley (7-25, 3rd season).

Bad omen: The Jags were feeling good about things but first-round draft choice Dante Fowler, the linebacker from Florida taken with the No. 3 overall selection, suffered as season-ending torn ACL in rookie minicamp.

Outlook: The Jaguars scored 249 points, the fewest in the NFL and quarterback Blake Bortles (17 interceptions, 11 TD passes) must show strong progression in his second year. Many feel this will be an improved team but getting to the .500 level is likely too much to ask.


Tennessee Titans

Last season: 2-14.

Coach: Ken Whisenhunt (2-14, 2nd season with Tennessee; 47-65 overall in seven seasons).

Eagle following: Eagles fans had openly hoped Heisman Trophy quarterback Marcus Mariota would come to Philadelphia via trade. Instead he has to operate a Titans offense that was 30th in the NFL in scoring (15.9 ppg.)

Outlook: Mariota will likely take his lumps but the feeling here is that he will be a quality NFL quarterback, just not this year. The same goes for his team, which should surpass last year's win total, but still finish below .500.


AFC WEST


Denver Broncos

Last season: 12-4 (lost to Indianapolis in a divisional game).

Coach: Gary Kubiak (1st season with Broncos; 61-64 overall in eight seasons).

Peyton's place: In his last four regular season games Peyton Manning threw six interceptions and three TD passes. Manning is 39, with now limited arm strength. He's also playing behind an average offensive line, although one that got a boost when it signed former Eagles guard Evan Mathis on Aug. 25.

Outlook: The Broncos will still compete for a playoff spot, but after going 38-10 and winning three division titles and making one Super Bowl appearance in Manning's first three seasons, Denver should come back to the AFC West pack this year.


Kansas City Chiefs

Last season: 9-7.

Coach: Andy Reid (20-12, 3rd season in Kansas City; 150-105-1 overall in 16 seasons).

Receiver in need: In these days of high-powered offense, it's hard to believe the Chiefs didn't have a passing touchdown to a receiver last year. Former Eagle Jeremy Maclin hopes to change that and attempt to prove he is a certified No. 1 receiver.

Outlook: The Chiefs will be playoff contenders if they can get better production from their receivers. The defense should be solid, paced by Justin Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks. It comes down to whether quarterback Alex Smith (18 TDs, 6 interceptions) can shed the label of game manager and take the Chiefs to the next level.


San Diego Chargers

Last season: 9-7.

Coach: Mike McCoy (18-14, 3rd season).

Rivers of plenty: Quarterback Philip Rivers continues to play at a high level, but must make better decisions after tying the NFL lead with 18 interceptions. In fairness to Rivers, he is playing behind a suspect offense line, where former Eagle King Dunlap is among their more highly regarded blockers.

Outlook: After finishing 30th in rushing (85.4 yards per game) the Chargers hope that first-round running back Melvin Gordon spices up the running game. In order to be a playoff contender, the Chargers will also have to put more heat on the quarterback after finishing 29th in sacks with 26.


Oakland Raiders

Last season: 3-13.

Coach: Jack Del Rio (1st season in Oakland; 68-71 in nine seasons).

Running on empty: The Raiders were last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 77.5 yards per game.

Outlook: This is a team that has some good young players like quarterback Derek Carr and rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper. But for this year, the dubious streak of 14 straight non-winning seasons should be extended.


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