4 Underdog AFC Teams That Could Win Their Division in the 2019 NFL Season
By Dan Israeli
The NFL season is just a few months away, and what better time than now to start forecasting some potential division winners.
While three AFC favorites to win their division – the New England Patriots (-600), Kansas City Chiefs (-165) and Indianapolis Colts (+100) – are far from shocking, the Cleveland Browns having the best odds to take the AFC North crown, at +135, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, could cause some to do a double take.
Rather than focus on the favorites, we're going to take a look at the best underdog candidates that can win each division.
1. AFC East: New York Jets (+700)
This is a tough one to stomach, mainly because the Patriots have won the AFC East in each of the last 10 seasons, and 15 of the last 16. Still, records were meant to be broken as Tom Brady continues to defy modern-day aging. The New York Jets are a buzzy sleeper pick this season, due to the potential second-year growth of quarterback Sam Darnold and key additions to the defense. If the Patriots finally falter in 2019, it will most likely be the Jets ready to take the AFC East throne.
2. AFC North: Baltimore Ravens (+270)
Lots of people are on the Browns bandwagon, and rightfully so. Cleveland is absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball and it's not like they didn't show signs of improvement last season, finishing with a 7-8-1 record. But just in case the hype is too much for the young and inexperienced Browns to bear, the reigning AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens could capitalize. Lamar Jackson is a polarizing player, so it's easy to forget that he went 6-1 as a starter last season, propelling Baltimore into the playoffs. While the team lost some key players in free agency (Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley), they have plenty of talent to repeat as AFC North champs.
3. AFC South: Houston Texans (+260)
The disrespect afforded to the Houston Texans seems like an every year conversation. Houston won the AFC South by one game over Indianapolis last season, before losing badly to the Colts in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Poor performance aside, the Texans are one of the most talented teams in the league, and will not give up the division crown easily. Led by Deshaun Watson, one of the best young QBs in the NFL, and J.J. Watt, arguably the league's premier defensive player, it's realistic that the Texans could have their best season to date in 2019 – one that could end in another AFC South crown.
4. AFC West: Denver Broncos (+1100)
The Denver Broncos arguably have the toughest road to upset as division champs, seeing how there are two legit Super Bowl contenders in the Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers ahead of them. This only sweetens the odds for Denver, a team loaded with talent on defense, but with serious questions at quarterback. It's hard to say what they will get from either veteran Joe Flacco or rookie Drew Lock, but if they can get even decent production, the Broncos' defense may be able to carry them to a shocking division title. This could be a similar blueprint to the 2016 Super Bowl title the Broncos won with an aging Peyton Manning and up-and-down Brock Osweiler at the helm.
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