Midway Through the NFL Season: AFC Division Contenders

Miles McDonald, Contributing Writer

As we approach Thanksgiving recess, the NFL is entering its proverbial “witching hour,” where some teams are starting to run away with their divisions, while others are looking toward April’s draft. This preview will discuss value across the AFC concerning potential division winners.

AFC East: Buffalo Bills (-180)

Prior to the season, if anyone told you that they saw this division being led by the Dolphins and Jets as of mid-November, they are either a psychic or a liar. But in all honesty, the fact that we find the Bills in the midst of third place while more than halfway through the season is nothing short of a gift. Buffalo faces an extremely easy schedule coming up, facing Jacoby Brissett in his last Cleveland start at home in Week 11, then traveling to face a horrible Detroit team in Week 12. Weeks 13-15 will be make-it or break-it for Buffalo, as they face the rest of their division in consecutive weeks. If they happen to take all three of those games, for which they will already be significantly favored, Buffalo’s chances of winning the AFC East shoot up to 86 percent according to 538 predictions, solidifying fantastic value at -180.  

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens (-490)

As badly as I want to throw last year’s Super Bowl finalist Cincinnati Bengals into the mix to win the AFC North, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are simply doing too much to give up their division lead. At this point in the season, I find it difficult to hear any argument that Lamar will not keep up his current form; Jackson has found himself as a premier thrower of the ball, something critics would have had trouble imagining when the speedster was drafted out of Louisville in the 2018 Draft. Even without Marquise Brown, Jackson’s top wideout option who was dealt to Arizona earlier this year, Jackson has been doing well to bail out his secondary, scoring 26.1 ppg, good for fourth in football. It should also be noted that an in-division victory versus Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in Weeks 12 and 13 shoots their chance of winning their division north of 95 percent. 

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts (+950)

While the old adage in football, “when you have two quarterbacks, you have none” may apply to the Indianapolis Colts, I am making a prediction here that the novel presence of head coach Jeff Saturday might be able to remedy Indy’s locker room woes. This would first be addressed by solidifying the veteran Matt Ryan as the rest of the season’s starter over the second-year-pro Sam Ehlinger. In addition, it is hard not to be impressed by Jeff Saturday’s first coaching performance; while they beat the basement-dwelling Las Vegas Raiders in Week 10, in the NFL, wins are still extremely hard to come by. Additionally, Indy is without any division games to end the season. As a result, they would need some losses from the division-leading Tennessee Titans to have a shot at the division crown; however, at +950, it is well worth a gamble that Jeff Saturday will be able to catch lightning in a bottle and lead his team to not only a playoff berth but a division title.

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs (-1250)

I tried my hardest to come up with a way the Kansas City Chiefs could fumble their division lead; however, the longer I spent, the thought exercise felt exceedingly trivial. Patrick Mahomes is playing like the best player on the planet and has effectively replaced Tyreek Hill with exciting receivers such as Kadarius Toney, Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Kansas City is a serious championship contender and should be discussed as such.