NFL Training Camp Preview: AFC Division Favorites
AFC East Favorite: Buffalo Bills (-220)
The Buffalo Bills were 13 seconds away from getting over the divisional round hump against the Kansas City Chiefs last year and potentially making a run to the Super Bowl. As the team’s veteran core tries to erase the horror at Arrowhead from their minds as they make their way to camp on Saturday, the goal remains the same – Lombardi Trophy or bust.
Buffalo’s newest significant acquisition will be able to regale the other vets on Lombardi this weekend as all eyes should be on two-time Super Bowl champion Von Miller. Miller comes in fresh off a world championship with the Rams and a ton of playoff experience.
The former Bronco won the Super Bowl MVP award when he helped Denver to the title in 2016. While the eight-time Pro Bowler may not be in his prime, he showed he still has plenty left in the tank. Miller had four sacks in four postseason games last year, including two in the Super Bowl.
Miller should only strengthen a Bills defense that was among the league’s best in 2021. Buffalo’s D ranked first in total yards, passing yards, and points allowed. Von adds to a defense that was sixth in sack rate last year as the NFL’s active sacks leader (115.5).
While Josh Allen is coming in off back-to-back monster campaigns, expectations are even higher this year. Allen is the odds-on-favorite to win this year’s NFL MVP at +700.
A leap to the elite from wide receiver Gabriel Davis could help get him there. Davis led the team with 15.7 yards per reception in 2021 and had the game of his life in the divisional round. The 23-year-old put up a ridiculous 201 yards and an NFL record four touchdown catches in Buffalo’s elimination game in KC.
If Davis can take another step this season, Stefon Diggs and the third-year man will make a formidable receiving duo in upstate New York.
The Bills’ glaring weakness was their running game last year. Take away Allen’s 763 yards on the ground, and Buffalo was one of the poorest rushing teams in the league. They tried to address that hole in the draft, hoping second-rounder James Cook out of Georgia can create a spark out of the backfield.
Cook comes in off winning a National title with the Bulldogs following a season he went for over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. All eyes will be on the brother of three-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook to see what he can do at Bills camp and this season. Here’s a sneak peek.
Which brother runs it better:
Dalvin or James Cook? pic.twitter.com/mQ1SqNXy6X
— Jesse Morse, MD (@DrJesseMorse) July 14, 2022
Rest of AFC North Division Odds: Miami Dolphins (+450), New England Patriots (+500), New York Jets (+2400)
AFC North Favorite: Baltimore Ravens (+170)
The Ravens welcomed rookies back on Tuesday and will see their vets report next week. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore’s most important vet, comes into camp without a contract extension, and his number one weapon in the passing game, Marquise Brown.
Hollywood bolted Baltimore for Arizona, so it will be interesting to see if anyone other than Mark Andrews can step up as a pass catcher. Andrews led the team in catches (107), receiving yards (1,361), and touchdown receptions (9) last year.
In the backfield, Baltimore lost Devonta Freeman but gained Mike Davis. The bigger boost and backs to watch will be JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill, who all missed last season. While it’s been reported Dobbins (ACL) won’t be ready for preseason, he recently refuted an Ian Rapoport report with a defiant tweet.
Okay I’m tired of being quiet… come to me for your source @RapSheet because I might not even go on PUP because that’s how good my rehab is going and I’m damn sure going to be ready for week 1. https://t.co/gH2TqCFLM4
— Jk dobbins (@Jkdobbins22) July 18, 2022
Under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, the Ravens added to the D with big-time free-agent Marcus Williams and experienced corner Kyle Fuller. They also added depth through the draft, and the returning core is relatively healthy heading into 2022 compared to last year.
Rest of AFC North Division Odds: Cincinnati Bengals (+185), Cleveland Browns (+260), Pittsburgh Steelers (+950)
AFC South Favorite: Indianapolis Colts (-115)
The Colts added a bunch of new faces after the Carson Wentz experiment went terribly wrong. Indianapolis missed the playoffs after losing a win-and-in meeting with the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in the season’s final week.
Wentz’s replacement, Matt Ryan, will undoubtedly draw much attention when vets report on July 23rd. After a Hall of Fame career in Atlanta, Ryan becomes the third starting quarterback for the Colts in three years.
Ryan narrowly missed his 11th straight 4,000+ pass yard season with 3,968 for the Falcons last year. Matty Ice should be an upgrade from Carson Wentz, but at 37 years old, questions will arise.
Second-round pick Alec Pierce could help answer some of those questions as the rookie receiver is one to watch in camp. The Colts’ first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft will compete for a starting spot after a solid senior season with the Cincinnati Bearcats. Pierce had 884 yards, and eight touchdown catches last year and should battle Michael Pittman Jr. to become Ryan’s favorite target.
Despite the addition of Matt Ryan, Indy will remain a run-first team. They were second in the league with nearly 150 rushing yards per game, behind Jonathan Taylor in 2021. Taylor was named to his first Pro Bowl last year and won the league’s rushing title after putting up 1,811 yards on the ground.
In all, the Colts signed 13 players in free agency, selected eight players in the 2022 NFL draft, signed 17 undrafted rookies, and added a pair via trade.
Rest of AFC South Division Odds: Tennessee Titans (+160), Jacksonville Jaguars (+750), Houston Texans (+2500)
AFC West Favorite: Kansas City Chiefs (+155)
While Patrick Mahomes may receive much of the fanfare as veterans start rolling in on Tuesday, other parts of the offense will raise the most questions.
With the departure of Tyreek Hill following a trade to the Dolphins, many are curious to see if new addition JuJu Smith-Schuster can make fans and Mahomes forget about the long-time KC speedster.
Smith-Schuster is coming off an injury-plagued year in his final season in Pittsburgh, having suited up for just five games last year. JuJu has not been able to show the same form that saw him catch 111 balls for over 1,400 yards in 2018 and has just over 1,500 yards over the past three seasons combined.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the other wideout KC brought in to try and temper the loss of Hill. While behind Davante Adams in Green Bay, Valdes-Scantling had his best year in 2020, with 690 receiving yards and six TD catches.
It remains to be seen if Orlando Brown Jr. will be seen at training camp. The vital left tackle did not come to terms on a contract extension and could sit out if the two sides can’t work something out. Brown is a big part of pass protection on the blind side of Mahomes.
Ronald Jones comes over from the Tampa Bay Bucs to add depth to a backfield featuring Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Edwards-Helaire will be looking for his first full season after being limited to 13 games in his rookie campaign and 10 games last year. Jerick McKinnon is also back in KC after a stellar showing in the playoffs.
Rest of AFC West Division Odds: Los Angeles Chargers (+240), Denver Broncos (+260), Las Vegas Raiders (+700)
Odds Courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook