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  • Writer's pictureWyatt Bose

How does Diggs to Houston shake up the AFC?

After four years in Buffalo, 4x Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs was traded to the Houston Texans for a 2025 second-round pick via Minnesota, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Diggs totaled 100+ receptions and 1,100+ yards in each of his four seasons with the Bills. He will join a talented receiving core that includes Tank Dell, Nico Collins, and Dalton Schultz, all of whom are young and entering their prime. Diggs will catch balls from the 2023-24 Rookie of the Year, CJ Stroud, who looks to be the next challenger to Mahomes in the AFC.

Last year, Stroud led the Texans to an unexpected AFC South division title and a playoff victory in the Wild Card round. Houston also added running back Joe Mixon and Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter. Hunter, who had 16.5 sacks in 2023 (5th in the NFL), will be a great addition to the Texans’ defense as the counterpart to last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, Will Anderson Jr.

Houston’s offseason moves vault them into Super Bowl contenders, but let’s see where they stack-up against the AFC’s best. Below is a pre-draft Top 10 AFC power rankings.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are #1, for obvious reasons. Patrick Mahomes is 15-3 in the playoffs with 46 total touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a 67.9% completion percentage… and he just got another weapon this offseason. Kansas City signed Marquise “Hollywood” Brown in free agency, providing Mahomes with a true #1 wide receiver for the first time since he lost Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. With Rashee Rice’s future uncertain after a recent car crash, Brown will be crucial in the first few weeks of the season.

Kansas City also re-signed defensive tackle Chris Jones this offseason but lost cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Nevertheless, Kansas City will be considered #1 until someone knocks them off in January.

2. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens dominated the regular season last year and added Pro-Bowl running back Derrick Henry this offseason. With Lamar Jackson coming off his second MVP season, he and Henry will be the most dynamic backfield duo in the NFL.

On paper, the Ravens are the best team in the AFC, with elite players at every position on both sides of the ball. Baltimore even has the greatest kicker of all time, Justin Tucker. However, it’s hard to put them at #1, considering Jackson’s playoff shortcomings. In six playoff games, Jackson has a 2-4 record with 9 total touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a 57.4% completion percentage. The Ravens had the #1 seed last season, and this year’s team might be better. 

3. Houston Texans

CJ Stroud played his way into the “elite” category of NFL quarterbacks last season, and his supporting cast just got a lot better. The wideout trio of Diggs–Dell–Collins is arguably the best in the NFL, and Dalton Schultz is still a quality option at tight end. Joe Mixon and Dameon Pierce are an incredible one-two punch in the backfield as well.

On the other side of the ball, DeMeco Ryans’ defense will be among the best in the AFC. Will Anderson Jr. and Danielle Hunter headline the front seven, while Dereck Stingley Jr is one of the elite young cornerbacks in the NFL. Houston has a young, but mature team that could pose a real threat to the Chiefs’ three-peat expedition.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are one of four teams that could beat the Chiefs in January, but they have some unanswered questions to address. Will Joe Burrow be healthy? Who will replace Joe Mixon, a 1,000-yard rusher? Will the Bengals lose Tee Higgins?

All of these questions will determine the Bengals season. When Burrow is healthy, the Bengals can challenge the Chiefs as the kings of the AFC. However, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner has struggled to stay on the field. Cincinnati should also take a running back in the draft to replace Mixon. Additionally, wide receiver Tee Higgins wants a contract extension, but Cincinnati is unwilling to give him adequate compensation. The Bengals have some holes in their roster, but a healthy Joe Burrow will be hard to count out come playoff time. 

5. Buffalo Bills

The Bills lost a lot of talent this offseason, including Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Micah Hyde, Leonard Floyd, Jordan Poyer, and Tre’Davious White. Nevertheless, I think Josh Allen will have some weight off of his shoulders without the pressure of forcing the ball to Diggs and the constant expectation to win every game.

Allen still has Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox at tight end, and the Bills will likely draft a wide receiver in the first round before the season starts. While many are out on Buffalo, I like them to stay in the playoff picture and maybe even win the AFC East.

6. Cleveland Browns

Cleveland is a dark horse team the AFC that could quietly win 13 games. If Deshaun Watson returns to 75% of what he was in Houston, the Browns have the roster to contend with the Ravens for the AFC North title.

The Browns had the #1 scoring defense at home last season, and their offense excelled down the stretch with Joe Flacco at the helm and Nick Chubb on injured reserve. Cleveland added wide receiver Jerry Jeudy this offseason to pair with Amari Cooper. With Chubb and Watson healthy, the Browns could make some noise in the AFC.

7. New York Jets

The Jets could win the AFC East or finish with a top-five draft pick, and it all depends on Aaron Rodgers’ health. If Rodgers is healthy and back to his Green Bay form, the Jets will be fine. New York has a high quality defense, and they traded for pass rusher Haason Reddick this offseason to add to an already elite front seven.

The Jets also signed tackle Tyron Smith and wide receiver Mike Williams to help Rodgers succeed on the offensive end. Hopefully for Jets’ fans sake, Rodgers doesn’t decide to run for office as RFK’s running mate. Either way, it’s now or never for New York.

8. Miami Dolphins

Miami didn’t get worse, but they also didn’t get much better. The Dolphins will be a Wild Card team again and likely lose on the road in a cold, hostile environment in the playoffs. Cold weather neutralizes speed, and that has been Miami’s kryptonite the past two seasons.

Tua Tagovailoa is a quality quarterback, but it is hard to believe that he can outplay Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Stroud, Jackson, or Rodgers in the playoffs. To make a deep playoff run, Miami will have to secure a top seed for home field advantage, and I don’t believe they can.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers

Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers simply do not finish with a record under .500. Last year, Pittsburgh ended the regular season 10-7 with Mason Rudolph at quarterback. Russell Wilson and Justin Fields should be able to win just as many, if not more games. 

The Steelers have a great defense, led by TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, that will put Russell Wilson in a position to win many games. If Justin Fields takes over later in the year, Pittsburgh’s offense could be extremely dynamic. Unfortunately, the great John Madden once said, “if you have two quarterbakcs, you actually have none.”

10. Las Vegas Raiders

Every year, one team sneaks into the playoffs unexpectedly. Last year, it was the Texans. Two years ago, it was the Jaguars. This year, I wrestled between the Jaguars, Colts, and Raiders for the #10 spot. The Colts look promising with Anthony Richardson, but they have a very difficult 2024 schedule. The Jaguars are too unpredictable and seem to be headed in the wrong direction. They lost Calvin Ridley this offseason, and Trevor Lawrence turns the ball over far too often. Ultimately, I landed on the Raiders with the expectation that they will draft a quarterback in the first round. 

Las Vegas won three of its last four games in 2023-24 with Aidan O’Connell at quarterback, and they seemed motivated to win for head coach Antonio Pierce. The Raiders also added Gardner Minshew II as a bridge quarterback this offseason, Minshew II will win games early in the year and serve as a suitable bridge quarterback for a rookie to take over in the middle of the season. Las Vegas signed defensive tackle Christian Wilkins to a massive deal, pairing him with Maxx Crosby on the defensive side of the ball. All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams is still wearing silver and black, and the Raiders look poised for takeoff if they can get their hands on a quarterback in April.

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