Updated AFC Championship Odds
With Tom Brady no longer wreaking havoc in the conference, are the Chiefs the clear favorites to win the AFC title again next season? What about the Ravens, who earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last year? Are the Patriots viewed as long shots?
Kansas City Chiefs: The Favorites
According to oddsmakers from online sportsbook Sportsbook.com, the Chiefs remain the clear favorites to win the AFC title at 5/2. It was unlikely, even if Brady stayed in New England, Kansas City would be anything but the favorites to win the conference again next season. The placed the franchise tag on Chris Jones, their best defender, and also exercised running back Damien Williams’ 2020 option after he helped lead them to a Super Bowl victory over the 49ers this past February. Thus, the Chiefs will largely return the same team that won it all last season, which, of course, means Patrick Mahomes will be back under center. Good luck to the rest of the conference.
Baltimore Ravens: The Challenger
At 14-2, the Ravens were the top seed in the AFC playoff field a year ago. Lamar Jackson and Co. were upset by the Titans in the Division round, but Baltimore will be the biggest threat to Kansas City’s ability to repeat in 2021. Lamar Jackson returns for his third season and will re-join Mark Ingram Jr. to give the Ravens one of, if not the top rushing offense once again in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens handed former Rams’ first-round pick Michael Brockers a three-year, $30 million contract. The team also traded for Calais Campbell on Sunday and slapped the franchise tag on Matt Judon, so their defensive line set. The Ravens are currently 13/4 to win the AFC championship.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The comeback option?
The Steelers are 8/1, which are pretty good odds for a team that missed the postseason a year ago. Ben Roethlisberger, who missed most of 2020 after having surgery on his elbow, is expected to return to full health. With the Steelers nearly making the playoffs as a wild card team, it stands to reason that with Big Ben’s return, they could earn a playoff spot next year. Their defense should be a strength again and Mike Tomlin has often proven that he gets the most out of his roster.
Buffalo Bills: The New King in the AFC East?
Even with Tom Brady now in the NFC, the Patriots are still the favorite to win the AFC East at 10/11. That said, the Bills are 8/5 to win the division and are 10/1 to win the conference. Thanks to a stellar defense, a strong running game and some improvements from second-year quarterback Josh Allen, the Bills were the No. 5 seed in the AFC and challenged the Patriots for the division crown as well. The Bills just traded for Stefon Diggs to give Allen another weapon, so it’s feasible Buffalo could be a sleeper to win the conference. That said, Allen likely has to take a bigger leap in his development if the Bills are to reach another level.
New England Patriots: What about the Pats sans Brady?
The Patriots are 15/1 to win the AFC title, which give them the same odds as the Browns and the Colts. The question is what New England will do at quarterback now that Brady is a Buc. One option is that Bill Belichick will turn to 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham, although Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston and/or Cam Newton could be available at some point this offseason. Regardless of who they run with at quarterback, nobody should be counting the Pats out. Bill Belichick has developed the “Patriots Way” and while Brady was always the biggest cog, it’s not as if Belichick hasn’t replaced key pieces before. Granted, this will be his biggest test to date.
The Broncos, Raiders, Chargers and Titans are all 25/1, respectively, followed by the Texans at 35/1. The Jets, meanwhile, are 40/1 long shots to win the AFC title, followed by the Dolphins at 45/1. The Bengals and Jaguars, meanwhile, are 150/1 long shots.