Sports writer Laurence Piper looks back on the three teams that did not live up to their expectations in the AFC last season
Every year NFL pundits and analysts go through each team and offer their thoughts on how they will each perform in the upcoming season, and every year some teams exceed their expectations whilst others fall far short. These are my thoughts on the top three teams in the AFC that disappointed and performed below what the expectations of them were.
Number 3: The Buffalo Bills
It is hard to fault a team that ends the regular season with a 13-3 record and perhaps my bias of being a New England Patriots fan is shining through by putting them on this list, but I can’t help but feel that their 2022 season will ultimately be remembered as a disappointment. Each season they are touted to make a deep playoff run behind the arm of Quarterback Josh Allen and their immensely talented roster and yet they continue to underwhelm in the postseason, despite their dominance in the regular season having achieved a double-digit win tally every year since 2019.
Whilst it is reasonable to assume that the Bills in 2023 will continue to be a force to be reckoned with, I can’t help but ask why they continue to fall short of the ultimate goal: a Lombardi Trophy. Their 2022 season ended with a 27-10 dismantling by the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round, one step short of where they managed to go the season prior. Their distinct lack of Super Bowl or AFC Championship victories speaks volumes about their plateau and begs the question; are they destined to live in the shadow of the teams such as the Chiefs and Bengals that can win the games that matter?
Number 2: The Las Vegas Raiders
Coming into this season I thought that the Las Vegas raiders had the talent and potential to not just compete in the AFC West but to also make the playoffs. However, the Raiders stumbled to a 6-11 record in the regular season. This team just could not figure out how to win, as they underperformed when the moments mattered most, with all but two of their losses coming down to one score. I find it hard to understand yet alone explain the implosion that was the Raiders 2022 campaign as on paper they had all the ingredients to succeed. They had a number of dynamic playmakers with the likes of Defensive End Maxx Crosby, Running Back Josh Jacobs (who lead the league in rushing), Tight End Darren Waller and the recent addition of elite Wide Receiver Devonta Adams to pair alongside Hunter Renfrow.
Because of this, QB Derek Carr was placed firmly on the hot seat and ultimately failed to rise to the occasion having a statistically average season. This resulted in his departure from the team after he was benched for his backup Jarett Stidham in week 15. Raiders fans will hope that new QB Jimmy Garoppolo will help the team find success once more, but if Carr, a similar quality of QB to Garoppolo, couldn’t perform in 2022 I question whether their fortunes will change in 2023.
Number 1: The Denver Broncos
Coming into the season a lot of people had high hopes for the Broncos after their Blockbuster trade for QB Russell Wilson with whispers of an imminent Super Bowl return to Denver. The thinking of the Broncos Front Office had to be that Wilson could combine with the talented receiver tandem of Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton to propel the team to the top of the very competitive AFC West much like the addition of Payton Manning did. After just one season, however, this seems to be shaping up as one of the worst trades in recent NFL History. The cost to bring Wilson to Denver was steep and involved the Broncos essentially giving up their future and the return on that investment just wasn’t there.
They ended the season with an abysmal 5-12 record firmly at the bottom of their division and whilst the blame may not fall entirely at the feet of Russel Wilson. But it’s hard not to think whether or not they would have performed better if they were able to go back in time and undo that trade as Wilson finished the season with only 16 TDs (tied 19th), a 36.7 QBR (tied 27th), and just 3,524 Passing Yards (13th). For the Broncos fans out there, they can only hope that the addition of future HoF Coach Sean Payton can resurrect the flatline of an offence the Broncos produced with Wilson at the helm in 2023. I for one would advise managing expectations for 2023 and beyond.
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