Insane AFC Position Group Battles Part Two

July 29, 2022
Share

With training camp starting, it is time to rank our Patriots and the other AFC teams by position group. The position groups will be quarterback, running back, wide receiver/tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks/safeties, special teams, and coaches. So today, I will write about defensive positions, special teams, and coaching.

This article will be done a bit differently than other rankings as these will be done by playoff seeding, so the first four seeds will be the best group at the position in each division, the following three will be wild cards, and the rest will be broken into three tiers.

Those three tiers would be:

Playoff Contender: These are the position groups I considered putting in my top seven but didn’t quite make the cut.

Below Average: Position groups that are not on the level of the top seven but not among the worst in the AFC.

Weakest Links: These are among the worst in the AFC.

After I break them into tiers, I will go in-depth on the Patriots’ position groups while also addressing some potential controversies, especially at the Quarterback and Coaching positions.

AFC Defense

Defensive Line

Top Seed: Colts

Division Winners: Bengals, Raiders, Bills

Wild Cards: Browns. Steelers, Titans

Playoff Contenders: Chiefs, Ravens, Broncos, Jets

Below Average: Patriots, Chargers

Weakest Links: Texans, Dolphins, Jaguars

Patriots Analysis: We have a decent defensive line, and it felt harsh to put us below average, but we don’t have that top-level defensive lineman who can get after the QB. We have Deatrich Wise, who is a solid contributor, Davon Godchaux, who is a solid run-stopper, while Christian Barmore should improve this season, Lawrence Guy improved toward the end of last season, and that may continue next year. Our depth is a strength as Sam Roberts and 2022 draft pick Henry Anderson could easily be starter-level players. If we can find a pass rusher, we will shoot up the end-of-season rankings.

Major Controversies:

  • Putting 3-4 edge rushers as linebackers: This dramatically affects the rankings edge rushers are typically counted as linebackers in the 3-4 scheme even if they act more like defensive linemen.
  • Bengals over Browns: The Browns do have Myles Garrett, a new member of the Madden 99 Club, but there are some questions beyond that, with Taven Bryant, Jordan Elliott, and Perrion Winfrey being unproven but with tons of upside. Chase Winovich will provide a second presence. However, Cincy has Trey Hendrickson, who has 17.5 sacks the last two seasons and is still improving, Sam Hubbard, one of the best run-stoppers in the NFL, B.J. Hill, and D.J. Reader, and four solid players won the day here.
We have one of the worst secondaries in the AFC so our front seven has work to do

Linebackers

Top Seed: Chargers

Division Winners: Steelers, Bills, Colts

Wild Cards: Broncos, Titans, Jaguars

Playoff Contenders: Ravens, Browns

Below Average: Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots, Dolphins

Weakest Links: Raiders, Jets, Texans

Patriots Analysis: Not an excellent linebacker core, but it is solid with upside. Matthew Judon had 12.5 sacks last year, Ja’Whaun Bentley had over 100 tackles last season and is still only 25 years old, Mack Wilson, Raekwon McMillan, and Josh Uche both played a role last season, and all are 25 or younger. I may have ranked this group far too low at the end of the year.

Major Controversies:

  • Chargers over Steelers: This is controversial as the Steelers have T.J. Watt, who tied the single-season sack record last year despite missing two games, as well as solid players in Devin Bush, Myles Jack, and Alex Highsmith, but I think the Charger duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack could combine for 25+ sacks as a duo and pass rushing is becoming more and more critical.
  • Jaguars as a Wild Card: Jacksonville has a young core with tons of upside. I feel Josh Allen (the linebacker)7 will have another outstanding season while Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd will both be very good as rookies who will make this linebacker group something to fear.

Cornerbacks/Safeties

Top Seed: Bills

Division Winners: Browns, Chargers, Colts

Wild Cards: Dolphins, Ravens, Broncos

Playoff Contenders: Bengals, Chiefs, Titans, Raiders, Jets

Below Average: Steelers, Patriots

Weakest Links: Jaguars, Texans

Patriots Analysis: This is our weakest unit, and I almost put our secondary in the weakest link category, but I decided that our safeties, Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger,Adrian Philips, and the newly acquired Jabrill Peppers kept us out of the bottom tier. Our corners leave much to be desired after J.C. Jackson left to join the Chargers and Stephon Gilmore was traded midseason to the Panthers. I feel Jalen Mills may be better off playing as a safety against the run as he was outstanding in the run game, but he had a 114.6 passer rating against. Terrance Mitchell and Jonathan Jones are passable corners but not great.

Major Controversy:

  • Bengals are not in the top seven: The Bengals have a solid group at both corner and safety, but there is no actual shutdown corner, although Eli Apple played like one at times last year. So I was down to them and Denver for the final “playoff spot,” and I gave it to the Broncos due to potential upside.

AFC Defensive Takeaways

  • Bills and Colts have the best defenses: Buffalo and Indy each have the best unit in their division at all three levels of the defense. The Chargers are the only team to have two areas where they are the best in their division and a below-average defensive line.
  • The Patriots could be tough to watch on defense: The Pats are tied with Jacksonville for the second worst defense in the AFC and only behind the Texans. However, we allowed the second-fewest points in the AFC so the personnel losses could haunt us.
  • The AFC East has three weak defenses: It’s not just the Patriots that could give up tons of points, but the Jets and Dolphins may also. They are tied for the fourth worst defense in the AFC.

Special Teams

Top Seed: Bills

Division Winners: Ravens, Raiders, Colts

Wild Cards: Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals

Playoff Contenders: Broncos, Browns, Chargers, Titans

Below Average: Jets, Steelers

Weakest Links: Texans, Jaguars, Dolphins

Patriots Analysis: We have an outstanding special teams unit with the potential to be one of the best in the AFC. Nick Folk has won the kicking job for good and was one of the best last year, Jake Bailey is an excellent punt, and now we add Marcus Jones in the return game. He was one of the best returners in NCAA history, averaging 28.4 yards per kick return and 14 yards per punt return. Both are top 25 in NCAA history and should be a dynamic weapon this year.

Major Controversy:

  • Bills over Ravens for the top seed: I chose the Bills over the Ravens because while no one is Justin Tucker, Tyler Bass has become an excellent kicker, Isaiah McKenzie is a terrific returner, and what puts the Bills ahead is Matt Araiza, who has an insane leg and was nicknamed “Punt God” at San Diego State. It’s a well-deserved nickname, too, as he averaged an NCAA record 51.2 yards per punt and had 18 punts over 60 yards.

Coaching

Top Seed: Chiefs

Division Winners: Ravens, Bills, Titans

Wild Cards: Steelers, Patriots, Colts

Playoff Contenders: Bengals, Chargers, Browns

Below Average: Broncos, Raiders, Jaguars

Weakest Links: Jets, Dolphins, Texans

Patriots Analysis: I listed the Patriots as a “wild card,” which goes against everything I know about Bill Belichick, who I think is the greatest coach in the history of the NFL and possibly North American sports, but his staff leaves a lot to be desired. Josh McDaniels has left to become coach of the Raiders, and we do not have an official offensive or defensive coordinator. Joe Judge will likely call the plays on offense, but it is unclear who will call them on defense.

Major Controversies:

  • How to weigh coordinators and other staff: This was extremely difficult as it is often hard to say what impact a coordinator and especially non-coordinator assistants have on a team. I mainly decided to have it based on the head coach, but I used coordinators in the rankings if they were known to be among the best in the NFL.
  • The Bengals outside the top seven: This may be the most controversial take of all as Zac Taylor led the Bengals on a magical run, but every coaching staff ahead of him has a longer track record. He will likely move up at the end of the season.

Overall Takeaways

  • The Pats don’t have a lot of great position groups: We only have four units that are in the top seven of the conference, and two of them are running back, which is not a pivotal unit to recent champions and special teams, which often fluctuate heavily from year to year.
  • The Colts are one of the most talented teams in the AFC: The Colts have the best unit in the AFC South in every position except for pass-catchers and coaching.
  • There are no flawless teams: Every AFC team has at least one position group in the below-average or weakest link categories.

Links To Our Socials, Other Articles & Paid Job Opportunities

Like Our Facebook Page. Check out our other articles @ The Gillette Gazette. Are you an NFL fan? Have some takes you want to get out into the world? This is because we have plenty of opportunities at Stadium Rant spanning the NFL and more!