Updated:Feb 21, 2023 6:51 pm
The AFC was the conference that this year brought us the Super Bowl champions, some of the worst teams in the league and an epic story of unity that will be remembered for years.
Let us review every AFC teams’ 2022 season.
The Baltimore Ravens are a team that has a lot of potential. They never rise to their full potential however, partly due to the fact that they are in the AFC, and to be successful in their conference, you need to be able to defeat Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen when it matters. In their first 6 games of the season, Baltimore won three of these, including defeating the Cincinnati Bengals. However, they could have done much better, as in the three games in which they lost, they were comfortably leading at one point. After 6 games, they had a 3-3 record but could have gone 6-0. The Ravens would then go on a 4 game-win streak, before losing on the last play of the game to the Jacksonville Jaguars (Ravens kicker Justin Tucker failed to the what would have been the longest field goal in NFL history) , before returning to winning ways in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos. However, while the Ravens won this game, they lost their star quarterback Lamarr Jackson for the rest of the season. This meant that Tyler Huntley came in to quarterback the Ravens. Under Huntley, this team struggled. While they did win 3 of the 6 games he played in, the Ravens did not score more than 17 points in this period. By some miracle, (or mostly due to their strong middle part of the season) the Ravens ended the season with a 10-7 record and made the playoffs. They would face divisional rivals the Cincinnati Bengals in the wildcard round, which was also a rematch of the previous week’s matchup. The Ravens would lose this game 24-17, and their season would end. As for Huntley, he would make the Pro Bowl, solely due to the fact that Josh Allen was injured. Was Huntley really that good?
A few years ago, the Cleveland Browns were the worst team in football, infamously going 1-31 between 2016-2017. Then, Odell Beckham Jr and Baker Mayfield came along and they started winning, even making the playoffs. Beckham Jr left last season, and in the off-season, the Browns traded Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers. To replace him, the Browns acquired Deshawn Watson, but he was suspended by the league, so was not able to play. The Browns opened their season against Baker’s new side and won. A week later, they would lose to the New York Jets by one point, before comfortably defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland would then go on a 4 game-losing streak, before defeating a Cincinnati Bengals side without star player JaMarr Chase. This gave them a 3-5 record in their bye week. Coming out of the bye, the Browns lost two road games to the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills, before defeating the Tampa Bay Buccanneers in overtime. Week 13 finally gave us the unwanted return of Watson, in a game that the Brown won against his former side, the Houston Texans. In their final 5 games of the season, Cleveland lost 3 of them but would defeat the low-scoring Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Commanders to give them a record at the end of the season of 7-10. A poor season for Cleveland which put them in last place in the AFC North.
Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC, and then lost in the Super Bowl to the Los Angeles Rams. The expectation for the Bengals coming into this season was to make the conference championship game at least. With star quarterback Joe Burrow getting better with every game, anything was possible. The Bengals struggled in the early part of the season, losing their first two games to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime, and then to the Dallas Cowboys. They would return to .500 with their next two victories over the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, but would again have a losing record the following week as they lost to divisional rival the Baltimore Ravens. 3 wins over the NFC South teams, but another loss to another division opponent, this time the Cleveland Browns, meant that by their bye week, the Bengals had a record of 5-4. After their bye week, they would not lose a game, comfortably defeating a range of opponents. Their week 16 encounter with the Buffalo Bills would be affected by the unfortunate events surrounding Damar Hamlin, and the game would in my eyes correctly be canceled, meaning that the Bengals would have played 16 games to the rest of the conference’s 17 games. This created a small problem in relation to home-field advantage in the postseason, which the Bengals made with a 12-4 record. In the wildcard round, the Bengals would defeat the Baltimore Ravens in a game that was not as straightforward as everyone expected it to be. The Bengals and Bills would finally play against each other in the divisional round of the playoffs. Cincinnati would comfortably defeat Buffalo in the snow of Western New York. This set up a rematch of the previous year’s AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. It would be a close affair, but the Chiefs would win on a game-winning field goal to send them to the Super Bowl.Embed from Getty Images
This was the first season that the Steelers played without veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who retired in the off-season. To replace Big Ben, Pittsburgh obtained the services of former Bears’ quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and drafted Kenny Pickett. The season would start well, with an overtime win over divisional rival the Cincinnati Bengals. Things would then get rough for the Steelers, losing 6 of their next 7 games, including a 38-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, in what was Kenny Pickett’s first game as the quarterback of the Steelers. Going into their bye week, the Steelers had a record of 2-6, which was their worst start to a season since 2003. After their bye, Pittsburgh experienced a turnaround in form, winning 7 of their final 9 games. Their improvement in form put them in contention for a playoff spot in Week 18. While they were unsuccessful in this quest, their week 18 victory against the Cleveland Browns meant that they ended the season with a winning record of 9-8, which still means that head coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season in the 16 years he has been coaching in the Steel City. The improvement of the team’s form and new quarterback Kenny Pickett means that next season, the Steelers will be aiming to return to the postseason.
The Buffalo Bills are one of the best teams in football. They unfortunately have a habit of falling at the final hurdle. But could this be the year in which Josh Allen and company finally return Buffalo to the game where they infamously lost four in a row in the ’90s? The Bills had the luxury of playing the opening match of the season, visiting the Super Bowl champions the Los Angeles Rams. The Bills destroyed the Rams and would destroy the Tennessee Titans the following week. Their week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins was a surprise, but Buffalo would recover to win their next three games, including an epic encounter with the Kansas City Chiefs. This match was the first match I reviewed for World In Sport, and said at the time that it could be the AFC Championship. By the Bills’ form at the time, they could easily see them as Super Bow champions, having a 6-1 record early in the season. Buffalo would then lose consecutive matches to the New York Jets and then lose to the Minnesota Vikings in overtime in what was the game of the season (until the Vikings’ massive comeback against the Colts). These two losses will be followed by a 6 game winning streak, which included playing two consecutive games at Ford Field in Detroit. By January, the Bills had won the AFC East was were trying to become the number one seed. Their game against the Cincinnati Bengals would be a pivotal game in this race to the number one seed. However, the game would instead be a pivotal moment in the NFL. During the first quarter of the match, Bills defender Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in what was later confirmed as a cardiac incident. Hamlin was sent to the hospital and thankfully made a recovery from this event. In the aftermath of the canceled game, the NFL community and fans of all teams came together to show support. When he awoke, he asked who won the game. The doctor treating him replied that he had won, “You won the game of life”. A truly harrowing moment for the sport.
The Bills would end the season with a 13-3 record and faced the Miami Dolphins in the wildcard round. The game was closer than anyone would have thought it would be, as the Bills would defeat the Dolphins. Their divisional-round opponents would be the Cincinnati Bengals. In a snowy Buffalo, the Bills collapsed and would lose the game, ending their season.
The Miami Dolphins came into this season with a new head coach in Mike McDaniel, after former head coach Brian Flores was dismissed by the team. The McDaniel era in Miami started very well. The Dolphins won their opening 3 games of the season, including defeating divisional rivals the New England Patriots, and the Buffalo Bills, the latter game would give us two iconic moments (The Butt Punt and the reaction of the Bills’ Offensive Coordinator once the game had finished). However, this game also was somewhat controversial, as the Dolphins kept in the game a concussed Tua Tagovailoa. Strangely, Tagovailoa was confirmed to play in the following weeks’ games against the Cincinnati Bengals but was carted off after suffering a head injury. It was only then that it was confirmed that Tua was actually concussed. In a season where the health of the players overshadowed the on-field action at one point of the season, this event is a dark stain of the season. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would then start for the Dolphins, but in the Dolphins’ game with the Jets, he suffered a concussion as well. Two concussions in one team, that is a massive cause for concern. Luckily, the NFL changed its concussion protocol due to this incident, but these incidents should not happen for a change to come. Tua would return in Week 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game the Dolphins would win and start a 5-game winning streak. This streak would end with the Dolphins’ defeat to the San Francisco 49ers. This would start a 5 game-losing streak. On Christmas Day, Tagovailoa would suffer another concussion in the Dolphins’ defeat to the Green Bay Packers. Coming into the final week of the regular season, the Dolphins had an 8-8 record and needed to defeat the New York Jets to keep their playoff chances alive. They won, in a game that included no touchdowns and made the playoffs. They faced the Buffalo Bills in the Wildcard round, and third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson nearly pulled off a massive upset. The Dolphins lost the game 34-31, but the fact they were in the game for so long shows that there is talent on this team.
New England Patriots
Ever since Tom Brady left New England for Tampa Bay, the Patriots have struggled. This season they were hoping to have some success and make a return to the playoffs. While the teams have changed a lot in the few years, some things are ever present, like the Patriots losing to the Miami Dolphins in South Florida, which is something they did in Week 1. After this game, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones had an x-ray on his back but was cleared to play in the following week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the loss against the Baltimore Ravens. The loss to the Ravens was the first time that the Patriots have lost to Baltimore at home in the regular season. Mac Jones was injured at the end of this game, so Bailey Zappe started for the next three games. He would win two of them and would lose to the Green Bay Packers in overtime. This led to what could have been a very strong quarterback battle in New England, but the moment Jones was fit to play again, Zappe returned to the bench. By the team’s bye week, they had a 5-4 record. Coming out of their bye week, the kickers would give them victory against the New York Jets, but two heavy losses to Minnesota and Buffalo hurt any chances of the postseason. The Patriots would lose in almost comedic fashion to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 15 when a lateral pass from Jones never found anyone. Two more losses in their final three games would mean that the New England Patriots would end the season with an 8-9 record. They were in playoff contention in the final week of the season, but with Pittsburgh and Miami winning, the Patriots were locked out of the playoffs again.
New York Jets
Football in the City of New York has in the past couple of years been truly awful. Both the Jets and the Giants have struggled in the last few years. We saw a revival with the Giants this year. Could we see the same with the Jets? The season did not start well for Gang Green, losing convincingly to the Baltimore Ravens, before defeating the Cleveland Browns by one point. After another convincing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the revival would start. The Jets would start winning and winning well. They would go on a 4 game winning streak, including trashing the Miami Dolphins and defeating the Green Bay Packers the following week. This streak would end with their Week 8 defeat to divisional rivals the New England Patriots but would return to the win collum with a surprising victory over the Buffalo Bills. Going into their bye week, the New York Jets had a 6-3 record. It was looking like the Jets could make the playoffs, ending the losing active playout drought in the NFL, as the Jets has not made the postseason since 2010. They would return from their bye week and lose to the Patriots in a game that I christened the “Festival of Kicking”, before defeating the Chicago Bears a week later. This would be the final win the Jets would see this season. The Jets would lose their next 6 games, bench quarterback Zack Wilson, replacing him with Mike White, who would get injured, and would be briefly replaced by Joe Flacco, who would be replaced again by Zach Wilson. In the last 3 games of the season, the Jets would not score a touchdown. They would end the season with a 7-10 record, with Wilson’s future in New York in severe doubt. That being said, it was not all bad for the Jets. Their defense and rookie class were amazing. Both first-round picks (Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner) shone and deserved to win both Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards for the season. Once the Jets find another quarterback (some are saying Aaron Rodgers) they should improve on this season, and could finally make the playoffs.
What can I say about the Houston Texans’ season? I think disappointing would be an understatement. In the off-season, the Texans hired another new head coach by the name of Lovie Smith. In their first game of the season, the Texans would tie with another awful team this year, the Indianapolis Colts. For a week, they were top of the NFC South with a 0-0-1 record. But once you are at the top, the only way is down. The Texans would lose their next three games, before defeating divisional rivals the Jacksonville Jaguars to give their first win of the season. Then came the bye week. When they returned, they lost against the Las Vegas Raiders, who for one week only decided to score a lot of points. This would start a 9 game-losing streak for the Texans. However, in the latter parts of this streak, you could see that there were some elements of improvement. The Texans nearly defeated state rivals the Dallas Cowboys and took the Kansas City Chiefs to overtime. It was only a matter of time before they would win a game. A week later, in a game delayed by an hour due to weather/safety reasons, the Houston Texans defeated the Tennessee Titans for their second win of the season. A week later they would be demolished by the Jaguars, but this set up a must-lose clash against the Indianapolis Colts in order for them to have the number one pick in the draft, a pick which had had their name on for most of the season. Houston would defeat the Colts by one point, in an entertaining game. While this gave them a 3-13-1 record to end the season, and in my eyes shows us that the Colts were a far worse team, it also meant that the Texans lost their number-one pick to the Chicago Bears. Even when they win they lose. Lovie Smith was fired as head coach after one year, so they are looking for anyone to coach them. Stick to cheating in baseball Houston.
The Indianapolis Colts were someone not the worst team in the AFC South. Joining the quarterback carousel we saw in the off-season, the Colts traded quarterback Carson Wentz, who went to Washington and replaced him with former Atlanta Falcon (and Super Bowl LI loser) Matt Ryan. They would also have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Nick Foles, and former Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Eherlinger on the roster, so there was some talent on this quarterback roster. The Colts would open the season with a tie against the Houston Texans, followed by not scoring a single point against the Jacksonville Jaguars. To make things even weirder, the Colts would win their next game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Two weeks later, they would defeat the Denver Broncos in overtime 12-9, in what was probably one of the worst NFL games ever. Indianapolis would continue the winning streak a week later, defeating divisional rivals the Jacksonville Jaguars. It would end the following week, and the Colts would go on a three-game losing streak. This streak cost head coach Frank Reich his job. His replacement,? Jeff Saturday. The Saturday reign would start well, defeating the Las Vegas Raiders. They would then go on a 7 game-losing streak. In this streak, the Colts nearly defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, were trashed by the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants (in a game remembered for Kayvon Thibodeux’s snow angel celebration), and gave up a 36-point lead to lose to the Minnesota Vikings. The Colts starting quarterback for the game? Matt Ryan, who seems to have a habit of losing a game when your team is in a comfortable position to win. They would lose their Week 18 match against Houston and would end the season with a 4-12-1 record. Still, not the worst team in this division in terms of record, but in terms of everything else, they probably were the worst.
For the second consecutive year, the Jacksonville Jaguars had the number one pick in the draft coming into the season. They also came into this season with a new head coach, as the team fired Urban Meyer late last season, and replaced him with the Super Bowl-winning Doug Petersen. Could he help the Jags? The Jaguars opened their season with a defeat to the Washington Commanders. This was followed by a blowout victory against the Indianapolis Colts and another victory the following week against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Jags were 2-1 going into October. They would then lose against Petersens’ old team the Philadelphia Eagles, before losing to fellow strugglers the Houston Texans and Colts. They would fall one yard from victory against the New York Giants and would lose their annual London game to the Denver Broncos. This gave them a 5 game-losing streak. A victory against the Las Vegas Raiders would break this streak, but the following week’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs would mean that the jaguars would have a 3-7 record at their bye week. Coming out of the bye week, the teams’ fortunes well and truly improved. They defeated the Baltimore Ravens (partly due to a missed Justin Tucker field goal? before getting trashed by the high-scoring Detroit Lions. To end the season, Jacksonville would go on a very impressive 5 game winning streak, which included an overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys. This streak meant that their week 18 matchup against the Tennessee Titans would be a winner-takes-all affair, with the winner making the playoffs. This game took place on a Saturday, a day quarterback Trevor Lawrence had never lost on. The Jaguars won this game 20-16, giving them playoff football for the first time since 2017. In the Wildcard Round, the Jaguars would defeat the Los Angeles Chargers in a game also held on a Saturday. Lawrence’s luck would run out the following week, as the Kansas City Chiefs would defeat them to end their season. The Jaguars had a very good season this year, and hope to continue this form into next year. Could they return to the AFC Championship Game?Embed from Getty Images
Last season, the Tennessee Titans were the number-one seed in the AFC. They were hoping to continue with this momentum into the new season. They opened their season against the New York Giants. The Titans had a 13-0 lead at one point in this game. They would end up losing to the Giants 21-20, to begin what was for the Giants, an amazing season. On the other hand, the Titans would struggle in their next game against the Buffalo Bills, falling to a 0-2 record. The Titans would win the next 5 games, albeit all against teams who were struggling (Las Vegas, Houston, Washington, and Indianapolis twice). Their first test in some time would be their Week 9 meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs. The game would go to overtime, but the Chiefs would win the game 20-17, ending the Titans 5 game streak. Tennessee would bounce back from this defeat by winning their next two games against Denver and the Green Bay Packers. This would be the last win of their season. The Titans would collapse in the second half of the season, going from a 7-3 record in Week 11 to a 7-9 record in Week 17. However, due to the other teams in their division, the Titans went into their Week 18 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars still with a playoff spot in sight. The Titans would lose this game 20-16, and their season would be over. The Titans would end with a 7-10 record, a far cry from the 12-5 record last season that made them the number one seed in the AFC. Must do better.
Coming into this season, there was a lot of media hype around the Denver Broncos. This was due to two off-season events. Firstly, the Broncos were under new owners in a group led by the founder of Walmart. Also, former Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson was traded from the Seahawks to Denver. Many people were saying that this made Denver one of the teams to beat, and could even challenge for the Super Bowl. From this, we also saw many Denver Broncos games being played in prime time slots. So, were they a star-studded competitive team? No, they were anything but that. They lost their opening game by one point to Wilson’s old side, before narrowly beating both the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers. They then went on a 4 game losing streak, where they struggled to score any points. Their week 5 overtime defeat to the Indianapolis Colts was one of the worst Thursday night games ever, and a lot of Thursday night games are awful. Their losing streak would end after they barely defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. They would return to losing soon after. In their game against the Tennessee Titans, they would score all 10 of their points in the second quarter. This game would start a 5 game losing streak, that would only end after they defeated the Arizona Cardinals in the “Battle of the Backup Quarterbacks”, as both Russell Wilson and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray had been injured. Wilson would return a week later, and the Denver Broncos would be battered by the Los Angeles Rams in front of an audience of children as this was the infamous Nickelodeon broadcast of an NFL game. The Broncos would end their season on some form of a high, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers. This was meaningless, however, and the Broncos ended with a 5-12 record. The fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett near the end, of the season and will be coached next season by Sean Payton, who has come out of retirement to coach the Broncos. Did the Russell Wilson trade pay off? Not for Denver.
Broncos Country did not ride this season and looks like it won’t be riding for a while.
Kansas City Chiefs
One of, if not the, best teams in the NFL in the last 5 years has been the Kansas City Chiefs. Led by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, this team has dominated their division and conference. Could they go all the way this season? The Chiefs won their opening two games of the season, before suffering a shock defeat to the Indianapolis Colts. Kansas City would quickly brush this defeat off and return to winning ways in the next two weeks, defeating Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a high-scoring affair, and narrowly beating the Las Vegas Raiders. Their Week 6 matchup against the Buffalo Bills was a classic game, where both quarterbacks shone. The Chiefs would lose this game but again would come back to win the following week, putting 44 points up against the San Francisco 49ers. At their bye week, the Chiefs had a 5-2 record and were already cruising towards the AFC West title. Coming out of their bye week, Kansas City would go on a 4 game-win streak, which included defeating both Los Angeles teams in consecutive weeks. The streak would come to an end with a 3-point defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow seems to be the only quarterback Mahomes cannot defeat. The Chiefs ended the season with a 5-game winning streak, which gave them a 14-3 record of the season, and the number one seed in the AFC. In the divisional round matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Patrick Mahomes suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the game’s second quarter. He returned for the second half, and the Chiefs won the game 27-20 and made their 5th consecutive AFC Championship game. This game would be a rematch of the previous year’s affair, against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a very close game, and in a role-reversal situation from last year, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker scored the winning field goal as time ran out to send the Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl. They would play the Philadelphia Eagles, who would take an early lead. Then, in the second quarter, Patrick Mahomes would be injured again. He would be able to play in the second half, however. It is good that he did, as Mahomes lead the Chiefs on a comeback. With the scores tied at 35-35, Butker would score the game-winning field goal to give the Kansas City Chiefs their second Super Bowl title in 5 years, and their third overall. A great season for them.Embed from Getty Images
Los Angeles Chargers
Last season, the Los Angeles Chargers missed out on the playoffs with the last kick of the final game of the regular season. This year, they were hoping to make the playoffs. They opened their season against the Las Vegas Raiders, the team who denied them their playoff spot. They defeated them before losing their next two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers would then go on a 3-game winning streak defeating 3 struggling teams (the Texans, Browns, and Broncos) before losing to the Seattle Seahawks. On their bye week, they had a 4-3 record. They came out the bye week with a victory against the Atlanta Falcons, before losing to 2 inform teams in the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Coming into December, the team had a 6-6 record. They would then go on a 4 game-winning streak, which included defeating their city rivals (and stadium sharers) the Los Angeles Rams 31-10. Their final-week loss to the Denver Broncos meant that they finished the regular season with a 10-7 record. This put them into the playoffs as the number 5 seed. Their wildcard matchup was against the in-form Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chargers dominated the Jaguars in the first half, at one point having a 27-0 lead. But then, they collapsed and the Jaguars claimed an iconic 31-30 victory to end the Chargers’ season.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders. The name still sounds weird. Last year, the Raiders made the playoffs after their 10-7 season. They came into this year hoping to improve. But, like every wannabe gambler who makes their way to the City of Sin with the hopes of becoming rich after one spin of the wheel, this did not happen. The Raiders lost their first 3 games of the season, giving them their worst start to a season since 2018. Their first win of the year would come in Week 4, as the Raiders defeated the Denver Broncos. This would be followed by a one-point loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders would have their bye week early in the season and would return from this week by putting up nearly 40 points in their victory against the Houston Texans, in what was then the battle between the two worst teams in the league. Las Vegas would go from scoring 38 points one week, to not scoring a single point in their next game, as they were shut out against the New Orleans Saints. This began a three-game losing streak for the Raiders. This would be broken after the Raiders defeated the Broncos, and then the Seattle Seahawks in overtime. This was followed by a normal victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Their Week 15 victory over the New England Patriots on the last play of the game has been dubbed the “Lunatic Lateral”, which does seem fitting for Vegas. Unfortunately, this would be the last win the Raiders would get this season. They would lose their last three games, including an overtime defeat to rivals the San Francisco 49ers. In addition to this, longtime Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was benched near the end of the season and was replaced by Jarrett Stidham. Carr has now been released by the Raiders and is now looking for a new team. Las Vegas ended their season with a 6-11 record. It is not all bad news for Las Vegas, however. The next Super Bowl is being held there. Unfortunately, unless a real change is seen, the Raiders will not be playing a home Super Bowl. Stick to gambling (and surprisingly Ice Hockey) Vegas.