From all points of the compass dial, Romilly Evans analyses the AFC divisionally, and expects a few lesser lights to turn the tables on some hardy perennials this regular season...
"RG3 had become the prime cause of heart attacks in the DC area"
In recent memory, seldom a division to get heavily involved in, with the New England Patriots typically well-set to win in a landslide and being priced accordingly (1.341/3 to back). This year could be different, however.
Tom Brady's pre-season prep and PR disaster aside, Bill Belichick's boys have a real deficiency in their defense, and while the Hooded One's mastery of the dark arts usually means he fashions well-knowns out of unknowns, this campaign could prove a bridge too far for the Pats.
Especially because Miami are finally shaping into a credible outfit under Ryan Tannehill. Hell, even Buffalo have some viable playmakers on both sides of the ball. Ndamukong Suh's introduction at Miami, though, tips the scales in their favour for an upset. Suh will shore up their D, while the improving Tannehill can do the rest.
Perennially provides a fiercely quarrelling quartet and this season should be no different. All-star RB Le'Veon Bell is slated to miss the opening three encounters this term after violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, while standout wideout Antonio Brown has been hang-dog over his contract in preseason.
That said, the Steelers know what it takes in this division, and Ben Roethlisberger is the absolute embodiment of a team talisman, with some belated maturity arriving ever since repeated knee surgeries handed him a healthy dose of perspective. Heinz Field is a fortress of sorts, too - even Batman couldn't win here, remember.
No matter what they say, the Cleveland Browns are still confused as to who's starting under center, while Baltimore will play tough but fall short again - particularly with an initial stretch of five away matches in the first seven weeks. So it's Cincinatti's progressively experienced roster which looms largest in Pittsburgh wing mirrors. Yet while the Bengals have continuity, Andy Dalton hasn't cut out the primetime bungles. Big Ben, however, knows when it's big-game time.
Seeing as I've put them up as my solo selection for the AFC Conference, it would be churlish to deny the Indianapolis Colts a strong pick in their division, even at the prevailing price. Andy Luck didn't need much more help on offense, but he's got it nonetheless in Frank Gore, Andre Dawson and the gleaming promise of Phil Dorsett.
Indy have the favourable schedule, the best personnel across the board (JJ Watt in Houston, of course, being a glaring exception) and are the one side without significant pieces of the jigsaw currently missing in action.
The Texans are rebuilding, albeit around that formidable keystone in JJ Watt, having emptied its deep well of possibilities. Tennessee are still a year away from finding the right blend of permanence, while Jacksonville require a sea change, not a solar cycle. With that in mind, they might as well go Transatlantic and start rebuilding in London now.
Just where the tipping point of years lies in Peyton Manning's fabled career only he knows. At a fag paper shy of 40, though, many will want to count on this storied slinger heading down that slippery slope better known as over the hill.
But this is not the time to give up on Denver, who have balance on both sides of the ball, and an improving running game which should free old Peyton up, and reduce some of the burden on his ageing shoulder tissue.
History has taught us that you don't get anywhere relying on San Diego in the regular season, Kansas City has a killer schedule, but Oakland could surprise a few with their young foundational players like Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack.
Nevertheless, opt for the obvious and Denver making this a fifth successive title in the West. All things considered, they're very fairly priced and rate the nap selection.