NFL Training Camp is finally here, which means the preseason and Week 1 are right around the corner. With that, there are still a ton of storylines that we are following heading into the season. These are the top 5 AFC storylines that we need to pay attention to heading into Training Camp.
1.LAMAR JACKSON’S CONTRACT SITUATION
To the surprise of few, Lamar Jackson’s contract situation has yet to be resolved, and it looks like it may run well into the 2022 NFL season. Whether the issue is Lamar himself, or the Baltimore Ravens, only 1 thing is for certain, and that is the longer this is drawn out, the more it will end up costing the team. Now with both Watson’s and Kyler’s deals getting completed, Lamar has two references to use to jumpstart those contract talks. And it look like the floor has been set with how low the Ravens can actually offer him now.
2.DESHAUN WATSON’S LOOMING SUSPENSION
I honestly didn’t think this would be a story this close to Training Camp, but here we are still waiting for a suspension decision for the Deshaun Watson sexual assault case. The general consensus has been between 2 and 8 games, while some reports say that he could miss the full 2022 season, while others have him getting no suspension (he hasn’t been criminally charged, yet). Whatever the decision, the Browns would prefer to know sooner rather than later, as the decision directly affects which Quarterback is taking 1st team reps during camp. The longer Watson is gone, the more reps the backups will need (likely Jacoby Brissett). If things go in Watson’s favor, he needs all of camp and preseason, as last time he suited up for a game was in 2020.
3.TUA TAGOVAILOA PROVE IT YEAR
Tua Tagovailoa has probably dominated the offseason conversation more than any other QB in the AFC, maybe the whole NFL. Tyreek Hill set the internet ablaze with his assertion that his new QB was a “more accurate passer of the ball” than sir Mahomes. And while that remains to be seen, what is known is that Miami has given Tua everything he needs to succeed this year. The tandem of Hill and Waddle should burn secondaries with their blazing speed, and a new head coach from the Kyle Shanahan tree should help to expand the run game, which finished 30th in the league last year. And if that’s not enough to help Tua succeed, well the Dolphins have the draft capital they need to find their QB heir in the 2023 draft.
4.THE AFC WEST
Well what more could be said that this picture doesn’t sum up already? After owning the division rather simply for the the past few years, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are going to be challenged by some very elite competition this season. After having to deal with a challenging Chargers offense last year, they now have to deal with a defense that hosts J.C. Jackson on the other side of Derwin James, Khalil Mack opposite Joey Bosa, and Kyle Van Noy to sure up the Linebacker core. The Las Vegas Raiders came to life towards the end of the 2021 season, even making it to the playoffs. A new offensive minded coach in Josh McDaniels, coupled with the addition of arguably the best WR in the league in DaVante Adams may be exactly what this team needs to make an extended playoff run. And lets not forget the Denver Broncos, who finally have their first legit QB1 since Peyton Manning. And while it may be easy to forget, Russ did manage to take the Seahawks to back to back Superbowls before; so now its time to find out if there’s any more of that Russ magic left in the bottle. Can he mimic the other two notable franchise QB trades that resulted in the last two SB wins (Tom Brady and Matt Stafford), or will this division prove to challenging for the Broncos to make a push for success?
5.CINCINATTI BENGALS SUPERBOWL HANGOVER
In the 2021 season, watching Joe Burrow and Jamar Chase play was like watching a new school version of the Joe Montana/Jerry Rice connection, you just knew that it was something special. And it was. Despite Burrow coming off of an ACL injury, a rookie WR1, a ridiculous 31 year playoff win drought, and a god awful O-line, the Bengals actually managed to win THREE playoff games on their road to a Superbowl. And despite the lost, the Bengals were right in it to the very end. But can they actually recapture that magic that brought them just shy of the ultimate prize, or will they fall by the wayside like the many many many other Superbowl losers who failed to make it back to the big dance? Remember, the Bengals won the AFC North on a 10-7 record, besting a severely depleted Baltimore Ravens, an end of the road Big Ben lead Steelers, and a one-armed Baker Mayfield. Not only will the division as a whole become more competitive, but the conference as a whole. As I mentioned previously, the whole AFC West looks to be contenders, Miami has some new playmakers, the Bills are still the Bills, King Henry is back from his injury in Tennessee, and the Colts now have a competent QB in Matt Ryan (more than competent if I’m being honest). The Bengals will need to dig DEEP in that well for more magic to retain that Conference crown, or risk falling back into their pattern of not winning a playoff game until 2053. Time will tell. Lets just hope that the latest Joey B news isn’t a sign of what’s to come.
What say you? Which AFC storylines are you most looking forward to following. Let us know in the comment section below!