Six out of the last eight AFC Championship titles have been won by the Kansas City Chiefs or the New England Patriots. The two franchises have dominated the conference since 2014 and have often gone on to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The 2023 campaign and the early stages of the 2023 season suggest those two teams are no longer going to have things their way. Here is a look at five franchises that have emerged as serious players in the AFC and could be on the verge of becoming one of the leading forces in the conference.
Between 2000 and 2016, the Buffalo Bills had just two campaigns where they finished the regular season with a winning record. Fans of the franchise are known to be some of the loudest and most committed in the NFL, but even their loyalty was questioned during that period.
#Shoutout: Josh Allen (15,341) surpassed Jack Kemp (15,134) for the third-most passing yards in team history yesterday.
Allen now trails only Jim Kelly (35,467) and Joe Ferguson (27,590). pic.twitter.com/Og6N0Puptv
— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) October 3, 2023
The Bills have won the AFC East title in each of the last two seasons, and they are the team to beat again in their division this season. Their turnaround in form over the last few years has largely been down to the acquisition of quarterback Josh Allen. The first-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft had led his team to the playoffs in three of the four seasons he has been their starter.
Buffalo is the +250 favorites with Bodog to win the AFC Championship this season. Click here to see the full market and the Super Bowl betting where the AFC East team also tops the betting at +400 to prevail.
The Denver Broncos have struggled at quarterback over the last few years, but they put that right in the offseason by signing former Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson. The nine-time Pro Bowler is one of the best players of his generation at his position.
Wilson has consistently delivered in the NFL since joining the Seattle Seahawks in 2013. Unfortunately for the 31-year-old, he has only won one Super Bowl ring. He will be hoping he can have further success in the biggest game in the sport now he is with the Broncos.
Denver has immediately become AFC Championship contenders on the back of this trade with Seattle. The Super Bowl 50 winners are set up to have success now, with Justin Simmons, Melvin Gordon, and Courtland Sutton all performing at the highest level in their respective positions.
Since 2008, Cleveland has finished no better than third place of four teams in the AFC North. That stretch includes 0-16 and 1-15 seasons. There is now a lot of optimism in the city that better days are ahead.
The Browns made a trade with the Houston Texans for quarterback Deshaun Watson earlier this year. They are hoping he can be the quarterback which helps to bring success to the franchise, as it has been 53 years now since they won a conference championship.
After some strong recruitment, the Browns now have one of the strongest rosters in the AFC. As well as the addition of Watson, they added one of the league’s leading wide receivers to their team when they signed Amari Cooper in the offseason. Along with running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, it gives them lots of options on offense.
The AFC North is one of the strongest divisions in the NFL so the Browns will need to better the Baltimore Ravens and defending AFC champions Cincinnati Bengals if they are to top the division after their 17 games.
Fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars have had little to shout about over the last four years. They did reach the AFC Championship game in 2017, click here for details on that defeat to the New England Patriots, but following that, they have finished bottom of the AFC South in each of the four seasons.
The franchise opted to appoint Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson as their head coach back in February. The early signs are pointing to that being a smart choice, as the former Philadelphia Eagles man looks to be taking the Jags in the right direction.
One of the benefits of finishing with such a poor record over the last four years is that Jacksonville has had a lot of early picks in the first round of the NFL Draft. Those players are now starting to gel and that is bad news for the rest of the conference.
The Jaguars have already had impressive wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angles Chargers in the early stages of the season. If they keep picking up results like that against the leading teams, expect to see them challenging for the championship.
Based on their early results in 2023, the Miami Dolphins are going to be an exciting team to watch this season. They showed how strong their offense is this year when they put up 42 points against the Baltimore Ravens in a 42-38 success in week two. Visit here for more details on how they were able to put up that many points.
Receiving yards through through three games:
Tyreek Hill: 317
Every Chiefs wide receiver combined: 430 pic.twitter.com/R7LMBdiaGn
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 29, 2023
The Dolphins signed Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this year following a trade between the two franchises. The wide receiver has been a big part of the Chiefs’ success in the AFC since 2016. He may now be able to help Miami reach the top of the pecking order in the conference.
As well as an explosive offense, the Dolphins are equally as strong on defense. Melvin Ingram and Trey Flowers are two of the best linebackers in the NFL, while they also have Xavien Howard and Justin Bethel in their secondary.
Head coach Mike McDaniel was the offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers last season before landing this role in Florida. He should be able to get the best out of the players he has on his roster this year, while at the same time, playing in a way that excites the Dolphins fans.
All five teams will be hoping to be involved in the AFC Championship game this season which takes on January 29 in 2023.