Oddsmakers Predict Indianapolis Colts To Win AFC; Chargers, Ravens, Jets Round Out Top 4

August 2nd, 2010 – by Jon Lowell

Much attention has been placed on the front runners of the AFC heading into the new NFL season. From contract holdouts and suspensions, to free agency and a familiar egos joining forces, the general managers in the conference have had their hands full this offseason.

Parody has returned to the AFC after years of dominance by the Patriots and Colts. Teams in the conference have bolstered their rosters with young talent, and some have brought in veterans to add experience. The road to the AFC Championship game still passes through Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Colts enter the 2010 NFL Season the strongest team in the AFC once again. Peyton Manning will try to lead his team back to the Super Bowl after suffering a tough loss to the New Orleans Saints. It will be hard to improve upon the 16-3 record they finished with last season, but defensive end Jerry Hughes will try to make an impact on defense in his first year out of TCU. Manning will most likely feel the loss of offensive guard Ryan Lilja, who was released because of knee issues. The former Super Bowl champions are favored to win the AFC again at 9/2 odds.

The San Diego Chargers return many of their offensive stars in the ’10 season. Running back Ryan Mathews out of Fresno State will look to fill the void left by Michael Bennett. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are returning to a team that finished 13-4 last season while Vincent Jackson and Shawne Merriman have failed to sign their free agent tenders. Though they have won the AFC West each of the last four years, the Chargers have failed to win a conference championship. Online sportsbooks have set their odds just behind the Colts at 11/2.

Ray Lewis leads one of the NFL’s most dominant defenses into the battle for the AFC North. Defensive end Dwan Edwards will not be a part of that unit after signing with the Buffalo Bills in the offseason. The Ravens’ offense will get a boost from wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, who signed with the team as a free agents. The Ravens finished 2009 season with a 10-8 record, good enough for their second wild card birth in as many years. Their pre-season line to win the conference championship is set at 6/1.

With HBO’s “Hard Knocks” reality show filming their camp, the New York Jets are ready to show the rest of the AFC they are ready to become champions. Mark Sanchez is entering his second season in the NFL with something to prove after a loss in the AFC Championship game last year. The Jets have had several key additions in the offseason including Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, Jason Taylor, and LaDanian Tomlinson. A total revamping of the offense saw the departures of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. The Jets’ chances of winning the conference championship at 6/1 are identical to the Ravens.

After suffering an embarrassing home loss to the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs last season, the New England Patriots are looking to return as one of the top teams in the AFC. Tom Brady is back healthy for the team, and has a new weapon in Torry Holt to bring his team back to dynasty form. One of the most expensive free agents in Patriots history, Adalius Thomas, wore out his welcome with the Patriots after just three years. The team finished with a 10-7 record last season, and are closer to the middle of the 2010 NFL Betting Odds to win the conference championship at 13/2.

Rounding the top six in the AFC are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are facing several questions coming into the regular season. Perhaps the biggest question is: Who will start the season at quarterback? Ben Roethlisberger is due to miss the first six games of the season, however that could possibly drop to four. Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, and Byron Leftwich are expected to battle for the starting role. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes will no longer be featured in the offense, but Antwaan Randle El is back with the team after a several year hiatus in Washington. After a 9-7 finish last season that saw them miss the playoffs, the Steelers’ conference championship odds are set at 11/1 by Bodog Sportsbook.

Tennessee Titans 13/1

Cincinnati Bengals 13/1

Houston Texans 15/1

Miami Dolphins 16/1

Denver Broncos 25/1

Oakland Raiders 40/1

Cleveland Browns 40/1

Jacksonville Jaguars 40/1

Kansas City Chiefs 45/1

Buffalo Bills 50/1

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