NFL 2021/22 AFC betting preview: Browns and Titans set to challenge the Chiefs for the championship

Planet Sport previews the NFL's AFC with a division-by-division rundown and a round-up of best bets as the contenders line up to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs.

Until anyone can prove otherwise, the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC still goes through Kansas City, as long as superstar QB Patrick Mahomes is at Arrowhead and loaded with offensive playmakers around him.

The Buffalo Bills have another year of experience under their belts with Josh Allen only going to get better, while in their division could Mac Jones spark a renaissance for the New England Patriots? Or is it more likely that defense is the best form of attack for Bill Belichick this season?

The Tennessee Titans have loaded up on offense and the Baltimore Ravens and former MVP Lamar Jackson should come roaring back after last year's playoff disappointment, but they'll have to handle the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North first.

Before Planet Sport runs through the AFC and how the divisional situation is likely to unfold, here's a quick snapshot of what we are tipping in the AFC this season.

Best bets

Chiefs to win the AFC Championship at 5/2

Browns to win the AFC North at 6/4

Titans to win AFC South at 3/4

Chargers to finish second at 15/8 | to make the play-offs at Evens

Dolphins to finish second in the AFC East at 9/5 | to make the play-offs at 11/10

Divisional acca: Chiefs, Bills, Browns & Titans to all win their division at around 10/1 (9.89)

AFC West

Let's start with the class horse in the race, the defending AFC champs and five-time defending AFC West winners Kansas City. They should really be making it six divisional titles in a row this season.

However, they were dominated in that embarrassing Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers in February. The Chiefs had no answer to Tampa Bay's defensive pass rush and Patrick Mahomes was battered all night long by the Bucs.

He was forced to run 497 yards, mainly backwards, before throwing the ball while trying to evade the Bucs defense in what was a heroic effort with an already injured toe.

The Chiefs have responded with a newly-built offensive line aimed squarely at keeping Mahomes safe and upright and do what he does best - slice and dice the opposition.

Now, a totally new O-Line with three rookies could have some growing pains but if they can allow Mahomes to let the side-arms and the no-look passes flow, and with his supporting cast of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill still there, then the Chiefs still take this division.

The LA Chargers have a new coach in Brandon Staley and he'll be charged with giving last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert every chance to build on his brilliant debut season. Their star QB kept them in games last season as they went 7-9, but with seven of those defeats coming by just one score.

In short, they weren't far off from really competing but need to improve in their scoring both on offense and defense.

Staley led the fine Rams defense before switching teams in LA, and if they can sure that area up then they some serious talent to make a playoff push.

The Denver Broncos led the league in turnovers and were 29th in scoring, that's just a horrible combination and how they got even as many as five wins was a miracle given those stats. Teddy Bridgewater at QB offers steady production ahead of the more talented but unpredictable Drew Lock.

The Broncos will be battling for third with the Raiders, who seriously need to show something this season in Las Vegas. They've started 6-3 and 6-4 in recent seasons but always faded away - head coach Jon Gruden needs to earn that mega-money contract he's on this season.

Prediction: Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders

Best bets: There's no real sniff of an upset here with the Chiefs possibly losing a few games they shouldn't due to their new O-Line refit, but the opposition are still not up to a full-blown challenge. The Chargers look the most backable team here, as them to finish second at 15/8 or to make the playoffs at Evens look solid bets.

AFC North

In short, this one is wide open folks and one of the hardest divisions to call in the league.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won it last year on 12-4 but then were blown out in the playoffs by the Browns (11-5), who came within a whisker of upsetting the Chiefs in Kansas City.

And they're both behind the Baltimore Ravens (11-5) in the betting this year!

QB Lamar Jackson is among the best runners in the league and had over 1,000 yards and nine TDs on the ground while also winning his first playoff game last season.

The Ravens will still be a run-first outfit, but it'll be how Jackson manages to throw the ball in the big games that will decide Baltimore's future. I wouldn't be so confident of them taking first place here with so many tough games just in this division alone.

Veteran Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back for one last dance and behind a defense that will still be among the league's best he has every chance. This team did start 11-0 last season after all, something forgotten in their disastrous finish to the campaign.

On talent alone, though, it could well be the year of the Cleveland Browns - who finally got over the hump of winning a playoff game for the first time since 1994 last season.

And they've improved, with flamboyant receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back as a new target for QB Baker Mayfield, and with running back duo Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as good a tandem as any in the league at moving the chains.

And then, in this ultra-tough division, you have returning Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow, who was having a brilliant record-breaking rookie campaign until he took one hit too many and suffered a serious knee injury in week 10. The Bengals need to protect him so much better this time around.

Burrow's old college receiver Ja'Marr Chase was drafted in the first round and their reunion could be a staple of years to come in Cincinnati, but the more pressing issue is keeping the face of the franchise healthy this season. Wins will be hard to come by.

Prediction: Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Bengals

Best Bet: Taking the Browns at 6/4 would be the bet here, even though there's not much conviction as there will not be much between the three top teams here come the end of the season and they could all make the playoffs once again.

AFC East

The Buffalo Bills won this division for the first time in 25 years last season, and the team that famously made, and lost, four Super Bowls in a row from 1991-94 remains primed for a return to the big dance this time around.

Reaching the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs was another step and now talented QB Josh Allen, who was in the MVP conversation last term, has the experience to go along with talent to lead them all the way.

That's why Buffalo are odds-on to retain the AFC East, second favourites to clinch the AFC and third favourites to go all the way and lift the Lombardi Trophy.

Allen was second in combined pass and rush TDs last season and only Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes had a better QB rating - he's in elite company now.

They won't have things all their own way though in a division that'll be won and lost on the quarterback play of the four young guns that could be battling it out for the next decade.

It's a big second year for QB Tua Tagovailoa, who has been handed receivers Will Fuller and Jaylon Waddle to help improve a middling Miami Dolphins passing attack. They've got playmakers, and a swarming defense that led the league with 29 turnovers last season, but their ultimate destiny rests with Tua's left arm.

They'll be battling it out with the big-spending New England Patriots, who have uncharacteristically splashed out on free agents as coach Bill Belichick has a point to prove after going 7-9 while watching Tom Brady win the Super Bowl with his new team.

So the Pats will be a mean team to face on defense this year, and rookie Mac Jones is the main man at quarterback, charged with the small matter of filling Brady's shoes as the once dominant franchise's quarterback.

The hapless New York Jets should improve with their rookie QB Zach Wilson also looking the part, but it's still early days in their rebuild and just general improvement in performances will do for them this season.

Prediction: Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Jets

Best bet: You'd have to lock the Bills in as winners and in the coin toss between the Pats and Dolphins for second, Miami just get the nod and I'd back them at 9/5 to finish second.

They're also 11/10 to make the playoffs but with wins being shared around in the division, they may just miss out even with seven spots available.

AFC South

The Tennessee Titans aren't messing about this season. They brought in Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, one of the most dominant players at his position in the game when fit, to add to fellow wideout AJ Brown and double defending rushing champion Derrick Henry in a truly awesome attacking outfit.

QB Ryan Tannehill again leads the team who made it to the AFC title game two seasons ago and can certainly mix it with the likes of Kansas City, Buffalo and Baltimore once they get into the playoffs - as they surely will again this season.

The Indianapolis Colts finished with the same 11-5 record as the Titans last season and they've brought in QB Carson Wentz from Philadelphia, who has genuine talent but has been off the boil in recent years. Just which Wentz shows up will be the deciding factor between the top two.

Indy's defense will certainly show up big time and should ensure they're well in the playoff mix regardless, but it's defenitely a two-horse race in the division even if all eyes will be on No.1 Draft pic Trevor Lawrence at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jags finished in the bottom four in almost every offensive and defensive category last season - so at least they're consistent! But it's a long way back and what head coach Urban Meyer has to do first and foremost is keep Lawrence healthy enough to get a full season under his belt.

It's a sorry situation at the Houston Texans, with their quarterback Deshaun Watson on the team but not wanting to play after requesting a trade - we could have two of the worst teams in the league here in the same division.

Prediction: Titans, Colts, Jaguars, Texans

Best bet: At only a shade of odds-on, the Titans look solid enough favourites to back at 3/4 given their absolutely stacked offense and have taken steps to improve on the defensive side of the ball. They'll be a problem in the playoffs.

Who will win the AFC Championship?

Odds to win the AFC: Chiefs 5/2, Bills 5/1, Ravens 13/2, Browns 7/1, Titans 14/1

After three AFC Championship games in a row and back-to-back victories, the Kansas City Chiefs are worthy favourites and it's hard to oppose them given they've been there and done it - and most importantly have addressed their glaring problem area on the offensive line.

The chasing pack have improved but until one of them proves they can stop Mahomes in the post-season then the jury is out.

At the prices, Cleveland at 7/1 would be interesting but the each-way shout here is Tennessee who have such a ferocious offensive line-up that will be hard to stop come the postseason. They've also got an easier division than the rest so at 14/1 they look like the value play.