Last season, if you were a team in the AFC and you managed to produce a winning record, you were in the playoffs.
That's the good and bad news. Because if you do the math, that means only six of the 16 teams finished above the .500 mark.
It also means that nine clubs sported losing records (the Pittsburgh Steelers were the lone 8-8 team in the conference).
The Steelers were the only 2011 playoff team in the AFC not to return to the postseason in 2012 as the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and Denver Broncos all repeated as division champions, the Cincinnati Bengals were once again a wild card and the surprising Indianapolis Colts (2-14 in 2011) wound up 11-5 and reaching the postseason.
But what about those nine teams that lost more games than they won? Could any of those clubs be the Colts of 2013? Let's take a closer look:
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): The team comes off the worst finish in the history of the franchise and defensive minded Gus Bradley takes over as head coach. Can a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew ensure more wins?
Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): In 2010, this was a 10-win team and AFC West champions. New head coach Andy Reid comes off a miserable final season in Philadelphia, but this is a talented team with a new quarterback in Alex Smith.
Oakland Raiders (4-12): It's been sad and bleak for the Silver and Black, who are 49-111 since their last winning season in 2002. Second-year head coach Dennis Allen will have a defense assembled via free agency and quarterback Matt Flynn at the controls (we think).
Cleveland Browns (5-11): Another new head coach (Rob Chudzinski) for the only team in the AFC North to sport a losing record each of the last two seasons. But keep an eye on Ray Horton's potential fearsome defensive unit.
Buffalo Bills (6-10): No team has waited longer to get back to the playoffs than the Bills, who have finished last in the AFC East five straight years. New head coach Doug Marrone has his work cut out for him.
New York Jets (6-10): Rex Ryan begins his fifth year with the Green and White but he's been seeing red after two straight non-winning seasons. Gone are veterans such as Darrelle Revis, Bart Scott, Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller. And who will be the quarterback?
Tennessee Titans (6-10): The Titans fell hard after a promising 9-7 showing the previous year and would allow the most points in a season (471) in the franchise's 53-year history in 2012. But this was a busy team during free agency and the draft.
Miami Dolphins (7-9): Arguably the league's most aggressive franchise this offseason, the team brought in wide receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and moved up in the draft to take defensive end Dion Jordan. The 'Fins really bear watching.
San Diego Chargers (7-9): After four straight AFC West titles the Chargers have missed the playoffs three straight years. Mike McCoy is the new head coach. But can quarterback Philip Rivers shake the turnover bug that has bitten him two straight years?
There you have it. Odds are one or more of these teams will make a big-time turnaround. Who or whom will it be? You decide…
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and is blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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