Remember in 2017 when everyone was convinced the AFC West would be the dominant division in the NFL? That didn't work out too well.
Every year offers surprises, so there's going to be teams, much like Jacksonville and Buffalo were in 2017, that beat expectations for 2018. The same can be said for teams that will be underwhelming, too.
Here's three AFC teams that will exceed expectations in 2018 NFL win totals.
It wasn't surprising to me when Oakland didn't meet expectations in 2017. The defense wasn't what people were proclaiming it to be and the offense was bound to take a step back.
Now that the expectations will disappear, the Raiders should be back to their winning ways. Derek Carr is really good. And what happened in 2017 was likely due to an injury that he disclosed after the season concluded.
With Carr back to full health, the offense should be good enough to win games outright. And that defense is built to be a frontrunner.
When the offense can't build a lead, the defense suffers, as the opposing team can be more balanced. In 2016, the Raiders didn't allow the opposition to be balanced since the offense was able to build early leads. That wasn't the case in 2017. When that offense is good enough to carry the team, the defense is one of the better units in the NFL at rushing the passer.
That shouldn't be overlooked. The Raiders will bounce back in a big way in 2018.
Los Angeles Chargers
I'll stay in the West for the team that I believe can win the division.
The Chargers probably match up the best against the New England Patriots. The offense averaged 5.9 yards per play in 2017, the fourth-best mark, and the defense was a middle-of-the-pack unit, allowing 5.3 yards per play.
Because of a bad start the Chargers were unable to make the playoffs in 2017. That shouldn't be the case in 2018. Philip Rivers has weapons and the offensive line is finally good enough to keep him from getting sacked every other play.
Defensively, the Chargers have a solid secondary with a good pass rush. The over/under for the Chargers will be under double-digits, and that's a good sign for anyone betting the over. Los Angeles will be one of the better teams in the AFC in 2018, so back the Chargers in win totals.
I feel less confident in this pick, but I'll side with a better season out of the Dolphins based on a few factors. Miami's defense won't be as bad in 2018. The Dolphins saw their pass rush disappear at times in 2017 and with that defensive line, that shouldn't continue in 2018.
Offensively -- and I never thought I would say this -- Ryan Tannehill should offer some better balance. Jay Cutler isn't good and was a step down from Tannehill. The running game looked better as the season progressed and Tannehill will offer a more dangerous threat in the passing department.
What also helps is the AFC East should be down once again. The Patriots will be good, but I'm expecting less from Buffalo and similar results from the New York Jets. The Dolphins will emerge as the division's second-best team.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him back-to-back Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more at Against The Chalk.
Scott Levine can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH