NFL Nation: Dominant team 2014-16 AFC

So much can change on a week-to-week basis in the NFL, let alone over a span of three-plus years, but I am picking the New England Patriots as the dominant team in the AFC East from 2014 to 2016. There are several reasons why.

First off, well, they are the Patriots. They are an elite organization from ownership on down. Of course, I don’t know this for certain, but if Bill Belichick is still in charge of this team, I can’t see New England falling off the map. In the understatement of the century -- Belichick knows what he is doing.

Second is quarterback. I will certainly concede that Tom Brady of that era will not be the same as he is today. In fact, he might not even be playing football anymore. But I just don’t see a potentially dominant quarterback currently on the rosters of the other franchises in the AFC East. And the selection of Ryan Mallett could pay off big for New England during this future era we are discussing if he is brought along properly.

Lastly, outside of possibly the quarterback position, the Patriots are set up for the long haul better than any team in the division -- or maybe better than any team in the entire league. They have an extremely impressive very young core of talent at most positions. And no team stores away draft picks for a rainy day like New England.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL

AFC North dominant team 2014-16

July, 19, 2011
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Truth be told, I don't see one clear-cut dominant team in the AFC North three to five years from now. With Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco still going strong, I predict the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will continue to battle it out and share the spotlight in the division from 2014 to 2016.

In terms of picking which team will be dominant between the two, you can't. It's a toss-up. The Ravens might win the division one year, Pittsburgh the next and so on.

Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and the Steelers and Ravens have their long-term solutions at the position. Roethlisberger will be 32, an age at which quarterbacks still thrive. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have all done extremely well in their 30s, and there's no indication Roethlisberger can't do the same. Flacco will be 29 in 2014 and still in his prime.

Also, the Ravens and Steelers don't get enough credit for their talented young players. For Pittsburgh, receiver Mike Wallace, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, and linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley are young stars in the making. The same can be said about Ravens tailback Ray Rice, Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and potentially dominant first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith.

With Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert picking players, both teams will continue to add good, young talent in an effort to stay on top.

The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are both starting over. Although both teams have some good young players, predicting the Browns or Bengals to be dominant would be a major risk. Neither team has been consistently dominant for a very long time and, most important, the quarterback position for each is a huge question mark.

Will Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Cleveland's Colt McCoy be starting NFL quarterbacks three years from now? Who knows?

For that reason alone, the future could still be a two-team race between Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
The AFC West, as a whole, appears to be a division set to succeed down the road. I could see all four teams being competitive by the time 2014 rolls around.

The Chargers have a strong program, and as long as Philip Rivers, who turns 30 this December, is the quarterback, San Diego will be relevant. Oakland snapped a seven-year streak of losing at least 11 games by going .500 last season and has a good core of young players. Denver has new leadership and some interesting young pieces. If Denver can draft well and figure out its quarterback situation soon, it can be on the right track by 2014.

But the team I have to go with is the Kansas City Chiefs.

How can I ignore the surprise 2010 AFC West champion?

The Chiefs remind me of the Green Bay Packers. The young Packers won the Super Bowl last season probably ahead of their time. The same thing goes for the Chiefs’ division crown.

This team had won a total of 10 games in the three previous three seasons before 2010. Yet, the young club gelled and won 10 games in coach Todd Haley’s second season.

There are no signs that the Chiefs are going anywhere but up in the next few years.

As long as quarterback Matt Cassel, 29, continues to make positive strides, there aren’t a lot of question marks in Kansas City. If Cassel fails, the Chiefs have Ricky Stanzi, a fifth-round pick this year, waiting in the wings.

The Chiefs have young stars Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki on offense and excellent youngsters such as Eric Berry, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr on defense. The team has drafted well in recent years and appears to have drafted well in 2011 as well. Rookies such as Jon Baldwin, Rodney Hudson, Justin Houston and Allen Bailey all seem like they have a chance to contribute right away.

It is a very well-coached club, so player development should come quickly.

This appears to be a team that has a strong master plan. In fact, the Chiefs are further along than the Scott Pioli-Haley tandem expected. So there is no reason to think Kansas City shouldn’t be a team to reckon with in the middle of this decade.

AFC South dominant team 2014-16

July, 19, 2011
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Dominant team? The NFL’s era of dominant teams has been over for a while. We see worst-to-first stories all the time.

The AFC South has had a dominant team since realignment in 2002, with the Colts winning seven of nine division titles and going to the playoffs every season.

By 2014 the Jaguars, Texans and Titans are hoping Peyton Manning's powers will have weakened and that the path to the top will be less difficult to climb. My guess is it will be as key pieces such as Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis get older, too.

Matt Schaub could be working under a different coach in a different system but it’s possible he’s playing his best football on his best team. I expect either Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker will be really starting to get the NFL game and having success. (History suggests the other first-round quarterback could be well on his way to petering out.)

It will be about more than quarterbacks, of course.

It’s difficult to project how the three teams other than the Colts will be doing. Will the Jaguars rise behind their duo of defensive tackles? Will Chris Johnson continue to run away from people? Will the Texans be a tough-to-figure 3-4 defense?

Gary Kubiak and Jack Del Rio could be long gone and it’s no lock that Jim Caldwell will still be in place. Will Mike Munchak have come and gone or be somewhat established as the Titans’ coach?

A dominant team?

I think it’s more likely we see three different teams win division titles in the AFC South in 2014, 2015 and 2016 than one team win it all three times.

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