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The Houston Texans are not messing around. After striking gold with the selection of quarterback C.J. Stroud, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, the franchise has gone into hyperdrive with a flurry of moves this offseason, including the most recent blockbuster trade for former Bills receiver Stefon Diggs. The 2023 AFC South champions have only improved their roster and, with Stroud and others set to make a leap in 2024, they are going to be a sexy pick to come out of the conference as the AFC representative in Super Bowl LIX. 

But don't forget about the Kansas City Chiefs. After all, they are the back-to-back Super Bowl champions, and should still be looked at as the team to beat in the AFC until someone knocks them off that pedestal. They still have Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, Travis Kelce and a stout defense at their disposal. That said, the gap could be thinning, especially with teams like Houston making these home run swings. 

With this Diggs blockbuster as the backdrop, let's roll through the top five biggest threats to Kansas City in the conference. 

1. Cincinnati Bengals

While Houston is making the big splashes, the Bengals should still be looked at as the biggest threat to the Chiefs' reign in the AFC. When healthy, Joe Burrow has been able to not only go toe to toe with Mahomes but take him down. Burrow is 2-0 against Mahomes in the regular season and the two have split in their two playoff meetings with a win apiece. The Bengals QB still has Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins (on the franchise tag) at his disposal, while they also helped solidify the offensive line with free agent tackle Trent Brown. Defensively, the club has solidified the back end of its secondary with safety additions like Vonn Bell and Geno Stone, while still having a stout pass-rushing attack with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard

2. Houston Texans

Maybe we're a prisoner of the moment by putting the Texans this high, but it's warranted given the moves they've made this offseason. On top of Diggs, the club bolstered its backfield with Joe Mixon and added Danielle Hunter to pair with Will Anderson Jr. as a pass-rushing duo in free agency. When you account for the talent coming in and the overall maturation of the roster from a year ago -- particularly Stroud -- Houston has the makings of a team that could take a considerable leap in 2024. DeMeco Ryans also proved to be a stellar head coach in his first season with the Texans, and it was a massive coup that the organization didn't lose offensive coordinator Bobby Slowick to a head-coaching opportunity this offseason as well. That continuity and injection of top-tier talent should make the Texans an extremely formidable opponent. 

3. New York Jets

The Jets may be slept on a bit as a legit contender to the Chiefs in the conference, but they shouldn't. So long as Aaron Rodgers has recovered from his Achilles tear, New York has all the makings of a Super Bowl team. Offensively, they have plenty of talent at the skill positions with Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall at Rodgers' disposal, and the team went into this offseason with a mission to solidify the offensive line which they did with Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses. On defense, they have some of the best young talent in the league and just acquired pass rusher Haason Reddick to pair with Jermaine Johnson II. There's an argument to be made that if the Jets are reaching their full potential, they could rise as high as No. 1 on this list. 

4. Baltimore Ravens

If you have a two-time NFL MVP under center, you're going to be a factor in the conference, which is exactly the position that the Ravens find themselves in with Lamar Jackson. He is as dynamic as any quarterback the league has to offer and the rushing attack should only be even more devastating with Jackson now paired with running back Derrick Henry. Zay Flowers should continue to surge as he enters Year 2 and Mark Andrews staying healthy will help the passing game as well. Losing linebacker Patrick Queen in free agency along with defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald (now the head coach of the Seahawks) this offseason is a noticeable dent, but the defense should still be among the very best in the NFL. The biggest question for Baltimore truly unseating the Chiefs in the AFC is Jackson's ability to come through in the postseason. 

5. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo's rivalry with the Chiefs has been one of the spiciest aspects of the NFL since Josh Allen and Mahomes entered the league. That said, it's lopsided when the pressure ramps up in the postseason. Mahomes and the Chiefs are 3-0 against Buffalo in the playoffs over Allen's career. While Allen's ability will likely keep the Bills in contention, it remains to be seen how they reshape their offense with Diggs now traded to Houston and Gabe Davis previously signing with the Jaguars in free agency. On top of that, the club also lost key members of the secondary in Jordan Poyer and Tre'Davious White in free agency. Those holes make it hard to put Buffalo much higher than this, despite being arguably the most heated rival.