Who will represent the AFC in Superbowl XLVIII?
Will a real AFC football team please stand up… I understand Halloween is around the corner and everyone is trying to changeup their identity, but after the first seven weeks of the NFL season, it feels like every team from the American Football Conference has been celebrating Halloween earlier than scheduled. From the 16 teams that represent this conference, 9 of them have a record of 3-3 or 3-4. So this makes me wonder who the pretenders are and contenders are of this conference, with everyone so jammed packed in each division. So I’ll be breaking down each division and tell you where I have them finishing and why.
New England Patriots (4-3) – This is not your New England team of the past, where they were your outright favorites to make it to the conference championship each year. Still have an explosive offense with an emerging running game, but problems on the defensive side, primarily in the secondary, has them only a ½ game up on the surging Miami dolphins. By the years end I still believe Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will find a way to win this conference.
-2012 season- 11-5- AFC East Champs
New York Jets (3-4)- Rex Ryan has his defense playing hard even without All-Pro defensive Back Darrelle Revis who suffered a season ending knee injury in week 3. But with a mediocre offense that can’t seem to find their identity or number one receiving target has this team one game below .500. The question that everyone wants answered of “When is it Tebow Time?” put too much pressure on this offense to perform.
-2012 season- 9-7- 2nd in AFC East, miss the playoffs
Miami Dolphins (3-3) – Talk about a surprising start, head coach Joe Philbin has his team playing way above expectations. Rookie Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has shown some promise in his first season, and running back Reggie Bush has silenced his critics (like me) who didn’t believe he can be your every down back. With a solid defense, this is a team that is on the rise.
-2012 season- 8-8- 3rd in AFC East, miss the playoffs
Buffalo Bills (3-4)- Ohhh Buffalo, where did you go wrong. I was so high on them last year after they started their season 5-0, but like this year, you have to have a defense that can stop the run and pass. Fantasy wise, this is probably one of the most fun teams to keep an eye on, but as we all know, fantasy points don’t earn your football team wins. Signing defensive end Mario Williams to that enormous contract seems to not have helped Buffalos defense either, as they are ranked 32nd overall in the league at stopping the run.
-2012 season- 7-9- 4th in the AFC East, miss the playoffs
Pittsburg Steelers (3-3) – This team has taken injury blows on both sides of the ball and at key positions: Running back, offensive lineman, safety, and linebacker. But when healthy, I think they are one of the best all-around teams in the conference. A win Sunday will make them only a game back of the division leading Ravens, with two matchups against them still left to go.
-2012 season: 11-5-AFC North Champions
Baltimore Ravens- (5-2)- As a fan of this team growing up ever since I was younger because of their tenacious defense, I have to say it was a heartbreak when I heard linebacker Ray Lewis was out for the year. With defensive back Ledarius Webb also out for the year, and Ed Reed nursing a torn labrum, you wonder if this Raven team, which its pride and soul is on the defensive side of the ball, has seen its best years. But with an offense that is led by players such as Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and a quarterback named Joe Flacco who believes he shall be in the conversation as the league’s elite, you have to believe that Baltimore will still be a playoff contender this year.
-2012 season: 10-6- Wild card, 2nd in AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)- There is a new young all-star connection in town, and they don’t go by the names of Mathew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Quarter back Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green have given defenses and fantasy owners all they can ask for, connecting for 44 receptions, 636 yards, and seven touchdowns through seven weeks. In their second years, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have turned from rookies to one of the best players to play their position. Too bad their run game and their defense are not on the same level, or we’ll be talking about this Bengal team being the division champs.
-2012 season: 9-7- 3rd in AFC North, miss the playoffs
Cleveland Browns (1-6) – If there is one positive word the Browns can take from their team so far this year, is that they have showed promise. They have showed promise in their running game with rookie running back Trent Richardson breaking rookie touchdown records. They have showed promise in their passing game with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden managing the game well and making good accurate throws. And they have showed promise as a team being in contention through every game in the season thus far. Still need work on the defensive side of the ball though.
-2012 season: 4-12- 4th in AFC North
Houston Texans (6-1) – Probably the only team right now in the conference who are playing like they are supposed to. With a stingy defense and a balanced offense that can beat you with the pass or run, the Texans find themselves in a clear path to not only win the division, but clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Houston Texan fans have to believe this is their year to make it to the super bowl. They probably have one of the most complete teams in the league, and they are in a conference where there is no front runner coming out this year. They won their first playoff game last year with a guy named T.J. Yates playing quarterback. It’s time to progress, and only one win will put them in the conference championship this year.
-2012 season: 13-3- AFC South Champs
Tennessee Titans- (3-4) – I am one of the people who believe this team is a much better one when Matt Hasselbeck is playing quarterback. Nothing against second year man Jake Locker, because I believe his time will come, but his time is not now. Since replacing Locker, Hasselbeck is 2-1 as a starter and the team on offense looks more efficient and in sink. With Chris Johnson coming off his best game of the season, look for Tennessee to compete with every team they face for the rest of the year.
-2012 season: 9-7- 2nd in AFC South, miss the playoffs
Indianapolis Colts (3-3) – Peyton Manning who? It amazes how much rookie quarterback Andrew Luck does not look like a rookie playing on the field. The quarterback position is not only the toughest position to play in football, but maybe the toughest position to play in all of sports. And 23-year-old Andrew Luck has so far exceeded many people’s expectations in his first year. Now the Colts as a team may not be as good as their record indicates, but one thing is for sure, they are not the same 2-14 team like last year. And as long as they have #12 playing quarterback, they have a bright future ahead of them.
-2012 season- 8-8- 3rd in AFC South, miss the playoffs
Jacksonville Jaguars- (1-5) – Not much to say here, other than second year Quarterback Blaine Gabbert looks a lot more comfortable in an offense that is still ranked last in passing. This will be another one of those years for the Jaguars, as there problems are not only on the field but also off of it, as ticket sales continue to be a problem for the team.
-2012 season: 2-14- 4th in AFC South
Denver Broncos (3-3) – Two words: Peyton Manning. His presence was really felt a couple weeks ago when he led his Broncos to a comeback victory against division rivals San Diego. Down 24-0 going into half with all of America watching on Monday night, Manning led his offense with 35 unanswered points for a win and to put his team in first place in the AFC West division. That’s something Tim Tebow couldn’t even do for the Broncos. But what seems to go unnoticed is the defense the Broncos have, where they give Manning and the offense opportunities to be on the field. With adding a guy like Manning to a team that already made the playoffs the year before made the Broncos a super bowl contender before the season had started. And after watching them play, even with the .500 record, I believe Manning will lead his team to the conference title to play against the Texans for a date to the super bowl.
-2012 season: 10-6- 1st place in AFC West
San Diego Chargers (3-3) – Is it just me, or is everyone else tired of hearing sports people talk about the talent this Sand Diego team has, and yet they never seem to win games to back the talent up on the field. Head Coach Norv Turner has been on the hot seat for at least the past four years now. And running back Ryan Mathews looks like the type a player who can get fifteen yards on each catch or carry, but chooses not to or ends up getting hurt. But with all that said, I believe the Chargers figure it out this year and save their coaches butt by making the playoffs. They have two key matchups against two playoff contending teams in Cincinnati on week 13 and the New York Jets on week 16 that’ll determine this team’s fate. If they win both games, they’ll be in. But if they lose and don’t make the playoffs, you’ll begin to see changes in San Diego, beginning with the firing of their head coach.
-2012 season: 9-7- 2nd in AFC West, make the wild card
Oakland Raiders (2-4) – Head Coach Dennis Allen has the team moving in the right direction if you’re talking discipline. But as a team they are too inconsistent on both sides of the ball to be a contender. They need their Pro Bowl Running Back Darren McFadden to be averaging more than 3.1 yards a carry if they plan on going anywhere in the near future.
-2012 season: 6-10- 3rd in AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) – Is it just me, or has this whole division been a bust so far. The Chiefs came into the year with high expectations with key players like Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry coming back from season ending injuries. And with the acquisition of running back Peyton Hillis to back up Charles, people thought the Chiefs will be able to run all over you. But the Chiefs are witnessing a year of what it’s like to not have a clear-cut quarterback leading your team, as their passing game has been horrendous, especially with Brady Quinn now as the starter. The Chiefs are another one of those teams with lots of talent, but it does not show on the field.
-2012 season: 5-11- 4th in AFC West