Now with the season heading into the final few games, who will make the playoffs and who won’t. This is an important time and the coming weeks will be extremely crucial for certain teams.
The AFC East features two contenders for the Super Bowl in the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The older and more experienced Patriots and the younger Jets are both 9-2 after 11 games. With the two top records in the entire AFC both of these teams are looking for home field advantage for the entire playoffs and a first round bye. One will likely be the AFC’s first seed and the other will probably find themselves in the wildcard. These teams don’t have much to worry about since their closest divisional competition comes from the Miami Dolphins, who still seem to be developing their young talent with a respectable 6-5 record. In the basement are the Buffalo Bills, who went the longest without a win to start the season and now have amassed 2 wins in recent weeks, but that success will not be nearly enough to make the playoffs. I think the Jets need one more year to fully develop running back Shonne Greene and Tom Brady seems to have no intention of slowing down, so the Pats will capture the first place in the AFC with the Jets playing in the wildcard matchup.
Coming into the season this division looked to be one of the NFL’s best, but the Cincinnati Bengals have quickly fallen wayside with a 2-9 record. Also, the Cleveland Browns as expected, are a sub par .500 team with a record slightly better than the Bengals at 4-7. The two teams contending for this division are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Both of these teams take pride in their hard hitting, smash mouth defence. With both teams at 8-3 this division is up for grabs and the winner likely getting a bye. The Steelers seemed to be in rough shape when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got suspended for the first four games of the season, but Denis Dixon and Charlie Batch stepped up and provided necessary ability for the Steelers defence to win all four games. The Ravens are an amazing matchup for the Steelers as they match them in defence, the running game with Rice and Mendenhall going head to head and the receivers, Ward and Wallace for the Steelers and Boldin and Mason for the Ravens. This matchup is always a great one to watch especially when both teams have all of their defensive players on hand. I only say this because of Reed’s injury this season and Polamalu’s injury last year. I think that the Ravens will come out on top this year, with the Steelers playing in the wildcard.
The AFC South is usually dominated by Peyton Manning and the Colts, but this season the Colts have had a lot of trouble, especially in the running game recently with Joseph Addai injured. In the past two games Manning has thrown 7 interceptions, several of which have gone back for touchdowns. This is not a result of Manning getting old; this is a result of poor blocking, poor running, and poor communication with receivers who, other than Reggie Wayne, are not his usual favourite targets. Since the Colts are only 6-5 it opens the division for the Jaguars, Texans, and even the Titans. The Jaguars seem to be really coming on late in the season, with the return of David Garrard from injury. Contrary to the Jaguars the Texans had a great start with Schaub, who led all passers in yards last season. Either of these teams with a great five games has the ability to pass the Colts as the top team in the division. Although the Titans are still 5-6, which is the same as the Texans, coach Fisher and starting quarterback Vince Young seem to be finished with each other. With Kerry Collins on the shelf, Fisher had to call upon Rusty Smith. Smith is not a quarterback that will get a sniff at the playoffs, especially with Kenny Britt out of the line-up. I still believe that the Colts will get their act together and come up with a couple divisional wins en route to a playoff spot, leaving the Jaguars and Texans in their dust.
Currently the AFC West lead is being held by the Kansas City Chiefs at 7-3 with the Chargers quickly chasing them at 6-5. The Chiefs have had a great season and a lot of young pieces that will serve well for them in future years such as Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, and Dwayne Bowe. Unfortunately for them the Chargers just beat the Colts and are known as a second half of the season team. They have just started to use Mike Tolbert in the running game and although Vincent Jackson got hurt early in last game, he is still a deadly threat along with Antonio Gates. All of that being said the highlight of this offence is undoubtedly Phillip Rivers. Rivers has the numbers to potentially pass Dan Marino for total passing yards in a season record. The Oakland Raiders have finally found one of the many missing pieces to this struggling team in Darren McFadden, but a running back alone will not win a division. Finally, the disappointing Denver Broncos. Although they lost Jay Cutler and Brendan Marshall in just two seasons, they still have a very solid defence with Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins and a good offence. I thought they would at least have the personnel to beat out the Raiders this season, but I guess I, like most people was wrong. The final spot in the AFC playoffs will go to the Chargers, but don’t expect them to win their wildcard matchup.