Well we've made it through 14 weeks almost (MNF game still left) and it's been a doozy of a season. 2 teams at 13-0, looking for the Lombardi and history. Former powers struggling (Pats, Steelers, etc.) although we shouldn't be too surprised because this is a league of quick turnover in the contenders. My 2 Super Bowl predicted teams (Bal and GB) have seen their share of problems but both seem to be on their way to playoffs. We've seen in the past few years that it's a crapshoot once you get into the "tournament". Here' s a quick synopsis of each AFC team (through my eyes of course) and how I see them coming down the stretch and into January:
AFC East: (Amidst the rumors of Randy Moss "quitting" on the field at times in the past month, I can't see the Pats not winning this division. They currently have a 1 game lead on NYJ and Miami with games against Buffalo, Jacksonville and Houston remaining. They'll win at least 2 of them to get to 10-6. They have gone from a favorite to a darkhorse in the suddenly thin AFC. Most of the conference will finish right around .500 (7-9 to 9-7) and that screams obvious parody. The Jets have an interesting finishing kick with Atlanta, Indianapolis & Cincinnati to close out the year. 3 teams with something to prove and play for equals no playoffs for NYJ. Miami also plays 3 contenders (Tennessee, Houston & Pittsburgh). There's no reason to believe that the Dolphins can win out so I'd say 9-7 is their best bet at this point. Buffalo has played a little better of late but is getting nothing from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Marshawn Lynch isn't even starting anymore either and this team has major rebuild job written on it. So I'll put NE in the playoffs while the other 3 dream of next September.
AFC North: (It's down to two teams for the division title. One Bengals win or One Ravens Loss will give Cincinnati it's 2nd playoff game in the decade. That shouldn't be a problem but one has to glance at the Ravens schedule and wonder if they can win out? Chicago, Pittsburgh & Oakland remain for the Ravens, leaving a chance for them to remarkably finish 10-6. The Bengals do need to watch though as San Diego, Kansas City & NY Jets are all possible problems. If SD beats Cincy next week, the Chargers will clinch the #2 seed in the AFC in all likelihood. Cincinnati gets at least 1 more win and wins this division but will be in a battle for the #3 seed with New England. Baltimore wins out and gets to 10-6, grabbing a wild card in the process. If the Ravens can get Ed Reed back sooner rather than later, who wants to play this team in the playoffs? Pittsburgh needs to win out to get to 9-7 and join the group that will likely finish the year at that record. They get Green Bay, Baltimore & Miami to finish, leading me to believe .500 is the best they can do. Cleveland is fighting for a Top-5 pick and have no playoff aspirations.
AFC West: (San Diego is at 10 wins with Denver two games back. The Chargers should win the division and have a chance to get a bye with a win vs Cincy next week. No one wants to play them right now having won 8 in a row. Phillip Rivers is playing as well as any other QB in the league and they will be a force in January. They also hold the secret kryptonite to a perfect Colts season. Denver is in a good spot at 8 wins, sitting in 5th in the AFC by itself. Since I don't see any 6 or 7 win team other than Baltimore with a realistic shot at 10 wins, a 2-1 finish would propel the Broncos to the playoffs. Luckily, Denver has Oakland, Philly and KC left.....so 10 wins is a probablilty. They'll end up as the #6 seed in my scenerio though as they tie the Ravens at 10-6 as the 2 wild cards.....with the Ravens having the tiebreaker due to a head to head victory. Kansas City and Oakland are integral parts of the 2010 NFL Draft order.....as they both have to play Cleveland still. Just kidding.....but don't be surprised to see Cleveland win a few games to end this season and Kansas City move up the draft board.
AFC South: (Indianapolis has what it takes to go 16-0. Will they play out the string? This affects playoff wannabes Jacksonville and NY Jets in the next few weeks. Either way, Indianapolis will be the #1 seed in the AFC and could be looking at the Patriots in the Divisional Playoff Round. The other 3 "pretenders" will play meanigful games only because the AFC is so even this year. Jacksonville is 7-6 with Houston and Tennessee at 6-7. All 3 would need to win out to have any chance...with Jacksonville in much better shape as they can get to 10 wins. 9 wins may not even be enough and without looking at the head to heads, I can tell you that Houston and Tennessee are in trouble when it comes to conference record (another tiebreaker). The Jaguars have Indy and New England the next 2 weeks. That should just about put the final nails in their chances with a finale in Cleveland. If Jacksonville can beat either Indy or NE, they could finish 9-7 and have a chance to get in that way. Houston has St. Louis, Miami and New England to finish while Tennessee has Miami, San Diego (short week at home) & Seattle left. I'd say the Titans have a better chance to win out, given the schedule and the way their playing right now. Does 9-7 get them in? Not in my scenerio but as I outlined, we could see a few teams tied at 9-7 at the end of the year...with it all coming down to the fun NFL Tiebreakers.