November 2, 2012 by shivusharma
Following suit with my Mid-Season observations of the NFC, I will now do the same for the AFC. Any team demarcated with an ‘*’ is one I believe is guaranteed a playoff spot.
New England Patriots* – As we saw against the Rams last week, this team has the ability to light it up on offense. Brandon Lloyd finally got involved and Rob Gronkowski was used more effectively as well. It seems like offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is
starting to get into a groove. The Pats still have their woes on the defensive side of the ball, particularly their secondary. Hopefully their recent acquisition of Aqib Talib can remedy that. When Talib isn’t caught up in off the field problems, he is a very effective corner.
Miami Dolphins – what concerns me about this team is that they haven’t really won against a good team yet. Their four victories have come against the Raiders, Bengals, Rams, and Jets. The Dolphins have a pretty solid shot at sneaking into the playoffs though. They play great defense and can run the ball, two strengths that are effective at beating bad teams. Look at the rest of their schedule: @IND, TEN, @BUF, SEA, NE, @SF, JAX, BUF, and @NE. They only have three tough match-ups remaining! I expect the Patriots to have secured the division by week 16, so they may be resting their started in week 17. In which case, the Dolphins could conceivably only lose three more games, and end up at 10-6. Thank god for easy schedules.
Buffalo Bills – I’m not going to spend too much time on this. The Bills struggle to stop anyone on defense, and can’t put up points unless it’s in junk time. This team is in serious need of an overhaul.
New York Jets – It’s about time for Tebow. You might as well see what you have with him. Mark Sanchez is clearly a below average quarterback. Tim Tebow is as well, but at least he has shown he can win games in the 4th quarter.
Baltimore Ravens – their upcoming test against the Cleveland Browns will determine what type of team they are going to be the rest of the year. After losing so many key players on their defense, it will be up to the offense to get the Ravens into the playoffs. Hopefully they start giving the ball to Ray Rice more often, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has proven to be a nincompoop in the past. Until I see how they fair against the Browns, I will reserve judgment on their playoff chances.
Pittsburgh Steelers * – the division may be swinging in their favor. Jonathan Dwyer has provided a running game over the past two weeks, and as this team starts getting
healthy, I think they will edge closer to winning the division. I give a lot of credit to offensive coordinator Todd Haley for recognizing how to make Big Ben most effective. He saw that he had wide receivers that thrived in space and an offensive line that was mediocre, and thought to center the Steeler’s passing game on screen passes and short throws.
Cincinnati Bengals – A sign of a great wide receiver is his ability to make his quarterback look good. AJ Green has done that for Andy Dalton all season. Green is playing like the best wide receiver in football right now. Unfortunately, the Bengals don’t have the horses to keep up with better teams in the league. They are still a few drafts away.
Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden is half-way decent. Trent Richardson is a beast. The defense has some legit players. That’s about all I can say about the browns. They are another team that is rebuilding, but showing some promise.
Houston Texans * – Their only loss came to a pissed-off Aaron Rodgers, so I can’t really blame them for that. This is a team that recognizes its strengths and plays to them. Every game, their M.O. is “Let’s win in the trenches, run the ball better than anyone else, and take shots downfield with our play-action passing game.” This formula has worked for them the whole year and will continue to do so. On a somewhat unrelated note, if J.J. Watt were in the NBA, he’d average 12 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. That guy gets his hands on every ball.
Indianapolis Colts– Andrew Luck has been really impressive, especially when orchestrating game-winning drives. He’s shown the poise and mental aptitude to
maximize the effectiveness of his mediocre skill-players (outside of Reggie Wayne of course). Luck needs to do better on the road though, where the Colts’ record is just 1-2.
Tennessee Titans – A tough loss to the Colts in OT last week ended their two-game winning streak. There are things to be proud of though. The offense seems to function much better with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm, and the O-Line has done a much better job opening up holes for Chris Johnson. We will see how their running game fares against the Bears and the Dolphins in the coming weeks.
Jacksonville Jaguars – They are a team in a really tough spot. There isn’t much to like if you’re a Jags fan. Cecil Shorts is your best receiver. Maurice Jones-Drew is out indefinitely. And Blaine Gabbert is still your quarterback.
Denver Broncos * – I think they’ve started to emerge as the clear favorite in this division. Peyton Manninghas really been in a groove as of late. The arm-strength isn’t there, but his mind is as sharp as ever. Willis McGahee has been a consistent producer
on the ground, and the Broncos O-Line has done a good job keeping Manning up-right. If their defense can continue to get to the passer and create turnovers, Manning will lead them deep into the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers – Last night’s destruction of the putrid Kansas City Chiefs staved off Norv Turner’s firing for one more week. Sorry Chargers’ fans, I know how much you hate him. Phillip Rivers is clearly not the same player that he once was, but maybe he was never as good as we thought to begin with? He’s always had receivers like Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson who he could throw the ball up to and let them make a play. In his best years, he had the luxury of having LaDanian Tomlinson, perhaps the greatest fantasy football player of all time, running the ball for him. Now that Gates is breaking down, Tomlinson has retired, and Jackson is in Tampa, the same things Phillip Rivers has tried to do in the past aren’t working.
Oakland Raiders – The Raiders have rattled off two straight wins against two bad teams, so let’s not get overly excited. It’s unfortunate that this team has been 30th in rushing yards, despite having Darren McFadden to run the ball. I can’t help but thing that that’s because of the new zone-blocking scheme that simply does not play to Run DMC’s strengths. When Tom Cable was coaching, the Raiders used a power-blocking scheme that McFadden exceled in. Cable is now in Seattle, where Marshawn Lynch is reaping the benefits of his blocking system.
Kansas City Chiefs – “With the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select…” That was a quote from future Roger Goodell. The Chiefs are the worst team in football. Their one bright spot is Jamaal Charles, yet their coaching staff refuses to feed him the ball. The Chiefs will be looking to draft a franchise QB now, in a draft that it isn’t all that loaded with elite QB talent. Good job Kansas City.