AFC Power Rankings: Everyone Starts at No. 1

Todd FlemingAnalyst IFebruary 5, 2017

Everyone is rushing to get their power rankings out. And why not? There are a mere four months to go until the start of the season.

We are not too far out from the weekend of eternal optimism in the NFL, the draft, in which fans in all 32 cities are absolutely convinced that their team's draft was brilliant…historic even.

You don’t believe me? Try writing an article questioning a team’s draft. You will get a slew of comments telling you that a) you are stupid, b) their team had the best draft ever and is just misunderstood, and c) you are stupid.     

So, in the interest of keeping that wellspring of optimism alive, my power rankings will start with everyone in the top spot. And that is where they will remain until the season starts.  So…here is part one…the AFC power rankings. If I don’t mysteriously wind up face down in a gutter somewhere, I’ll write part two on the NFC later this week.


1. Pittsburgh Steelers—After reading several articles on the subject on Bleacher Report, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Steelers have the worst quarterback in the history of the league. Good thing he has had such an awesome team to carry him on their collective backs to two Super Bowl wins. 

Apparently, he has never even thrown an NFL pass.  It has got to be great to be able to go “along for the ride” so often. Look for him to do it again this year. The Steelers start in the top slot. 


1. Cleveland Browns—The Cleveland Browns start the season with not one, but two, starting quarterbacks.  How did they get so lucky?  And we all know that two is better than one.

Remember that old poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends, where the brilliant kid is able to convert $1 into five pennies?  That same concept applies here.  Then again, that kid may very well have grown up to become the GM of the Browns.  Since two is better than one, you have to slot the Browns into the top slot in the power rankings.


1. Cincinnati Bengals—This is a team all about forming perfect locker room chemistry. So much so that they didn’t dare disrupt that chemistry by targeting any high character guys in the draft who might detract from what they are trying to achieve as a ball club. So, their superb chemistry of like-minded players remains intact.

Plus, they have that whole The Longest Yard thing going for them. Sooner or later, convicts and crooks always rise to the top. Yep, definitely got to slot them in at the top.


1. Baltimore Ravens—The Ravens are named based on a poem by famous former Baltimore resident, Edgar Allen Poe. You heard that right. Their identity was inspired by a quirky writer’s most famous poem about hopelessness and despair, the two qualities that every franchise should be built on.

As we all know, poetry is the greatest of the “manly” arts, perfect for a team trying to build a fierce reputation. Come to think of it, Poe wasn't exactly known as the manliest of men.  Then again, it could be like that song about naming your son “Sue.” If you do that, you know he’ll have to be tough. His life will depend on it. That has to be good enough to slot the Ravens in at the top.


1. Buffalo Bills—With their first pick of the draft, the Bills selected an undersized defensive linemen projected to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker out of a college known for producing NFL busts to play as their 4-3 defensive end. Good luck with that. So, why do they deserve to be in the top slot? Because their cheerleaders, known as the Buffalo “Jills,” appear to be loaded with potential and are ready to step in and fill the many voids.


1. Miami Dolphins—The Dolphins recently signed a deal with all-time football great Jimmy Buffett. He should immediately challenge for the starting quarterback job. Any team playing in Margaritaville has to start the season on top. “If we weren’t all crazy, we’d all go insane,” or something like that. Look for the Parrotheads to flock to the Dolphins to establish one of the league’s most feared, and colorfully dressed, fan bases.


1. New England Patriots—While there seems be some excitement about some quarterback coming back, the Pats are all about Bill Belichick. Nine out of 10 sportswriters think he is the smartest man ever to walk this Earth.  For whatever reason, they think constantly telling you that makes them appear more competent. 

Then again, one out of 10 sportswriters thinks the other nine sportswriters are morons. So, who is right? I’m not sure, but it is good enough to land the Pats in the top spot.


1. New York Jets—The Jets have fully recovered from Favreohrrhea. Now that they are once again healthy, look for them to be a real force this year. So, is Mark Sanchez more likely to one day be compared to Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel...or Ryan Leaf? Only time will tell, but the Jets definitely deserve to be in the top spot.


1. Houston Texans—The Texans will never amount to anything as long as David Carr is playing behind that woeful offensive line. Oh…he is gone now? That is great news for the Texans. Good enough news to land them in the power rankings top spot.


1. Indianapolis Colts—This is a team that featured a center named “Saturday.” Don’t they know that NFL football is mainly played on Sundays? That was definitely resulting in bad karma. With Saturday jettisoned from the team, look for the Colts to emerge as a power. They definitely need to be penciled in as the preseason favorite.


1. Jacksonville Jaguars—I remember when the Jaguars drafted receiver Matt Jones in the 2005 draft’s first round thinking, “Yeah, this is the guy that is going to get them over the top.”  Actually, that was my second thought.  My first thought was, "Who?" 

And he did emerge to become one of the league leaders….in arrests. This is a case of addition by subtraction. With Jones off the team, the Jags sneak up into the power rankings’ top slot.  Look for the Bengals to add Jones to their heralded receiving corps soon. 

1. Tennessee Titans—Last year, they had everything going for them as the AFC’s top seed and then made the tragic mistake of stomping on the Steelers’ "Terrible Towel", the symbol of all that is good in the universe. The ghost of Myron Cope looked down from heaven and smited them for that transgression. That is the real reason they laid a stink bomb in the playoffs. 

LenDale White was one of the worst transgressors in Towelgate and promptly made the most costly fumble in Titans' history.  Coincidence?  No way.  But, the wise Titans learned from their mistakes. There will be no "Terrible Towel" stomping this year when the teams meet to open the season. That is good enough to move them into the top spot.


1. Denver Broncos—The Broncos were clearly the absolute best team in the offseason...when it came to generating drama, holding off a spirited late charge by the Vikings. And we all know that high offseason drama always translates into success on the football field. So, pencil the Broncos into the top spot. They should start making their Super Bowl reservations now.


1. Kansas City Chiefs—The Chiefs brought in the guy this offseason that those same nine-out-of-10 sportswriters are convinced is the second smartest man in the universe…Scott Pioli. He promptly showed his genius by drafting a guy once rated to go near the bottom of the first round with the No. 3 pick. Sheer genius.

Then again, he did bamboozle the Patriots into giving him Cassel for a whole lot less than others were offering. But, that was only because the smartest man in the universe (see Patriots) apparently prefers second-round picks to first-round picks.  Sometimes genius is not meant to be understood by mere mortals.  That is good enough to slot the Chiefs into the top slot in the power rankings.


1. San Diego Chargers—LaDainian Tomlinson wants to break the NFL all-time rushing record. He is a mere 6,595 yards short. If he can break that record this year, the Chargers will definitely win the Super Bowl. You can take that to the bank.  I like his chances.

Also, Darren Sproles racked up 328 yards against the Colts in the playoffs. If he can just improve on that a bit and average that over the course of a season, that will also help their cause. With these two facts in mind, the Chargers definitely deserve the top spot in the power rankings.


1. Oakland Raiders—What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? It is no secret that the Raiders have not been very good lately. But, that is all part of Al Davis’ nefarious plot. He has been lulling all of the other teams into a false sense of security so he can surprise them en route to the Super Bowl. He is ready to spring the trap this year. With that in mind, the Raiders definitely should start the season in the top spot.

So there you have it.  Every team in the AFC has plenty of reasons to think that they are the conference's best of the best.  At least for the next four months.