The Brady-Less Bunch: AFC Playoff Picture Minus Tom Brady

Peter FleischerSenior Writer ISeptember 7, 2008

Holy sh*t!! Never has a league been rocked so early by an injury than the Tom Brady injury today. Brady tore his ACL when Chiefs' safety Bernard Pollard lunged forward after being blocked to the ground, crumpling Brady's knee in the process.

So what does this mean for the New England Patriots? Well obviously a repeat of 16-0 is out of the question, but is their season over with Brady likely out for the season? Here is how I see the AFC stacking up with Matt Cassell leaded the Pats.

1) Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have got to be considered the front runner if everybody is even relatively healthy. Even though they're aging, Peyton, Marvin, Dwight, and the rest of Tony Dungy's boys should be the favorites to lead the way.

They don't look too hot against the Bears as I'm writing this, but I wouldn't bet against them with that Pats probably out of the picture. Even if they lose to the Bears, nobody on this list has played in stunning fashion today outside of the Steelers.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers

The loss of Alan Faneca does bother me a bit, but the Steelers did romp the Texans 38-17 today, with Willie Parker running mad and Big Ben missing ONE pass attempt. They've been there before, I like the RB tandem method, and they actually won today.

3) San Diego Chargers

Probably the most talented team in this league. Even without Shawn Merriman they're pretty stacked. They have stars on both sides of the ball and I have no doubt that they'll be rolling in high gear by the time postseason play rolls around, but they lost to the PANTHERS today. That's not even a good NFC team. So...the third spot it is.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars

They played the Pats very well last year and David Garrard might not put up the numbers he did last year, but should actually improve. I say that because he threw less than three INTs last season. Maurice Jones-Drew should slowly continue to take the torch from Fred Taylor and the defense still has quite good talent. But they lost to the Titans today in Tennessee.

What is this? "AFC Powerhouses Lose" day? They'll bounce back.

5) New England Patriots

Come on, Bill Belichick wouldn't miss the playoffs would he? I doubt it. The club still has Randy Moss, Laurence Maroney, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, etc. Plus a defense that always gets the job done.

Plus, is Matt Cassel that bad? Do we even know? He has great size (6'4'' 230), great pedigree (USC), and a lot of experience running the New England offense. He was actually decent against the Chiefs so I think they'll make the playoffs only to lose in the early rounds.

6) New York Jets

Yes! I'm buying the hype right now! Bretty Favre was far from spectacular today against the Dolphins, but pretty good still. But what nobody (or not enough people) talks about are the changes the Jets have made other than at QB.

They've added Tony Richardson, Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, and Kris Jenkins. The team should be better overall this year and motivated by a combination of having Favre, the Giants winning the Super Bowl, and they're tired of sucking.