AFC: Ranking the Teams, from Worst to First.
Make no mistake, there is only ONE goal of every NFL team, win the Super Bowl.
Here is the list of the AFC, and which teams have the most realistic shot at not only making the playoffs, but which teams have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl, and which teams have the best shot at picking within the first hour of the NFL draft.
If the Week 10 injury report has taught us anything, it is that anything can happen in the NFL. Just when you thought some teams were going to cruise to their division titles, injuries have derailed them.
Other teams we were beginning to count out, have once again come back to life.
So, from worst to first, here is the AFC.
16: Indianapolis Colts
Worst team in the NFL, 1st pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
As hard as it is for me to say that a team isn't going to win a single game, with six games left, I have to because the Colts are simply THAT bad.
What has happened to the Indianapolis Colts is beyond shocking. For years, people have been saying that without Peyton Manning, the Colts would be just an average football team.
Now, the Colts WISHED they were an average team.
Some think this could be exactly what the Colts needed. By becoming the worst team in the NFL, they will have the chance to draft the heir apparent to Peyton Manning, who happens to be the guy that most people are saying has the most Manning like possibilities.
What the Colts are going to do with the number one pick in the NFL draft remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, with two wins less than the next worst team, the Colts will need a miracle to win a game, let alone two.
The Colts will be picking first, it is just a matter of who's name is going to be on the card when it comes time to draft.
15: Miami Dolphins
Last Place AFC East
Two weeks ago, the race to be the worst team in the NFL seemed to be coming down to the Dolphins vs the Colts.
Though they somehow found a way to go on a two game winning streak, the odds of it making it past that are not very good.
Looks like the Dolphins are going to be picking near the top of the draft, but they won't be Lucky enough to draft Andrew.
14: Cleveland Browns
Last Place AFC North
The Cleveland Browns came into the 2011 season with a lot of hope and expectation. If you asked most Browns fans prior to the season how their team was going to do this year (which I did), they would have said anything from 8-8, to winning the North.
Now, they have taken over as the basement in the North.
After losing a close game in the opener to the Bengals, the Browns went on to win their next two games (ironically, against the two teams in the AFC that have already been in this slideshow).
Since then, things have gone bad in Cleveland, much like opponents of the Browns thought would happen.
Between a coaching staff that has not been able to find a way to put points on the board, to a Madden Cover Boy, who can't find his way onto the field, the days of the 2011 Cleveland Browns have not been very bright.
Instead of challenging in the AFC North, they happen to be playing in the best division in the NFL. They COULD have used that as an excuse, but the only game they have played against the division was in Week 1.
13: Jacksonville Jaguars
Third Place AFC South
The Jacksonville Jaguars will accomplish TWO of their season goals this season.
1 - Finish better than the Indianapolis Colts.
2 - Sweep the Indianapolis Colts.
This Jaguars team is like many of the other Jaguars teams over the last few years. Unsettled on the offensive side of the ball, and not enough talent on either side of the ball.
Reminiscent of a few years ago when Jack Del Rio released his starting QB, Byron Leftwich prior to the start of the regular season, Del Rio did the same thing this year, with the man that replaced Leftwich, David Gerrard.
This time, he was not going with a player that showed the previous season he had the ability to play in the NFL, but with a rookie.
Though Gabbert has done a respectful job for a rookie, he is no where NEAR ready to be a top starter in the NFL.
This time, it looks like Del Rio may have cost himself his job.
12: Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Last Place AFC West
Before the season started, the Chiefs were one of the trendy teams for people to pick to go to the Super Bowl. After winning the division in 2010, it seemed like Scot Pioli had finally found his formula to replicate the Patriots of the early 2000's.
After they lost the first three games of the season, miserably, everyone wrote the Chiefs off as busts.
Then they went on to win their next four games, and everyone was talking again how the Chiefs could win the West.
Then, they lost to the previously 0 - win Dolphins, then a Broncos team that threw the ball 8 times, completing two of them, and again they are looked upon as dead in the water.
It does not help that Matt Cassel is most likely done for the season with an injury, but if you look at their remaining schedule, it is hard to find a game that they could have won, even if Cassel were to be healthy.
With their next five games against the Patriots, Steelers, Bears, Jets and Packers - with all of them on the road except the Steelers and Packers, odds are, the Chiefs may have won their last game of 2011 already.
Yes, there is a chance they COULD win one of their last two games against the Raiders or Broncos, but those are going to be for pride, and the Raiders are simply better, and the Broncos will be playing at home.
11: Denver Broncos
Third Place AFC West
I thought it would be ironic to put a picture of Tim Tebow throwing the ball for the Broncos, since they have him more as a running back than they do as a quarter back.
No, Tebow IS NOT the long term solution at the QB position in Denver, and he will NEVER be mistaken for John Elway.
Tebow has led the Broncos to three wins in their last four games, which shows that he is at least playing better than anything the Broncos had previously.
The people of Denver asked for it - They got it.
What Tebow HAS done for Denver is won them enough games to keep them from drafting in the top 10 of the NFL draft, and probably keeping them from being able to sit at their position and draft one of the top signal callers this year.
Don't worry thought, Broncos fans, with Tebow back next year, you will be picking near the top of the draft year again.
10: San Diego Chargers
Second Place AFC West
The San Diego Chargers are normally slow starters in the NFL. They lose normally 3-4 of the fist 5-6 games, then come on strong at the end of the season to win their division.
This year, when they started off with a 4-1 record, many people talked about this being the year of the Chargers.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, reality set in, and they lost their next four games.
Yes, the Chargers could make a strong playoff push in the second half of the season, but they are going to be fighting an uphill battle.
With games against the Bears, Ravens, Lions and Bills if the Chargers want to see the post season, they are going to have to play better than they have for the last month.
9: Tennessee Titans
Second Place AFC South
The Titans have taken strides most in the NFL did not expect. Yes, Matt Hasselbeck is a major improvement over Vince Young, and Chris Johnson has finally remembered how to play the running back position.
Though last week, it seemed that the Titans would have to compete for a wild card spot, it now appears they have a legitimate shot at winning the South.
With the Texans losing Matt Schaub for what appears to be the rest of the season, the Titans could catch the Texans, and it may come down to the final game of the season, when Tennessee travels to Houston.
Though the Texans only have a 1.5 game lead on the Titans, the schedule favors the Texans, and if Matt Leinart can even play to half of his potential, the the Texans should be able to hold off the Titans.
8: Buffalo Bills
Third Place AFC East
The Buffalo Bills were a great story to start the season. Having won four of their first five games, including wins over the Patriots and Eagles, there was talk that the reign of the Patriots could be over, and the Jets could be passed for the East crown.
After dropping three of their last four games, including their last two by a combined 71-18, people aren't so high on Buffalo anymore.
Yes, they have a good core of a team with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson and Steve Johnson. But, if they are going to replace either the Patriots as the kings of the hill, or the Jets who are pushing for that title, they are going to have to have a more solid team.
7: Cincinnati Bengals
Third Place AFC North
I am picking the Cincinnati Bengals to be the best team in the AFC to NOT make the Playoffs, and I believe it is going to be close.
The race is going to come down to the Bengals vs the New York Jets for the final AFC Playoff spot, and I believe the Jets are going to take it by a game.
The Bengals have had an amazing year, especially for a team that is in the best division in the NFL, with a rookie QB, and a head coach that most people, me included, believed would be fired before the end of the season.
The Bengals have a lot to look forward to going into the future, but they simply won't have enough for that future to start this year.
6: New York Jets
New York Jets
Second Place AFC East - Sixth Seed
Though the Jets have been swept by the Patriots, it seems like they will once again enter the AFC Playoff field via the Wild Card, and once again, they could do damage.
The Jets have a good team, with a great defense, powerful running game, above average offensive line, and good receivers. The real question is Mark Sanchez.
Will Sanchez be able to not only lift the Jets through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but will he be able to take the next step and lead the Jets to the Super Bowl?
Personally, I don't think so.
The Jets have given Sanchez the weapons on the outside, the running game, a solid tight end, and a good offensive line, and Sanchez still has problems winning the big game.
5: Baltimore Ravens
Second Place AFC North - 5th Seed AFC - Defeated the Jets in Week four which would give them the higher seed based on head to head victory.
Though I am going to be crucified by Ravens fans for not having the Ravens win the North after sweeping the Steelers in the season series, after what I have seen of the Ravens, they are a LONG way from being Super Bowl ready.
Jim Harbaugh for some reason can not get his team motivated to play a poor team after a big win. Joe Flacco is being counted on to throw the ball 50 times a game, and for some reason, they simply don't want to put the ball in Ray Rices hands.
If the Ravens beat the Bengals, they have to play the 49ers. If they beat the 49ers, they have to play at Cleveland. Too many times this year, have the Ravens allowed a team that is simply not as good as them compete with them, and in some cases, defeat them (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Arizona and Seattle).
Too many mistakes for the Ravens are going to cost them the AFC North, and again put them through the playoffs on the road.
Though they have had a good deal of success on the road, they have had the same problem as the Jets. Not able to make it to the Super Bowl.
4: Oakland Raiders
First Place AFC West - 4th Seed in AFC Playoffs
I don't know if it is Al Davis smiling down (or up?) from beyond, but the Raiders have seemed to pull this season together, and are again playing like a team that is playoff quality.
Since the passing of Davis on October 8th, the Raiders have won three of their five games, including big wins against San Diego and Houston.
Are the Raiders the team that is going to make it to the Super Bowl? No.
But, what they have done is something that many thought would be impossible. They have Carson Palmer playing like he did in 2009, and are finding ways to win.
3: Houston Texans
First Place AFC South - 3rd Seed AFC
Good news Texans fans. You finally won your division, dethroned the Colts and have earned not only your first playoff game, but your first playoff game at home.
Bad news Texans fans. You are going to have to play that game with Matt Leinart instead of Matt Schaub.
If Schaub had not been injured, I probably would have had the Texans as the top seed in the AFC. Without him, they are simply going to be another team that can run the ball, but if they need to put it in the air, then they are in trouble.
2: New England Patriots
New England Patriots
First Place AFC East, 2nd seed in AFC, 1st round bye.
The Patriots have owned the AFC East for the better part of the last decade, and it appears that the streak is going to continue.
Though not as hot as they were at the beginning of the 2011 season, the Patriots are again showing why they are perennial playoff contenders.
They have erased any title ambitions the Jets have had, and the Bills are still no match for Brady and his boys.
The only question that will lurk in New England this time will be, can the Patriots win a playoff game?
This Patriots team is a LONG way from the dynasty days for the Patriots, and since losing to the Giants to ruin their undefeated season, New England is 0-3 in the Playoffs, with ALL of those losses coming in New England.
1: Pittsburgh Steelers
First Place AFC North - First Round Bye - Top Seed by virtue of head to head victory over Patriots.
What a difference a week makes?
Only one short week ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers had just been swept by the Baltimore Ravens, and were sitting in third place in the AFC North, behind both the Ravens and the Bengals.
After defeating the upstart Bengals, and the Ravens losing to the Seattle Seahawks, the Steelers are again in first in the AFC.
The reason that I have the Steelers winning the division over the Ravens is because, as I stated on the Ravens slide, the Ravens are having a hard time finding their offensive identity, while the Steelers are currently the 4th ranked offense in the NFL (4th passing, 12th rushing).
The Steelers defense is also as healthy as it has been all year, with both James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley set to be in the line up at the same time for the first time since Week 4.
Add to that, the Steelers remaining games are against the Bengals, Browns (twice), Chiefs, Rams and 49ers, it is hard to imagine the Steelers losing more than one of those games. And, yes, they may run the table and win them all.
AFC Playoffs: Wild Card Round
(6th) Jets vs (3rd) Texans
(5th) Ravens vs (4th) Raiders
In 2010, the Jets and the Ravens entered the playoffs as the 5th and 6th seeds. Both teams advanced by defeating the Colts and the Chiefs respectfully.
With Matt Schaub not playing for the Texans, it should be an easy day for the Jets to go into Texas, and hand the Texans their first playoff loss in franchise history.
As for the Ravens traveling into the Black Hole, there aren't too many teams that know Carson Palmer better than the Ravens. Though Carson Palmer has improved the position for the Raiders, the rest of the team is still not solid enough to defeat the hungry Ravens.
Jets and Ravens both advance.
AFC Divisional Round
(6th) Jets vs (1st) Steelers
(5th) Ravens vs (2nd) Patriots
The Jets return to Pittsburgh in a rematch of last years AFC Championship game. Both the Jets and Steelers defenses are among the best in the NFL. There is no question that the Steelers offensive fire power is considerably stronger than the Jets.
Rex Ryan will again be forced to put the game in the hands of Mark Sanchez, and the Steelers defense will simply be too much for him to handle.
Pittsburgh Steelers - 24
New York Jets - 13
The New England Patriots have had a great deal of success against teams this year, but the teams that they play with elite defenses give the Pats a hard time.
The Ravens HAVE that elite defense.
What this game is going to come down to is which team makes the fewest mistakes.
Tom Brady is not going to make many, but the Patriots defense is simply too poor to elevate their game in the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens - 17
New England Patriots - 14
In their first meeting in Week 1, the Ravens handed the Steelers one of the worst loses in the rivalry's history.
In their second meeting, the Ravens scored with :08 seconds to steal the game from the Steelers.
Once again, it looks like the Ravens and Steelers are going to meet not only for supremacy of the AFC North, but for the AFC as well.
The Steelers playing at home in the playoffs under Mike Tomlin have only lost one game. The Ravens will have again traveled to Oakland and New England before coming to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.
Will the Ravens be able to tear the monkey off their backs, by defeating the Steelers in the biggest game of the season?
Will the Steelers be able to overcome the Ravens after losing to them twice this season?
If you look at these two defenses, they almost cancel each other out. Without question, they are two of the best in the NFL.
When you look at the offenses, there really isn't that much to compare.
Joe Flacco folds every time the games get big, and there won't be any games bigger than this one. Troy Polamalu will again force a late Flacco interception, and the Steelers will win the game.
Steelers - 17
Ravens - 14