There is no question the 10-0 Green Bay Packers are the best team football, followed by the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers. Both the Packers and the 49ers are in the NFC, but for the AFC, it's virtually a toss-up.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans are all 7-3 and have had quality wins thus far, but each team has had its share of meltdowns. All four teams are without a doubt playoff contenders, but which one stands out as the best team in the AFC?
The Steelers have had wins over the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals but have been swept by their division rivals in the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans. That means the reigning AFC champs are not the best in the conference, as they have lost three games against elite talent.
However, you can never count the Steelers out, as they have the NFL's second-best defense as well as the ninth-ranked offense. They are without a tough opponent to beat, but they have lost three critical games this season.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots will also be an elite team with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm, but they have had a rather rocky season thus far. The team has had quality victories over the New York Jets twice, the Dallas Cowboys, as well as the Oakland Raiders but has fallen short against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants.
The thing about the Patriots is they have one of the league's best offensive attacks and the league's worst defense, which simply is not a recipe for success. However, they have found ways to make it work so far in 2011.
The Baltimore Ravens are by far the most inconsistent team out of the four. They have swept the Pittsburgh Steelers, beat up on the New York Jets and knocked off the Cincinnati Bengals but have lost to the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Seattle Seahawks, which is extremely alarming.
The main thing about the Ravens is not Joe Flacco's ability to be a top-tier passer but their ability to stay consistent, which they have not done so thus fa in 2011.
I hate to do it, but without Matt Schaub I do not see the Houston Texans making any noise in the 2011 postseason.
Granted, the Texans will likely win their division and host a playoff game in January, but they are simply not good enough to win without Schaub.
I realize they have one of the NFL's top defenses and arguably the league's best rushing attack with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but Schaub is the team's most important player. Without him, the remainder of the season could be disastrous.
Houston's faith now lies on Matt Leinart's shoulders, which is something I would not want happening to my football team.
So, who is the best team in the AFC? The New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC. Why? The Steelers have lost the season series against the Baltimore Ravens, the Ravens have lost against three lousy opponents, while the Houston Texans' season could be done without Schaub.
The Patriots may not have an elite defense, but it's good enough to get victories, considering how they beat up against the Jets twice this season following up their embarrassing playoff loss from a year ago.
New England is a tough competitor with Brady at quarterback, and as Brady's playing at an elite level, the Patriots are a very difficult team to beat.
Tony Santorsa's Week 12 Power Rankings
1. Green Bay Packers
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. New England Patriots
5. Chicago Bears
6. Baltimore Ravens
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
8. Detroit Lions
9. Houston Texans
10. Atlanta Falcons
11. New York Giants
12. Cincinnati Bengals
13. Dallas Cowboys
14. Oakland Raiders
15. Denver Broncos
16. Philadelphia Eagles
17. New York Jets
18. Buffalo Bills
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20. Tennessee Titans
21. San Diego Chargers
22. Seattle Seahawks
23. Cleveland Browns
24. Miami Dolphins
25. Washington Redskins
26. Carolina Panthers
27. Kansas City Chiefs
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. Arizona Cardinals
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. St. Louis Rams
32. Indianapolis Colts
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