At this point in the season, teams have clearly emerged as contenders, pretenders and mediocre, middling squads that will be neither playoff teams nor picking in the top 10 of next year’s draft.
Elite teams have emerged as well in each conference. There’s no arguing the status of defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay, still undefeated on the season, or even San Francisco’s 49ers, 9-2 and dominating their conference competition.
In the AFC, the larger playoff picture may be a bit muddled, but there are three teams that have emerged as truly elite squads and seem like the three teams most likely to vie for the conference’s spot in the Super Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are those teams.
Each has a particular claim to fame in 2011. The best part is that we haven’t seen the best of each team yet. Here’s a look at why each team is a member of the AFC elite.