The NFL season is almost over, but there is so much that we have learned from this season. From the lockout to the end of the season, we have been given extensive knowledge of each team through their experience.
But what is the one thing that we can say about each AFC team that has defined their season? Let's find out.
The Bills went from the NFL's second biggest surprise to their second biggest disappointment. After winning four straight to start the season, including one improbable upset of the Patriots, a loss to the Bengals set them in a free fall from which they never recovered.
Getting swept by the (then) lowly Jets killed any wild-card hopes for the team.
Chan Gailey has the right idea, at least offensively, but his defense definitely needs work.
With the Patriots and the Jets in the conference, it will be a very long time before the Bills return to the playoffs.
Come 2012, expect the Miami Dolphins to have a brand new signal-caller behind center.
While Chad Henne was envisioned as the quarterback of the future, he ended up losing his job after a combination of two losing seasons and injuries. Matt Moore can only help so much, but he is not a starter.
Brandon Marshall is not the same person he was in Denver, so the Dolphins should consider adding another wideout to compensate. Davone Bess and the Gates brothers are not starters, we should have known earlier.
The Defense also needs some retooling, especially with the secondary. Vontae Davis will only help for so long.
Because of what happened this year, Tony Sparano lost his job. I'll be frank, this team hasn't had a good coach since Nick Saban left.
The Dolphins need to do some major reconstruction in order to threaten the Patriots and Jets.
If the Patriots had anyone else on the sideline and anyone else under center, the Patriots would be an average team. Their offense is not the same one that won Super Bowls in 2002, 2004, and 2005.
Brady takes charge of a team of misfits that include an uncertain running back situation, a lack of good wide receivers, with the exception of Wes Welker (Ochocinco, we are talking to you), and a tight end that only just recently established himself as the best this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team is average to somewhat decent, but cornerback is still a weak spot, even with Devin McCourty.
Belichick is what makes this team click. His mastery of the game, his sub level staff, both are very important to this team. If anyone on the Patriots breaks off, they become unsuccessful. Just look at Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, and Josh McDaniels.
When Belichick and Brady leave the Patriots, they will struggle for a long time.
You can call me stupid all you want, it's true. Each part of the team is consistent, in their own distinct way. For example:
Rex Ryan consistently proves his doubters wrong. Two AFC Championship games, while not Super Bowls, should definitely say something about a man and his coaching philosophy.
Mark Sanchez is a consistent clutch performer, even if it comes at the cost of a slow start.
The running backs are consistently underwhelming. LaDainian Tomlinson is definitely on his last legs, and Shonn Greene, while impressive last week, is not the answer to the running back question. In addition, Joe McKnight is a returner. Look for the Jets to add a good running back in the draft next year. (LaMichael James, hintedy hint)
Darrelle Revis is consistently a shutdown corner. If anybody says otherwise, I swear they are either delusional, regionally blacked out, or just biased.
The Jets are consistently going to make the playoffs, only to fall short at the championship, as long as Rex, Sanchez, and Revis do their jobs, and this includes Sanchez's Jekyll/Hyde moments.
The Ravens may be the one of the best on defense, but since John Harbaugh came in, the focus has gradually shifted to offense.
With Ray Lewis getting old and Terrell Suggs in his prime, as well as the decline of Ed Reed, the leaders of this team are Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.
Flacco has proven himself to be a winner day in and day out, and Rice is an excellent runner. Plus, with the young wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss being led by Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin, and the emergence of Ed Dickson as a legitimate tight end, they can officially say they have one of the best offenses in the NFL.
The 2011 offseason for the Bengals was a turning point in team philosophy. No longer will they tolerate criminals, Prima Donnas, and scraps from the table.
Goodbye Carson Palmer, the diva from Pasadena. Hello Andy Dalton, the Fresh Face from Fort Worth. Dalton has proven that he can handle an offense that consists of rookies and castoffs.
Goodbye Chad Ochocinco, hello AJ Green. He left his troubled past in Georgia and has emerged as a top deep threat in Marv Lewis' new offense. If it weren't for Cam Newton, he would be a legitimate threat for Rookie of the Year.
The defense hasn't changed, however. Rey Maualuga and Co. continue to anchor a middle of the road defense that may make or break this season.
Chalk this up as another lost season for the Browns. Another failed quarterback in Colt McCoy, another failed running back in Peyton Hillis. Another moderately successful season for Josh Cribbs, another concussion-fest at the hands of Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
The Browns may never make the playoffs again. They are in one of the tougher divisions in the NFL, with the Steelers and Ravens consistently fighting for first, and the Bengals only recently hitting their stride.
What this team needs is a proven winner at coach. Not Chris Palmer, Not Romeo Crennel, not Eric Mangini, not even Pat Shurmer. Suggestions include Herm Edwards, Bill Cowher, and even Marty Schottenheimer. Or even better, Dick Vermeil. After all, Vermeil should be un-retiring soon.
The Steelers, by all odds, should have been tied with Cincinnati in the AFC North by now, instead, they have three losses and are a presumed lock for the No. 2 or 5 seed in the playoffs, depending on how tiebreakers work for the rest of the year.
Why are they perennial contenders every year? The answer lies in what I like to call the Red Wing Philosophy. If you haven't noticed, aside from the draft, barely anybody comes into Pittsburgh, or for that matter, leaves on free agency or trade. Sure, the occasional miscreant or aged veteran leaves, but otherwise, the core is very stable.
The team has relied on one quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger for seven years straight; only Terry Bradshaw started for more years.
James Harrison, despite his repeated knockout blows drawing the ire of Roger Goodell, has also become a mainstay in Pittsburgh, anchoring an aging, yet effective defense.
When the mainstays start to retire, expect the Steelers to gradually fall out of contention. Until then, they'll be a force for ages to come.
While we may never find out if Peyton Manning would have led the Colts to an eighth division championship or an 11th postseason appearance under him, we definitely know that the Houston Texans owe it to him and his faulty neck that they won their first division title in team history.
The Texans are lucky to have made it this far. Their offense was decimated early and often, with injuries to Arian Foster (his "Anti-Awesomeness"), Andre Johnson, and Matt Schaub. Technically, the Texans may not have clinched the division had TJ Yates not thrown that touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was Wade Phillips who turned this unit into one of the best in the league. Rookie defensive end JJ Watt and linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing were the stars of the unit, and Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson patrolled the secondary with ease.
Expect them to fight hard in the playoffs.
The last time the Colts finished dead last in the NFL, Jim Harbaugh was a player. In fact he was their starting quarterback.
As you can imagine, this is a lost season for the Colts, and for any doubters, Peyton Manning was the team. Without his leadership, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie all looked lost. The lone bright star on the team was Pat Angerer, who lead the way with 120 tackles, otherwise, nothing else looked bright.
One thing is for certain, Barring the Colts winning their final three games and either the Rams or Vikings losing their remaining three, they have the first pick locked up. And with that pick, it is likely they will draft a new face of the franchise for Peyton to nurture. The guy? Stanford's Andrew Luck, who like Manning, is a Heisman snub.
The Jaguars had their quarterback of the future. Blaine Gabbert, the boy with the golden memory, seemed poised to take the NFL by storm...
Then reality hit. Gabbert was left with no true receiver threats after Mike Sims-Walker left for St. Louis, then returned again and got hurt. Mike Thomas went cold and wasn't the same as he was last year. Same with Marcedes Lewis.
The only thing consistent was Maurice Jones Drew. As of now, he is the NFL's rushing yards leader with 1300+ yards.
Is it too late to bring back David Garrard?
It seems everyone down in Nashville had already forgotten about Albert Haynesworth after his first season in Washington, now everyone is forgetting about Vince Young after he signed with the Eagles.
Sure, the Titans are on the outside looking in, but the play of Matt Hasselbeck has definitely turned heads, even if it may be his last season in the NFL.
Hasselbeck has led this team to seven wins so far. Barring any setbacks, like his injury against the Saints, they could potentially win two more games, although it would take a miracle for them to make the playoffs.
When Josh McDaniels and Co. drafted Tim Tebow, they made possibly the best decision during his almost two-year career. Too bad he didn't start him earlier, or he may still be Denver's head coach.
It took four losses by Kyle Orton for the Broncos brass to take a chance on Tebow. Since then, he's done everything for Denver except clinch the AFC west, although it looks like that may be in order soon.
Tebow is 7-1 this year, the second best mark in the NFL behind a certain guy from Wisconsin. However, if he wins more games like this, he could find himself playing against that Wisconsin team.
Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Eric Berry.
This is a list of the Chiefs young stars responsible for last year's playoff berth. This is also a list of the players who are injured this year, shattering the hopes of this once competitive team.
The replacements for Cassel are Kyle Orton, who got a widdle boo-boo on his finger after throwing one pass, Tyler Palko, who can't score for his life, and Ricky Stanzi. Who knows how he will do?
As for the running back, it's Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones. Both are under-productive. Jones is aging fast, and Battle can't seem to gain positive yardage, or touchdowns, for that matter.
Nobody knows who's replacing Tony Moeaki, but whomever it is, he sure isn't showing up.
The same goes for Eric Berry.
The one positive thing out of this is that Todd Haley, who should have never been a coach in the first case, is gone, leaving the door open for...Romeo Crennel? On second thought, forget it, they're screwed.
The death of their beloved(?) patriarch Al Davis has seemed to light a fire under this group of buffoons. The team has seven wins—one more and they will tie last year's mark. But aside from the passing of Davis, this team has had plenty of ups and downs.
First off, the injuries to the backfield have lead to new bodies performing just as well for this team. With Jason Campbell down, the Raiders paid the Bengals a pretty penny to get their whiny ex-Heisman winner to start for them. Boy has he been a shot in the arm for this team.
In addition, Michael Bush has picked up for oft-injured Darren McFadden, thrusting himself into the spotlight, and getting plenty of teams interested in his services.
While Louis Murphy, Denarius Moore, and Darrius Hayward-Bey have each dealt with injuries, when healthy, they have proven to be valuable assets.
If the Raiders can continue on this light success, then they can use Davis' old motto again legitimately.
The Chargers find themselves back at Square One, looking down at the Chiefs, but up at the Raiders, and Broncos. They found a similar fate last year as well, with a December collapse dashing their playoff hopes.
Who's to blame for this?
Philip Rivers has been playing uninspiring football ever since he lost to the Jets, Although his team has won back to back games, they were against losing teams.
Rivers hasn't won a game against a winning team since, well, ever this year. And with three games against the Ravens, Lions, and Raiders, expect three more losses to come very quickly. San Diego should start looking for a replacement. Robert Griffin, perhaps?
Norv Turner has gone from being a well-respected coach for turning the Chargers around, to a frequent Hot Seat topic. Though he isn't the one putting on pads and a jersey, he might as well be, as he controls this team.
If the Chargers lose two out of those three games, expect his seat to burst into flames.
In addition, Malcolm Floyd is invisible, Ryan Mathews isn't becoming the new LaDainian Tomlinson yet, Antonio Gates is aging, and the defense, with the exception of Eric Weddle, is very slippery.
And let's not forget Nick Novak, who pretty much summarized how he feels about this through one golden stream.