Who Will Go to the Super Bowl from the AFC?

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Who Will Go to the Super Bowl from the AFC?

By Derek Lofland

With the playoffs set to start this weekend, I will analyze each participant’s strengths, weaknesses, why they will win the Super Bowl, and why they won’t make it.

What could be considered a successful postseason, and what the odds of playing in Tampa on February 1, 2009 are.

At the end, I will make my own prediction on how the AFC will pan out. Who meets in the conference’s championship game, and who represents it in the Super Bowl.

 

Tennessee Titans (Seed: AFC No. 1 Seed)

Quick Stats


1) W/L Record: 13-3
2) Points Scored: 23.4 / game (14th)
3) Points Allowed: 14.6 / game (second)

4) Yards Gained: 313.6 / game (21st)
5) Yards Allowed: 293.6 / game (seventh)

 

Strengths

The Titans have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They allowed the second fewest points in the NFL this season. They get after the quarterback with 44 sacks, tied for fifth in the NFL. Quarterbacks were only able to tally an average QB rating of 69.2. The Titans were also monsters against the run. They were sixth in rushing yards allowed.

Their front four of Haynesworth, Vanden Bosch, Kearse, and Brown is among the best in the NFL. Furthermore, they run the ball very well. The Titans ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing yards gained and ranked second in rushing touchdowns with 24. White and Johnson are a great duo that gives them a great combination of blinding speed and strength.

Finally, Jeff Fisher is the longest tenured coach in the NFL. He is arguably the best NFL coach without a Super Bowl ring.

Weaknesses

If the Titans have to comeback and pass the ball they really are not suited for that type of game. The Titans rank 27th in the NFL in passing yards gained. Kerry Collins had only 12 passing touchdowns on the season. The good thing is that he had only seven picks, so he doesn’t hurt them with senseless turnovers. If the Titans get into a situation where they need points in bunches, they could struggle to do that.

Why This Team Will Win the Super Bowl

Defense and running the ball is a recipe for postseason success and the Titans do that as well as any team in the NFL. They only lost three games in the regular season and were the last team to lose in 2008, starting 10-0. They don't have a great passing game, but they haven't needed one all year. Kerry Collins has been to a Super Bowl and gives them the veteran experience they need.

Why This Team Will Not Make the Super Bowl

Most teams need a good quarterback to make it to the Super Bowl. Collins had only 12 touchdown passes in the regular season. Usually a team will have adversity at some point in the postseason. While Collins has shown, at times, he can move the ball through the air, he hasn’t been consistent enough to think he is a guarantee to step up in a big spot.

What Would Be Considered a Successful Postseason

The Titans were a wild card team last year that benefited from a playoff run. They have the pieces to get to a Super Bowl and have home field. Anything short of making the Super Bowl is going to be a major disappointment.

35 percent chance of playing football on 02/01/2009

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (Seed: AFC No. 2 Seed)

Quick Stats

1) W/L Record: 12-4
2) Points Scored: 21.7 / game (20th)
3) Points Allowed: 13.9 / game (first)
4) Yards Gained: 311.9 / game (22nd)
5) Yards Allowed: 237.2 / game (first)

 

Strengths

This was arguably one of the best defenses in recent NFL history. They finished first in points allowed, yards allowed, and passing yards allowed. They finished second in rushing yards allowed. Quarterbacks threw only 12 touchdowns and 20 picks on the Steelers this season, which produced an average rating of 63.4. Only the Ravens were better in that department.

The Steelers were second in sacks with 51. They were tied for second in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed with just seven. They also have a Super Bowl tested quarterback in Big Ben Roethlisberger. They know he can win tough playoff games.

Weaknesses

This just wasn’t a very good offense this year. They had a lot of injuries at running back. Ben Roethlisberger had an off year. In 2007, he had the second highest QB rating in the NFL at 104.1 and was third in touchdown passes with 32. In 2008, he was 24th in QB rating at 80.1.

Willie Parker is their leading rusher with 791 yards rushing. Hines Ward recorded another 1,000-yard season with 1,043 yards and seven touchdowns. There just wasn’t a lot of firepower on offense. If they can regain their 2007 form they will probably win the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl. If they don’t they could be bounced in their first playoff game.

Why This Team Will Win the Super Bowl

There are still a lot of players from the 2005 Super Bowl team and this defense is as nasty as any defense the NFL has seen. The AFC doesn’t have many high-powered offenses. Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Baltimore win with defense first.

Indianapolis is still strong on offense, but they are a shadow of their 2003-2007 offense. San Diego has the only high-powered offense in the AFC playoffs and the Steelers won’t have to play them until the title game. They held San Diego to just 10 points in their previous meeting.

Why This Team Will Not Make the Super Bowl

Big Ben has been turning the ball over a lot more. He had two fumbles and two interceptions against Tennessee. He is sacked quite a bit and is entering the playoffs with a concussion. It’s going to be hard for the Steelers to win playoff games if he isn’t at 100 percent

What Would Be Considered a Successful Postseason

This is another team that made the playoffs last year and won the Super Bowl in 2005. This team is looking for one thing, a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

25 percent chance of playing football on 02/01/2009

 

Miami Dolphins (AFC No. 3 Seed)

Quick Stats


1) W/L Record: 11-5
2) Points Scored: 21.6 / game (21st)
3) Points Allowed: 19.8 / game (ninth)
4) Yards Gained: 345.6 / game (12th)
5) Yards Allowed: 329.0 / game (15th)

Strengths

The Dolphins are a team that doesn’t kill themselves. They lead the league in turnover differential at plus 17...

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