Season total: 130-62
Let’s get things under way this week with the AFC portion of “Shake It Like a Playoff Picture.” (Kind of catchy, don’t you think?) As I did with the NFC edition, I’ve ordered the teams based on current seeding (Pittsburgh experiences a temporary jump to number one due to their victory over Cleveland on Thursday night) , and have included current record and remaining opponents. The thing I find to be the most fascinating about the AFC at this point is, because there are four teams with at least 9 wins, and because two of them are in the same division, and because someone has to win the AFC West, it looks to me as though there are several teams vying for one playoff spot.
Steelers (10-3)—at 49ers, Rams, at Browns
If they can beat San Francisco next week, the Steelers would look like a good bet for 13 wins, and would have an excellent shot at ending up the number one seed.
Patriots (9-3)—at ‘skins, at Broncos, Dolphins, Bills
A two-game lead over the Jets, plus an easier schedule than Rexy’s Midnight Runners, equals an AFC East title.
Texans (9-3)—at Bengals, Panthers, at Colts, Titans
These Houston Texans have proven to be resilient in the face of a ridiculous number of injuries to some of their best players. They look good for at least 11 wins.
Broncos (7-5)—Bears, Patriots, at Bills, Chiefs
Doesn’t it just seem like everything is aligning perfectly for them? They get the Bears this weekend without Cutler and Forte, and finish at Buffalo and home to the Chiefs. They look like a 10-win team to me.
Ravens (9-3)—Colts, at Chargers, Browns, at Bengals
All they need to do is keep pace with the Steelers. Baltimore’s season sweep of Pittsburgh means that if they tie, then the Ravens take to division. Can they avoid another costly meltdown?
Bengals (7-5)—Texans, at Rams, Cardinals, Ravens
Three of their five losses have come against division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and yet the Bengals are still in good shape. Ten wins looks like a strong possibility.
Titans (7-5)—Saints, at Colts, Jaguars, at Texans
A loss to New Orleans this weekend would mean that the best Tennessee could do is 10 wins, which won’t be enough to win the division or grab the last wild card without some help.
Raiders (7-5)—at Packers, Lions, at Chiefs, Chargers
Their remaining schedule looks daunting. Oakland will have to really dig deep, because 9 wins won’t get them anywhere.
Jets (7-5)—Chiefs, at Eagles, Giants, at Dolphins
Their remaining schedule looks daunting. New York will have to really dig deep, because 9 wins won’t get them anywhere. (Where have I heard that before?)
Bills (5-7)—at Chargers, Dolphins, Broncos, at Patriots
Buffalo makes an appearance here only because I had to include two other 5-7 teams, and it seemed wrong to exclude them. The way they’ve been playing, and with their remaining schedule, 5-11 looks more likely than a playoff berth.
Chiefs (5-7)—at Jets, Packers, Raiders, at Broncos
Though below .500, Kansas City finds themselves only two games out of first place. They have an absolutely brutal slate of games ahead, though.
Chargers (5-7)—Bills, Ravens, at Lions, at Raiders
Though below .500, San Diego finds themselves only two games out of first place. They have an absolutely brutal slate of games ahead, though. (Seriously, is there an echo in here?)
So, what does it all mean? The Patriots, Ravens, Texans, and yes, the Broncos, will be in as division champs, with New England and Baltimore grabbing the top two seeds, though not necessarily in that order. The Steelers will slide comfortably into the number five slot. That leaves only one spot. The Bills have no chance. The Chiefs and Chargers will be eliminated before each plays their final game. The Raiders top out at nine wins, which leaves them out of the running. Finishing against the Giants and the Dolphins will doom the Jets. As for the Titans, 10 wins puts them in excellent position. However, they would still lose in a tiebreaker against another 10-win team: the Bengals. Cincinnati grabs the final playoff spot. Hooray for the AFC Black-and-Blue Division!
Now, on to this week’s picks:
Chiefs at Jets
Kansas City only managed 10 points against Chicago last week, with their only TD coming off a fluke play on a Hail Mary toss. The Jets should have little difficulty shutting the Chiefs’ offence down. Winner: Jets
Patriots at ‘skins
New England is on a roll, and should keep the momentum going this week. Winner: Patriots
Buccaneers at Jaguars
A battle between two teams with no playoff hopes. Maurice Jones-Drew has a big day and powers the Jags to victory. Winner: Jaguars
Texans at Bengals
This should be a great battle between two teams that play really good defence. Andy Dalton out-duels T.J. Yates. Winner: Bengals
Falcons at Panthers
As dangerous as Cam Newton is, he doesn’t play defence. Atlanta should have little difficulty putting up points in this one. Winner: Falcons
Vikings at Lions
Detroit should be able to put up some big passing numbers against Minnesota’s injury-depleted secondary. Winner: Lions
Saints at Titans
New Orleans just has too many weapons on offence for Tennessee to handle, and the Titans can’t match the Saints score-for-score. Winner: Saints
Colts at Ravens
Like it or not, Baltimore has a reputation for slacking off against weaker opponents. Knowing that the Steelers have already won this week should help the Ravens keep their focus. Winner: Ravens
Eagles at Dolphins
Interesting matchup between the 4-8 disaster and the 4-8 team that no one wants to play right now. I’ll let you decide which is which. Winner: Dolphins
Bears at Broncos
There’s been lots of talk this week from members of Chicago’s defence about how embarrassing it would be to lose to Tim Tebow and the Broncos. In order to save face, they’ll have to score a couple of TDs, because the Bears’ offence is pitiful. Winner: Broncos
49ers at Cardinals
Arizona has been playing better of late, but the Niners know that they can’t afford a misstep if they hope to hold on to the number two seed in the NFC. Winner: 49ers
Raiders at Packers
Does anyone remember the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds?” For some reason, I thought of it at the end of the Packers-Giants game last week, as Aaron Rodgers ripped the still-beating heart out of the Giants’ inspired comeback. So, who’s beating Green Bay? That’s what I thought you’d say. Winner: Packers
Bills at Chargers
Believe it or not, this might be Buffalo’s last, best chance at ending their interminable losing streak. Pity. Winner: Chargers
Giants at Cowboys
The game of the week. Period. Here’s a thought: if your team had a big game, and you thought that, maybe, the players weren’t exactly confident in the head coach’s ability to make key decisions in pressure situations, and that maybe the players might feel as though they had to do a little bit extra to ensure victory, well, how confident would you be with Tony Romo as your QB? Me neither. Winner: Giants
Rams at Seahawks
How bad are the Rams? Well, they’re really bad. What do you want me to say? I can’t wait to hear the promos for this one. “Welcome to Monday Night Football. Tonight’s game features DIVISION RIVALS. The Seattle Seahawks, still in the playoff hunt, clash with the St. Louis Rams. You know, the team that Howie Long’s kid plays for.” Winner: Seahawks