Monday, November 15

You Can't Make Sense of the AFC Right Now

It must be generating pageviews and the debate it stirs up to keep everyone putting up NFL power rankings. They really serve no tangible purpose. Discussion relative to how "good" football teams are can be constructive and used as a tool for reflecting on the season and what possibly lies ahead. However, often times they are taken either too seriously or used as concrete fact in debate. Most seasons you can ignore all that noise, but especially this year it becomes mindless droning. There are no fewer than 21 teams in the playoff race right now and while there may be some stratification within this group it is near impossible to pin down a clear-cut favorite.

As a society we are losing our memory. We can now only remember recent events if they receive a deluge of media coverage. Things happen so quickly and we are fed information at such a rate that whatever happened two seconds ago remains relevant. It's like we are watching Spaceballs, the Movie and we missed now just then.

After the Patriots got blitzkrieged by the Browns last week many were starting to waffle on their prospects. With the Jets holding the division tiebreaker (because they have only played once at New Jersey) and beating the Lions in overtime and the Pats facing Steelers and Colts in back-to-back weeks people were ready to bury them. This was a week after New England stood alone as the only 1 loss team in the NFL. The Pats game against Indy is huge this coming Sunday. If the Pats win they will give the Colts their 4th loss and hold tiebreakers over the Ravens, Steelers, and Colts. This would seemingly give them the inside track to home-field advantage if they finish ahead of the Jets. The Pats worry continues to be their defense. One good half against Pittsburgh does not solve all, especially with 18 coming to town. Offensively, Brandon Tate remains the key in my mind. If he can get his head (and hands) straight he can become Deion Branch 2.0, you know when Deion's legs were not made of peanut brittle.

The Steelers are now in everyone's doghouse. They had a bad performance last night, especially on defense. After they went 3-1 without Roethlisberger many had them wearing the crown of the league's best team. They are still in a tough fight with Baltimore but Pittsburgh is not going to crumble down the stretch. The defense will get back in gear, but they are a far cry from the formiddable power that people had them at earlier. The offensive line is bruised and not sure-footed at all. The Patriots were at the bottom of the league in QB sacks but got 5 last night. They made Tully Banta-Cain look like LT.

The Colts are like a hybrid that ran out of electric power and are now putting along on gas fuel to try to get to Dallas. Peyton of course is that fuel. I say just give the guy the MVP again right now. There are other players who are crucial to their teams but without Manning the Colts are a 1 or 2 win team. I don't often play the violin for other teams when it comes to injuries, but they are a walking MASH unit. We all knew Bob Sanders wasn't going to make it and Anthony Gonzalez had us going for awhile. I know Peyton can take any schmoe off the street and mind-meld him into the offense after a practice or two but at some point you wonder how much you can do. The Philly game looked to be telling, but why on Earth would you count these guys out? People will be leaning heavy on New England this week but I don't buy it. I still see Peyton against that pass defense of the Patriots and shudder.

The Ravens lost a tough game on the road in a short week. This team is dangerous. When Joe Flacco doesn't sail passes they are Bangkok Dangerous. Problem is Flacco has the consistency at times of a Schizophrenic with Aspurgers. The defense is not as unassailable as in the past. The corners would be stronger if Foxworth had not gone down in the preseason. Yet, they are still a stout group. After 2000, the Ravens had some mighty good teams that never got over the hump. That is not enough to condemn a team to failure this year but the offense might be. If the offense clicks late and takes some pressure off the defense and let's them attack, the Ravens will make the Super Bowl.

The AFC West picture is foggy. The Raiders and Chiefs are 5-4 due to some ingenuity but they are prove it teams. The Chargers are right behind at 4-5 and are poised to make their late-season run. If one team can seperate they could grab a home playoff game and host either the Steelers, Patriots, Jets, or Ravens.

The Jets are winning. That is the bottom line. Like last year they are making every game an adventure of late. Unlike last year, they are winning the close contests. Some times just keep winning and you usually don't say that with the Jets but it doesn't have to dazzle you, scoring more points than the other team is a sure-fire way to come out on top. With all the attention and self-brought pressure, people are making all sorts of innane judgments about the team week to week. Some people are pointing to the will to win after beating the Browns and Lions in OT o the road. Others are not happy the team is not winning by more. To go along with 2 losses at home. As jolly as Rex Ryan is, he will keep the Jets in any game they play in January.

The best of the rest looks like Miami, Jacksonville, and Tennessee. The Dolphins beat the Titans and became a quiet 5-4 on the season. Miami certinaly has their own fate in their hands as they play both the Jets and New England but they now have their top 2 QBs on the shelf. This may stun you but Chad Pennington suffered a shoulder injury. Jacksonville did their best to give Gus Johnson an anuerism. Garrard is probably the best QB no one wants to talk about. Forget the LA talk, this season the Jags are going nowhere and will at least be the proverbial "thorn in side" for teams down the stretch. The Titans Randy Moss and Randy Moss but Jeff Fisher Randy Moss Vince Young's ankle Randy Moss.

Who can make sense out of all this. Easy answer is no one. Many will rank their teams and offer predictions but there are so many that when they land wrong no one cares or takes accountability. Why bother picking Super Bowl match-ups when the each week is so up and down. Getting a handle on the next few weeks to me is more intriguing than playing what if for the post-season. Of the 11 teams I mentioned only 6 are making the playoffs. This is the NFL of this season, a great up and down ride for the fans, and providing an illumination on the frivolous nature of dart throwing.

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