AFC Playoff Picture

How will the West (and AFC) be won?

Right now the Kansas City Chiefs are doing everything and anything to notch the “W” each week as they moved to 9-0. Yes, it’s true that they have been fortuitous in matching up against questionable quarterback situations for most of the season, but that’s the kind of opponents you face when coming off the worst record in the league with the top pick in the draft. A simple coaching change revived a playoff team from a few years back, injecting life by way of a family-oriented culture. A young locker room with several Pro Bowl players on the roster. They might not be the best offense, but it’s worked up to this point, especially when compared to a lot of teams with half the wins that were expected to be more competitive. Don’t discredit them because they are finding ways to get the job done as a team, and who’s to say the offense can’t improve. Jamaal Charles has thrown his name in the hat for Offensive Player of the Year consideration, and absolutely an MVP candidate, and we’re seeing Dwayne Bowe being utilized more as of late.

Although they have a cushion in terms of the AFC seeding and AFC West division, the marathon is far from over. This is around the midway point through the season, and the Denver Broncos are coming off a bye after watching two of their rivals fall further behind in the division race. The Chiefs and Broncos are battling for home field advantage as well, with two matchups head to head battles still on the slate. Denver has shined as the most explosive offense in football by doing whatever they choose to each victim. However, they aren’t the undefeated team and their defense got exploited in Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis. Feeling confident with only one loss, they are counting on Von Miller and Champ Bailey giving the defense a boost, but please be advised that the x-factor of the offense is running back Knowshon Moreno from here on out. Needless to say, Manning has distanced himself from the pack by a wide margin in his MVP campaign.

Playoff seeding needs to be reviewed.

It would be beneficial for the league to review and alter the playoff seeding in the near future by order of the best record. Check this out, because Kansas City and Denver are in the same division, if they were to finish as the top two teams we would see second place drop down to the fifth seed and playing on the road. The result gives the nod to the other division winners that may have a worse record while rewarding them with a home game.

Lead through thick and thin.

So, that leaves us with a couple of fierce signal callers jockeying for that second seed and a first-round bye in the postseason. New England has had to patch flat tires week in and week out but that hasn’t detoured their road trip. It’s certainly nice to get the dominant Rob Gronkowski back on the field, as they have shuffled through faces on each unit of the offense surrounding Tom Brady. The other side of the ball has suffered just as many injuries, however they are excited for Aqib Talib’s return to lock down receivers like he was before. We are witnessing a different style of Patriots football, they’re winning ugly now.

Last season the Colts developed an identity of perseverance and that has carried over impressively. Andrew Luck and his coaches are balancing the offense so that defenses have to respect the threat to run, the backbreaking plays are when Luck uses his legs to make plays. The loss of Reggie Wayne will be felt but don’t expect this team to lay down, especially with an improved, battle-tested defense. Eventually, they will need Trent Richardson to live up to being such a high draft pick by churning his legs and grinding the clock as the season dwindles down.

Cincinnati has arrived but the question with the Bengals is, can the defense sustain it’s elevated status without several starters that will miss the rest of the season? The offense has flashed a fair share of dynamic moments and they should still finish at the very top of the struggling NFC North. Now more than ever, will they need Andy Dalton’s mobility and the rushing attack to move the chains. Whoever places fourth, and this might be the team, they will get to meet the runner-up in the AFC West. If things stay as is, that means a date with Denver.

Of course nothing is a lock. By looking at the teams above it appears they are well on their way to the postseason, bearing a disastrous second half of the season. That final wildcard spot belongs to the New York Jets at the moment. Them, along with the Titans, Dolphins, and Chargers, will be fighting for their playoff lives teetering around the .500 mark down to the wire.

The Jets have the best defense of the bunch, one of the elite units in the NFL. While Geno Smith has led comebacks to win some ballgames, they know that they are a ground and pound team that can’t expose their rookie quarterback for the most part. Tennessee prides themselves in similar fashion and got sidetracked when Jake Locker went down. Well, Chris Johnson exploded last week while Locker is trying to regain his rhythm, and the defense is solidly worthy to be titled as playoff caliber. From east to west, San Diego is a team that relies on ball control as much as any team. When the offense matriculates up and down the field, it keeps their mediocre-at-best defense on the sidelines and in a position to attack by playing with a lead. The thing is, they can’t do everything and aside from stumping the Colts to only nine points a few weeks ago, the Bolts can’t trust the D.

Hey, it’s a long season and you never know who can turn things around or sneak into the picture. Cleveland is right there with the Chargers and Titans. Jason Campbell just might be reviving his career under the tutelage of Norv Turner with the Browns. Unfortunately for the other teams, like the Ravens, Raiders, and Bills, it’s probably not happening. This is what I expected from the Super Bowl champions in Baltimore, they lost too many key players. Buffalo is taking strides and will definitely get a boost when E.J. Manuel goes under center. Oakland got a little big-headed by being ranked top-ten on D, the crazy thing is this team is in more games than not and they believe in Terrelle Pryor.

Houston has underachieved and behind all of those teams at this point in time, but their realistic chances are higher than any other team near the cellar and that includes the fool’s gold Steelers. Pittsburgh’s O-line is battered as usual and the aged D might be limiting yardage, that doesn’t mean they are as good as history suggests. It’s time for Ben Roethlisberger to put the team on his back. The Texans defense has been waiting for the offense to come through, and Case Keenum might be the piece they needed. Here’s a shout out to the Jacksonville Jaguars fans for hanging in there, I hope you’ve turned your attention to the college ranks and who the number one pick will be.