On this joyous Thanksgiving Day I hope I will not get slammed for tyring to paint the AFC playoff picture as I see it at this point of the season.
If one was to describe the AFC playoffs race this year in one word, that word would be crowded. There are at least 10 teams seriously contending for a spot, either through a divisional victory or via wild card. Another one or two can make a push with a decent run to end the year. The race couldn't be more open. And here are my main thoughts on how it may play out.
There are no truly elite teams in the AFC. There are 5 teams that would normally be seen as elite, but each of them has its big issues. New England and Indianapolis have too many injured position players and have no-names leading the way. This has got to backfire at some point. The Jets have a questionable offense and the Ravens' defense has been underachieving this season. We all know where the Steelers' holes are. As a result, these teams have virtually no separation from the rest of the pack.
The rest of the pack. It certainly includes some good teams. Some of them are surprising (like the Jaguars), some of them are invincible in Decembers (Chargers), and some of them play in the AFC West. This division might as well be called AFC Worst, but it will still get a playoff spot.
The biggest point I guess is that with the remaning divisional games (Tennessee, for example, has five remaining, the rest of the AFC - three apiece), and some other big games on the slate, I think each of the contending teams will lose once or twice. The picture will become much clearer after next week, with Patriots-Jets and Steelers-Ravens effecitvely deciding their respective divisional races.
But at this point, it appears that the AFC North and East leaders will all get into the postseason, and the other two sports will be decided between Colts/Jags, and Chiefs/Chargers respectively. I like Colts and Chargers.
So my call (on which I wouldn't put my own money) is:
1. Jets (AFCE champs) 12-4
2. Steelers (AFCN champs) 12-4
3. Chargers (AFCW champs) 10-6
4. Colts (AFCS champs) 10-6
5. Pats 12-4
6. Ravens 11-5
Feel free to disagree!
P.S. Can you imagine the 7-9 playoff team? Based on the NFC Worst, it is not inconceivable!