Entering Week 13, it is safe to say the cream is starting to rise to the top in the AFC. With the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots both sitting atop the conference with 9-2 records, the rest of the conference is a jumbled mess.
Time to see who are Contenders, legitimate threats to win the conference, and merely Pretenders, with no real threat to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 52.
To save everyone time, the bottom feeders, like the winless Cleveland Browns, are admittedly removed from the discussion. If a team isn’t around the .500 mark, they are considered pretenders.
Here we go...
1. Pittsburgh Steelers - CONTENDER
Despite their inconsistent play at times, they sit atop the AFC. Yeah, they are legit.
2. New England Patriots - CONTENDER
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick haven’t missed a beat. They are always contenders.
3. Tennessee Titans - PRETENDER
Say what you want, but I’m not a believer in Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee offense. When the dust settles they might just be a Wild Card team.
4. Kansas City Chiefs - CONTENDER
Yes, they have lost 5 of their last 6 since starting 5-0, but this team is still brimming with talent. I have a hunch they will figure it out in a really bad AFC West.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - CONTENDER
Blake Bortles isn’t the answer, but plenty of NFL teams have shown they can win with a running game and a tremendous defense. The Jags have both.
6. Baltimore Ravens - PRETENDER
“Check down Joey” is in full effect with the Ravens’ offense, and despite their defensive success this team doesn’t have what it takes, in my opinion.
7. Buffalo Bills - PRETENDER
A team who benches their quarterback midway through the season lacks some confidence in their personnel. Until they beat some legitimate teams, this unit is all smoke and mirrors.
8. Cincinnati Bengals - PRETENDER
Marvin Lewis is again on the hot seat, and for good reason. Don’t let their win streak cloud the fact the hole they dug themselves is way too deep.
9. Los Angeles Chargers - CONTENDER
Not to spoil the rest, but the Chargers are the only team without a .500 record I think can make a serious run at the AFC. A tremendous defense with a veteran quarterback could shock plenty of people in the AFC West.
10. Oakland Raiders - PRETENDER
This team is a mess from top-to-bottom. What happened to the 12-4 2016 team?