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Quick Review of the First Half: AFC

Best Teams in the NFL

East

New England Patriots, (6-2)
"They drafted a running back? Are they crazy? Belichick and Pioli really lost it this time! I don't care if he can return kickoffs! They need a linebacker -- desperately" "What? They're not paying Deion Brach? They're trading him? They don't have any receivers! All is lost! All is lost!" And then baseball season ended, and the Red Sox fans went into hibernation for the winter. A couple pre-season injuries and a new wide receiving corp let to some inconsistent play early in the season, but since New England didn't have the killer schedule of 2005, they grinned and bore it for a few weeks, steadily improving until last Sunday, when, on a short week, they ran into a 7-0 team. You can't win them all. The defense, despite the desperate need for linebackers, has been steady and stalwart (I've been using that word a lot lately) all season, and typically is the benchmark of a championship team. The defensive secondary has had some tough games, and the loss of Rodney Harrison is going to hurt pretty bad, more for his on-field leadership than for his actual playing ability. Injuries have again plagued the team, and, thusfar, they have been able to overcome them. After today's home game vs. New York, it's pretty clear sailing, with only a home date with Chicago and a road trip to Jacksonville as the only major challenges. Traveling to Miami is always difficult, and should be interesting. The other major challenge will be the battle against complacency.

New York Jets, (4-4)
New York is doing pretty well under new head coach Eric Mangini. Except their recent loss to Cleveland, New York has lost the games they should have lost and won the games they should have won. Their best games have been against division opponents (and a former division opponent). They're a decent team with a lot of decent players, and a few years with Mangini will probably make a big difference. New York has their share of injuries. They come out for the second half off their bye and immediately have two tough tests with New England and Chicago. After that, it gets a lot easier with a couple speed bumps down the stretch. New York could possibly make a playoff run, especially if they steal one of the next two.

Buffalo Bills, (3-5)
It's hard to say what the problem is up there, but I'm pretty sure that it's because the offensive line is terrible. They can't run. They can't pass. They redefine inconsistence. They've probably won some games they should have lost and lost some they should have won. They play better against the NFC (2-2) than against the AFC (1-3). Also 2-2 at home and 1-3 on the road. They're the very definition of "mediocre." Considering they're also 1-3 in the division, they have a pretty brutal second-half schedule with Indy, Jacksonville, San Diego and Baltimore and a trip to New York. I wonder if Marv Levy is thinking about the good ol' days? No, not of Jim Kelly, Thuran Thomas and Bruce Smith. Of retirement.

Miami Dolphins, (2-6)
Who knows what can happen with this team after knocking off Chicago, who previously almost lost to Arizona and hasn't really played a tough schudule, and will probably have another early-round playoff exit ... oh, right. I'm supposed to be talking about Miami. The good news is that Miami has five of their last eight at home. The bad news is: They're not that good. But they had a great run at the end of last season, and the win over Chicago may indicate they're ready for another run this year. But they have a few road blocks in the way. They start off with a couple mid-level tests at home with K.C. and Minnesota, and after a trip to Detroit, two more home games against Jacksonville and New England. Then it's on the road for two of the last three, culminating in Indy, which will be interesting if Miami is miraculously in the hunt and Indy is playing like they were at the end of 2005.

North

Baltimore Ravens, (6-2)
Remember when most people thought this was going to be among the toughest divisions in football? Baltimore got off to a great start against three of the worst teams in football and then skirted by San Diego before losing two straight to good teams, and then beating a good team and wrapping up with a big intra-division win. They have only a game or two against anyone even close to being "good" (Atlanta? Kansas City? Cincinnati?) and the rest of the schedule is like a Twinkie -- filled with creamy something. It would be nearly impossible for them to lose the division, and equally unlikely that they'll do any damage in the playoffs -- unless it's because they're completely healthy after playing a bunch of high school teams.

Cincinnati Bengals, (4-4)
Do they still think the better team lost in Week 4. Including that game, they've lost four of their last five, including handing Tampa Bay their first win after Cincy had two weeks to prepare. (Yeah, I know there was that awful roughing-the-passer call.) Cincinnati has a very tough second half, starting with San Diego at home and an immediate trip to New Orleans. Later, they have back-to-back meetings at Indy and at Denver. Anyway, I hate wasting time talking about losers, like Chad Johnson and most of the other people and teams in this division. So let's move on.

Cleveland Browns, (2-6)
Technically in third place, they really haven't gone anywhere, and they probably won't until the front office gets them some players -- especially players that can score points. And maybe some that can prevent other teams from scoring. Hmmm, that seems to be a whole team. Well, they need to work on that. There's really not much to say. We expected them to be bad. They're bad. It doesn't really matter who they play. But they do have two games against Pittsburgh. Cleveland is home next Sunday, and in the pureed tomato on Dec. 7. It's the battle to see if the defending Super Bowl champs are the worst title defenders in the history of competition.

Pittsburgh Steelers, (2-6)
Ben Roethlisberger. What an idiot. The first QB dubbed The Next Tom Brady is about as far from Brady as imaginable. After entertaining New Orleans this week, they go to Cleveland and Baltimore. Then it's "up-and-coming" Tampa, Cleveland again, at Carolina, home vs. Baltimore and at Cincy. The Cleveland and Tampa games may be the only one preventing them from a 2-14 season. Sure, they had a really tough first-half, but they've performed accordingly.

South

Indianapolis Colts, (8-0)
No denying it. These guys are good. Are that that good? Only time will tell. They're having a season similar to the 2001 Patriots. They're getting every bounce, every ball, every call. I almost want them to go 16-0, just so they can lose (again) in the playoffs. They still have some medium-tough opponenets before they can claim whatever it is they're going to claim: at Dallas and Jacksonville, home vs. Philly and Cincy. All tomato cans besides. Dallas might have the best chance to win next week with Julius Jones.

Jacksonville Jaguars, (5-3)
If this team could ever just get it right for once, they'd be a power to contend with. Their only two losses besides the one to Indy are against Washington and Houston. They really could be 7-1. But that's an earmark of a good team, not a great one. After facing Houston today, they have a major test home against the New York Giants. Later, they're home in the Indy rematch and two weeks after that they host New England. David Garrard is playing well, as he did last year. Meanwhile, Byron Leftwich isn't exactly playng the Drew Bledsoe-like "good soldier," which could be a disruption if Garrard improves and Jacksonville wins. Injuries at running back and all over the defense could be seriously detrimental as well.

Houston Texans, (2-6)
Despite passing on Reggie Bush (maybe they should have looked at Marques Colston, huh?), they should be doing a lot better this year. But they aren't. Four games against bottom of the barrel teams, four against cream of the crop or merely good teams. Looks like another great draft pick position (but not necessarily a great draft pick) for Houston.

Tennessee Titans, (2-6)
Tennessee's third quarter schedule shapes up like this: host Baltimore, at Philly, entertain New York Giants and Indy. Two of their last four are home dates against Jacksonville and New England. If it weren't for Arizona, you'd be looking at a No. 1 pick right there. Let's waste no more time here.

West

Denver Broncos, (6-2)
Ahhh, now this is a division to be proud of, mostly. Denver has been doing it with defense, like many champion-caliber teams. If they can find a way to score against similarly good defenses, they'll be in business. If not for that little flukey thing in Week 1, they'd be 7-1 as well. Denver's biggest tests the restof the way are division rivals San Diego (home-and-home, obviously) and a trip to Arrowhead, where Kansas City has been (as usual) fantastic. They also have Seattle, but that will depend on the status of that team's injuries. Injuries at running back and through the middle of the defense will be challenges to overcome. This will be a great race to watch, but it's likely that whoever comes out on top will be the low seed.

San Diego Chargers, (6-2)
The last thing Dever, or really the rest of the league, wants to see is a healthy San Diego team, and that's pretty much what they are. A pair of 3-point losses at Baltimore and at Arrowhead are the only blemishes on an otherwise spectacular season. San Diego's narrowest margin of victory was last week's 7 points over Cleveland. However, outside of those two losses, San Diego has faced little resistance. They start the second half with a lot of resistance in a pair of road trips to Cincy and Denver. Later, they also have Seattle on the road in the penultimate week of the season, so Seattle will probably be fighting for the division or seeding. In between, they have back-to-back home games vs. division rivals Denver (again) and K.C. Not an easy road, but if they keep playing complete, balanced football games, they'll be tough to be now and in the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs, (5-3)
Considering Kansas City's remaining schedule, they could factor into the playoff hunt. Damon Huard has been fantastic "subbing" for Trent Green. Seems kind of 2000 Rams-ish, doesn't it? K.C. is pretty healthy, too, and that could big a huge difference-maker down the stretch. Besides division opponents, their only tests are home games against Baltimore and Jacksonville, but trips to Miami today and Cleveland in a few weeks could be traps. K.C. is one of those "wait-and-see" teams.

Oakland Raiders, (2-6)
I heard some nitwit say that Oakland had a playoff-caliber defense after they beat Pittsburgh. I wonder if he thought that was the case when they lost 34-20 to San Francisco? Oakland starts the second half with three division games (vs. Denver, at K.C., at S.D.). That can't be good. They might steal a couple (Houston? St. Louis), but they'll probably be battling for a high draft pick.

Poll

Who will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Indianapolis Colts (8-0)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Cincinnati Bengals (4-4)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    New York Jets (4-4)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)
    (0 votes)
  • 16%
    San Diego Chargers (6-2)
    (1 vote)
  • 16%
    Denver Broncos (6-2)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
    (0 votes)
  • 50%
    New England Patriots (6-2)
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else
    (0 votes)
6 votes total Vote Now