Is it too early to start planning for the playoffs?
The New England Patriots are now the last remaining undefeated team in the AFC and even though the Patriots lost their third and fourth most dynamic players on offense, every other team still looks much worse.
The AFC East is yet another cakewalk after all of the noise in free agency fell flat on the football field. The Dolphins are terrible, the Jets vaunted secondary is currently a sieve, and the Bills have a snowball's chance in Florida at winning the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have a 4-game lead and can clinch the division with wins in the next two weeks against the Bills and Broncos, and if the Dolphins upset the Jets in New York in week 12. FiveThirtyEight gives this scenario an 20% chance of happening.
The AFC North will come down to the Bengals and the Steelers, although Cincinnati currently has a 2.5-game lead, with a win in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are on a bye this week, but travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks, host the Colts, travel to the Bengals, host the Broncos, and then have two-straight away games against divisional rivals. Pittsburgh isn't a lock to make the playoffs with this schedule.
Of course, the Bengals just lost at home in prime time to the lowly Houston Texans, so the ghosts of Prime Time Dalton still exist. And they travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals in prime time this week, so this could be a second-straight loss.
And speaking of the Texans, they are now a 4-5 team tied for first place with the Colts, where Andrew Luck has been put on ice to preserve his health. The AFC South is bad and they should feel bad.
The AFC West still belongs to the Broncos, although there's a small chance they could lose both of their next two games to make it four-straight and a 7-4 record. Peyton Manning is toast, regardless of injury, and the defense is falling apart. They get to play their former head coach John Fox in Chicago and then host the Patriots.
So while the Patriots top competition is losing at home to the Texans, or tying the Texans for the division lead, or benching a quarterback that the team tried to trade away to the Texans, the Patriots will hopefully see Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, and Jamie Collins return to their starting spots to strengthen the team. And I think the Texans are in good standing with the Patriots.
The season isn't over, but maybe it isn't too early to start making plans.