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What are the best teams in the AFC? Chiefs dominating, Texans hurting, Patriots up-and-down

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What teams are contending in the AFC?

Houston Texans v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

There’s no question that the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs are the top team in the AFC at this point in time. They’ve beaten quality teams, they lead the league in points scored and don’t turn the ball over, and they have a league-average defense that forces takeaways.

In other words, they’re out-Patrioting the New England Patriots.

But other than the 5-0 Chiefs, what teams in the AFC are looking like contenders through five weeks?

The Denver Broncos- on a week 5 bye week- are the only team fewer than 2 losses in the conference. Unlike the NFC where four teams have 1 loss, the AFC appears to be the Chiefs and then everyone else. Here’s a rundown on everyone else.

Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

The Ravens had a favorable schedule, facing the Bengals and Browns to start the season and winning with a combined score of 44-10. They lost to the Jaguars and Steelers with a combined score of 70-16.

Typically I would say this team is somewhere in the middle as an 8-8 squad that can play spoiler, but they have a favorable schedule with the Bears, Dolphins, Browns, Colts, and Bengals still on the schedule, along with teams hurting with injury like the Vikings, Titans, and Texans. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens swiped the final wild card slot at 9-7, but they’re not looking like a contender.

Real or not?: NOT

Buffalo Bills (3-2)

The Bills rank 25th in points scored and 1st in points against. They’ve handed the Broncos and Falcons their only losses of the season, but go out and lose to the Bengals. This is the Billsiest Bills team that will finish 9-7 and one seed out of the playoffs.

Real or not?: NOT

Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)

The Bengals are a worse version of the Bills, despite just beating them in week 5. They rank 27th in points scored and 2nd in points against. They have an infuriatingly underproductive quarterback and they’re going to be another team floating around 8-8 as a potential playoff spoiler.

Real or not?: NOT

Cleveland Browns (0-5)

Next, please.

Real or not?: NOT

Denver Broncos (3-1)

The Broncos have a solid defense and an inconsistent offense. They can beat any team, but they can also lose to any offense capable of putting up 20 points. They’ve beaten a bad Chargers team, a bad Raiders team, and a mediocre Cowboys team. They lost to a confusing Bills team.

Denver faces an awful Giants team in week 6, but play a three-game road stretch against the Chargers, Chiefs, and Eagles, before hosting the Patriots. That’s when we’ll know if they’re real or not, although they could still take one of the wild card slots.

Real or not?: To be determined.

Houston Texans (2-3)

The Texans just lost J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season. They made up the bulk of the Houston pass rush and now they’re gone. Houston gets a game against the Browns before they head into the bye week to reassess the roster, but this is a team in serious trouble.

On the other hand, Deshaun Watson looks like the real deal at quarterback, which means that even if this season doesn’t go well, the Texans should be fine for the foreseeable future.

Real or not?: NOT

Indianapolis Colts (2-3)

The Colts two wins have come against teams with a combined 0-10 record (Browns, 49ers). They’re the only defense worse than the Patriots.

Real or not?: NOT

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2)

The Jaguars rank 5th in points scored and 2nd in points allowed. Sure, they lost to the Jets in overtime, but they’ve also toppled the Texans, Ravens, and Steelers with a combined score of 103-23.

Blake Bortles is still a bad quarterback, but the Jaguars have enough surrounding pieces to mask his deficiencies. Leonard Fournette is dominant out of the backfield and the defense is looking like it could carry the team like the 2015 Broncos. Alternatively, this could be a similar story to the 2016 Texans.

Either way, they could make noise if they make the postseason.

Real or not?: REAL AND DON’T MAKE ME REGRET IT

Kansas City Chiefs (5-0)

C’mon now.

Real or not?: REAL

Los Angeles Chargers (1-4)

They’ve had a tough opening, with the Broncos, Chiefs, and Eagles. They also lost to the Dolphins on a last-second missed field goal. They’ve beaten a winless Giants team. No. No, no, no.

Real or not?: NOT

Miami Dolphins (2-2)

They’ve averaged 10.25 points per game this season, 32nd in the NFL. They rank 4th in points allowed at 16.8. They face the Falcons, Jets, Ravens, Raiders, Panthers, Buccaneers, Patriots, Broncos, Patriots, Bills, Chiefs, and Bills for the rest of the year. I wanted to stop listing teams, but there is no reprieve. This looks like a 5-11 season for the Dolphins.

Real or not?: NOT

New England Patriots (3-2)

The Patriots have some pretty clear flaws. The offensive line has been bad, while the running game has been inconsistent. The defense struggled at all three levels for the first quarter of the season.

But unlike other teams, these Patriots are going to be contenders until the day they’re eliminated. They’ve earned that. There’s also a real chance that the Patriots defense that we saw for the first three quarters against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is what they’re really capable of doing and that would make the Patriots one of the most balanced teams in the league.

Real or not?: REAL

New York Jets (3-2)

How about them Jets? They’ve won three in a row, but they host the Patriots, travel to Miami to play the Dolphins, and then host the Falcons over the next three weeks. The Jets rank 23rd in points scored and 15th in points allowed. This dream ride could come to an end quickly, even if the Jets go 7-9 on the year.

Real or not?: NOT

Oakland Raiders (2-3)

The Raiders have lost three straight after beating the Titans and the Jets. This team is looking like a .500 squad, which makes sense since they’re ranked 16th in both points scored and against. They’re not catching the same lucky breaks they were in 2016.

Real or not?: NOT

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

If the Jaguars are actually good, then this Steelers team has nothing to worry about. They’ll be in the postseason and every team has a bad performance at some point. If the Patriots are contenders despite their record, then so are the Steelers.

Real or not?: REAL

Tennessee Titans (2-3)

Who are the Titans? They’ve beaten the Jaguars and the Seahawks. They’ve lost to the Raiders, Texans, and Dolphins. Marcus Mariota is hurt for the next couple of weeks, but they get to face the Colts and Browns before the bye. Maybe they can pull it together, but it all comes down to Mariota’s health.

Real or not?: To be determined

So based on my evaluations, there are four teams that look like they could make a postseason push in the Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers, and Jaguars. The Broncos and Titans need their quarterback position to settle down for them to be considered, too. Other teams like the Ravens could make the playoffs based on their schedule.

The Chiefs currently have a big lead in the AFC- it’s a three-game lead over the Patriots due to the tiebreaker- and they should be the clear favorite for homefield advantage until further notice. They do have a tough stretch against the Steelers, at the Raiders, the Broncos, and at the Cowboys over the next four weeks, so there’s a chance for some regression.

But other than Kansas City and New England, I don’t think any other team in the AFC really generates much Super Bowl inspiration.

Poll

Other than the Patriots and Chiefs, what team is the biggest contender in the AFC?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Broncos
    (651 votes)
  • 17%
    Jaguars
    (230 votes)
  • 1%
    Ravens
    (15 votes)
  • 24%
    Steelers
    (323 votes)
  • 4%
    Texans
    (63 votes)
  • 1%
    Titans
    (16 votes)
  • 2%
    Other
    (33 votes)
1331 votes total Vote Now