Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Official Unauthorized AFC Midseason Report

New England (7-2) Part of the reason I love living in Boston is because it's such a great sports city. However, it's pretty annoying to hear people grumbling because this year's 7-2 Pats aren't quite as good as all the other 9-0, 8-1, and 7-2 Pats teams that they've enjoyed for the past decade.
New York Jets (5-4) When the Jets won their second game back in Week 3, I stashed a joke away that congratulated them for already surpassing their expected win total for the season. Even more shocking than the team's relative competency is that Mark Sanchez has yet to throw an interception this year. The overachieving Jets are likely going to be right in the thick of the playoff race until the very end, and for the franchise that prematurely ended both Matthew Stafford and Jason Hanson's seasons in the same game in 2010 (remember Dom Suh kicking that extra point?), they already have five more wins than they deserve.
Miami (4-5) For the 2013 Dolphins, first they got Incognitoed, and then they went out and lost to Greggy Boy Schiano and the Buccaneers. The words 'downward spiral' and 'potentially winless second half of the season' come to mind. The silver lining here as that for the 1972 Dolphins, they have a major opportunity to "get all Miami Dolphins" this weekend when the Chiefs and Broncos square off (see Kansas City section if you're confused).
Buffalo (3-7) The Bills can do some good for the world by knocking off the Jets this weekend, but other than this one chance to play spoiler, they're looking at a second half of irrelevancy. Their remaining games are against teams who will be either long removed from the playoff picture by the time they play (Falcons, Bucs, Jags, Dolphins) or long removed from wrapping up another division title (Pats in Week 17). Of course, pulling off a string of wins against the dregs of the league could possibly sneak Buffalo into the playoffs at 8-8, but I'm not about to make that leap of faith.

If I had to make a prediction: I would bet the farm that the Patriots win the division and a few cows that the Dolphins finish 5-11. Unfortunately, I own neither.

Kansas City (9-0) And here we have it, the final team standing in the way of the '72 Dolphins getting all Miami Dolphins--in short, celebrating the misfortune of an otherwise perfect season from a player or team, in order to protect one's own legacy. Some members of the undefeated '72 Dolphins team famously get together every season to pop champagne and celebrate whenever the final undefeated team loses, leaving themselves as the only NFL team to ever accomplish the feat. The origin of the phrase dates back to when me and my brother had this challenge on the Sega Genesis, where we took turns trying to get through all of Sonic 2 without losing a single life. After months of trying, neither of us gotten anywhere close to pulling it off, until one day I got on a roll and was perfect all the way to the Wing Fortress Zone, 1 1/2 levels away from Sonic immortality. Hands shaking as I gripped the controller, I just barely overshot the hanging chin-up bar underneath the ship, and tumbled out of the sky to Sonic's first death of the game. My brother, being the sportsman that he is, then ran around the living room wildly celebrating my defeat. "Getting all Miami Dolphins?", I asked. It was a rhetorical question, I knew full well what the answer was.
Denver (8-1) The Miami Dolphining ought to commence this weekend, when the Chiefs travel to Mile High. I don't think there's anyone who really thinks KC is the better team here, despite their current spot atop the West. Denver has played a tougher schedule and has obliterated nearly everything in its path. I would also venture to guess that Tom Brady is rooting pretty hard against Peyton Manning's quest to break the single season passing touchdowns record.
San Diego (4-5) When me and my brother are really scraping the bottom of the barrel for funny-text material, Phillip Rivers can usually be made into a decent enough punchline for us. Not necessarily this year though; Rivers is right near the top of the league in almost every QB statistical category, and while his strong play isn't exactly correlating with Chargers victories, I don't think we can in good conscience place the blame on him this time. I'd say that San Diego still holds some outside hope for the final Wild Card spot, but they still have three games remaining against teams who are a combined 26-1.
Oakland (3-6) When your leading rusher is Terrelle Pryor and your leading passer is his best friend, Terrelle Pryor, 3-6 is about as good as you can logically hope for.

If I had to make a prediction: I'd say Bob Griese and Larry Csonka will be pretty pleased with themselves come Sunday evening, and Denver fans will pre-order another 10,000 "Super Bowl Champions" t-shirts.

Indianapolis (6-3) On the whole, things are getting pretty bizarre over in the AFC South, and it starts with the Colts. They have arguably all three of the most impressive wins out of any team in the league this year, giving both Seattle and Denver their only losses so far, and winning by three touchdowns at San Francisco. What in the world happened last Sunday then? How do you lose to the Rams, at home, by 30? Not that it matters, the rest of this division is an absolute mess.
Tennessee (4-5) Don't you hate it when you go into the office on Monday, and everyone asks how your weekend was? You know what, maybe that's just me, but the point remains: imagine how much worse it would be if the answer you had to give was, "well, my quarterback is out for the season, oh and I lost to one of the worst NFL teams ever, how was yours?"
Houston (2-7) If not for an epic second half collapse by the Phillip Riverses and an overtime squeaker over the Titans, this team would be 0-9 right now. That can't be good Arian Foster's shareholders.
Jacksonville (1-8) Boy, I turn away for one minute, and suddenly Jacksonville isn't winless anymore! Good for them. I'm assuming Denard Robinson must have thrown for 300 and a couple touchdowns and ran for 150 and two more, right?

If I had to make a prediction: Indy obviously wins the division, but in unspectacular fashion, which leaves them stuck with Kansas City in the first round. Jacksonville ends up with three wins, and it's all because of Denard.

Cincinnati (6-4) I think this year's Bengals can be looked at as a near perfect AFC counterpart to the Lions, which is fitting because the two teams both currently have a precarious lead atop the North division, and they played a very even game back in October, won by Cincy on the final play. Andy Dalton is the Stafford, AJ Green is the slightly worse version of Calvin, and Vontaze Burfict is the defensive superstar putting together a very strong season while trying to shed his image as a dirty player and borderline psychotic, a la Dom Suh. The Bengals should be cheering for the DTLs down the stretch as well, since Lions wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh would give them a little more margin for error in the division, and the DTLs can thank them for the epic Packers collapse in Week 2.

Cleveland (4-5) I'm rooting for Cleveland to continue treading water long enough to snatch that final Wild Card spot.  Whoever ends up getting it will be a most unworthy candidate either way, so I suppose it's better the Browns than the Jets, Ravens, or Titans (this could come back to bite me later on, but let's not pretend Miami is even still in the conversation).

Baltimore (4-5) At this moment, the Ravens team lawyers are probably meticulously poring through document after document, searching for some loophole that will get them out of their Joe Flacco contract. With that said, out of the 5-4/4-5 teams, they still look to me like the team in the best position to find their way into the playoffs (since division champ and wild card are both still viable routes for them), where Joe Flacco has won at least one game every year in his career.

Pittsburgh (3-6) And with the final team of this midyear report, we've come to the next opponent for the DTLs. The irony of the moment is that the defensive coordinator tasked with finding a way to slow down Calvin this Sunday happens to be Lions' all-time interceptions leader, Dick LeBeau. As I mentioned in my last post, this week is a textbook trap game for the DTLs. It's not hard to reach the consensus that the Steelers suck this year, but the unknown factor here is how the Lions will respond coming off two straight emotional wins that went down to the final minute. I'm worried that they come out completely flat against Pittsburgh, and have a big special teams mishap that will even out the clear talent disparity between the teams.

If I had to make a prediction: I'd say the Lions disappoint us at Pittsburgh, but make up for it in the Monday night game against Baltimore in December. Baltimore comes back and steals the division, and Cincinnati slides into the up-for-grabs Wild Card spot.

For H-Bromo's NFC report, CLICK HERE

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