Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The AFC (And More) Report: Week 17
By Ben Valentine

And so there were two.

Only a pair of teams remain for the AFC’s final playoff spot and my mucho hyped San Diego Chargers are on the outside looking in. With their defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Saturday, the Bolts officially became the best team in football not in the postseason. It’s too bad, but that’s the NFL for you. Every game matters, and losses to Dallas Philadelphia and Miami count, even if they were early, fluky or an aberration. So for the Chargers, their game against the Broncos Saturday is nothing more than an exhibition for both teams. What about the rest of the AFC however? And how about those teams vying for Reggie Bush? All your answers are here in the AFC (and more) Report for Week 17.

Check Back Here In the Middle of January: Indianapolis Colts (14-2)

Indy has had to deal with the apparent suicide of coach Tony Dungy’s son. A tragic loss for the Indy head man, one has to wonder where his head will be the rest of the way. I’m don’t know how a parent could cope with that so I can’t really comment about how this will affect him or the team. That being said, I’m not sure there’s all that much to say about the Colts right now. They didn’t bother to play their starters for more than a quarter against the Seahawks. Basically, Indy’s in “I’ll see you all in the divisional round” mode.
Remaining Schedule: Ari

My, My Look Who’s Jumped in the Rankings: New England Patriots (10-5)

If you had told me I’d have the Pats ranked this high a month ago, I’d have called you crazy. But with the Bengals’ bad loss against the Bills and my lack of faith in anything associated with Jake Plummer, I had no choice but to put the Patriots this high. Are they in the Colts’ league? Nope, and injuries to Ted Bruschi and Asante Samuel Monday Night weaken them even further. But they’re well coached and have the most proven track record of any of the teams with comparable talent. Word of warning however; if the Pats don’t running the ball more efficiently (and doing it against a 3-12 Jets team doesn’t show me anything), they will have problems.
Remaining Schedule: Mia

Mark My Words; They Will lose in the Second Round: Denver Broncos (12-3)

That’s right. I don’t care they’ve wrapped up a first round bye. I don’t care that Invesco Field at Mile High is a great home field. All I know is that defense has no secondary and they’re probably looking at either Cincinnati or New England in the second round. Both have dynamic passing attacks. Both also have defenses that are good at generating turnovers, something Jake Plummer is also good at whenever teams let him throw the ball more than twenty times a game.

By the way, I still don’t know how Denver is 12-3. I mean have you looked at this team? They’re starting the 2004 Cleveland Browns defensive line. They have no secondary. Their best wide receiver is registering for the US government’s new prescription benefit plan for seniors and their righty quarterback likes to mix things up by throwing it left handed. Is everyone sure they haven’t secretly switched places with the Chargers?
Remaining Schedule: @SD

Carson Palmer and Rudi Johnson, You Cost Me My Fantasy Championship: Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

So my fantasy team was a juggernaut coming into the postseason. They went 12-2 and outscored the nearest team by over 100 points. They blew out my first round opponent to earn a place in the championship game. Unfortunately thanks to sub par performances by both Mr. Palmer and Mr. Johnson, they lost 86-75. Oh I also started the Bengals defense, which got me one measly point. Yeah, it’s safe to say my reliance on the Bengals cost me my fantasy championship. That’s what happens when you put your eggs into one basket and those guys run into a tough match up.

Oh wait, that’s right. They played the Bills. The Buffalo Bills. The now 5-10 Buffalo Bills. The Bills who have looked miserable at home two weeks in a row. The Bills who have gone back and forth with QBs, who’s players throw each other under the bus when the going gets tough and oh yeah, were on the road with nothing to play for. Tough match up? The Jaguars had a tougher match up against the lowly Texans.

If you can’t tell, I’m bitter about this loss. However the one nugget of truth in this rambling; don’t trust the Bengals. They’re not there yet.
Remaining Schedule: @KC

Waltzing Into the Postseason: Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)

Okay, so they’re not in yet. But they will be soon, unless the unthinkable happens and they lose to Joey Harrington. Yeah, okay now that we’ve dealt with fantasy, let’s move back to reality. They’re playing some of the best football in the league right now. I know, they’ve beaten teams like Minnesota and Cleveland but Jacksonville has struggled with the Niners and Texans and the Bengals… well we know about them. Bottom line, Big Ben is healthy enough right now and that means this offense will do enough to compliment their very solid defense. They’re a team nobody should want to face in the first round of the playoffs. Especially not the Bengals.
Remaining Schedule: Det

They Count, But Don’t Expect a Medal: Jacksonville Jaguars (11-4)

The scariest thing about this Jaguars team is that they may actually be the easiest team in football to read. They’re going to be in every game because they consistently play up or down to their level of competition. That means if they see the Colts in the postseason, the Jags will probably have a chance or two to win that game. It also means they can play one point games against the Niners and the worst rookie QB in the history of the NFL. Byron Leftwich’s return has again shifted, now from doubtful to probable, as he looks to practice this week. I doubt he plays at all in a meaningless finale against Tennessee (the Jags have locked up the fifth seed by virtue of a victory over Pittsburgh). I also wonder how much his return will help them. David Garrard hasn’t been great, but this team wasn’t blowing anyone out with Leftwich in either.
Remaining Schedule: Ten

Still Around, But Not by Much: Kansas City Chiefs (9-6)

Done in by the schedule, the Chiefs have been hurt by their out of conference opponents vs. Pittsburgh’s. The Chiefs played the NFC’s toughest division in the East, where they went 1-3. The Steelers played the dismal NFC North, where they will most likely go 4-0. The Chiefs will probably finish one game behind the Steelers and become the unusual 10-6 non-playoff team. In fact, incredibly with the Chargers, the AFC will probably get two such teams. It’s not fair but somebody’s got to stay home.

Sadly, as has been said, I’d take either of these two teams in a neutral environment over any NFC team not from Seattle or Chicago (with Rex Grossman). But that’s sports for you. Sometimes on division or conference is stronger than the other and good teams get left out. It’s what makes those championships so sweet. If they were easy to win, then nobody would relish the victory, would they?
Remaining Schedule: Cin

And More: The Reggie Bush Sweepstakes

These are the teams who are vying for the 2005 Heisman Trophy Winner. The first tie breaker is strength of schedule, not head to head, which has no bearing on draft positioning. (Thus why the Saints would pick ahead of the Jets). I don’t know the current strength of schedule set up, but I’m almost certain the Saints get the top pick should the Texans win this weekend. Of course, should they lose, Houston is of course the winner. And so, let’s start with that beloved expansion franchise that still looks like it’s in its first year.

Playing Almost Respectably: Houston Texans (2-13)

Seriously, they kept that Jacksonville game close until late in the fourth quarter after their victory over the Cardinals a week ago AND consecutive close defeats in the two weeks prior to that. This team is playing much better than some other squads *cough* Saints *cough* Lions *cough*. In fact they’re playing so well, they might play themselves out of the top spot. However, the Texans haven’t been good on the road this year and that’s where that final game against the Niners will be. In the end, I’d be surprised if they didn’t end up with the top pick.
Remaining Schedule: @SF

If Houston Stumbles Its Way to Victory: New Orleans Saints (3-12)

I’m not sure who’s worse, them or Detroit. The teams tried to leave the matter unresolved by playing a terribly close game, 13-12. The Saints, lost, at “home”, so maybe its them. The good news for the Saints; they have far less of a shot at winning their game than Houston. With the Bucs their final opponent, the Saints can consider themselves 3-13. The bad news, even if they got the top pick, that franchise is a mess and the sad part is hurricanes really aren’t the cause. The real problem is that they have a bad owner, a terrible coach, no QB and the odds are good only the second can be remedied this off season. (With Deuce McCallister, yet another team that would be better off going with someone other than Bush, but that’s for another post, should they gain the pick)
Remaining Schedule: @TB

If the Texans and Saints Lose, They’ll Probably Win: New York Jets (3-12)

I can see it now. Mike Nugent kicks the game winning kick to sink the Bills next weekend and leaps into the arms of his celebrating teammates. Meanwhile all across Jet-land fans sit in a stunned silence as the most dynamic player to come out of college since Peyton Manning has just slipped through their fingers like Alex Smith trying to grip a football. On the other hand, should the Jets actually end up with the first pick, celebrations will reign down like they just won a playoff game. Ladies and gentlemen, such is the pathetic life of being a Jets fan. But don’t pity us. Much like Red Sox fans pre October 2004, we secretly revel in it.
Remaining Schedule: Buf

Frank Gore Just Won Himself a Job in 2006: San Francisco 49ers (3-12)

Just when it looked like the loser of the Texans/Niners game would be assured the top pick, Frank Gore broke off a game winning 30 yard run to all but knock the Niners out of the Bush sweepstakes. Thanks to strength of schedule, the Saints have now vaulted past the Niners should the Texans win on Sunday; meaning the crew from bay need multiple teams to win in order to have a shot at the first pick. And that’s if they lose. Ironically, if Gore’s knees hold up, this maybe a blessing in disguise. Any Miami Hurricanes fan can tell you how amazingly talented the guy is. Unfortunately, we can also tell you how brittle he is. At half back in the NFL, that’s always a problem.
Remaining Schedule: Hou

Think They’re Bad Now, Just Wait Till Next Year: Green Bay Packers (3-12)

Naturally I think that Brett Favre’s miserable finish to the season leads him to retirement, leaving the Pack utterly devoid of offensive talent. Since they also figure to miss out on Bush, expect Green Bay to be the NFL’s worst team next year. Unfortunately, there is no Reggie Bush in next year’s draft. Hey, maybe they can convince him college is so much fun he should go back for another year. Or maybe they can just send him the records of the Texans and Saints over the last four seasons. That alone might send the kid running back to school.
Remaining Schedule: Sea


Blogger David Arnott said...

Re: Next Year's Draft... ADRIAN PETERSON

6:43 PM  

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