Monday, December 05, 2005

AFC Report: Week 14
By Ben Valentine

In a weekend that featured prominent divisional match ups, the AFC picture got a little clearer in terms of who’s in trouble and who’s in good shape. Pittsburgh recent struggles have pushed them to fringe of the race, while the Bengals have all but assured themselves of the AFC North. The Colts continue to roll, while the Broncos hiccup this weekend at Arrowhead may just be the mistake that lets the Chargers and Chiefs dream of an AFC West crown. Speaking of crowns, is the AFC East one made of brass and pyrite? While you ponder that question, here’s the AFC Report for week 14.

The Beatings Go On- Indianapolis Colts (12-0)

They crushed the Titans at home. No surprise there. Okay, now it’s really time to ask the question; can the Colts go undefeated? Not because they’re 12-0, but because over the next three weeks they’ll be facing three playoff teams, with two of them on the road. First test; at Jacksonville. My bet is Indy wins this one. The Jags D will give the Colts offense some fits, but I don’t think it can stop them. The big test is in two weeks against those high flying Chargers.
Remaining Schedule: @Jax, SD, @Sea, Ari,

These Kitties Are Sitting Pretty- Cincinnati Bengals (9-3)

The knock on the Bengals has been their inability to be good teams this year. I don’t know if you can call the Steelers a good team anymore, but at this point do the Bengals or their fans care? They’ve basically got the division locked up and stand in a great position to get a first round bye. Carson Palmer deserves MVP consideration. However, that defense still leaves a lot to be desired and I don’t think they’re the second best team in the AFC. They sit here because at this point with their record and schedule they’re basically assured a playoff spot, as opposed to…
Remaining Schedule: Cle, @Det, Buf, @KC

The Division Is In Their Hands- San Diego Chargers (8-4)

Trashing the Raiders at home is what good teams do and the San Diego Chargers are a very good team. As I’ve said, I think they’re the second best team in the AFC and now they hold their fate squarely in their own hands. They have a winnable game against Miami next and then close out their schedule with tough tests in Kansas City and Indy then close out the season at home against Denver. I don’t like either of those teams’ defenses against the Chargers’ offense so they’re my pick to win the AFC West. They can lose to Indy and still do it. But I think they’re running the table.
Remaining Schedule: Mia, @Ind, @KC, Den

Beating the Jets Does Count In the Standings- New England Patriots (7-5)

Somehow, the Miami Dolphins are two games behind them in the standings. Still New England’s got this all but wrapped up. Can you see Miami going 3-1 down the stretch? Nope. The Patriots still aren’t very good and I would expect whoever plays them that first week of the postseason to knock them off.

Remaining Schedule: Doesn’t Matter. You’re not catching them Dolphins fans. Your QB the rest of the way might be Sage Rosenfels. That is an automatic elimination. You’re not catching them either Bills fans. Getting torched by Rosenfels also gets you sent to home uncermoniously.

You Can't Trust Jake- Denver Broncos (9-3)

Saturday night I tried to convince a bunch of Broncos fans Jake Plummer was still a bad QB. I argued the key to Denver’s success this season was limiting Jake’s throws per game. Sadly, they disagreed, only to learn their lesson Sunday as Jake’s INTs helped sink Denver’s chances at Arrowhead. That should have tipped Mike Shanahan off late in the game, down by four, to run the ball. But apparently that logic had no affect on Shanahan, who proceed to throw until he was faced with a fourth and two. Mike Anderson was stopped short by a good yard. (By the way, that’s why we have instant replay! The initial spot they gave them might be one of the worst I’ve seen in years) The Broncos lost the game and their grip on the division. Still, at nine wins and home games with Baltimore and Oakland remaining, the Broncos are making the postseason.

As a side note, Broncos fans are an amusing bunch. Nothing cracks me up more than hearing fans of the dirtiest offensive line in football complain about other teams holding. And John Lynch notoriously leads with his helmet when he hits. The penalty he got in the fourth quarter was the right call. Whether or not he had his arms out, the contact was helmet to helmet. The refs didn’t cost you the game Denver fans; Shanahan, Jake and that defense did.
Remaining Schedule: Bal, @Buf, Oak, @SD

History’s Spoilers?- Jacksonville Jaguars (9-3)

So can the Jags knock Indy off and end their dreams of a perfect season? I wouldn’t bet on it, considering their performance against the Browns. Of course, the Jags have played close games all season, so expect them to push the Colts to the brink. Look for David Gerarrd to improve with another week first team reps under his belt. They should also be relaxed; even if the Jags lose, they’re sitting pretty. Consider this: The Colts have 12 wins, while the Jags remaining three opponents after, the Niners, Texans and Titans, have a combined six total. Barring a complete meltdown, they’re going to get to 11 wins and make it.
Remaining Schedule: Ind, SF, @Hou, Tenn

They may not win another game- Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)

Beating Denver at home was a good win, and an absolutely necessary one for them to stay in the playoff hunt. Still, I don’t believe in the Chiefs. Their schedule is just too difficult when compared to everyone else. The easiest game for them the rest of the way might be Cinci the last game of the year because the Bengals could have nothing to play for. 10 wins will be the minimum to make the postseason and I don’t see them getting to that mark. The key game for them is San Diego week 16. If they win that, they’ve got a shot.
Remaining Schedule: @Dal, @NYG, SD, Cin

Crushed Like Aluminum Can- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

I said last week the Bengals game was going to decide their season. I meant it. At 7-5, they stand in the worst position of any of the contending teams. Their problem, outside of the injuries to Ben Roethlisberger? Tie breakers. The first one is conference record, where the Steelers are dreadful. All five of their losses have come in conference, whereas the Jaguars, Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers all have losses to the NFC. They will have to win out to have a shot at the postseason and while it’s doable, even that may not be enough.
Remaining Schedule: Chi, @Min, @Cle, Det

The one sure thing in the NFL- Houston Texans (1-15… I mean 1-11)

Sorry, I prematurely typed those 15 losses up there. Seriously, I thought the Rams loss was about as bad as you can get. But the fact they managed to take the lead on Baltimore with a minute to go in the game and then allowed soon to be NFL reject Kyle Boller to march the Ravens down the field for a game winning field goal might just top it. At least the Rams have discernable talent on offense. Of course the Texans have done nothing right this season, so they’ll probably win against the Niners on the last day of the season, thus depriving themselves of the first pick in the draft.

Here’s a question for you. If the Texans played USC, what would the line in that game be? Because Houston’s an NFL team, they’d be favored, but by how much? What about if they played Texas? Think it would be under double digits?


Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said...

It wasn't too long ago that the Steelers were being touted as the 2nd best team in football. a couple of Tommy Maddox games & a banged up Roethlisberger has really killed these guys. Big Ben may have thrown for over 300 yards but man he had some floaters didn't he? Either those knees are killing him or the thumb is but he looks really bad. They still have a shot though if they can win out. I'm not as sure as you are that the Chargers will do it but I agree they are the 2nd best team in the conference and I hope they make it to the playoffs.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

I said it last week and I'll say it again, you don't need to lose your QB for the season for it to kill you. That's what's happened to the Steelers. Certainly does make Big Ben look a lot more valuable than people were giving him credit for. At the very least I think this cements him as the best "Game manager" out there if not just a pretty solid QB overall.

The Steelers, even if they win out are in trouble. The Jags are 7-2 in conference, the Broncos and Chargers are both 6-2 and the Chiefs are 7-3. The Steelers are 6-5. It's unlikely those teams will end up losing enough conference games the rest of the way for it to matter for Pittsburgh.

Realistically, the Broncos are probably going to get two more wins, so they'll get to eleven.

The Jags will get there as well based off their remaining schedule. I can't see them losing to the Niners, Texans or Titans.

That leaves the Chiefs and Chargers. The Chargers should get to nine this week against Miami. You figure they probably beat Denver at home and get to 10. Now can they win one of two against at Indy or at KC? Naturally I think they can.

The Chiefs I think will lose at least three of their final four games.

Normally 10 wins is enough to get you in. As crazy at it sounds, this year eleven may not be good enough.

1:54 AM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

hahahahaha... Ben, you said the Broncos go to 11. [/SpinalTap]

4:02 AM  

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