Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The AFC Report Week 15
By Ben Valentine

Looking ahead will doom even the best of teams.

That’s how I’m explaining the loss my favorites to win the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers, experienced this weekend to the Miami Dolphins. The Chargers, albeit with a banged up LaDanian Tomlinson, managed to lay a stinker against the Fish at home, potentially not only blowing a shot at the division but also the postseason as well. With a dance with the undefeated Colts in Indy next Sunday and games against the Broncos and Chiefs remaining, the Bolts look to be in serious trouble.

What about the rest of the AFC? Can the Colts make history? Are the Patriots waking up from a season long hibernation? All those questions and more will be answered in this week’s edition of the AFC report.

Date With Destiny: Indianapolis Colts (13-0)

The Colts had yet another “statement” game this weekend, against the Jags, and despite what the score said, won fairly easily. But as I’ve said for weeks now, this upcoming game is the real test for that defense. We know the Colts can score on anyone. Can that supposedly top notch defense stop the Chargers? They’ve had problems against the run all year, and while LT is hurt, he’ll still be a factor. This is the most diverse offense the Colts will have faced; that includes the Bengals, and I think they’ll struggle. If the Colts win this weekend, they’re going 16-0. But much like the Broncos in 1997, I think the dream ends at unlucky thirteen.
Remaining Schedule: SD, @Sea, Ari,

Second Because Someone Has To Be: Cincinnati Bengals (10-3)

This is not meant as a real insult to the Bengals; they’re a good team. I just don’t think they’re in Indy’s league. However with the Chargers losing and the Broncos laying a stinker at home to a bad Ravens team, Carson & co. were the only team that could go here. They are the Colts light; you love the offense but question that defense. Of course Chad Johnson probably should keep his predictions and guarantees to himself after they didn’t come close to putting up forty points against the Browns. In any case, the Bengals can’t prove anything more in the regular season; their schedule the rest of the way is not difficult and they’re the favorites to pick up that second first round bye. The next time this team will have to dial it up will in the second week of the postseason.
Remaining Schedule: @Det, Buf, @KC

Falling From a Mile High: Denver Broncos (10-3)

I’ve had questions about this Broncos team all season and this week did nothing to alleviate those concerns. A two point win against a banged up Ravens team at home is not at all impressive. Of course considering the fate of the Chargers in a similar spot, its hard for Broncos fans to complain all that much. The division is back their hands and now they can even afford a loss in two weeks to the Chargers. Still, they looked to be a lock for a first round bye a few weeks ago and now might be the shakiest division winner out of the bunch; and that includes the Patriots. In the playoffs Jake Plummer will have to make a play. As I’ve been saying for weeks; does anyone outside of Denver really believe he can do it?
Remaining Schedule: @Buf, Oak, @SD

Not Buying Them Yet; It Is The AFC East, Remember?: New England Patriots (8-5)

But they are making it a lot harder for me to ignore them. Let’s not jump the gun here though people, their last two wins were against the Bills and Jets. Neither team is going to be mistaken for a playoff contender anytime soon. It could be because of my own allegiances, but I can’t buy into “you’ve got to fear them because they’re the Patriots. Ooo! Tom Brady’s never lost a postseason game! Watch out.” Watch out yes, but don’t fear them. Every year is a new season in the NFL especially when you’ve got as different a set of players out there as the Patriots do. This team hasn’t done anything to warrant respect yet. Beating on the dregs of the worst division in football might get you into the postseason but it doesn’t get you to Detroit. We’ll see how the Pats hang with the big boys come January. At least they’ve gotten me to post their remaining schedule.
Remaining Schedule: TB, @NYJ, Mia

Remaining Schedule; J-O-K-E: Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)

This team is a virtual lock for the postseason at this point because of that. As I mentioned last week the combined number of wins for their remaining three opponents is seven; and that only increased from last week because someone had to win the Titans/Texans game. David Garrard continues to improve, though a lot of his yardage against Indy came late. He’ll continue to get work in what amounts to little more than exhibition games the rest of the way. I know every game is tough in the NFL but the Texans, Titans and Niners? Come on. The only question should be “will the Jaguars sack David Carr more times than they get Alex Smith to turn it over?”
Remaining Schedule: SF, @Hou, Tenn

Sleeping With The Fishes?: San Diego Chargers (8-5)

Okay, so they had a little hiccup. It happens. Are they in trouble now? You bet. But I’m still a believer. They will make the playoffs and they will be the team that ends the Colts dreams of perfection. The Bolts just got caught looking ahead this week, and even at home, you can’t do that in the NFL. (Well except against the Texans and Niners) They are talent wise the second best team in the conference and have played like that most of the season. I expect them to rebound nicely this week. The Colts run defense has been bad all year; even a slowed down LT should be able to run against them. If the Bolts can play ball control; and they’re the only team in the AFC who can probably do it, then they’re going to stand a great chance.
Remaining Schedule: @Ind, @KC, Den

Kicking Themselves After that One: Kansas City Chiefs (8-5)

They played well enough to win in Dallas, and probably should have. But when you’re schedule is as difficult as the Chiefs is, there are no moral victories. I admit this team is better than I’ve given it credit for. Larry Johnson is opening eyes around the league and making the fans at Arrowhead forget about Priest Holmes. But that loss in Dallas is killer, especially when they could have moved ahead of San Diego. It will, in the end, most likely come down to that showdown in two weeks at Arrowhead, but in the meantime the Chiefs would give themselves a little more leeway with a win against the Giants this Saturday. Considering what Ryan Moats did to that Giants run defense, especially running on the outside, Mr. Johnson must be salivating.
Remaining Schedule: @NYG, SD, Cin

Proving Once Again Kyle Orton Stinks: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)

The Steelers don’t have a murderous schedule the rest of the way, though those Vikings are looking more and more like a real football team. Beating the Bears was a necessity, and they did it the way you have to; playing mistake free and making Kyle Orton beat you. Since Mr. Orton had trouble beating college defenses, he’s going to have a hard time doing it to an NFL one, especially a talented one like the Steelers. Their season, as usual, rests with Ben Roethlisberger. He must be healthy the rest of the way for them to make it. Considering I don’t think too highly of Denver and New England, if the Steelers get in they could make some noise. But that’s the big if. If you haven't figured it out by now, I still think the Chargers will be the team that makes it.
Remaining Schedule: @Min, @Cle, Det


Blogger Sports Litter said...

David Garrard didn't have a lot of yardage because the Jags offense was never on the field. And when they were, Del Rio felt like running it on 1st and 2nd down everytime. They are scared to open it up with Garrard. I think they don't want him to throw because they are scared he will do well.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Bryan Koch said...


The Chargers play at the Colts, at the Chiefs, and against Denver.

The Steelers play at the Vikings, at the Browns, and against the Lions.

They have the same record, and if they finish with the same record, the Steelers win the tie-breaker.

And you really believe the Chargers have a better shot?

12:08 PM  
Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said...

I see the Chargers losing at least one and the Steelers won't lose any of their last 3. Steelers are the 2nd wild-card. Too bad because I would rather see the Bolts.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

It's probably me just being stubborn and sticking by my pick, but I think the Bolts will win out. I think they're better than Denver and KC, while like I've said, I really believe they'll beat Indy. In fact the game I'm the most worried about is the KC game; the Chiefs at home are always scary.

Don't understimate the Browns and especially the Vikings. I know they've been beating up on trash, but the Vikings are on a roll and at home could beat Pittsburgh.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Yeah, good thing the Bears didn't sign Kurt Warner during the offseason. Yay. Awesome!!! Idiots.

9:31 PM  

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