Monday, December 19, 2005

AFC Report: Week 16
By Ben Valentine

And so it ends at unlucky thirteen.

That number is where the drive for 16-0 ended for the Indianapolis Colts, just like it did for the last team to challenge perfection, the 1997 Denver Broncos. They fell at home to the San Diego Chargers in a game that was anything but pretty. It comes as no surprise that the Bolts were the first team to beat Indy; as I’ve said for a while now, talent wise they’re the only team that can match up with them. Ironically, that win might be the highlight of this year for the Chargers as they are still in serious danger of missing the postseason. For all that and more here’s the AFC Report:

No perfection? See who cares in January

Indianapolis Colts (13-1)

Outlook: Yeah they didn’t beat the Chargers and no they won’t outdo the 72’ Dolphins. So what? If the Colts win the Super Bowl, who in Indy will care? Not Peyton Manning, not Tony Dungy and not the fans. Now that the quest for perfection is over I’ll say what’s been bothering me for some time; this belief that the Colts had some obligation to football fans to play out for perfection. Plenty of people seemed to indicate that Dungy was wrong in thinking about benching his starters because of the “historical significance” of 16-0. Ridiculous. If you’ve played well enough to earn a respite from having to grind it out the last two or three weeks of the season, then do it. I can imagine those same people getting on Dungy’s case should one of his key players went down. Of course that’s all moot now and will be forgotten soon enough. If the Colts win, no one will care and if the Colts lose in the postseason, the “Peyton’s not a big game QB” talk will be so loud nobody will even remember the Colts had a shot at perfection.

As a side note about Manning; for all his great skills and knowledge of the game, sometimes he gets too cute for his own good. On a fourth and goal from the goal line in the second quarter, Manning play action bootlegged to the left side. Nobody bothered to get open, Reggie Wayne did about the worst blocking job you will ever see and the Bolts dropped Manning for a loss and turnover on downs. The problem is with the way Wayne “blocked” on the play, it was clear the original call was meant to be an inside run. Manning had to have audibled out of it, but with the crowd noise with the Colts on the goaline, Wayne didn’t hear the change of play. Thus he moved to throw a token block, but was a shocked as anyone to see Manning heading his way. In that spot Manning should have just done what was told of him; run the damn football. I’m sure Dungy was just thrilled with his franchise QB after that one. Just wondering, while I can rip Manning all I want, what does a coach like Dungy say to him after that; knowing Manning basically runs that franchise?

Remaining Schedule: @Sea, Ari

Looking good at taking advantage of the schedule

Cincinnati Bengals (11-3)

Outlook: It’s fun to beat up on the NFC North. Just ask the Steelers. In any case the Bengals continue to play themselves towards a first round bye. How good is this team? We’ll find out in January. But while I like their offense, I have a tough time getting worked up over trouncing the Detroit Lions. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I could very easily see this team getting knocked off by someone like the Patriots in the second round.

Remaining Schedule: Buf, @KC

Yes, that’s right. I’m sucking it up

New England Patriots (9-5)

Outlook: I didn’t think the Pats were anything more than first round fodder courtesy of a terrible division. Well now I’m going to have to retract that statement; though I don’t believe they’re better than Indy or San Diego. Still this team is getting healthy and is re-emerging as a threat in the AFC. I don’t like that defense or that weakened offensive line on the road in a tough spot, but against a young team like Cinci, I’d give them a shot. They don’t stand much of a chance against Indy in the dome, but I like them better than the next guys on my list.

Remaining Schedule: @NYJ, Mia


Denver Broncos (11-3)

Outlook: Here’s what I think about the Broncos: they have a great offensive line, decent running backs, a mediocre to bad QB, mediocre wide receivers, a mediocre defensive line, pretty good line backing core and a terrible secondary. Yet some how this team is 11-3. The reason? That great offensive line. But overall, this team isn’t very good. Make no mistake, they will lose to the Chargers week 17 in San Diego. However it may not matter, since the Broncos can clinch the division with a win next week or a Chargers loss. It should be an easy win; a home game against an already self destructed Raiders team. But with the Broncos and the Raiders nothing is ever a gimme. Prediction: Randy Moss finally goes off as Andrew Walter steps in at QB and the Raiders make Week 17 very interesting.

Remaining Schedule: Oak, @SD

Looking bad at taking advantage of the schedule

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)

Outlook: There’s no other way to describe beating the Niners 10-9 at home. Alex Smith is a turnover waiting to happen and that Niners defense hasn’t stopped anyone away from home. Amazingly the boys from the bay may actually be a worse road team than the Texans, yet the Jags managed to be trailing in this game 9-7 in the fourth quarter. I understand the Jags play close, ugly football games, but this is too much. Up next; the red hot Texans. I don’t actually think the Jags will lose this one but they bet up their game soon. There are no “oops, we had a letdown” games on the road to Detroit.

Remaining Schedule: @Hou, Tenn

Making Brad Johnson look like...well...Brad Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

Outlook: I hate Steelers football. I just do. They’re like the Bears of the AFC, except with a better QB and a worse defense. They play ugly football and they win that way. 18-3? They gave up yards to the Vikings; but turned them over in the red zone a few times and saw Paul Edinger miss another field goal. Is this team as good as the Chargers? No way. But they beat them earlier this season, so by virtue of that, if the Steelers win their last two games they’ll probably make the postseason. And with their two remaining games being at Cleveland and home against Detroit, I can’t see them not doing just that.

Remaining Schedule: @Cle, Det

Making a statement...and needing some help

San Diego Chargers (9-5)

Outlook: The irony of the NFL: had the Chargers beaten Miami and lost to the Colts, people would have lamented how sorry they felt about San Diego being so good but missing the playoffs. Instead the reverse happened, so people will talk about how the Chargers blew it by losing to the Dolphins at home. Ah the fun of public perception. Bottom line for the Bolts; they’re going to have to win out and get some help to make it. That help will most likely come in the form of the Raiders, since I give them a better shot against the Broncos than either of the two Steelers opponents. Oh and up next for San Diego, a trip to Arrowhead; you know where the Chiefs never lose in December. Hey, I said the Chargers would win the AFC West and I’m sticking by it. They’ll beat the Chiefs next week.

Remaining Schedule: @KC, Den

Tackle? I thought this was two hand touch!

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)

Outlook: Until a team gets to seven losses or is officially eliminated, they still have a spot in my weekly report (hence the reason Miami will not appear here no matter how many times CBS wants to tell me they’re in the playoff picture). If there was ever a team to test that rule, the Chiefs are it this week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as shoddy a display of tackling as I saw in that Chiefs/Giants game Saturday and I watched a decent amount of Texas/Colorado in the Big 12 Championship. The saddest thing about it was it was a national televised game, so the whole country got to see the Chiefs somehow had three defenders fail to bring down a wide receiver while all hitting him at the same time. They’re still alive, by virtue of their tie breaker edge over the Steelers, but they’ll need to win out and have the Steelers lose at least one of their next two games. Yeah, not going to happen.

Remaining Schedule: SD, Cin

Watch out Jacksonville!

Houston Texans (2-12)

For some reason, I knew the Texans would win this week. Why? The Cardinals have a knack for losing to teams worse than they are. That and they have no pass rush, which enabled David Carr to play decently, though one look at Carr’s statline suggests he was making a lot of quick throws for short gains. Hey moving forward four yards is better than going back six. On the other hand, the Texans are within a couple of plays about being 4-10 and may not actually be the worst team in the NFL. They’ll get a chance to prove it against the Niners in Week 17, though that game may not be the decider of the “Reggie Bush sweepstakes” as had been previously advertised. Suddenly the Packers, Jets and yes even the Saints have some life. In fact, starting next week, in addition to my AFC report, I’ll put in a little run down at the contenders for the first pick in the draft. So stay tuned for that at Sportszilla which is probably the only website in America actually arguing against taking Reggie Bush first overall.

Remaining schedule: JAX, @SF


Blogger David Arnott said...

Ben, just a minor thing... If you click the time of the post, you'll get a proper link to that column. More importantly, during today's game, my dad came up with the best line I've heard about Alex Smith:

"That guy has teflon hands."

12:45 AM  
Blogger Harold J. Johnson said...

Referring to your first point: Peyton Manning should want to win the Super Bowl more than he needs to have a 16-0 season, but I hear he's a perfectionist, and for that reason may beat himself up about it for awhile. Hopefully he won't get hung up on it, though.

Then again, what do I care? I'm a Chargers fan! Let Peyton get hung up on losing a game, if that'll end up being a factor in a future Indy loss (to the Chargers, of course)...

1:39 AM  

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