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The AFC Playoff Picture: Week 13-14

Two weeks on from the last installment, it’s time again to size up the AFC Playoffs.

As in the past, the projections are broken down into three categories: Locks, Probables, and Bubble. All analysis here builds on what I said in the last two installments, so if something doesn’t make sense at first it might help to read what I said before.

Locks
The Titans, naturally enough, remain the only sure-fire. They’re 11-1 and have outscored their opponents by a total of 129 points — best in the AFC and second only to the Giants in all of football. Jeff Fisher‘s squad is seventh in the AFC for total offense and third for total defense. They’ve allowed fewer points than the Ravens and are tied with Ray Lewis and company for second best in yards/play (4.5). We’ll learn a lot when they play Pittsburgh and Indy to close the season, but they’re in no matter what.

Probables
The Steelers (9-3) head this class, leading the league as they do in all three major defensive categories. Their remaining schedule, however, includes three brutal games (Cowboys, @Ravens, @Titans) and there’s basically no room for error.

That’s due to the Ravens (8-4), who are firmly established. Second in the conference in total defense and, amazingly, eighth in total offense. The biggest concern is whether or not they can find a way to win the division, or if their fate will depend on wild-card status.

The Broncos (7-5) struggle on defense, but their offense is ridiculous and they have their division essentially wrapped up. They’re not quite at “lock” status yet, but they may as well be.

The Jets (8-4) are my only other probable, based on the fact that they’re leading their division and have games against San Francisco and Seattle coming up. A divisional matchup against the Dolphins looms large in week 17.

Bubble
The rest of the AFC East resides here — Patriots (7-5), Dolphins (7-5), and Bills (6-6). They’re all joined by the Colts (8-4), with everyone else in the conference basically out of contention.

My prediction two (and four) weeks ago: Titans, Steelers, Broncos, Jets, Ravens, Colts
My prediction today: yep — the same. Haven’t seen anything yet to make me change my mind.

30 comments to The AFC Playoff Picture: Week 13-14

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    i am TELLING you the titans are over-rated and the steelers will DESTROY them when they play. i’ll bet you a bottle of wine on that one.

    SPEAKING OF WHICH

  • neal s

    What was the dollar figure on our Clinton/Obama wine bet? Was it $20? I’m all too happy to pay out on that one.

    No bets on Steelers-Titans, though, unless you lose your mind and decide you want the Titans.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    what’s interesting to me is that i feel that the steelers are the best team in the afc.

    yet their matchup with the ravens is so even.

    as a result, an afc playoff picture with baltimore at 6 and indy at 5 is the absolute best scenario for the ravens to run the table. that is assuming the titans and steelers had the bye and the ravens played say, the jets in the first round and #1 seed tennessee in the second.

    can you fucking imagine a ravens/steelers afc championship game in pittsburgh?

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    that is assuming of course that the ravens don’t win the division which is still quite possible.

  • neal s

    I’m not even going to try to consider seeding yet. I’m not even sure that the Titans are guaranteed the #1, even though it seems likely. With so many teams at 8-4 and 7-5 it’s just way too crazy. Plus, as you point out, the AFC North is yet to be decided.

    You’re right, though, that the prospect of a Steelers-Ravens AFC championship game is delicious.

  • Greg

    Is anyone at all interested at getting together to watch a Ravens game? I generally stay at home to watch them. Actually, I sit here on the computer and listen on the radio.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Actually, Greg, I was thinking about the same thing yesterday instead of paying attention in my Shakespeare class (com’on…I saw The Lion King, I don’t need to read Hamlet). I have a job down in Columbia that I’m returning to over the holiday, which includes a couple of Sundays with some prime action as the season culminates. If anybody/everybody wanted to meet up in some tavern setting or otherwise, I’d be pretty much totally agreeable.

  • Ryan

    So as a Broncos fan suffering this season’s whiplash: I’d probably rather see Ravens in round 1. Yes, your defense is awesome, and your offense is finally getting its shit together, but the head of the offense on the field lacks the proverbial “playoff experience” that Manning-Face so clearly has. This isn’t a diss, the Ravens are definitely the real deal, and I’m sure another year’s experience and some wise drafting/free agent signing and they’re no-surprise contenders for a title the next few years assuming the defense doesn’t retire wholesale.

    As to the Broncos hopes in the playoffs, I think it’s pretty apparent that with a defense as cratered with holes as Drew’s logic often is there’s almost no way they see the AFC Champs game. I think their best hope is to be spoilers. Given, that all depends on how they fare the next couple of weeks. I’d really hate for the season to come down to that game at San Diego on the 28th. I’m still smarting from that Christmas Eve “game” they played there last year.

  • Chris

    I was listening to Drew this morning cuz there wasn’t anything good on JACK-FM at the time. I learned there’s a WNST-style, grass roots effort to start an “Induct Art” chant at the Ravens game this Sunday as some showing of support for Art Modell’s induction into the HOF.

    Did I miss something or isn’t Art Modell to Cleveland what Bob Irsay is to Baltimore?

    How is Art Modell a hero for bringing NFL football to Baltimore from Cleveland, yet Bob Irsay is Satan incarnate for bringing NFL football from Baltimore to Indianapolis?

    Is it me or is all of this WNST Art Modell worship a bit hypocritical? Or is it just a byproduct of the giant purple balls bouncing off the collective chin of the station?

    Modell did a lot for the league and all, but damn, WNST, get some perspective.

  • random dude

    Cleveland kept their history, kept their colors, kept their name, were promised another team and a new stadium in 5 years. Modell did nothing in the darkness of the night. Not even comparable.

  • Greg

    Chris, check the Ravens-Bengals postmortem thread. Big Ben posted an article in there about why Modell will not ever be what Irsay is.

  • Chris

    “Modell magnanimously left behind the name Browns, as well as the team colors and its records, for the new Cleveland franchise. And it also should be said that the fans of Cleveland and Baltimore clearly benefited from a move that left both cities with magnificent new stadiums, and Baltimore with a team to call its very own once again.”
    Wow, what revisionist history. Both fan bases clearly benefited? Cleveland had what was to become a Super Bowl team in four years yanked out from underneath them…OVER MONEY!!! MONEY TO A BILLIONAIRE!!!
    The poor work-a-day schlub in some arm pit of Ohio whose only joy is the Browns loses him team only to watch that same team win a Super Bowl a scant four years later wearing purple and representing another city.
    The fact remains that from a completely objective point of view, Modell screwed over a fan base in the name of money. That’s the bottom line. “Oh, he’s so magnanimous to leave behind the team name and colors.”
    Sure, it wasn’t the same scorched-earth policy as Irsay, but the lesser of two evils is still evil.
    Fuck Art Modell and fuck Bob Irsay.

  • sci

    Both of these are interesting topics (continuing from that thread from the post-mortem post). I have no problem with Modell for the reasons Big Ben cites. He left a city for a better business opportunity, simple as that. He did not do it in an underhanded way.

    As far as Ray Ray goes, I have a problem with him because I find him generally annoying, but my main issue is he basically sold out his friends to get out of a felony charge. For all the talk of him being the “heart and soul” of that Ravens D, that showed very poor character. So that’s my issue. As far as him being a great player, there is no question he’s one of the top 5 linebackers of all time. He is a first ballot HOFer without a doubt.

  • Chris

    “WHAT TIME IS IT?!?!”

    “PLEE TIME!!!”

  • Greg

    I wish that I could preview this before posting it (make note Neal), but here are the starting rosters for the 1995 Browns team (the final one before the Ravens began in Baltimore in 1996) and the 2000 Ravens Superbowl team. Please note only two players from the original Browns team were in the Superbowl with the Ravens, Rob Burnett and Matt Stover.

    QB Vinny Testaverde QB Trent Dilfer
    QB Eric Zeier QB Tony Banks
    RB Leroy Hoard RB Jamal Lewis
    WR Michael Jackson WR Qadry Ismail
    WR Andre Rison WR Patrick Johnson
    WR Keenan McCardell WR Travis Taylor
    TE Frank Hartley TE Shannon Sharpe
    TE Brian Kinchen TE Ben Coates
    LT Tony E. Jones LT Jonathan Ogden
    LG Wally Williams LG Edwin Mulitalo
    C Steve Everitt C Jeff Mitchell
    RG Bob Dahl RG Mike Flynn
    RT Orlando Brown RT Harry Swayne

    LDE Rob Burnett LDE Rob Burnett
    LDT Tim Goad LDT Sam Adams
    RDT Dan Footman RDT Tony Siragusa
    RDE Anthony Pleasant RDE Michael McCrary
    LLB Carl Banks LLB Peter Boulware
    MLB Pepper Johnson MLB Ray Lewis
    RLB Gerald Dixon RLB Jamie Sharper
    RLB Mike Caldwell
    LCB Antonio Langham LCB Duane Starks
    RCB Don Griffin RCB Chris McAlister
    SS Stevon Moore SS Kim Herring
    FS Eric Turner FS Rod Woodson
    FS Vashone Adams

    K Matt Stover K Matt Stover
    P Tom Tupa P Kyle Richardson
    PR Keenan McCardell PR Jermaine Lewis
    KR Earnest Hunter KR Corey Harris

    This just goes to show that the Browns weren’t on their way to ANYTHING in Cleveland, and the championship Ravens team was assembled in Baltimore.

  • sci

    God I miss Michael Jackson.

  • neal s

    You mean Michael “Thriller” Jackson.

    Also, @Greg: noted.

  • ryan97ou

    don’t even get me started on the modell issue. as a browns fan i have heard what random dude just said a bazillion times from people all over this city. and i can poke a million holes in those arguments, like: 1) our stadium was still being filled with fans when the browns left…unlike another team…and 2) the real reason he left was because the indians got a new stadium and he couldn’t screw them out of rent anymore therefore his horrible business strategies didn’t work anymore…thus he left town because he was broke…and those horrible business strategies still didn’t work in baltimore, because he still had to end up selling the team. 3) the browns got their colors back because if they didn’t i honestly think that city would have been burned to the ground by the fans…to say modell “gave” them to us is a slap to the face.

    I can keep going but my real question is…why do the ravens fans think modell deserves to get into the hall of fame, when everything people say he did that makes him deserving of such an honor didn’t even take place when he was in baltimore (tv contracts, merging of the NFL?AFL)? basically the only reason ravens fans want him in is because they brought them a new team (by taking another)….which i might add…was taken from someone else…how is that not hypocritical again?

  • ryan97ou

    *taking deep breaths *

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    awww poor cleveland.

    gimme a break.

    you got a sweetheart deal and the seemingly endless pity of the nation.

    also let it be noted that i’m on record for saying baltimore should be over their colts angst as well.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    also i could give a fuck about the ray lewis case anymore but if you want to talk about revisionist perhaps all you nancy graces might want to explain why the two defendants without any money got acquitted.

    could it possibly be because that case was weak?

    it was like once ray was out of the picture the prosecution rested.

    also lol @ anyone who would give up a hall of fame career to do 25 years to life to cover for their thug acquaintances who they probably knew shouldn’t have been their friends in the first place.

    you guys would snitch faster than a bar of soap shooting across the shower room floor at a penitentiary (would you mind picking that up)?

    again, i don’t think ray deserves to be celebrated like some kind of rare gem – just the facts please.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    you guys should also know that there was a time in my early twenties when i easily could have woken up associated with two deaths. now i’m a stoner musician who likes to drink beer and watch football.

    so there’s that in case you were wondering.

  • sci

    Sure the case was weak. Totally chaotic situation where it was hard to tell who exactly was guilty, but he still undeniably got involved in that business in the first place, and then backed his way out of it in a cowardly way. That’s not debatable. Just b/c I probably would have done the same thing were I an NFL linebacker doesn’t make it any less cowardly.

    But that’s all over with now. He’s a great player whom I happen to slightly dislike. That’s all.

    Now Ed Reed – I like that guy.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    ed reed = 5 ray lewises in my heart.

  • dan the man

    This game warrants an open thread, I think. It’s going to be huge.

    How about that 3D football thing? Crazy.

  • Greg

    Couldn’t tell who was a worse team last night; the Raiders or Louisville. My god, there was some bad football going on.

    PS Darren Sproles can go f**k himself.

  • Chris

    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

    UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!

    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!
    !

    UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!

    The State University of New Jersey FTW!

  • Chris

    also to BBM – STOP SNITCHIN!

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    chris i’d snitch you out faster than a cheetah shot out of a buttered cannon barrel.

  • Chris

    that sounded dirty, but i’m not exactly sure why