It's that time again, sports fans. The AFC premature playoff preview, week 9 edition. Where does your favorite (or least favorite) AFC team rank? Who's the biggest gainer and the biggest fall-er? Do you even really care, considering this is a Packers' site?
Can we do it? YES WE CAN...after the jump.
Just like before, I took the AFC and ranked them by their likelihood of making the playoffs based on record, remaining schedule, and overall performance. Starting at the top...
1. Tennessee Titans (8-0) (last week: 1)
They're the only undefeated team left in the league. LenDale White and Chris Johnson are two of the best running backs in the game, Kerry Collins plays conservatively and mistake-free, and the defense does this to opposing offenses on a regular basis:
No, you may not eat! The Tennessee Flesh-Eating Zombies do not allow it!
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) (last week: 2)
First of all, this team has a major issue: pass protection. They simply cannot protect the quarterback, and now Roethlisberger is more banged up than ever. Byron Leftwich isn't going to crap the bed, but they need Big Ben out there as much as possible. However, if they can keep riding that suffocating defense that held the Redskins to 6 points, forced 2 interceptions off of the uber-efficient Jason Campbell, and held Clinton Portis to a mere fraction of his normal output, the Steelers can easily overpower the rest of their division.
3. Baltimore Ravens (5-3) (last week: 5)
Don't look now, but Joe Flacco just went off for 258 yards and 2 TD's. Oh, and Ray Rice (a Rutgers man) did a better Willis McGahee impression than Willis McGahee himself. Sure, McGahee's sidelining was bad for my fantasy team, but it was good for the Ravens. And they'll continue succeeding until the defense lets them down, which is a crapshoot no matter how you look at it.
4. San Diego Chargers (3-5) (last week: 7)
This is what's called going "all-in" on a team. I know what you're thinking: why is a 3-5 club ranked this high? Because they're only one game behind division-leading Denver, and I highly doubt that the Chargers are as bad as their record indicates. The only reason they're as high as they are is because I'm picking them to win their division, which comes with a playoff berth. Remember, this list ranks the likelihood of making the playoffs; it's not a power ranking. You could say that it's more out of distrust in Denver to succeed than belief in San Diego; it's a gut feeling, trust me on it. It's kinda like Dr. Dre's 'Detox' album: it's taking forever to come out, you never believe it's gonna happen, and it eventually will. And I'm kinda excited for it.
5. New England Patriots (5-3) (last week: 3)
Still no Tom Brady, but Randy Moss and the rest of the offense still haven't quit. The loss to Indianapolis was an eye opener, but I still think this team makes the playoffs. In other New England news, what the hell is going on over at ESPN with Bill Simmons? The Sports Guy is getting the Sports Shaft from the same guys that are trying to promote the God-awful Rick Reilly, and I just don't like it. Yes, that's because my "writing style" closely resembles that of Simmons (as noted by some of our esteemed members), but I genuinely like the guy's work and it's sad to see how badly the relationship has gotten mangled.
6. Buffalo Bills (5-3) (last week: 4)
I know what some of you are saying by now. I assure you, I haven't lost my mind entirely. Why are the Bills and Pats above the division-leading Jets? Because at the end of the season, I think the Bills and Pats will have a better record than the Jets. Not like 10-6 is really that much better than 9-7, but better is better. Is better.
7. New York Jets (5-3) (last week: 6)
Yes, they're currently leading the AFC East. Call me biased because of the whole Brett Favre thing: I just do not trust the Jets, especially in the AFC East where Miami, Buffalo, and New England reside. I'll tell you what, I'll move them up above the Bills and Pats if they win next week, even if both of the other teams win. But I don't expect to make that move. Don't get me wrong, I want them to make the playoffs, but only for the draft pick that New York sent in the trade. Yes, I am a greedy bastard, just like this guy:
Oh, Greedy Smurf, when will you learn?
8. Indianapolis Colts (4-4) (last week: 9)
Word to the wise: Do not sleep on Indianapolis. They are clawing their way back in their division. They're not going to catch Tennessee, but a wild card berth is not beyond reason. Want evidence? Check out the heir to Marvin Harrison's throne: Anthony Gonzalez. The guy is a legit NFL reciever that goes largely overlooked. I compare him to a young Donald Driver; a solid player who's in someone else's shadow but can make a huge contribution to the team. He is just waiting to break out. Oh, and Joseph Addai and Bob Sanders are getting healthy, which means that Indy's offense will be more balanced and their defense will be better. I'm just saying, Indy in the playoffs isn't a crazy thought at this point.
9. Miami Dolphins (4-4) (last week: 13)
The Dolphins sure seem like up-and-comers after getting back to .500 last week, but I remind you that the win came against the flailing Broncos (lost 3 in a row), and they're currently last in the AFC East. But the Wildcat will rescue them!
10. Denver Broncos (4-4) (last week: 8)
You heard it before, but I'll say it again: I do not trust the Denver Broncos. I don't trust them to win the AFC West. I don't trust them to finish above 9-7. I don't trust them to sneak into the wild card berth. I don't trust them to take out the trash, change the lightbulbs, or bring the car back with a full tank of gas. I trust them less than I trust Tatum Bell with my bags or Bill Belicheck with my mom. Go ahead, call me crazy, but come see me in four weeks when the Broncos are 6-6 and behind San Diego in their division. And it all starts tonight with a Thursday night game against Cleveland, where Denver is disadvantaged by both being on a short week and travelling halfway across the country. Can you say "letdown game"? I can.
11. Houston Texans (3-5) (last week: 11)
This ranking is simply a formality, as they're only one game behind the second-place Colts. Schaub is out with an MCL injury, and Sage Rosenfels...well, let's just say that his performance thus far is sub-par, at best. Do yourself a favor; in fantasy football, if you own Andre Johnson, you trade him away now. Perhaps I should restate that. Trade Andre Johnson. Now. Now! Nownownownownow! His value plummets if Rosenfels is under center.
12. Cleveland Browns (3-5) (last week: 12)
Gack. This team just reeks of industrial-strength FAIL. Like the Texans, their presence here is to be short-lived, especially since Braylon Edwards couldn't catch a cold and Brady Quinn is the new QB. Trent Dilfer does NOT approve:
This on so many levels shows the dysfunction of the Cleveland Browns. The first thing is you don’t change quarterbacks when you’re a bad football team, you change quarterbacks when you’re a good football team and your quarterback is holding you back. And more importantly, this is an organization that has proven that the public opinion sways their decision-making — and you can’t do that as a National Football League organization.
When Trent Dilfer is blasting your organization, you've got some problems.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) (last week: 10)
Every single Jacksonville player on the roster needs to take their car to the shop and have their car horn replaced with the "sad trombone" sound. The only reason they're not in the "Officially removed" category is that they're only one game behind 2nd place Indianapolis in their division, and the AFC is so topsy-turvy that Jacksonville could totally go on a streak, end up 9-7 and in the wild-card round. But I wouldn't bet on it.
Officially removed from consideration due to dangerous amounts of suck: Oakland, Kansas City, Cincinnatti.
If the playoffs started today, here's how they'd look. Any questions? Consult the tiebreaking procedures:
Division - Team [seed (last week) - ranking by record(last week)]
AFC East - New York Jets [3(unranked) - 4(unranked)]
AFC West - Denver Broncos [4(4) - 6(5)]
AFC North - Pittsburgh Steelers [2(2) - 2(2)]
AFC South - Tennessee Titans [1(1) - 1(1)]
Wild Card - Baltimore Ravens [5(6) - 4(6)]
Wild Card - New England Patriots [6(3) - 5(3)]