I could’ve sworn it was only yesterday that I was getting excited for the NFL season to start again, but here we are, and in the blink of an eye and we have already finished 13 weeks of the season.
With four weeks to go before the postseason begins, the Patriots sit at 9-3 and look poised for their tenth consecutive AFC East title with their current three game lead over Miami. Despite another year of success, at times, this New England team has looked beatable.
A few teams in the AFC have looked good, if not great so far. Some teams might cause the Patriots some trouble.
Kansas City Chiefs
Led by the ridiculously talented second year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs have one of the most prolific offenses of all time this season. Averaging a gaudy 36.7 points per contest, the Chiefs score at will. Even with the loss of Kareem hunt they still have the likes of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins. Just to name a few.
Although the Chiefs offense is nearly unstoppable, the defense leaves much to be desired. They rank at the bottom of the NFL giving up 26.7 points per game. They have been able to win due to their amazing offense so far this year, but we all know how important defense is in the playoffs. Giving up 33 points to a dismal Raiders offense does not give lead to any confidence in their defense.
The Patriots have already beat the Chiefs this season 43 to 40 it was an offensive battle of epic proportions. The Patriots don’t match up well with the Chiefs due to their speed on offense and the Patriots lack of speed on defense, but I would take Tom Brady in a shootout versus Mahomes any day.
Talk about the comeback kids! After starting the season terribly with an 0-3 record, and calls for Bill O’Brien to be fired they’ve gone on an unprecedented streak and haven’t lost since. Not only does their offense look great, but their defense looks phenomenal. The pass rush of JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney is the best one-two combo in the NFL. They have been causing issues for quarterbacks all season.
The Texans don’t score a lot of points, averaging 25.2 per game, but their stout defense only allows 19.6 points per game, good for third in the league. DeShaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are two of the best at what they do, and they keep their offense going.
This team is dangerous, dear I say the most dangerous team in the AFC. No one is hotter in the league. New England beat the Texans in the first week of the season, but that means nothing anymore. For the Patriots to beat the Texans they will have to get the ball out of Brady‘s hand quick on offense, and be able to contain DeShaun Watson and keep him within the pocket on defense. If you can’t do those things against the Texans they will beat the hell out of you.
To start this 2018 campaign it was unclear how the absence of Le’Veon Bell would affect the team’s offense. After the week one tie with the Cleveland Browns, it looked as though the Steelers were not going to be a very good team this season. They’ve been able to turn that around thanks to the gun slinging of Ben Roethlisberger, and the play making abilities of Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, and James Conner. Bell truly hasn’t been missed.
Highly efficient play has led to an offense that averages 28.7 points a game. The defense has been strong as well, led by the ferocious pass rush of TJ Watt and Cameron Hayward. Defensively they rank 6th in yards, and 14th in points allowed. They haven’t been consistent as a team all season, but any given week they can be the best team in the league.
The Patriots and the Steelers have a massive match up coming up in week 15. This Steelers team is for real, and the Patriots could easily lose the game on the road. Ben versus Brady doesn’t get much better in December.
Los Angeles Chargers
Doesn’t it seem like every year around this time, the Chargers are always in contention fighting for a wild-card spot? Sometimes they get in and lose, and sometimes they just miss the playoffs completely. This season something seems different. Rivers looks like a possible MVP. They don’t just have one of the best offenses in the league, but their defensive play is stellar.
With the return of Joey Bosa on their defense, it’s only going to get better. They get after the passer, they cover, and they make plays easily a top-five defense in the league. They rank 4th in the league in points allowed with 19.9 points per game.
Melvin Gordon has proved he is one of the best running backs in the league, but with his MCL issues he could be out for an extended long period of time. They have many weapons on the outside such as Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and Mike Williams. Antonio Gates has shown he still has gas left in the tank.
Los Angeles has the pieces to make a good run, and I could see them potentially meeting up with the Patriots in a later round of the playoffs. They very much remind me of the Houston Texans, so they can be a very dangerous team. To beat them the Patriots will have to make a lot of plays on offense and score at least thirty.
The Ravens are very confusing team this year, because they started hot, went cold, and now they’re hot again. Joe Flacco was looking better than he had in a long time, but a hip injury has held him out. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has played decently in his place.
Offensively, the Ravens are an average team, but depending on who they have a quarterback they can be quite dynamic. Jackson brings a different type of speed and athleticism that you don’t often see at the quarterback position. Even if they bring Flacco back as the starter, they will most likely be splitting time to keep defenses off-balance. However, they lack weapons on the offensive side of the ball.
The Ravens make their money on defense. This season they’re only allowing 17.8 points per contest. The best in the league. They’re fast, they are big, they are strong, and they are athletic. They’re everything you think of when you think of any Ravens defense over the past twenty years. We all know the phrase “defense wins championships.” I give Baltimore a great chance to make a splash in the playoffs this season.
They’re certainly not a team to take lightly, as their defense can keep them in every game. They may not be the 2000 Ravens, but they are impressive either way.
Others with a chance, but not yet worthy of a breakdown:
The AFC playoff picture is certainly foggy with four weeks to go, and there will be shuffling between these teams in the next month. The conference is very deep this season. The Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, and Texans are the cream of the crop, but none of them stand out and scream that they’re the best team this year. This is anyone’s race to win, and I believe the Patriots are still the front runners. But anything can happen.
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