NFL Super Bowl LVI Contenders and Pretenders – AFC
With one week of regular season action left before the post-season gets underway, here is my list of Contenders and Pretenders from bottom to top in the AFC:
1) Baltimore – Pretender – The ultimate pretender it would take a minor miracle for the Ravens to make the playoffs but they are mathematically alive. If they miraculously get in, this team (recent 5-game losing streak) is going nowhere.
2) Pittsburgh – Pretender – Congrats to Big Ben for getting a win in final home game of his career and that is where this story ends. Still a chance to get into the post-season, but this team, even if did get in, does not have the offensive production to advance in the playoffs.
3) Las Vegas – Pretender – The Raiders still have a chance to get in the playoffs, but their tumultuous season -- plagued by the Jon Gruden firing and the off-the-field players incidents -- is just too much to overcome. No post-season success here if they even get in!
4) Indianapolis – Contender – Yes the Colts really blew it last week but now they take on a very bad Jacksonville team and the Jaguars are the only thing that stands between Indy and the post-season. That said, it's highly likely they get in and a well-coached team with some experience at QB and a solid defense will always be able to surprise and contend. Before last week’s loss, the Colts had won 9 of 12 games.
5) Los Angeles Chargers – Pretender – Tough match-up closing the season with the Raiders so they may not even make the post-season. Even if they do, the Chargers' rather weak ground game is a concern on offense. And a late season loss to the Texans says a lot about this team. They will be "one and done" in my opinion, if they make post-season.
6) New England – Contender – Such a strong run for the Patriots who have been one of the hottest teams in the league in latter half of season. When your coach is Bill Belichick and you have a solid defense and you are a red hot team, then you are a threat to make a post-season run for sure.
7) Buffalo – Contender – Last year’s playoff experience helps them this season and they have a solid ground game. Also, Buffalo's QB, Josh Allen, is capable of getting hot at the right time.
8) Cincinnati – Pretender – Have not won a playoff game in 3 decades. The Bengals won the division which is a major accomplishment for them. Burrow’s first playoff experience is unlikely to go well and this is particularly true with a bad offensive line in front of him.
9) Kansas City – Pretender – The Chiefs just have not been the same this season. The offense has inconsistencies. Mahomes just has not been as solid at QB. The Chiefs' defense has too many bad games. This Chiefs seem to be on too much of a decline to make it all the way to the Super Bowl this season although I will say the field in the AFC does appear to be quite wide open.
10) Tennessee – Contender – Should be able to get home field as their final game is against the downtrodden Texans. When a team can run like the Titans can, has a respectable defense, gets a bye week to open the post-season, and has all their games at home, plus is well-coached, you have a chance at getting to the big game!