It’s finally here, the blog you’ve all been waiting for!!! The AFC playoff predictions. I know, I know it’s been like waiting on a season of Game of Thrones. Hand up that’s on me, not to brag but last week I was reffing nationals for youth football, and pulled a full Cuckleberry on blogging. Unlike Cuckleberry though I was working 14 hours days, letting ill targeting calls go, breaking up bench clearing brawls (actually happened), trying not to start laughing as parents at a 6U game got into a fight in the stands(also happened) just nose to the pavement trying to make ends meet. So I apologize for neglecting my most loyal of fans, just tryin to earn a living out here but let’s get started!
…Stay tuned for my recap of the tourney I just decided to write.
THE AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
#1 Seed: New England Patriots Current Record(10-3) Final Record(13-3)
Despite getting absolutely embarrassed last night on MNF by Smokin Jay Cutty and the Dolphins, calm heads need to prevail here. Don’t believe me? Fine, logic not plum based reason will convince you that the Patriots will capture their 6th #1 Seed of the Brady Belichick era.
Next week’s match up with the Steelers will determine New England’s fate the rest of the way. I know the Pat’s pass game appeared out of sync and Brady was getting beat up all night against Miami, but they should find some relief in Pittsburgh. Even with emotions running high on Sunday night the Steelers defense clearly showed how much they missed LB Ryan Shazier as Ravens RB Alex Collins gashed them all night for big chunk yards. What was truly surprising was that Joe Flacco, who has been one of the worst QB’s this year averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt, also found lots of room to work and was finding a wide open Mike Wallace all night for big plays down the field. This is not just a one off trend, with the secondary missing CB Joe Haden and the front seven Shazier, New England’s offense will be able to feast on the Steelers defense and keep up with the killer B’s on the way to this vital victory.
After the Steelers the Pat’s schedule is a cake walk, home for Buffalo and then at the Jets to close out the season. Theres about as good of a chance of Cuckleberry going .500 on his picks as there is for a Buffalo team QB’d by Nate Peterman/Tyrod Taylor/Drunk Bills Mafia member beating the Patriots in Foxborough. The final road game against the suddenly resurgent Jets had the looks of a great game but Jet’s QB Josh Mccown’s broken hand this Sunday put the kibosh on that. Belichick and Matt Patricia’s defense will ensure the name Christian Hackenberg is never uttered in the NFL again.
#2 Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers Current Record (11-2) Final Record (13-3)
As mentioned above, next week’s match up with the Patriots is vital. With a W the Steelers would clinch a 1st round bye AND would only have to win one of their final games(@HOU, CLE) to seal up the AFC’s #1 overall seed. A loss and things get a little murkier as they would need to win out to stave off the very frisky looking Duval County Jaguars who if they were to win out, would secure the #2 seed as they beat the Steelers earlier in the season. That being said do not fret Yinzers, after the Patriots the next team you play is, as Texans coach Bill O’Brien said in his post game presser this week,”not very good”. Which especially rings true for the Texans with them having to go with TJ Yates at QB after Tom Savage exited their game against the 49ers with a very scary concussion. To close out the Steelers will host the more than likely the still win-less Browns. This offense is looking too good to stumble and the Steelers should ride it to a first round bye.
#3 Seed: Jacksonville Jaguars Current Record (9-4) Final Record (12-4)
The Jags are easily the most shocking playoff team this year, after being the league’s second biggest laughing stock behind the Browns for well over a decade. This Jags team is dare I say it, are for real. Powered by the league 2nd overall defense, only behind Denver which is certainly not the case anymore, the Jaguars have continued to smother their opposition all season. They lead the league in turnover differential, +14, sacks, 47, and pass yards given up. Additionally, they’ve held teams to 10 or less points seven times this year, that’s an identity if I’ve ever seen one. The fact that they’ve established this identity so well is why I think they’re a sure lock for the #3 seed, as the only team that can catch them at this point is division rival Tennessee, who looks very, very lost on offense. This combined with a statement win against a tough Seattle team where Blake Bortles looked…actually good, have this Jags team looking like a team that could win a playoff game..or two,huh? They did already beat the Steelers 30-9…..In Pittsburgh.
San Diego Chargers Current Record (7-6) Final Record (10-6)
Nothing infuriates me more than how entitled and undeserving the fans of Los Angeles are. Within a two year span they have been awarded not one, but two NFL teams. Despite this immense privilege, and they are a privilege just ask anyone from San Diego or St. Louis, they’ve continued to act like the ungrateful urban snowflakes they are and have barely supported either team. The once proud Chargers, one of the AFL’s original franchises, have been relegated to an unholy soccer stadium with a meager capacity of 27,000 and have still struggled to fill it to the brim.
Despite these hurdles, the Chargers are quietly one of the most complete teams in the NFL. They boast a potent franchise QB, just ask Mrs. Rivers, a RB whose just 150 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards, a WR whose already over 1,100 receiving yards, the best pass rushing duo in all of football, and a top 5 secondary…that sounds more like a Super Bowl team than a team that needs to win out just to make it into the playoffs. This precarious situation they find themselves in is a result of another year of Chargers gonna Charger early in the season that resulted in an 0-4 start, three of which were a result of last second field goals. Entering this week though they currently are on a four game winning streak and have a date with the Chiefs on an extra special SATURDAY Night Football in Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs righted the ship last week against the Raiders after losing six of their last seven games, and looked more like themselves from earlier in the season but I just… I just… I just can’t trust Andy Reid to have good time management in this game THERE I SAID IT ARE YOU HAPPY NOW??!!??! This will even the season series between the two and give LA a one game lead on their rivals before finishing against the Jets and the Raiders which they will need to win both to win the tie-breakers for the division over the Chiefs. Some part of my body, I think my gut, tells me to believe in the Chargers and another part, my heart maybe, says Rivers is gonna cost them late with interceptions….I don’t know I’m rolling with it.
#5 Seed: Baltimore Ravens Current Record(7-6) Projected Record(10-6)
Getting your heart ripped out on national television does one thing, and that’s build character. Despite coming up short against an emotional and injury plagued Steelers defense, there was a lot I liked coming out of the Ravens. RB Alex Collins continued to impress, averaging 6.7 YPC to the tune of 120 yards on the ground against the Steelers. QB Joe Flacco had his best game of the season, and finally looked like the old Joe Cool that piloted this Ravens team to a Super Bowl. The defense did have its worse performance of the season allowing the Steelers to hang around all night until Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, 506 and 213 passing and receiving yards respectively, put them out of their misery for good. The loss of CB Jimmy Smith, who was having a pro bowl season, for the rest of the year really can’t be stated enough as he was going head to head with team’s #1 WR week in and week out and shutting them down, but people haven’t realized that quietly this has been one of the best Raven’s defenses in a while. They’re second in the league in turnover differential, fourth in points allowed, and have shut out three of their opponents this year. That’s something to lean on, even with their best player out.
Even with the revitalization of their offense, and continuing steady play of their defense, the Ravens biggest advantage is their schedule ahead (@CLE, IND, CIN). It doesn’t get any easier than those three teams and I think the Ravens should be able to take advantage and win out the rest of the way, guaranteeing themselves a playoff berth.
#6 Seed: Buff…Tenness……….Kansas City Chiefs(7-6) Projected Record(9-7)
This is easily the most difficult to predict just due to the sheer mediocrity of all the teams involved. QB Tyrod Taylor should return this week for Buffalo against Miami, but their season ended in my mind the moment Nate Peterman threw 5 INT’s in the first half of a game against the Chargers. Tennessee has a game lead on the other two teams but their schedule the rest of the way is no joke(@SF, LAR, JAX) and have completely forgotten who they are on offense. Kansas City suffered from one of the worst losing streaks in recent memory after starting so hot, and have been decimated by injuries along the whole defense.
When teams have so many issues the one thing that can pull them all together and right the ship is coaching, and Andy Reid is by far the best coach of all three teams. Reid has suffered more than his fair share of tough losses and should be able to rally this Chiefs team from the abyss. Despite their horrendous run the Chiefs were able to beat Oakland last week in a vital division game, and if they beat the Chargers this week they would essentially clinch the AFC West crown for themselves. A loss to Los Angeles would force them to win out against a suddenly frisky Miami team and a reeling Denver team in Mile High. All in all it should be fun to watch the battle royale for the last seed.
Left out in the night, which is obviously dark and full of terrors:
Tennessee Titans: They’re the most likely to grab that #6 seed from the Chiefs due to a better record currently but their schedule is murderous. @SF is no longer a joke with Jimmy G manning the helm at QB, honestly my upset of the week is right here, then they’re home for the Rams, before closing out home with Jacksonville. Their saving grace might be that Jacksonville will have already won the division by Week 17 and rest their starters allowing them an easy win and beating the Chiefs on tiebreakers. Still, I just don’t trust this team and might even have them losing out.
Buffalo Bills: As stated they’re a complete mess at QB and if I was RB LeSean Mccoy I’d be asking myself why I was still here after seasons of him performing as a top 5 RB with no talent around him. They close out playing the aforementioned frisky Dolphins and the Patriots. That doesn’t bode well for them
Miami Dolphins: One does not merely embarrass the Patriots on Monday Night Football in December, and they demolished the Broncos the week before. They would need help, but if they win out they would remove two of their main competitors as they play Buffalo twice and Kansas City in between. They’re frisky, and a Smokin’ Jay Cutty farewell loss in the first round of the playoffs would be hilarious.