3 Week Crystal Ball: AFC

The majority of NFL teams this year range from less-than-decent to somewhat-competent, with only the Patriots and the Browns comfortably sitting outside of those parameters.  With the season halfway over, the playoff picture—which should be coming into focus a little—is a who-knows-what of middling teams that can’t break away from the pack.  It’s as muddled as the future of our country.

Yet have no fear, because the 3 Week Crystal Ball is here.  I’m going to try and make sense out of each team’s situation, predict the outcomes of the games for the next three weeks, and see if that will clear anything up in regards to the tightening playoff race.

First let’s start with the AFC.

 

AFC EAST

New England Patriots (7-1)

The Pats will receive their biggest test of the season as they go up against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday night.  Following that, they go on the road to take on the terrible 49ers and the terrible Jets.  I think they’ll win all three, probably putting up a combined 100 points in the process.  Will the refs fuck over another AFC East team in favor of Seattle?  No, because the game is in Foxborough, so hopefully no refereeing gaffes will occur during Richard Sherman-related plays.  I’m rooting for a Gronk spike on Sherman’s head this game.

In three weeks: 10-1

Buffalo Bills (4-5)

Ah yes, the poor Buffalo Bills.  Screwed over on an unnecessary roughness no-call and then a we’re-gonna-give-you-5-seconds-on-the-play-clock fuck you at the end of the 1st half against Seattle, the Bills head into the bye losers of three straight.  This is a fun team that has been the victim of laughing chance.  Returning from the bye, they’re at Cincy and then home for Jacksonville.  I believe in the Bills, but they’ll still miss the playoffs.

In three weeks: 5-6

New York Jets (3-6)

They’ll close out November with: vs. Rams, BYE, vs. New England.  The quarterback will either be Fitzpatrick or Bryce Petty.  Both are godawful.  Fitz does well when the front office doesn’t believe in him, and right now nobody in the world believes in him.  They might take LA, but they’ll certainly lose by 20 to New England.

In three weeks: 3-8

Miami Dolphins (4-4)

Jay Ajayi is a bruiser of a running back and he could carry the Dolphins to playoff contention.  But, then again, this is still the Dolphins we’re talking about, and I’m pretty sure someone named Ryan Tannehill is throwing the football.  Next 3: @ Chargers (L), @ Rams (L), vs. 49ers (W).

In three weeks: 5-6

 

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens (5-4)

Well, they already beat the Browns last night, so the following two weeks is where they’ll really be tested: @ Dallas and then home vs. Bengals.  The Dallas game is a foregone conclusion, but the Bengals game is a must-win.  It’s at home and playing at M&T Stadium in November is tough.  I still believe in Joe “Elite” Flacco.

In three weeks: 6-5

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)

They take on the Cowboys this week and hopefully Big Ben’s healthy.  If not, chalk their losing streak up to 4.  After that they’re at Browns and at Indy, games they should win.

In three weeks: 6-5

Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1)

That tie against the Redskins may end up helping them in a weak AFC North.  If they can win their next three, they’re in control of the division.  Each game is winnable, but they could also flip either way (@ Giants, vs. Bills, @ Ravens).  This is not the Cincy team of the last couple years.  The playoffs are a long shot.

In three weeks: 4-6-1

Cleveland Browns (0-10)

Aw, nuts.

In three weeks: 0-12

 

AFC SOUTH

Tennessee Titans (4-5)

I want these guys to succeed.  Marcus Mariota, Demarco Murray, and Derrick Henry are all great, fun players.  But they might not be ready for the big leagues yet (winning the AFC South shouldn’t be classified as “big leagues” anyways).

In three weeks: 5-7

Houston Texans (5-3)

I am not a supporter of Brock Osweiler, but the Texans are 5-0 at home.  After a road trip to the Jacksonville—where they should capture their first away victory—the real tests begin with a two-game home stand against the Raiders and the Chargers.  L’s baby.

In three weeks: 6-5

Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

They return from the bye next week with a home stand against Tennessee and then Pittsburgh.  The Tennessee game is a must-win and Andrew Luck usually brings it for important AFC South “battles”.

In three weeks: 5-6

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)

Blake Bortles.

In three weeks: 2-9

 

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos (6-3)

Cause for concern: the Broncos are in freefall.  Trevor Siemian is probably not that good.  They’ll lose in New Orleans before a much-needed bye, but their defense is good enough to beat Kansas City at home.

In three weeks: 7-4

Oakland Raiders (7-2)

Let the good times roll.  After the bye, they’re home for Houston and Carolina (and Buffalo after that).  They’ll be the only team competing for home-field advantage against the Patriots.

In three weeks: 9-2

Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)

Last year they rode a 10-game winning streak into the playoffs.  They should be able to continue their current streak to 6 in the next two weeks (@ Carolina, vs. Tampa) before possibly faltering in Mile High Stadium.  Still, this is at least a wild card team with realistic hopes of chasing down the Raiders.

In three weeks: 8-3

San Diego Chargers (4-5)

The Chargers have only themselves to blame.  This is a good team, sometimes a really good team, but they fucked things up at the beginning of the year.  It gets easier, though.  They’ve already played Denver twice, but they’ve lost to the Raiders and the Chiefs so far.  They get Miami, then a bye, then at Houston.  If the Chargers are serious, they’ll win their next two (and then they have Tampa and Carolina after, both winnable).

In three weeks: 6-5

 

WHAT THE AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE WILL LOOK LIKE IN 3 WEEKS

  1. New England Patriots (10-1)
  2. Oakland Raiders (9-2)
  1. Houston Texans (6-5)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
  1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)
  2. Denver Broncos (7-4)

In the Hunt:

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), San Diego Chargers (6-5), Indianapolis Colts (5-6), Miami Dolphins (5-6), Buffalo Bills (5-6), Tennessee Titans (5-7), Cincinnati Bengals (4-6-1)

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