There’s just one week left in the NFL regular season, and hopefully by now we have everything figured out. However, that’s not so easy to do in the AFC. Let’s take a look at the AFC power rankings as we close out the season.
1. Denver – There’s no doubt about it, the Broncos are the best team in the AFC. By no means are they perfect; they have some flaws and some injury concerns heading into the postseason, but they have one of the best offenses in NFL history and have been a dominant team for much of the season. Regardless of what the weather is like, Peyton Manning and company will be tough to beat in the postseason.
2. Cincinnati – The Bengals can be frustrating to watch at times, and among all the division winners in the AFC they have the least reliable quarterback, but it’s important to remember that from top to bottom they have arguably the most talented and balanced roster in football. Cincinnati can win in a number of different ways and they’re going to have a chance to win every game they play, which is why they’re a distant second to the Broncos in the AFC.
3. New England – Winning in Baltimore the way they did was a great reminder of what exactly the Patriots are capable of doing, as they completely shut down the hottest team in the NFL on the road. Of course, with the depleted supporting cast that Tom Brady has, New England won’t be the favorites in the AFC heading into the playoffs, but they’ll definitely be contenders.
4. Indianapolis – The Colts finally won back-to-back games, and doing so in convincing fashion in Arrowhead Stadium this late in the season was quite impressive. The defense has gotten the job done the past two weeks, albeit against weak offensive teams, and Indy is now going to enter the postseason with some momentum and some confidence, and when those two intangibles are combined with Andrew Luck at quarterback, the Colts start to look like a team that might be dangerous in the postseason after all.
5. Pittsburgh – All of a sudden the Steelers look like the hottest team in the NFL the past two weeks, dominating the Bengals and pulling out a close win in wintry conditions at Lambeau Field. They’ll need a lot of help next week to get into the playoffs, but rest assured that the Pittsburgh team we’ve seen the last seven weeks is a playoff worthy team and will be a tough matchup if they can find a way into the postseason.
6. Kansas City – The Chiefs don’t look like a team that’s won 11 games, as they’ve lost four of their last six games. Granted, two of those losses came against the Broncos, but Kansas City has lost three in a row at home, which won’t matter for them in the postseason, but it indicates a team that the Chiefs are a team that reached its peak a long time ago, as their offense is still limited and their defense looks fairly average. It’s been a great rebound season under Andy Reid, but their trip to the postseason could be brief.
7. San Diego – Regardless of what happens in week 17 and whether or not the Chargers sneak into the postseason, they won’t have a losing record in a tough division, and they’re going to have at least four wins over playoff teams, including a road win in Denver, which is one of the most impressive results by any team all season. San Diego does have a lot of moments they wish they could take back, but they’re a quality team that has finished the season strong, and if they some how find their way into the playoffs, no one can say they don’t deserve to be there.
8. Baltimore – The defending champs had us believing that they were going to pull off something special at the end of the season, but playing that poorly at home in the most important game of the season is unacceptable. The Baltimore defense deserves a lot of credit, but the Ravens have been mediocre on offense all season and it’s finally caught up to them, and it’s the reason they fall all the way to eight in the power rankings, as the season comes to its conclusion.
9. Miami – With so much on the line, there’s no excuse for the Dolphins playing as poorly as they did in Buffalo on Sunday. Miami has been too streaky this season, winning three in a row on two separate occasions, but also losing four in a row at one point, and that’s not the M.O. of a playoff team. The Dolphins were in a lot of games, but to get shutout by a sub-.500 team with so much to play for is not what quality teams do, even if there’s still a decent chance they can find their way into the postseason.
10. Buffalo – The Bills crack the top 10, and for good reason. Consider this, they have wins over Carolina, Baltimore, and Miami twice, with close losses against New England, Cincinnati and Kansas City. They’ve done all that with either a rookie or a practice-squad player at quarterback, so despite the continued disappointment in Buffalo, that’s not a bad season.
11. New York Jets – As bad as the Jets have been for large chunks of the season, they’ve won two of their last three with a chance to finish .500 on the season, and they have wins over New England and New Orleans to hang their hat on. It might not be enough to save Rex Ryan’s job, but it’s not bad for a team that had the lowest of expectations coming into the season.
12. Tennessee – Despite a hot start and a little bit of hope this year, the Titans are going to finish the season without a win over a playoff team. On top of that, they’re going to finish below .500 in arguably the weakest division in football, which is not a season they should be proud of.
13. Jacksonville – The Jaguars were as bad as can during the first half of the season, but they’ve shown real signs of improvement and progress over the second half of the season. They have a long way to go, but they do have three wins inside their division, which is a nice start under new head coach Gus Bradley.
14. Cleveland – There was a glimmer of hope at the midway point in the season, but the Browns have been an absolute mess late in the year and they remain at the bottom of the AFC North, where they’ve been for quite some time.
15. Oakland – It’s going to be six straight losses for the Raiders at the end of the season, and eight losses in their last nine games. There are no answers at quarterback and the defense hasn’t played particularly well either. Oakland is bottom-5 team in the NFL, there’s no doubt about it.
16. Houston – With 13 straight losses, the Texans may very well be the worst team in the NFL. Head coach Gary Kubiak didn’t survive the season, and now this organization needs a new coach and a new quarterback, and has a long climb ahead of them to get back to where they were a couple of years ago.