Author: Sam Gemini
An Analysis of Whether the AFC’s Current Playoff Teams Are the Real Deal or Pretenders
MADISON – We are a quarter of the way into the 2020 NFL season, so it’s time to decide who is contending for a Super Bowl and who is simply along for the ride. This article assesses the teams that currently hold a playoff spot in the AFC and determines whether they are worthy of it.
Kansas City Chiefs: Formidable
Well, this shouldn’t need any explanation. Kansas City has arguably the best offensive mind in the world as head coach, the best tight end, the best number one receiver, and the best quarterback. Their defense has gotten the job done and Edwards-Helaire has been good as the rookie running back. At this point in time, I honestly don’t see how this team doesn’t get back to the Super Bowl. But that conversation will come later in the season. For now, the Chiefs are the clear best team in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills: Functional
Many will think it disrespectful that I do not consider the 4-0 Bills formidable, and to tell the truth, this was a difficult call. They have an outstanding defense, a smart head coach, and decent weapons on offense. I am just not completely sold on quarterback Josh Allen yet. He has looked phenomenal this season; his athleticism and speed are mixing nicely with his rapidly developing accuracy. He is, however, still young, and last season he looked more like a systems quarterback that will struggle if the bulk of the responsibility is placed on him, as we saw in the playoff game. The Bills are very, very good, but the jury is still out on whether their QB is SB worthy.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Functional
The Steelers have a scary pass rush and a defense that can be very stingy when healthy, as well as a coach and quarterback that are familiar with winning. They will not be a championship favorite, but Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin are always capable. And in the off chance that fans are a factor, look out for the terrible towels. . . .
Tennessee Titans: Functional
Tennessee is so functional that the networks give them almost no attention. There are no locker room controversies, no player drama, no coaching turnover (for the purpose of this article, we will, for the time being, ignore their COVID problems). They are a well-oiled machine with a tank for a running back in Derrick Henry and a does-his-job quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. They do not have the flash of Kansas City, but they know how to win and will have a legitimate shot when January arrives.
Baltimore Ravens: Formidable
I am not in love with Lamar Jackson the way some are (honestly, people are just going crazy over him!), but there is no denying the power of the Ravens as a unit. John Harbaugh is an absolute genius, and the three-headed running monster of Dobbins, Ingram, and Jackson is terrifying. Nobody plays football the way Baltimore does; there is no question that they will be one of the favorites to play in Super Bowl LV.
Indianapolis Colts: Fraudulent
Here’s the thing: The Colts have a really good team – elite defense, great offensive line, star running back (Jonathan Taylor!) – but their quarterback sucks. I don’t know if Philip Rivers has a chance at the Hall of Fame, but I do know that at his current age of thirty-eight, he can’t play. I had the pleasure of watching the entirety of the Colts’ thrilling 19-11 win over Chicago, and uglier throws I have rarely seen. Indianapolis cannot overcome their quarterback in the playoffs; count the Colts out.
Cleveland Browns: Fraudulent
I truly have no idea what Cleveland is. They got obliterated against Baltimore in week one before beating two dysfunctional squads in Cincinnati and Washington and putting up forty-nine on a dreadful Cowboys defense. It certainly appears that the Browns have found an identity on offense; Odell Beckham Jr. is finally rounding into form, and Cleveland’s run game is quickly becoming one of the best in football (even with the injury to Nick Chubb). Baker Mayfield is just too immature for me, and it’s hard to put trust in a franchise that has been an absolute mess since before I was born. I’m not buying it; the Browns are frauds.