AFC title race is still the ‘New England Patriot Invitational’ until further notice
Normally in the NFL, the leaves have to change to their fall colors before there’s a clear cut picture of the playoff landscape. However, two weeks into this football season it seems as if title contenders in the AFC is pretty solidified already.
Going into this year, like most NFL pundits, my AFC favorite had to be defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. That’s been the case throughout most to all of the Brady-Belichick New England era. This particular the Patriots have a scary championship caliber roster in all three phases of the game.
The Patriots 77-3 combined score in weeks one and two has stirred discussion about how this team compares to the 2007 New England Patriots perfect regular season team. The backend of the Patriots schedule is challenging and they could certainly slip up. But, it’s a safe bet to have New England earn a first round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs once again.
Outside of the Patriots dominant 2019 team, a series of unfortunate events have happened to challengers of Brady and Belichick’s throne recently. Consistent contender Pittsburgh Steelers have began falling by the wayside now that their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season as he requires elbow surgery.
Roethlisberger’s absence combined with the loss of all pro skilled position extraordinaires Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown from last year, the Steelers have a murky outlook for this season. Pittsburgh offensive line and defensive front, two of the strongest expected aspects of the roster, have also underperformed through two weeks thus far.
In the AFC South division, the Indianapolis Colts are still mourning the football loss of 29 year old gun-slinger Andrew Luck. With Luck, Indianapolis had serious reason to believe they were a Super Bowl contender, having overachieved with a youthful roster and making the playoffs last year.
Out West, the Los Angeles Chargers had high hopes for this season also. The injury bug has hit them hard though, losing left tackle Russell Okung and budding star safety Derwin James before the year started. They’re both expected back during the year and have the necessary talent to get the job done, but it’s uphill sledding for them.
In the Patriots neck of the woods in the AFC east, per usual, there’s not much going on in terms of winning outside of New England. The one interesting AFC east team who could’ve made some noise is the New York Jets.
They’ve improved on both ends and so they were seen as a borderline playoff team coming into this year. Those hopes seem to have vanished now that franchise quarterback Sam Darnold is out for an extended period of time with mono. Backup Trevor Siemien doesn’t exactly suffice as a backup option for a roster that’s still in a growing phase.
The only thing standing between the way of Brady & Belichick’s fourth consecutive Super Bowl appearance is the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs. KC has a special quarterback-coach duo of their own in reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and offensive mastermind Andy Reid.
The most compelling AFC question mark remaining this season is where will the AFC championship game for the right to go to the Super Bowl in Miami be played in: Foxboro, MA or Kansas City, MO?
The Chiefs high powered offense allows them the chance to outscore anybody on any given Sunday. Star wideout Tyreek Hill is sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury, but Mahomes and KC manage to pick up the pieces with other weapons. Most notably Travis Kelce, whose been one of the two best tight ends in football for a while now.
The 2-0 Chiefs could not knock off the Pats, but I don’t see it again this year. In a likely rematch of last years AFC championship game, it’s impossible to bet against Brady and Belichick in that spot. Although it’s a beyond formidable counterpart, I can’t take a third year quarterback and Andy Reid over this monster. The Pats will reach the big game again this year, and when they do, the organization should petition for changing the name of the AFC to the ‘New England Patriot Invitational’. This level of dominance is getting more than tiresome for opposing fans.