Just because the Eagles aren't a part of this year's playoffs doesn't mean we aren't interested and can't talk about them. So over the next two days I'm going to preview this years' playoffs and give my predictions. Today we start with the AFC, which unlike the NFC, doesn't have quite as clear of a hierarchy.
Patriots - There is no team that has cruised into the postseason with a softer schedule and with less quality wins than the Patriots. In fact, it's not even possible to have less quality wins than the Pats because they have none. They played only two teams with winning records (Giants and Steelers) and lost both games at home. Combine that with the fact that they have literally the worst defense in the NFL and this would appear to be the softest 13-3 team ever.
Ravens - The anti-Pats are the Ravens, who played 7 games against teams with winning records (thanks to their vastly superior division) and went 6-1 in those games. There's no doubt that the Ravens have been inconsistent this season, but more than any other team in the AFC, they've shown an ability to get up for big games.
Texans - It's really a bummer what has happened to the Texans with injuries. They lost both QB Matt Schaub and DE Mario Williams for the season and while the fact that they still are a good defense and their running game can keep them competitive, it's hard to see this team as any kind of real threat. With Schaub healthy earlier this year though, they really looked like they could play with anyone.
Broncos - We all know the story with Denver at this point. Tim Tebow got the starting the job, they reeled off six straight wins despite some historically poor play on his part and "Tebowmania" gripped the nation. Then, as quickly as it came, it went. The luck ran out, Tebow started turning the ball over & just didn't have the ability to make plays when needed. The Broncos have done an admirable job hiding his deficiencies (you know, throwing the ball) but it was always going to catch up with them. Here's some food for thought. Tebow completed just 47% of his passes this season. Only two QBs have ever been worse in a season. Akili Smith and our old pal Mike McMahon in the 2005 season where he filled in for Donovan McNabb.
But throwing the ball isn't the only thing Tim Tebow is bad at. As it turns out, he really can't run the ball either.
However, just because he runs more than any other quarterback doesn't mean he necessarily runs more effectively. In 117 carries, he fumbled six times, two more than any other quarterback. (Cam Newton also ran 117 times, and he didn't fumble on any of them.) Tebow had 29 carries on third or fourth down that failed to pick up a new set of downs. That's more than any other player in the league, including all running backs. And he only started 11 games!
Denver backed into the playoffs at 8-8 and now have drawn the Steelers.
Steelers - While you might think that Steelers should crush the Denver Tebows, they are not without their own issues. Rashard Mendenhall was lost for the year with an ACL last week. Ben Roethlisberger is beat up... However, Isaac Redman has proven to be a capable RB averaging 4.4 ypc this year and rushing for 93 yards in Mendenhall's place in week 17. It's hard to see them going into Denver and losing.
Bengals - Here's the problem with Cincy. The Schaub-less Texans aren't the worst draw in round one (although Houston did win in Cincy less than a month ago), but they're probably going to have to beat one of their AFC North rivals, Baltimore or Pittsburgh, to advance further. And in four tries this year, they've failed to do that. Plus, against good competition, Cincy has been pretty bad. They faced 7 playoff teams this year and lost every game. That accounts for all 7 of their losses. Unlike the Pats though, they did at least beat one team with a winning record, the 9-7 Titans.
Steelers over Broncos
Texans over Bengals
Steelers over Patriots
Ravens over Texans
Ravens over Steelers