Handicapping the AFC playoff competitors
I’m not a “contenders and pretenders” guy. Why? Because the AFC is collectively bad enough that the “any given Sunday” thing holds true. Seriously. The Jets almost beat the Patriots. The Bengals are probably going to beat somebody. This season is exceptionally bad.
So the “contenders” and “pretenders” matter even less this season than usual. If ever some scrub team were to emerge as the Patriots’ top competition, this season would be it.
So instead, here’s a handicapping of the Patriots’ competition in the AFC, going by every team .500 or better. Keep in mind that none of these teams are going to beat the Patriots in the playoffs.
FIRST OF ALL
I don’t bet on sports, so I don’t know what people mean when they say something has “10-1 odds” or whatever. I’ve had it explained to me when I’ve raised that point, but since I’m not going to use that information, I haven’t retained. Still have no clue what are good odds and what are bad odds. Don’t want to know. Not a betting man.
BEST ODDS: THE OTHER 5-2 TEAMS
The Steelers handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season in Week 6 and now both teams sit alongside the Pats as the only 5-2 teams in the AFC. Are the Steelers superior to the Chiefs just because they won that Week 6 matchup? I don’t think so; Pittsburgh needed an insane catch from Antonio Brown in order to hang on for that win.
I’ll give the Steelers the slight edge over the Chiefs based on the health of the defense, but the offensive weapons are close between the two teams. The Patriots shouldn’t want to see Kareem Hunt again.
KIND OF TRASH ODDS: TEXANS (3-3)
Deshaun Watson can play, as the Patriots learned. The defense is terrifying when at full health, but Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt are both dunzo with injuries. They won’t go far unless Watson goes off.
TRASH ODDS: JAGUARS (4-3)
The Jaguars have a wonderfully easy schedule and Calais Campbell was an absolute monster of a signing. Maybe that makes them a playoff team. If they meet the Pats, they could potentially terrorize Tom Brady. They just might not be able to do anything else.
ALSO TRASH ODDS: BRONCOS (3-3)
Lost to the Giants at home, then got shut out by the Chargers. They don’t have a quarterback. They stink.
TRASH ODDS: TITANS (4-3)
You ever watch the Titans? I have. Marcus Mariota isn’t right yet. Corey Davis has remained out with injury. The team forgot it signed Eric Decker.
TRASH ODDS AS WELL: BILLS (4-3)
They beat the Bucs, but that’s partially because everyone was wrong about the Bucs. They might get a win against the Raiders Sunday, but they’ve still got a combined four games against the Patriots (two games), Saints and Chiefs. That will really test their odds of snagging a Wild Card berth.
TRASHEST ODDS: DOLPHINS (4-3)
They might be better with Matt Moore than with Jay Cutler. Look at their remaining schedule, though. It’s plausible they’ll lose their final seven games of the season.