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Friday, October 5, 2012

NFL – One Quarter Point – AFC

Earlier this week, the Hat Trick gave its two cents on all 16 NFC teams after four weeks. Today, the AFC is presented.


Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – Anything short of the AFC Championship Game, assuming no injuries to quarterback Joe Flacco (1,269 yds., 7 TD, 3 INT, 64% comp.) or middle linebacker Ray Lewis (33 tak., 1 sack, 1 FF), is an underachievement for this team. Flacco appears to finally be answering his critics, averaging over 300 yards per game through the air. The Ravens secondary has been loosey-goosey, but I do not expect that to last long.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – Quarterback Andy Dalton (1,111 yds., 8 TD, 4 INT, 68% comp.) has answered any questions about a sophomore slump so far. He is quickly developing into a playmaker. It remains to be seen, however, if the Bengals can compete with the upper tier teams in the AFC.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) – Someone should remind the Steelers that running the ball is still allowed in the NFL (ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing offense). Rashard Mendenhall’s return to the lineup cannot come soon enough. Fix the running attack and the Steelers can beat anyone in the NFL.

Cleveland Browns (0-4) – Colt McCoy should be glad he’s been benched for rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden (997 yds., 3 TD, 7 INT, 54% comp., 9 sacks). His career will last longer. This team was finished at the opening kickoff of Week 1. Stick a fork in ‘em.

Ray Lewis to Brandon Weeden: "Welcome to the NFL!" 1

Houston Texans (4-0) – The best team in the NFL. This team has no weaknesses. Texans Fan’s only concern should be if they fall behind. Houston has not had to throw the ball as much as in the past and may find themselves in unfamiliar territory if they are forced to score points quickly.

Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – Rookie quarterback and first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft Andrew Luck (846 yds., 5 TD, 4 INT, 53% comp.) has been what he was expected to be so far – a smart kid who makes good decisions, manages the game well, and can utilize his strong arm. This team has gone from being top-to-bottom awful to having its only glaring weakness being stopping the run. There won’t be any playoffs for this team in 2012, but a 7 or 8 win season is not out of the question and would represent a significant improvement over that season. How the team adapts to the absence of rookie Head Coach Chuck Pagano, being treated for leukemia, remains to be seen.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – Life is imitating art, as in the movie Major League in which the fictitious Cleveland Indians owner deliberately tried to tank the team so she could justify a move out of town. What’s the over/under on the number of years before this team is renamed the Los Angeles Diablos? Their only worthwhile asset is running back Maurice Jones-Drew (352 yds., 1 TD, 4.9 avg.). Second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert (654 yds., 5 TD, 1 INT 56% comp.) is quickly answering questions about a possible sophomore breakout – there won’t be any.

Tennessee Titans (1-3) – I am in the minority opinion that the Titans are better off with the experienced Matt Hasselbeck (236 yds., 2 TD, 2 INT, 64% comp.) at quarterback over second year QB Jake Locker (781 yds., 4 TD, 2 INT, 63% comp.). If running back Chris Johnson (186 yds., 3.2 avg.) can run the ball for the rest of the season like he did last week against the stingy Houston Texans, a .500 season is not out of the question for the Titans.

J.J. Watt and the Texans have the AFC South bowing down. 2


New England Patriots (2-2) – They continue to get torched in the air. While I expect the Pats to win the AFC East (almost by default), they are set up for an early exit in the playoffs with teams like Houston, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh in the mix.

New York Jets (2-2) – This team has the most misleading .500 record in football. The Jets have scored 81 points this year while surrendering 109 points. They cannot stop the run anymore than pot laws can stop stoners. The only potent weapon at the disposal of quarterback Mark Sanchez (813 yds., 5 TD, 4 INT, 49% comp.), wide receiver Santonio Holmes (20 rec., 272 yds., 1 TD), is out for the season. If Head Coach Rex Ryan gets desperate, pulls the plug on Sanchez, and inserts Tim Tebow, stick a fork in Gang Green.

Buffalo Bills (2-2) – I don’t know what to make of this team. If running back C.J. Spiller (341 yds., 3 TD, 8.3 avg.) can continue on anything close to the torrid pace to which he has begun the season and the defensive line, particularly $100 million man Mario Williams (9 tack., 1.5 sacks), can live up to expectations (which they are not thus far) Buffalo could be in the playoff discussion come December. That is a long time from now.

Miami Dolphins (1-3) – Their record meets expectations. Their actual level of play has slightly exceeded expectations for a 1-3 record. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s (1,046 yds., 2 TD, 6 INT, 56% comp.) career is off to as good of a start as one could ask, excluding the first game of his career against the currently undefeated Houston Texans in which he got his teeth kicked in as one would expect. If their secondary had football players instead of paper soldiers, the Fins could be a surprise contender. But they aren’t, so the Dolphins are not.

If Sexy Rexy wants to keep his job, he'll make sure the only headgear Tebow picks up has a wire attached to it. 3


San Diego Chargers (3-1) – At the moment, the Chargers are playing the best football of any team in the AFC West. That should surprise nobody as it has been the case, or close to it, every season for nearly a decade. That could change as the Denver Broncos continue to gel under new quarterback Peyton Manning. Norv Turner’s offense has gotten conspicuously conservative in the wake of wide receiver Vincent Jackson’s defection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via free agency this past offseason. As always, the Chargers real test will come in January, however, not the fall.

Denver Broncos (2-2) – On paper, this team should be at least 3-1. If the first quarter of their game at Atlanta could be erased, they would be. They do everything well and their quarterback play, under future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (1,162 yds., 8 TD, 3 INT, 65% comp.), continues to improve every week. They are on a collision course with the San Diego Chargers.

Oakland Raiders (1-3) – About 10 years ago, the Raiders were the winningest franchise (win pct.) in NFL history. They have been “almost back” for the past two seasons. They’re back to being bad. In a two (or more) heavy-use running back per team league, the Raiders have nothing…NOTHING behind Darren McFadden (201 yds., 1 TD, 3.5 avg.). The defense has more holes than the remains of Osama bin Laden. Raider Nation can start waiting for next year right now.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – If you ignore the government cheese like giveaways, the near absence of any takeaways, and the 13 times Matt Cassel (1,058 yds., 5 TD, 7 INT, 58% comp.) has been sacked, the Chiefs are a pretty good football team on paper. Saying that about an NFL team is like saying, “Mrs. Kennedy, except for the mess your husband’s wound made in the limousine, you have to admit that it was a pleasant ride.”

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