Friday, October 21, 2011

Countdown to NFL Week 7: The AFC Playoff Picture: Who is the best Leader of Men?

By Finesse

[We're counting down to Week 7 with analysis of some of the league's biggest stories.  In Part 1, we covered The Carson Palmer Hypothetical and in Part 2 we looked at the Donovan McNabb trade.  Also check out our podcast here.]

Sometimes the NFL is a difficult league to figure out.  Other times, it is as clear as day and you just need to come to GTOG to see the full picture.  We're going to simplify the AFC playoff race for you right now.  Here are the standings:

In the AFC, all indications are that the 4 division winners are going to be Baltimore, New England, San Diego, and either Houston or Tennessee.  For Steeler fans who think I'm conceeding the division to Baltimore prematurely, consider: the Ravens demolished the Steelers and they have a +77 point differential in 5 games (the Steelers are +17 in 6 games).  Of course the Steelers could still win the division, but we also thought they'd put away the Jags easily once they got up 17-0.

That would leave the following teams to battle for the two wild card spots: Pittsburgh, Buffalo, NY Jets, Oakland, and Houston or Tennessee.  Yes, I am leaving 4-2 Cincinnati out on purpose.  Remember, they are the Bengals.

The Steelers exposed Tennessee, so even though Houston isn't great, you have to figure that they take the South at 10-6 and the Titans don't get more than 9 wins.  (And if they don't then Tennessee will win it at 9-7.  The point: Neither is getting a wild-card).  Oakland is replacing Jason Campbell with Carson Palmer, which reminds me of the time I got a D on a science test in 4th grade, begged the teacher to let me take it again, and then got an F.  So we're left with Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the Jets for the two wild-card spots.

The Steelers have the easiest road to at least 10-6 and a playoff birth.  Even if you aren't sold on how the Steelers have played this year -- and how could you be? -- the fact remains that the Steelers have 5 easily winnable games remaining: at Arizona, at Kansas City, Cleveland twice, and home against St. Louis.  That would get the Steelers to 9 wins, meaning they'd only have to win one out of the following 5 games to hit the magic 10-win mark: home to New England and Baltimore, two games against Cincy, and at a suddenly formidable San Francisco.  In other words, the Steelers can make the playoffs by continuing their early season trend of losing to good teams and escaping bad teams merely by continuing to lose to good teams and escaping bad teams.  It could be wild-card weekend before we actually know what kind of Steelers team we're working with.

General Dwight D. Roethlisberger, Commander of His Guys
The final wild-card spot will probably be decided by the two games remaining between the Bills and the Jets.  If either team sweeps, the playoff spot should be theirs.  But if they split, then the edge has to go to the Fred Jackson's Buffalo Bills because they still get to play Tony Sparano's Dolphins twice.

So, what have we learned?  First and foremost, the Steelers must make the playoffs.  It's almost impossible for them not to.  Second, razors are no defense against Joe Flacco's eyebrows.  Finally, and as we've been saying forever, the NFL is about having the best quarterback.  You can have a cute regular season with a merely decent QB (San Francisco), but unless you have a top 5 QB or are related to Peyton Manning, you aren't winning the Super Bowl.

You just aren't.

2011 - Aaron Rodgers
2010 - Drew Brees
2009 - Colonel Ben Roethlisberger
2008 - Peyton Manning's Brother
2007 - Peyton Manning
2006 - Private First Class Ben Roethlisberger
2005 - Tom Brady
2004 - Tom Brady
2003 - [ignoring]
2002 - Tom Brady
2001 - [also ignoring, but had best defense ever]
2000 - Kurt Warner
1999 - John Elway
1998 - John Elway
1997 - Brett Favre
1996 - Troy Aikman
1995 - Steve Young
1994 - Troy Aikman
1993 - Troy Aikman

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